To protect our environment and to promote sustainability, we said “I do” to Our (almost) Zero Waste Big Fat Indian Wedding plan. India is a country where weddings are lavish and overwhelming affairs. From choosing a venue to planning invitations, rituals, decorations, and fancy food is a big priority on the checklist. Many of the Indian wedding crew spend months into planning this huge couple of day affair. Most of the time the wastage and damage to the environment created go unnoticed. This goes hand in hand with the celebrations! Unfortunately, around the globe weddings produce a large quantity of trash.
On any such occasion where the focus is around joy and positive vibes, we should spread them beyond just that one day. After all, we owe it to our planet and to the future generations to be more careful. Hence, it is essential to consider having an Eco-friendly wedding celebration. How weddings work in India and everywhere else definitely has to change. A change, without compromising on the rituals, sanctity, and happiness of hosting the event. With some planning, you can have a guilt-free celebration with the same amount of fun but with reduced or zero waste. This way, there is less damage to the environment. Having a smaller crowd is always easier to host a zero-waste celebration. We had about 1,000 people attend our wedding but we managed to create very minimal waste.
Our (Almost) Zero Waste Big Fat Indian Wedding
The goal is to create no or minimum waste that becomes trash. Trash goes to the landfill, which is already overloaded. So, we need to ensure everything used is recycled, reused or is compost – biodegradable waste. Hence, it’s important to use reusables and not one-time use disposables. Avoid bags of disposable garbage that goes to the landfill. Please try to avoid non-decomposable environmentally harmful garbage. Here are the steps we followed while planning our wedding.
Eco-Friendly Wedding Invitations:
To avoid the use of paper and to reduce wastage, we invested in simple seed paper invitation cards. We gave these to the ones we couldn’t send an online invitation. I also created an online invitation on rsvpify.com and a Facebook event planning page. This made the experience interactive. This way we avoided the single-use disposables as much as possible at this stage. Through online invitations, we could get a headcount of the attendees. It helped us in the wedding planning and we completely avoided excess food wastage. We also created E-invites and ‘save the date‘ to send through WhatsApp from paperlesspost.com. Together we made sure to mention in our invitations about our effort to host a zero-waste wedding to encourage others to do the same.
Now when it comes to most Indians, the bridal attire and jewelry is such a big deal. So, if I say borrow them many will gasp at the thought. In most cases, wedding attires will not be worn more than once because of its extravagant design. Imagine the amount of wastage created and money spent on a dress that will be worn just once. Your grandmother probably wore her wedding attire very few times. Her grand silk saree might still be in the best condition for reuse. In case you cannot borrow the attire then I suggest not to splurge on an extravagant one. Instead, choose clothes and jewelry that can be reused in the future. An expensive, “look I am the bride” attire is too overrated anyway. Trust me, you can be a beautiful bride in simple classy attire and feel good about the decision.
Vegan Hair and Makeup:
More than 120 million animals around the globe are being tortured till death in many laboratories by cosmetic brands like MAC. With a rapid rate of extinction of so many species, let’s start making responsible choices. Ones like Tommy Hilfiger don’t blink an eye before killing for fur or leather. These cruelty brands do it because we continue to buy and use their products!
Beauty for me is without bloodstains of innocent lives. Using cruelty-free products is a conscious choice I intend to keep up with for the rest of my life. So, my wedding day would be no different. The idea is not to buy and encourage the production of products from brands that torture and test on animals. For my wedding, I was lucky to have a good friend as my Makeup Artist – Amore by Andrea (based in Bangalore, India).
She was careful to use only vegan / cruelty-free products for my hair and makeup. Andrea’s (Instagram) expertise proved handy as she knew the right brands to use. Although this has nothing to do with the zero-waste concept yet it is essential to spread awareness. Because we need to start using vegan products for the sake of the planet and the animals.
Choosing local flowers is the most sustainable way to go about it. It’s a good idea to support local markets to boost the local economy. And also, to avoid a large amount of transportation time, which could result in fewer carbon emissions. One of the major consumers of pesticides is the flower industry. Pesticides are not good for our well-being and biodiversity. Because of this reason we mostly used only Native seasonal flowers or fake flowers. The fake flowers you get today look so real; it can fool anyone into thinking they are real ones. And the fake flowers are rentals provided by the decorator so it will get reused for other occasions.
Wedding Decoration and Food:
We chose a beautiful green venue that required minimum and smart decoration compared to most wedding venues. It was easy to plan Eco-friendly decor. Our decorator used organic, reusable decorations made of cloth, Fake flowers, and locally grown seasonal flowers. Garlands made from native seasonal flowers. You can also consider having decorations made from waste such as plastic. To turn waste into unique wedding decorations needs some imagination. Another creative idea could be using coconut shell carvings as venue decoration.
The caterer joined hands with us and took extra care to serve food in the traditional South Indian style. Food was served on banana leaves, and we used only steel utensils and cutlery. They also took take care to avoid food wastage. To discourage the use of plastic, we avoided using plastic during the wedding. We used steel and wooden furniture. This also meant no plastic water bottles, plates or glasses. No plastic was used in the rolling papers for the dining tables. The only little plastic that was used for unavoidable reasons such as grocery bags were recycled or reused. We used cloth bags used for return gifts.
We decided to go with a no-gift policy and so requested guests to not gift us anything. Instead, we informed them through our invitations about the fundraisers we were hosting for the animal welfare causes that are close to our hearts. My partner and I hosted one online fundraiser for Voice Of Stray Dogs (VOSD) through Milaap.org (this donation link will remain indefinitely active to accept contributions.) We raised a total of 27,596 INR so far for VOSD. Also, we picked People for Animals (PFA, Bangalore) to help conserve and rehabilitate wildlife. There was a Kiosk set up at the wedding to collect funds for PFA. Kindness is truly contagious, and this initiative turned into a huge success as we managed to raise 42,000 INR. The New Indian Express was kind to cover this in one of their news articles (although they got few tiny details wrong, lol)
Last Step for a Zero Waste Big Fat Indian Wedding: Waste Management
If it is a South Indian wedding like ours then you will have leftover food, banana leaves, flowers and excess food left towards the end. The leftover food and flowers can be either sent to a composting unit or used to feed animals. The excess food can be donated to needy. Since our wedding was hosted in Bangalore, India I know a couple of organizations that can assist you with this. You can take the help of organizations like Robin hood army (we tried reaching them but they were unresponsive.) or Hasiru Dala, a waste management group with a cleaning crew. I am sure around the world many Not-for-Profit Organisations are helping with such initiatives. You just need to find them in your region. If there are some plastics – packets in which food or flowers arrived then these can be sent for recycling.
In any event, we inevitably generate some amount of trash however creating zero waste means that you are mindful of the kind of trash produced. Please make sure it doesn’t end up in landfills. We had a guest list of nearly 1,000 people who attended our wedding and gave us their blessings. Having such a big crowd in an event will lead to the production of some waste. But with proper planning and careful choices, we were able to host Our (almost) Zero Waste Big Fat Indian Wedding. With the support of our families, we created a day that will always be remembered for being compassionate and empathetic towards the society and the planet. If we could manage to host an environmentally friendly wedding, so can you. Just remember sustainability is the key. Through my travels, I have learned it is essential to put effort into preserving the environment.
With a pandemic virus (COVID-19) hitting the globe, I hope you are safe. Please don’t travel right now. Nothing is more important than your safety. Stay home and stay positive. You can use this time to read more of my blog stuff here.