OT Wedding Wednesday: How To Plan A Sustainable Wedding

If you don't know where to start on designing a dreamy and sustainable Indian wedding, here's what you should do
Sustainable weddings are on the rise in India
Sustainable weddings are on the rise in IndiaChinmoy-Das/Shutterstock

Most people don’t associate the big, fat Indian wedding with being sustainable but that is slowly changing, for certain couples at least. With a country as populous as India, doing things the conventional way of going all out on a wedding without a second thought about its environmental impact will continue to hold sway, but it is undeniable that sustainable weddings are on the rise for those who work in the space.

First, let’s get the misconceptions out of the way. According to Captain Ashwin Malwade, the co-founder of Greenmyna, the most ubiquitous queries he has fielded in his work as a sustainable curator of weddings and events include clients asking whether sustainable weddings are more expensive than “regular” ones, whether the wedding will be “normal” or something completely out of the box which would antagonise families, being asked why the client should care about waste disposal and management as such things "should not be their concern," and people wondering how a green wedding would benefit the guests who are attending it, fearing it will devolve into an awareness programme on waste management.

Messaging on a bride's attire
Messaging on a bride's attireCopyright: Greenmyna

Laughable as some of these concerns are, they reveal the worries and hesitations of people who want a day that respects the planet and makes guests happy, too. Malwade allays some of these concerns by saying that, “Sustainable weddings are just like any other wedding and that is the first thing all couples and families should understand before they start the planning process. These weddings keep in mind all the ethos of a traditional Indian wedding and yet [don’t] cause harm to the environment. Essentially, Indian weddings were largely very sustainable when they were held 20-25 years ago before the advent of consumerism and single-use plastic.”

Furthermore, sustainable weddings cost the same or even less than conventional ones if planned correctly. The surge in sustainable weddings in Malwade’s experience is largely driven by NRI couples and families “who are keen to reduce their carbon footprint generated at weddings.”

Without further ado, here are his top five tips on having a happy wedding which leaves a minimal impact on the planet.

Select A Venue Which Walks The Talk

A Greenmyna-organised wedding venue
A Greenmyna-organised wedding venueCopyright: Greenmyna

Choose a venue that allows for the flexibility of providing sustainable practices at the wedding, such as those that run fully or partly on renewable energy, have water recycling systems in place or an in-house waste management process. Actions like these greatly help in cutting down the overall carbon footprint of the event and make the task of putting together a sustainable wedding a lot easier.

Be Creative with Décor

Upcycled décor
Upcycled décorCopyright: Greenmyna

Using minimalist décor like locally sourced natural flowers and elements of upcycled materials will ensure that décor waste is reduced to a minimum after the event.

Be Mindful Of Food

Cutlery made of bamboo
Cutlery made of bambooCopyright: Darshi Gogri for Greenmyna

According to Malwade, an average Indian wedding generates nearly 700-800 kilograms of food waste across two days. “This is quite often due to a very large catering menu,” he says. “This generates a lot of unnecessary waste [which] can be easily controlled by having sit-down meals and controlling food portions.”

He recommends that couples liaise with the caterers of the venue to ensure that they use eco-friendly serving ware, eliminate single-use plastic water bottles by replacing them with alternatives, and closely check the guest count for each event and inform the caterers accordingly to cut down on excess food generation.

Have A Waste Management Plan

A dry and wet waste station at a Greenmyna-organised event
A dry and wet waste station at a Greenmyna-organised eventCopyright: Greenmyna

A wedding is not truly sustainable if there is no waste management at the venue. Hire a local waste management company that can deploy its staff during the wedding to ensure all of the dry and wet waste generated is segregated at source and sent for recycling or composting. This will go a long way in making your sustainable wedding also a "zero-waste to landfill" one.

Think About Appropriate Return Gifts

A couple plant saplings before their wedding
A couple plant saplings before their weddingCopyright: Greenmyna

A large number of weddings supply in-room hampers or return gifts to guests during the course of the week’s events. These hampers and gifts can be mindfully curated by ensuring that the product packaging can biodegrade after use. Consider alternatives to material gifts such as by planting a sapling for every guest who attends the wedding. It is an effective way of bringing down the carbon footprint of the travel miles covered by each guest.

Malwade has one last tip if these five pointers have you at sea: “Getting a sustainable wedding planner onboard will keep the cost at [a] minimum as well as ensure that there is no harm done to the environment.”

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