Our Indian eco-wedding

Sustainability / November 28, 2020 / 6 Minute Read / Comments

Today, November 28, marks exactly one year since our Indian wedding in my hometown of Surat. The memories of planning and experiencing such a life-changing event seems like a distant alternative reality in the middle of a pandemic. With Zoom and intimate weddings becoming the new normal, it has been harder than ever to plan weddings. However, it makes me realize how lucky we were to be able to live and plan our wedding in Surat for almost six months. While we did not have to deal with a pandemic, there was still a dilemma about balancing traditional norms and being mindful of the environment.

The term ‘big fat Indian wedding’ has become a status symbol indicative of pomp and luxury. It is a costly, razzle-dazzle event that is sure to put a dent on the savings account. Aside from the economics, a big fat wedding can be extremely wasteful given the endless meal choices and wedding favors prepared with materials flown from all corners of the world. Understandably, in the Indian culture, guests are to be respected like God. But not respecting the environment is disrespecting God.

In an increasingly polarizing and unequal world, it is imperative to be mindful of our consumption habits and think about our impact of every single action. As someone who cares deeply for the environment, I was thrilled to hear about a couple in South India organize their eco-friendly wedding. I was convinced that my wedding would be as eco-friendly as possible. In this post, I am putting together a complete guide with a list of wedding vendors that I wish I had when planning our green wedding in Surat.

Notice that I’m using the term ‘eco-friendly’ instead of the term ‘zero-waste’. The latter can be overwhelming because the goal is to not generate any waste that ends up in a landfill. While we we did our best to consider air, light, land and sound pollution during our wedding, there is always room for improvement and therefore, we opted for a gentler term like eco-friendly. It really wasn’t very difficult to plan or execute a green wedding. In fact, it was even a bit easier to narrow down our options for sustainable decor, catering, and event managers. Surprisingly, our eco-friendly wedding also ended up being more cost-effective and unique than a traditional Indian wedding.

Decoration wedding sangeet
Reusable items used for sangeet decoration
Bride with the wedding decor
Organic decor for the wedding

Guidelines for our eco-wedding

We followed the popular sustainability model of reduce, reuse, and recycle (here the order matters, reduce > reuse > recycle)

  1. No printed invitations
  2. No wedding favors, instead, planted a sapling per guest (600 saplings to date)
  3. Food and organic matter donated and composted
  4. Food served was strictly vegetarian using local ingredients
  5. Flower decor minimized and composted
  6. Opted for minimalistic and reusable decor that decorators can use for other events
  7. Avoided single-use plastic items by choosing reusable items (ex. Reusable water bottles, clay and glassware). By the way, only 9% of total plastic produced until now has ever been recycled National Geographic
  8. No conventional fireworks. We opted for cold spark machines instead
  9. Minimized sound pollution by capping at 100 decibels. WHO Guidelines
  10. Maximized the use of LED lights to conserve power for outdoor events at night
  11. No animal use for baraat (wedding procession) or entertainment
  12. Minimized purchasing of wedding attire. We made sure to purchase wedding outfits that could be used for other occasions
  13. No gifts, rather, placed charity boxes to collect monetary donations for the underprivileged and marginalized populations
Indian wedding decor
Our wedding decor
wedding procession
No animals used in wedding procession

This list is by no means exhaustive and we could have done better on making it even more eco-friendly. For instance, we could have opted for fewer events, but we also wanted to respect tradition and meet in the middle. We did our part in our own little way, and every little bit makes a difference. We were honored to see that our ideas were resonating with newspapers, radio and TV outlets, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing this message spread with others. when they joined us in spreading the first ever green wedding message in Surat.

Times of India article of Indian wedding
Coverage in Times of India
at radio station in Surat
Interviewing at local radio station

Many of our international guests from 14 countries — including my husband’s Mexican family — were witnessing an Indian wedding for the first and possibly the last time in their life. To provide an authentic experience to our guests, we condensed five events in two days:

Pithi (turmeric ceremony) + Mehndi (henna) followed by lunch at Pavilion Restaurant
Live musical reception (sangeet) dinner at a private outdoor venue.

couple at hena ceremony
At the Pithi and mehndi ceremony
couple at musical reception
At the musical reception

Grah shanti puja (religious ceremony) followed by lunch at Pavilion restaurant Vedic wedding with real-time explanation of each ritual followed by dinner at a private outdoor venue by the river.

pre wedding ceremony
At the pre wedding ceremony
couple at wedding
At the wedding ceremony

Countries represented at the wedding

  1. India
  2. USA
  3. Mexico
  4. Colombia
  5. Malaysia
  6. Phillippines
  7. Canada
  8. UK
  9. Spain
  10. Aruba
  11. Czech Republic
  12. Dominican Republic
  13. Turkey
  14. UAE
Wedding guets singing
Our international friends singing

Choosing your dream wedding team

Possibly the most difficult and defining part of wedding planning is choosing the right businesses to work with. The first step is to hire a wedding planner. Yes, you need one because it will make your life easy times a thousand! Thankfully in India, most event management companies provide in-house decor services, and this itself can be a good way to filter choices. After going through a few, luckily, we got a referral for the most amazing event management company in Surat. They were as excited about the idea of their first ever eco-friendly wedding as us. The success of the wedding depends on the wedding planner as they act as liaisons between you and all other players — from the photographer to caterers. After going through many different options, the decision fatigue was kicking in. It is important to spend time researching and asking the right questions to make your dream wedding a reality and upon deciding, we were super happy with all our choices. Sharing is caring — since a lot of our friends have asked for contacts — I am happy to give a big shout out to the dream team who made it all possible!

This post is not about having a perfect environment-friendly wedding, but rather, we can try to make a difference in our own way because the small changes are the ones that multiply and create a lasting impact. In a world where most people are too busy to stop and think, we had the luxury of planning the smallest detail of our unique eco-friendly wedding and its impact on the world around us. This has shaped the way we make decisions about the way we choose to create our life as a couple, as eco-friendliness is not just limited to an event but it is a way of life. Stay tuned for more on our green initiatives. If you have made it this far, do not hesitate to share your ideas or experiences around this topic.

Take care and think green, Zeal

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