None of us are strangers to The Big Fat Indian Wedding! Thought-provoking TV shows like Made in Heaven, spectacles mounted in Karan Johar movies, much-publicised celebrity weddings, and of course our own experiences of being a part of some, lavish weddings are everywhere! What is intended to be a celebration of a union has also become a lucrative industry. Today, almost every wedding is grander than the next and there’s no end to creativity and no expenses are spared. A study estimated that in the first six months of this year alone, we’d have spent INR 13 lakh crore on weddings!
While planning on your big day should be about fulfilling your dreams, the flipside of this excess is the adverse impact on our planet. Enter, sustainable green weddings with all the beauty and aesthetics but without the attendant waste and carbon footprint.
As you get set to walk down that aisle, here are 8 ways you can plan a low-impact celebration!
Step 1: The Invites
Printed invites, although beautiful, eventually end up in the waste bins of those who receive them. One way to save costs and skip the waste is to create e-vites! No longer uncommon, digital invites are now almost a norm, especially with young couples who plan their weddings. They give you room to customise your e-invites with illustrations, animations, and even your love story! You can also save a lot more money by designing them yourself using free online tools like Canva.
If you are old-school and prefer the traditional route of paper invitations, choose the sustainable option:
- Keep the quantity restricted to a minimum. Print only enough cards to share with close relatives or important guests.
- Choose sustainable paper options. For example, seed paper cards are a unique concept where the card is embedded with seeds and can be planted after use. Symbolic of new beginnings, nurturing, and growth, there can be no better way to celebrate a relationship! Brands like Plantables and 21Fools offer these eco-friendly cards.
- You can also opt for wedding invites made of recycled paper or kraft paper.
A Note on Wedding Favours: As the modern norm has it, you may also be inclined to add a gift to your wedding invites. Resist the urge to compete and avoid extravagant hampers or wasteful gifts. If you must send forth a gift with the invite, opt for greener or edible options. PS: There is more on that below, so keep reading!
Step 2: Crafting Guest Lists and Pre-Planning
Indian weddings are known for their size, often resembling mini-festivals. While the joy is only doubled with more well-wishers by your side, a lot of our wedding guest lists are obligatory. If possible, cut down on the crowd!
Each guest adds to the carbon footprint of your wedding – from the food consumed to the waste generated, the energy used, and the emissions from transportation.
Intimate weddings, brought on by the pandemic, have proven that having a smaller gathering can make for rather memorable celebrations. Remember Alia-Ranbir’s aesthetic home wedding?
Having fewer guests also keeps your budget in check, often leaving you with more room to spend on better food or décor or the honeymoon! Additionally, an intimate group ensures everyone enjoys your big day stress-free!
Source: Nose to Tail
Eco-wedding planners like GreenMyna, Panigrahana, and Nose to Tail Events can help you pre-plan a green wedding suited to your size and budget. They offer planning tools and consultations to help you navigate this process, so you don’t have to shoulder the load alone!
Step 3: Venue and Decor
For your venue, consider open-air spaces like a lush garden, a tranquil beach, or a rustic farmhouse. These locations maximize natural light and scenic beauty, and provide natural ventilation, reducing the need for excessive decoration and artificial lighting. If you’re looking for inspiration, Dia Mirza’s garden wedding sets the perfect example.
You can also consider hosting your big day at the many eco-hotels and resorts across India.
Once you have locked your location, discuss eco-friendly decor options with your planner:
- If you’re using indoor lights or stage lighting, request energy-saving light bulbs and installations.
- Ditch single-use plastics for decorations, and opt for biodegradable or reusable materials.
- Traditional Indian materials like jute, wood, and terracotta can be used for making stunning wedding decor.
- A hot trend right now is the use of edible decor. Think fruit and vegetable centerpieces or herbs in small planters that can later be used in the kitchen.
- Try to source reusable wedding decor, and statement items you can keep in your home after the celebrations are done.
Step 4: Wedding Favours and Gifts
Gifting is a big part of most traditional Indian weddings. Aside from what the bride and groom receive, the families exchange gifts too. To add to that, there are also customary gifts such as wedding favours, bridesmaids’ hampers, and more. To tackle all this sustainably, make it a ground rule to only shop for local, eco-friendly gifts. Check out our good gifts guide here.
- Brands like Loopify give you the option to customise and curate sustainable gift hampers and have hundreds of eco-brands to choose from.
- You can also choose to gift plants or plant a tree in someone’s name as a unique thoughtful gift that will keep on giving. Brown Living’s ‘Gift a Tree’ option is ideal for this!
- Or you can simply opt for a ‘no gifts policy’ for yourself and communicate this to your guests. As we often say, the only thing better than buying sustainable products is not buying anything at all!
- If they do insist on giving you a token, communicate what it is you might genuinely need or specify your preference for eco-friendly gifts. This prevents waste and helps your guests get clarity on the right choice for you.
Step 5: Food and Catering
Food is a focal point for most Indian weddings. It’s also unfortunately where most of the waste comes from. One key step in sustainable catering is mindful planning:
- Request an RSVP from your guests. It helps ensure you cater to the right number of people, reducing the chances of surplus food.
