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Sustainable Weddings Just Got Easier with these 10+ Expert Tips

From the multiple functions to the endless feasts, an Indian wedding typically brims with opulence and traditions such as a groom arriving on a horse, fresh floral arrangements, larger-than-life decor, and ornate paper/boxed invitations. Multiply that into thousands of weddings held annually, and you are looking at consumption – and wastage – on a gargantuan scale.

Sustainable Weddings Just Got Easier with these 10+ Expert TipsDecor: Devika Narain & Co.; Photo Courtesy: Stories by Joseph Radhik

Is it time to rethink – and perhaps replan Indian weddings – from an environmental, sustainable and humane standpoint? According to WWF-India, “Today, we use natural resources at 1.5 times the rate at which nature can replenish them. Adopting sustainable practices is crucial to reduce the impact on the planet for mere survival on Earth.”

If the thought of hosting a wedding that marries eco-friendly initiatives with sustainable resources inspires you, check out these ideas from some of India’s top wedding industry professionals.

Replace Boxed and Paper Invites
“Instead of paper and cardboard, gifts such as wedding favors can be wrapped in reusable organic or eco-friendly fabric which looks just as beautiful.”
– Devika Narain, Creative Director, Devika Narain & Co.

“Why spend on expensive wedding cards and gifts that are often discarded, when instead, you can watch your invitations/gifts bloom into a beautiful flowering plant. The Plantable cards suite at Mostly Handmade are not processed with chemicals or mass-produced with machines. Instead, each card is printed by hand. Plantable Paper is a biodegradable eco-paper/handmade paper that is embedded with seeds. Much of our seed paper is made from paper waste collected from local paper factories that would usually end up as landfill. This makes our seed paper invitations environment-friendly, sustainable, and recycled.”
Akshata Karnad, Co-Founder, Mostly Handmade

Wedding Gift Registries allow couples to ask for their specific requirements, thereby helping reduce the ‘retail’ footprint. People can also gift wedding favors that are either upcycled, made from recycled materials, and/or support a self-help group or community.”

Alternatives: Couples can opt for digital-only wedding invitations or e-invite apps, or use seed/handmade/ recycled paper instead of boxed invites with thick paper inserts. Tech savvy couples can get also get an app created for their wedding which guests can download and access details/reminders for events, instead of paper cards.

Avoid Using Animals Such as Horses at Weddings
“Let them be free. The truth is fireworks and noise in a baraat truly stresses animals like horses out. We continue to use them in the name of tradition, but now, more than ever, these traditions need to change.”
Devika Narain, Creative Director, Devika Narain & Co.

“I have researched how horses are bred and trained for entertainment in India. It’s easy to see their struggles if you closely observe a horse at a wedding baraat surrounded by loud music, drum beats, and dancing. We are considering ‘No Use of Animals’ as a part of our contractual clause from 2020 onwards for couples who want to hire us as their wedding planners.”
Vikram Mehta, Director, Mpire Weddings

Alternatives: A groom can make an entry in a beautifully decorated vintage car or a limousine, on a motorbike, or a chariot drawn by a car/small truck for the baraat. Couples can also do joint entries for events in quirky auto-rickshaws/tuk-tuks, or better still, walking or dancing their way to the venue.

Flower Power
“Use candles and ceramic/glass candle stands as table decorations instead of fresh flowers. If you do use flowers, donate them to NGOs like HelpUsGreen who are converting floral waste into incense sticks.”

“Thanks to technology, there are several ways one can optimize the usage of water, electricity, and flowers without compromising on the look and feel of an event. One way is to use fake or reusable floral arrangements instead of real flowers in areas where guests won’t come into direct contact with the blooms, such as the stage, venue backdrop or ceiling decor.”
Aashna Singh, Creative Director & Founder, Aash Studio

“Instead of dumping fresh floral arrangements in the trash after the wedding, couples can donate them to local nursing or old age homes.”
Farid Khan & Bhavnesh Sawhney, Co-Founders, FB Celebrations

“We use local, in-season flowers or potted plants instead of large floral arrangements that involve oasis foam and imported flowers. Repurposing floral waste is another detail to look into. The leftover flowers can be handed over to initiatives that convert them into incense sticks or natural Holi colors.”
Devika Sakhuja, Founder, Devika Sakhuja Designs

Alternatives: Instead of fresh flowers as your primary wedding decor, you can opt for items such as candles, lanterns, drapes of fabric, strands of glittering pearls and crystals, dreamcatchers, and low-maintenance potted greens like ferns and succulents.

