No Matter Your Budget, Planning An Eco-Friendly Wedding Is Possible. Here’s How!
Coronavirus and the consequent Zoom weddings may have taken the dhoom out of the wedding season in India. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely foregoing the excitement we feel this time of the year! As restrictions begin to ease, lots of couples are still going ahead with their nuptials, albeit keeping safety measures and social distancing in mind. The celebrations maybe subdued, but the show-sha must go on, eh? In fact, now is the time to revamp shaadi as we know it, and get the ‘plastic’ out, if you know what I mean! I mean, everything around us is changing drastically, and with the vaccine still further way, it’s going to be a while before we can return to how celebrations were before. So how about an eco-friendly wedding that is sustainable for the environment as well as your finances?
Why is it the perfect time to opt for an eco-friendly wedding?
Why? Well, ICYM the huge SOS, the planet does need us to recycle, reuse and reduce our consumption of fuel and non-biodegradable things like plastic, save water and avoid wastage. However, a wedding is one celebration that seems to have a blatant disregard for all three of these environment-friendly principles. From wasting fuel via a simple air-conditioner running at the venue to the wastage of food that happens as we serve 101 items at five different functions…. The sheer extravagance screams a lack of empathy for the environment.
One of the biggest silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic has been learning how we can do things differently and probably better. I personally have spoken to friends who’s wedding plans got heavily slashed due to the lockdown. And as a result, the entire celebration became more intimate and enjoyable. Instead of hassles and exhaustion, and always wondering if “Mehmaano ko khana pasand aaya?” the wedding actually brought people closer and let the couple enjoy their special day without much fuss.
It’s too early to predict the long-term impact this would have on future weddings. But it has opened up discussion on being more mindful in our celebrations, and doing things minimally. So, if you ever thought about going green with your wedding plans, now would be the perfect time to work that idea!
We got talking to mompreneur and promoter of sustainable living, Anamika Sengupta, and she agrees that it is the best time as any to go green with your shaadi plans. Anamika is the founder of a lifestyle brand called Almitra Sustainables, which offers a range of eco-friendly and natural products to replace everyday use of plastic. Always someone inclined towards sustainable living, the birth of her son, Neo, prompted Anamika to look for resources that were plastic and chemical free and as natural as possible. That’s when she realised that other parents like her might also be struggling with the same concern, finding eco-friendly resources that were made in India, and that’s how her brand was born!
Will you need a big budget to go green? Not if you go vocal for local!
Anamika planned her own wedding in a minimalistic way and she says it was the best idea she ever had. Naturally, one of my biggest questions was if eco-friendly wedding celebrations meant the scale of the wedding had to be small. Turns out, that’s really not needed! No matter the size of your wedding, or the budget, you can always try and incorporate changes that ensure you’re reducing your carbon footprint in whatever ways you can and not hurting the environment!
Remember, the idea is to be minimal and classy, and make less look more. So restraint is key. You don’t need to source things from abroad or drive all across the city to find eco-friendly decor ideas. That would actually be counter-productive! It’s why Anamika suggest finding local vendors to source things you’re going to need, from decor to gifts and catering. They’re almost always willing to alter things as per your requirements and overall, the cost of transportation and fuel consumption will also be lower when you use local. If you find someone likeminded, who’s onboard with the idea, then it’s even better.
In what ways can your wedding be eco-friendly?
Weddings aren’t just one wedding function anymore, are they? Irrespective of religious affiliation, wedding these days include an engagement ceremony, the bachelorette, mehndi/sangeet/cocktails, wedding, reception, phew! Of course, the core idea of an environment-friendly wedding is to be minimal, which means all these should ideally go out the window, and the guest list should be just near and dear ones. But theek hai, if you’re going the full mile, we’d encourage you to make as many changes on the way as possible. Every little bit helps!
E-vites, you guys! You can actually help budding artists along the way by hiring one to design a cute wedding e-vite for you. Make it as per the theme of your favourite TV show or a caricature or even an interactive website where your guests have to play a game to crack your wedding date and venue! Bonus? You and your parents don’t have to do the whole “Ghar jaake invite karo”, which saves fuel, time, money, effort!
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Anamika is a huge advocate for backyard weddings or home weddings which require nothing more than a pretty garden or lawn that’ll accommodate your guests. “If it’s already naturally beautiful, you don’t need to spend much time decorating it! The bigger the venue, the more decor is needed to cover its expanse. And that results in a tremendous use of things like thermocol and plastic, which as we know, aren’t really good for the environment.” Open spaces also mean you’ll be cutting down on usage of fuel that runs air conditioners and electricity. So yay!
Here’s a mantra for you—Recycle. Reuse. Reduce. Rather than buying new items, scavenge your and your friends’ and relatives’ homes to see if they’ve got things you can recycle in any way. Most of the smaller functions don’t even need that elaborate decor, and these would be perfect. Reduce the use of plastic streamers, chairs and disposable, single-use plastic items that you’re going to have to trash later.
Anamika has a brilliant idea. “You can use a wooden embroidery loop with the yarn going criss-cross and create beautiful pieces of decor out of it.” She also suggests gathering fresh flowers, if possible, locally from homes or vendors, and using as many of those as needed. Of course, wastage must be avoided so make sure you ration event he biodegradable things like wood, flowers and cloth that you use.
