To say that every aspect of life has changed in the last year and a half would be an understatement – from where we live to how we work, everything is being looked at with a new perspective. And this march of change engulfed weddings too – right from the emergence of Zoom weddings to micro weddings. For India’s new generation, this finally opened up the chance to have a conversation with their families about how the behemoth affair could be more intimate, personalised, and sustainable.
It’s no secret that weddings can generate a tremendous amount of waste but the grim realities are usually swept under the carpet – it is a celebration after all and no one wants to talk about how the incredible decor is going to end up in a landfill the morning after. But there is an undeniable growth in the number of people making a conscious decision to balance sustainability with the grandeur of their special day.
Worthwhile spoke to eco-friendly wedding planners and people who’ve chosen to customise their celebrations with the environment in mind. Read on for insights and tips to plan your own small, green Indian wedding.
“For us, it was all about the small choices – the one thing my wife and I were sure about was that there would be no endless stream of tiny plastic water bottles. We ensured there were a couple of water dispensers at each function with reusable glasses,” says Tufayl Merchant, who had a small wedding earlier this year.
“We were also lucky to work with decorators that understood our intentions and put together a stunning set-up using local flowers and reusable metal decor elements.” Like a lot of modern sustainable practices, the key to an eco-friendly wedding can simply mean going back to our roots.
“Traditionally, weddings were sustainable by design and there was a lot of emphasis on not creating waste. When people come to us for their first consultation, there’s sometimes a misconception that a sustainable wedding means spending a lot more money on eco-friendly alternatives – but it doesn’t have to be the case. It doesn’t cost less, but it definitely doesn’t have to cost more,” according to Nupur Agarwal, founder of Greenmyna – an eco-friendly wedding and events consultancy.
“For example, if you opt for digital invites instead of physical printed ones, you save a lot of money that can then be spent on more sustainable choices. Similarly, if a bride chooses to upcycle her mother’s wedding clothes, it creates such an emotional connection while being both economical and environment-friendly. The major contributors of a wedding’s carbon footprint are the decor, gifts and wrapping, and clothing.
Another thing to be wary of is a destination wedding (an INR 450 billion market in India), a concept that has become so popular recently especially with so many high-profile celebrity weddings. While the guest list is usually smaller, the impact of flying people in from around the world is huge.” Nupur recommends the couple to be on the same page about the intention. She believes once you’ve set your intention to have a sustainable wedding, everything else will fall into place – family, vendors, venues, and even the guest experience.
“The most fulfilling moment of our career so far came when a bride’s mother came up to say she was so glad that they made this choice – after all, a wedding celebration is nothing without the blessings of the family and friends, why shouldn’t we take mother earth’s blessings too.”
For Hirvita and Laxminarayan, staying true to their beliefs and vegan lifestyle was an important part of planning their wedding – especially because food is central to any celebration. And with their family’s support – they were able to put together their dream wedding complete with vegan ghee used for the ceremonial fire, homemade prasad, kaju katli (which is traditionally vegan), artificial silk sarees, and their favourite vegan food.
“It took a few discussions with our family and the pandit but everyone respected our decision. The best part was that all our guests had a great time and didn’t even notice the difference till we told them. Our family really went above and beyond to accommodate our wishes, my mother-in-law actually cooked a fully vegan meal herself for the traditional first meal at the house after the wedding.”
From pani puri, to Chinese food, to hara bhara kebabs, to Amritsari chole bhature, to even their bachelorette and wedding cakes – they made no compromises when it came to the food.
“When I told the team at my go-to vegan ecommerce store Vvegano and Emkay Foods about my plans for a fully vegan wedding, they came to my support in one-go and sponsored all the vegan ghee used for the ceremony and food. Overall, the expenses for a vegan wedding were similar to any other wedding of the same scale. The only thing that was disappointing was the vegan ice-cream because it was quite expensive and didn’t travel well.”
However you envision your special day, one thing’s for sure – a memorable wedding does not have to come at the cost of the environment. Anyone that’s ever planned a wedding will tell you that it is an endless string of choices and it can be a whirlwind of options, but one trick to follow while trying to make sustainable choices is to think about where that piece of decor or the wrapping for the welcome gift will end up the day after the wedding. After all, a happily ever after requires a sustainable tomorrow.