Be Mindful about Materials
“A lot of times it’s simply about making a conscientious choice and having the will to make an effort to choose better alternatives. For example, a lot of flower arrangements don’t really need oasis/floral foam which takes 500 years to decompose, but we still use them simply because we have for many years. Alternatives exist and have for many years; we just need to become proactive.”
(**Oasis foam is wet floral foam that is used for real flower arranging. It soaks up water like a sponge and prolongs the life of flowers as well as holds them in place.)
Devika Narain, Creative Director, Devika Narain & Co.

“We encourage the use of wooden straws over single-use plastic ones, and suggest that couples offer water stations or glassware at events rather than bottled water to reduce the use of plastic.”
Vikram Mehta, Director, Mpire Weddings

Alternatives: Opt to rent classy wedding cutlery, china, crockery and cloth napkins that can be washed and reused from reputed vendors instead of using paper, plastic, or styrofoam. Compostable bamboo straws and banana leaves as plates are also viable options.

Farewell to Fireworks
“Fireworks cause distress to the environment and also to animals who are terrified by the nature of such festivities. Instead, opting for lighting alternatives can create an amazing exhibit of colors and excitement compared to fireworks but without adding to the already existing sound and air pollution.”
Devika Sakhuja, Founder, Devika Sakhuja Designs

“Indian wedding functions can avoid the use of fireworks as they cause noise and air pollution. We promote cold pyros to replace aerial fireworks.”
(**’Cold fireworks’ don’t emit smoke, heat or flames, and contain minimal polluting materials.)
Vikram Mehta, Director, Mpire Weddings

Alternatives: Delight guests with a projected slideshow of photos from the wedding celebrations instead of a fireworks display. Guests can also light and float candles on water if it is a poolside wedding.

Host Eco-friendly Events

“Having a day event is a huge factor when it comes to hosting an eco-friendly wedding. If you have a day or a late afternoon event, you are saving so much diesel, electricity, power. Instead of lighting up the place, one can have beautiful, sunlit events.”
Shreya Dutta & Ekta Sharma, Co-Founder, Krafted Knots

“Combine multiple small functions together to save on electricity and other wastage, and host as many functions as possible at home. If your haldi function might turn into a Holi party or a pool party, try and use organic colors or let go of the idea of a post haldi bash or combine it into your sangeet.”
Aashna Singh, Creative Director & Founder, Aash Studio

“It has been researched that a single wedding can produce as many CO2 emissions as five people would in an entire year. We can reduce the carbon footprint at weddings by giving employment to local craftspeople, using local supplies, and importantly, waste management”
Sandra Santoro, Getting Married in Italy

“Nearly 20% of the food at weddings goes to waste. Couples can limit the number of dishes served at buffets. They can also tie up with organizations like Robin Hood Army, Feeding India, No Food Waste, and Food With Love to serve leftovers to the underprivileged.”

Alternatives: Be mindful of the number of guests and length of functions, keep a tight check on food wastage with smaller menus, and work with NGO partners to donate leftover food in a safe manner.

Reduce Carbon Footprint at Weddings
“If you want to make your wedding really opulent, and you want to use a huge amount of flowers, then you are not making that wedding sustainable. Instead, you can think of using more locally sourced and procured items, materials, and flowers. That maybe will bring down the overall carbon footprint instead of transporting everything from another destination to the wedding venue.”
Shreya Dutta, Krafted Knots

“Coaches/buses can be engaged at destination weddings to transport guests instead of cars for each family to help with fuel efficiency and pollution.”
Farid Khan & Bhavnesh Sawhney, Co-Founders, FB Celebrations

“Exotic food, flowers, and destination weddings all have a massive carbon footprint. Aviation is responsible for 12% of CO2 from all transport sources. Lab grown diamonds have 4.8% of the carbon footprint as compared to mined diamonds, and use only 22% of water to be produced per carat, as compared to mined diamonds. We also encourage the use of solar-powered LED lights for illumination at weddings.”

“Try and pick local vendors for food and alcohol, especially vendors who grow their own ingredients and brew their own alcohol. This not only reduces the carbon footprint and impact on the environment, but also saves on transportation costs and supports local businesses.”
Aashna Singh, Creative Director & Founder, Aash Studio

Alternatives: Opt for eco-friendly venues and green hotels that follow sustainable processes, keep guests numbers limited, use heirloom ensembles, direct people to donate monetary gifts to those in need with platforms like the WeddingSutra Charity Registry.

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