The best part? Apart from the flowers, everything else can be reused so you can store them for later parties or events, and even share it amongst your relatives or friends for their functions.
Food and catering
Anamika suggests that if you’re going all the way, you could go vegan with your food menu too. If not, remember to source your produce from local, small vendors, who’ll go the extra mile to accommodate your needs.
I don’t need to tell you why donating all the excess food prepared in the wedding functions is a must. There are several NGOs you can get in touch with for this, who come and collect it from the venue. Make sure you appoint someone from your friends or family to take care of this, as it is easy to forget when you’re enjoying the festivities.
Fortunately, when it comes to the plates and cutlery, most caterers bring their own steel or glass wares, and they are reusable. If you’re using home caterers, you can buy eco-friendly serving bowls and plates too. Ensure that you confirm beforehand that disposable plastic plates, cutlery and paper cups should be avoided. If you are using biodegradable plates, that’s also great!
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Stacking mineral water bottles by the dozen at numerous counters all across the venue is another way you’re encouraging the use of plastic and littering, and wastage. So how about designated water counters were guests can judiciously take only as much as they want? Also, if you’re using water glasses, the leftover water can be collected and used to water plants, or wash up, instead of being thrown down the drain. The idea is to find a vendor who is mindful of these things and on board with your minimal waste idea.
Also Read: Licypriya Kangujam Is An Environmental Activist From India And She Doesn’t Want To Be Called ‘Greta Of India’. This Is Her Story
If it’s your wedding, you won’t just be receiving gifts but giving some too. From the bridal shower party favours to wedding day gifts for the family, you can make sure that conscious gifting is the order of the day.
As Anamika rightly remarked, there has been a surge in people placing orders for eco-friendly gifts and party favours because not only are they environment friendly, they’re also unique and different than the usual! From luxurious organic toiletry sets to reusable bags, to even clothing and eco-friendly kitchenware, the options are aplenty!
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Another good idea she suggests to avoid wastage is creating a wedding gift registry that includes things that you need, and/or eco-friendly items that’ll help you start your conscious living post marriage! That way, you won’t be duplicating gifts and guests will also get a clue about your conscious choices.
If you want to see true irony, it’s an eco-friendly gift wrapped in plastic packaging! Whether you’re packing gifts for guests or your bridal trousseau, using plastic bags is a big no-no! You can even drop a note to your guests to package the gifts they bring you using things like newspapers or cloth bags and so on!
Firecrackers, confetti, thermocol balls, streamers… you probably don’t even realise how much waste you’re generating with simply your one bridal or couple entry. Yes, it looks spectacular, but is spectacular ke chakkar mein toh duniya ki band baj gayi! So when it’s time for your band baaja baaraat, make sure you say no to these things. Once again, natural flowers come to the rescue! Always available, easily cleaned and don’t get glitter all over you, and are not polluting the environment in any way.
Oh this is a tough one! We’re in a time where women would forego a few functions in the wedding if it meant they could wear a Sabyasachi lehenga for their pheras! And that’s completely okay, as long as you know you’ll be recycling it and wearing it on multiple occasions for the rest of your life. Heritage item, no?
Furthermore, instead of buying a bridal outfit, you could always rent one, right? Anamika chips in with another great piece of advice—getting your nostalgia on and recycling mom’s old bridalwear! We’ve seen it in rom-coms, where the bride just wears her mother’s or grandmother’s bridal gown, altered to fit her and the current styles, and it’s not just charming but also emotional!
When you’re putting together your wedding trousseau, make sure you pick things that you can use even after for as long as possible. Conscious planning is always key!
How long before should the planning for an eco-friendly wedding begin?
The advantage of a sustainable wedding is that you can actually put it together in a short span of time, says Anamika. If it’s an intimate backyard affair, you don’t have venue booking hassles. The decor is also minimalistic, and the catering and entertainment can be arranged for easily too.
In the event that your wedding is on a bigger scale, with all the shenanigans, it might take you some careful pre-planning to source your plastic-free decor and work out with your wedding planner on the exact requirements so that you don’t waste a lot. Luckily, as Anamika points out, things are much readily available now than they were before. So a simple internet search can get you the contacts you want. It’s pretty much the same as regular wedding planning, except you’re just being more responsible with what you choose!
Abba nahi maanenge? Here’s how to get everyone on board!
Anamika pointed out how themed weddings are all the rage right now. What’s more, people go overboard trying to pull these themes off. So how about, you declare ‘going green’ as the theme of your wedding? In India, it’s hard to be direct with your guests, because humaare sanskaar, humaare aadarsh, and all that. But a theme could be a candid way of letting your guests know that you’re being minimal and mindful. You can follow a strict RSVP, so you can avoid any wastage. Get your guests to turn up in handloom outfits; serve meals on banana leaves or wooden plates; make DIY decor a fun activity for your friends and family to bond over; and instead of gifts, you can gift cool reusable bags with quirky quotes on them!
The best part about planning your wedding consciously is that it doesn’t just end with the wedding function but goes beyond. Even after your wedding is done, you have so much that you can reuse and donate, that in some little way, you continue to help the environment. You’re embarking on a new journey, aren’t you? Don’t leave too many carbon footprints on the way!