The big, fat, Indian wedding is not just a wedding, it's a phenomenon. Desi shaadis come with packed with glamour, glitz and grandeur. Most couples dream of their wedding to be resembling the set of a Karan Johar film and everyone partakes in these festivities- there are costumes, dances, music, colours, props, rituals and 100s of guests (why your uncle's sister's cousin has turned up for your wedding, even you don't fully understand).
With all of this comes lots and lots of waste. It was only last year when the infamous Gupta wedding made headlines for the 326 quintals of waste that was collected from the marriage venue after a massive five-day affair. It was in Auli, a hill station in Uttrakhand and the amount of waste that was collected obviously had negative effects on the ecosystem.
Every year it is estimated that more than ten million weddings take place in India and the Indian wedding market is estimated at around USD 50 billion which makes it the second-largest in the world after the United States.
However, recently, Indian couples are choosing sustainable options for their D-day. Either they're choosing to go digital in terms of invites or they're being more environmentally conscious when it comes to decoration and are even planning minimal-waste weddings.
Reducing our carbon footprint, not buying plastic and keeping the goodness of the Earth in mind is slowly becoming the need of the hour. With new-age wedding vendors, this isn't so difficult anymore. So, here are a few ways even the desi shaadi can be done in a sustainable way.
This seems like the most basic yet the most important point of them all. We're all handed a tiny bottle of water every time we visit the counter whereas glasses do the job just as well. Plastic is also used heavily in decor and a conscious choice needs to be made to replace it with bio-degradable material. "Doing away with plastic is the most important choice you make when you're planning a sustainable wedding whether it is in form of a flex print for your dance floor or bar or it is in the form of a plastic bottle or bubble wrap. Even during a wedding function if you use two hundred plastic bottles, it does make a small dent in the larger problem of waste that we're currently facing", says Devika Narain who is the creative director at Devika Narain and Company.
At weddings, we use so many flowers as decoration pieces and repurposing floral waste is a great way to be sustainable. "The leftover flowers can be handed over to initiatives that focus on converting them into incense sticks or natural Holi colours", says Devika Sakhuja, ace wedding designer and curator.
Working with local artisans and craftsmen does a lot to boost the economy of the area and also gives them exposure. It definitely reduces your carbon footprint as there is minimal transportation needed. You should also look at using local products that are readily available in that particular area.
Exotic flowers and other decor options that need to be transported from another city/country obviously increase the carbon footprint and puts a strain on the environment. "We recently did a wedding which was minimum waste. The clients were very sure they wanted a sustainable wedding than the usual one with exotic flowers. We used plants as fillers instead of the props with flowers. The bar front facade was made using old books and newspapers. And we incorporated more than three hundred plants in the decor, which made it a green wedding and gave it a beautiful ambience", says Pooja Gupta Doshi, the force behind Elusive Dreams.
Do we even realise the number of paper tissues we use at weddings (or in our daily life for that matter)? Keeping cloth napkins can help in reducing paper wastage and hence cutting of trees.
In India, we have a tradition of sending over the top wedding invites to all the guests who are attending the function. Along with that, there are also boxes and gifts that use cardboard and plastic. Avoid all this by going completely digital for your wedding invite. This also saves a lot of money. Consider recycled paper if you really do want physical invites.
"I feel a lot of couples are now going for green weddings and don't want an overdose of flowers. We recently organised a wedding at Taj Bekal where the couple were keen on having a sustainable one. We kept bare minimum flowers and made props the focal point. We also used loads of potted plants that could later be planted elsewhere to add greenery to the functions," says Ambika Gupta from A Cube Project by Ambika Gupta.
If you can, tie-up with a non-profit organisation which can distribute leftover food to those in need instead of it going to waste. The surplus food can be used to feed those starving on the streets and organisations like Feeding India can help you out with this.
Most people today know that bridal lehengas are much too expensive and can never really be worn again because of how grand they are. You can choose to wear your mother's wedding day lehenga to help the sustainable fashion industry grow. You can always use the cloth and give a modern twist to it- it'll save money as well as be a special tribute to your mom.
Brides-to-be, are you ready to help the planet? We know we are!
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