Chico wedding planner helps couples say ‘I do’ the sustainable way

FLOWER POWER<br>Wedding planner Jessica Rios says she always offers clients the choice of organic flowers. She often buys in bulk from California Organic Flowers in west Chico.

Wedding planner Jessica Rios says she always offers clients the choice of organic flowers. She often buys in bulk from California Organic Flowers in west Chico.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

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Many people think that the dress, the cake and an open bar are the most important aspects of a good wedding. But Jessica Rios is showing engaged couples that preserving the world’s natural resources on the big day is just as significant.

About three years ago, Rios, 32, started Love Events, an eco-friendly wedding-planning service, helping people save precious resources while still having an elegant and memorable event.

“I saw that there was a big hole in the wedding-planning world for couples who had more down-to-earth tastes,” said Rios, who divides her time between Chico and the Bay Area. “I decided I wanted to help those couples create a wedding without a lot of excess.”

Rather than showing couples the hottest wedding trends, Rios considers herself a communication- and relationship-oriented wedding planner. She organizes weddings that are reflective of couples’ moral values by finding eco-friendly alternatives to traditional wedding ceremonies, which are often expensive and wasteful.

Inspired by one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Rios started Love Events so that she could put her personal and organizational skills to work. Business has been strong for the local wedding planner, who was interviewed by USA Today earlier this summer. Most of her clients are between the ages of 25 and 40, have an interest in sustainability and want to know how they can conserve on their wedding day.

“This is their day and their life,” she said. “The most fulfilling thing I can do is help them create the day they want, and I do that by showing them that there are more choices.”

TAKING THE CAKE<br />Organic flowers are popular decorations for cakes and other wedding fare.

Photo Courtesy of Barbara Kopicki-Nichols

Her services range in price from $75 to $3,500 and include hourly consulting, research and coordination with green vendors, full-service planning, check-in calls, in-person meetings and coordination of rehearsals and events. Her biggest focus is on finding energy-efficient ways to create the special day.

Rios said a common misconception is that green weddings cost more than traditional ones. While the average wedding costs about $28,000, an eco-friendly ceremony can actually cost less.

Green possibilities at a wedding are nearly endless—everything from location to flowers can be chosen in such a way that helps preserve the environment. But catering is the biggest contributor to eco-friendly ceremonies, Rios said. Couples generally look for local and organic foods.

Rios said it’s often difficult to get around transportation pollution on the big day, but there are ways to cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions, such as holding the ceremony near the guests’ homes.

“It’s impossible for a human to have zero impact on the environment,” she said. “But you could have your wedding at a place like Little Chico Creek and reduce the amount of impact your ceremony makes on the environment.”

When Barbara Kopicki-Nichols married her husband, Jeremy, two years ago at a ranch in Chico, she worked with Rios to ensure the celebration would reflect the couple’s sustainable lifestyle and values. Though they spent more money on things like reusable napkins and china, Kopicki-Nichols said it was worth it to support the environment and stay true to their morals.

Kopicki-Nichols was able to use her nine years of experience as an Associated Students recycling coordinator for certain aspects of the wedding arrangements, but she said Rios’ ideas and professionalism made a big difference.

“Having someone like Jessica there helped the process go much more smoothly,” she said. “Her ideas varied from using beeswax candles to planning a dinner menu with a focus on local and seasonal produce.”

In addition to purchasing local foods, Kopicki-Nichols said she and her husband chose glassware for all the drinks, rather than plastic cups, and they purchased beer from Sierra Nevada to cut down on energy for transportation. The couple also used local, seasonal and organic floral decorations and held their ceremony and reception at the same site to conserve energy.

Rios said she will plan between five and seven weddings this year to ensure the level of quality she can put into each celebration. While planning weddings is tough work, she said nothing gives her more satisfaction than helping to create a truly amazing wedding.

“There is so much love in the air at weddings, and the couple is the core creating the feeling,” she said. “You leave feeling in love with life, and that’s definitely something worth living for.”