- In case there’s leftover food, tie up with organizations like Feeding India and Robin Hood Army. They collect leftover food from events and distribute it to the less fortunate, preventing waste and feeding those in need.
- As for the menu, adopt a farm-to-table approach by using locally sourced, seasonal produce or take a leaf out of Milind Soman’s book, who chose a simple vegetarian menu for his wedding. This also drastically cuts down the carbon footprint of food!
- While vegetarian or vegan food is sustainable, it’s fine if you prefer to include non-vegetarian fare too. In such cases, opt for responsibly sourced meat and seafood. Also, consider offering smaller portions.
- When serving your guests, consider reusable cutlery. Get creative with a traditional thaali or a good old-fashioned banana leaf too!
Step 6: Clothes and Jewellery
Sure, the dream wedding lehenga is every bride’s goal. But these heavy outfits often cost a chunk of your savings and have little to no repeat value.
- Opt for wedding sarees or kurtas with a higher repeat value. Take another leaf from Dia Mirza’s book, who chose lighter outfits that she and her partner could reuse over time.
- You can also follow in Yami Gautam’s steps and pick out an heirloom piece from your mother or grandmother’s collection! Years ago, style icon Kareena Kapoor also made waves for refurbishing and wearing her mother-in-law’s wedding sharara to her royal wedding!
- If you just can’t get that royal lehenga out of your mind, consider renting one for the big day. Brands like Flyrobe, Saritoria, and Stylease are trustworthy sources.
- Alternatively, consider sustainable fashion brands that prioritize ethical sourcing and eco-friendly production methods. Indian labels like Anita Dongre’s ‘Grassroot’, Raw Mango, and Tilla offer exquisite bridal wear made using traditional crafts and sustainable materials.
- If you like the idea of big, grand jewellery, consider layering heirloom pieces passed down in the family. Gold, pearls, and kundan are never out of fashion, and nothing beats the sentimental value of wearing your mom’s jewellery!
- For your wedding rings, if diamonds are non-negotiable, opt for lab-grown ones over commercially mined diamonds. Not only are they more ethical, but they are also half the price!
Step 7: Checklist For The Big Day
Most of the heavy lifting that goes into planning a sustainable wedding is done before the big day and behind the scenes. Yet, there is a lot of room for slip-ups on the day of; which may leave you disappointed or eco-anxious on what should be the happiest day of your life.
Keep this checklist handy so you don’t miss out on the minor details:
- Ensure a no-plastic policy is followed at every event. Tell your wedding planner to skip any bottled water, plastic cutlery, or similar frills.
- Install marked wet and dry waste dustbins at the venue. You can contact organisations like ReCircle and Sahaas Zero-Waste to help manage the waste at your event!
- If you’re opting for mehendi (henna), ask for organic mehendi in advance.
- Choose garlands and flower arrangements made of local, organic flowers instead of exotic ones.
- Avoid fireworks or floating lanterns as these add to the pollution.
- For the baraat, avoid the traditional horseback ride. In most cases, the animals are treated with cruelty and the noisy baraat can further add to their plight.
- Comply with noise restrictions if any and keep the music volumes to permissible limits.
Step 8: Post-Wedding Waste Management
Last but not least, extend your green wedding principles to your post-wedding decisions too. If you have managed to pull off a sustainable celebration and reached this far, this will take minimal effort.
But as you would probably be exhausted by this time, here’s a post-wedding checklist to ensure that all is well that ends well!
- Post the events, and ensure your wedding planner has accounted for waste management. All the dry waste can be sent for recycling while the wet waste (especially food waste) can be composted!
- Preserve, save, or donate wedding flourishes. For example, your garlands (aka the varmala flowers) can be dried and pressed to be preserved for life! Not only do they make for a wonderful memory, but they also symbolise your eternal bond.
- Certain wedding decor such as statement centerpieces can be resold or donated.
- Ask your photographer/videographer for digital copies of all wedding photos. Avoid printing too many photos and restrict the quantity to only the ones you may want to frame or display.
- You can also opt to calculate the total carbon footprint of your wedding and offset the impact by planting an equivalent amount of trees. Brands like Climes offer these services and have plenty of verified restoration projects you can fund to neutralise your impact.
- Any wedding outfits you may not repeat can be either donated, rented, or resold on online thrift stores.
- If you receive any unwanted gifts, request if an exchange is possible, or simply gift it ahead so it does not go to waste!
Planning a dream green wedding may include several aspects that require your attention to detail. From travel to stay to the management of every small event, the little things may add up till the very last day.
Whenever it gets overwhelming, take a deep breath and center yourself. You don’t need to do it all perfectly and missing a few things is only natural. Lift the pressure of perfection off your shoulders and focus on doing your best and making beautiful memories. Just remember to ask for help, seek support from your loved ones, and share the load with those by your side.
To ensure you don’t feel alone, we’ve created TGL Tribe – a members-only community for those on their green journey. With exclusive offers on eco-friendly brands, resources on low-impact living, and more, this is a circle of support you must be a part of! Know more and become a member here.