In this blog post our SUSS community member, Prakriti Rajvanshi, talks about how she planned an eco-friendly wedding for her sister. In light of Covid-19, many weddings are off, we’ve heard some crazy stories of Zoom weddings, and in cities such as Delhi weddings with upto 50 people are now allowed. This in itself, seems to be a sustainable move in terms of not taxing our resources today. But what does tomorrow have in store? What would weddings with social distancing norms look like? Would the wedding market shrink or grow? The future of weddings post Covid is a question that doesn’t have a clear answer yet.
Today, we are going down memory lane to talk about Sanchita’s (Prakriti’s sister) wedding held on 09th February 2019 in Bikaner, Rajasthan. The lessons learnt are equally applicable to small weddings. There is a section at the end on what steps you can take today to plan a wedding in the time of Corona. We hope by the end of this post we are able to leave you with a warm feeling in your heart and a desire to rethink resource use in weddings. If there ever was a time to do that, it is now.
Both my sister and I try to do our bit in our everyday lives to be zero waste and environment friendly. So when she decided to get married, the first thing I did as the designated wedding planner was Google “eco-friendly weddings in India.” It was shocking to see that no North Indian wedding, based on the search results, had been done in a fully zero waste manner.
One 200 crore wedding in Auli, Himachal Pradesh left behind 240 quintals (24,000 kilogram) of garbage in four days.
There are over 10 million weddings in India every year, with a total market share of INR 33,000 crores in 2017 and a projected annual growth rate of 20% (these are pre-Covid numbers and we don’t know yet what future trends will look like). I had the option to talk to some existing planners but my own passion about this subject led me to plan it on my own. My goal was to avoid waste every step of the way and not just the main event days.
The wedding was a mix of two different cultures. Prasoon grew up in Delhi and Sanchita in Bikaner, Rajasthan. They met while working in Hyderabad, started dating after Sanchita moved to Pune, and introduced each other’s families when Prasoon was in Canada and Sanchita was in Bangalore. I came up with the wedding theme as “Let Love Grow” because distance never came between their love and we wanted an eco-friendly wedding to celebrate our love for nature too!
For most guests we used e-invites. For the few that we had to print, we bought seed and cotton paper from a B2B manufacturer and printed locally. The envelope was made from mixed flowers seed paper and the insides were made from recycled cotton fibers. Full disclosure: our guest list was not small, 350 guests for pre wedding functions and 500 for the main function. However, that is not ideal, I would recommend trimming it if possible.
A big part of any Indian wedding is gifting. To do this meaningfully, we decided to give marigold seed balls to our outstation guests. We packed each seedball in small cloth bags that we upcycled from an unused organza dupatta (sheer silk length material). We kept saplings for the local guests from a local nursery. The special thing about all 150 saplings was the packaging- instead of the black plastic bags or plastic pots, we wrapped them in jute bags. We collected these jute bags from scrap dealers.
For our friends we went with a reusable box of organic beauty products specially curated by “Lushveda” without any plastic packaging and a cultural local art chowki (a short stool or bench). We bought all the gifts in our own cloth bags and all return gifts were packed in upcycled cloth bags stitched by our mom. The name tags and a sweet thank you message for all the gifts was hand lettered on seed paper.
For the haldi ceremony (a ritual where turmeric is applied to the bride and groom) we decided to give handmade hathphool (hand bracelets) to women and small pom pom badges to men. The hathphool was made from unused bangles at home. We made around 150 for women and 30 for men so we had to put a limited stock sign for the male guests.
As for the “sagan envelopes” (cash gift envelopes for guests) which are often thrown away in a minute, we upcycled the envelopes from the newspaper and put a wax seal on each of those. We made approximately 200 envelopes and had three colors to indicate which one had how much money. We were very surprised to hear later that the guests kept these as a memory from the wedding!
Decorating mindfully and raising awareness
Bride seating for the Mehendi and Sangeet (a ritual of applying Henna tattoos alongside a musical celebration) was made by threading together pastel colored artificial flowers with peach draped canopy to reuse whatever was available with our vendor. Using fresh flowers wasn’t an option because plants are destroyed to fulfil this demand. Also, the kind of flowers we wanted weren’t locally grown. However, the Haldi ceremony is incomplete without Genda phool (marigold) and we decided to grow our own gendas at home and used the pots in the decoration. The pots were coupled with Nimbu Mirchi (Lemon-Chilli) strings to give the setting a unique vibe. These lemons and chillies were later distributed among the staff and used at home to cook meals for many months to follow!
The Signage Boards for Mehendi and Sangeet were made using seed paper and scrap cardboard. A green wedding signage was made for the guests to educate them about how this was an eco friendly event and how they could help us achieve that through their actions.
I created a special ring platter by creating a terrarium (a collection of small, decorative plants growing in an enclosed environment). By doing this we ditched thermocol and plastic.
I also made special seating tags for the couple for the sangeet ceremony. The tags were upcycled using scrap jute bags and acrylic paint. For the photobooth signage we used old thick scrap cardboard and got them cut at a local shop with expertise on cutting letters for local businesses.
The food was served in bagasse (dry pulpy fibrous residue that remains after sugarcane) and bamboo disposable plates instead of thermocol or plastic, and ceramic reusable cutlery. There were paper straws and water dispensers instead of plastic bottles.
Covid related tips
Any conversation today is incomplete without thinking about Covid’s impact. If you had already decided on a date before the lockdown, make sure you inform your guests about scaling down or postponing the wedding via email or Whatsapp. If your wedding date is for the end of this year or next year, now is the time to stay home and plan the wedding. Use this time to research some trends and pin your favorites!
The good news is that as per the new guidelines you can still have a beautiful wedding with under 50 people. Choose a local venue or even your backyard if you feel comfortable.
Start by creating a mood board for the ceremonies you want to have before your big day. Try keeping it during the day so that you don’t need arrangements for lighting up the place; it also saves energy. The amazing part about being eco-friendly is upcycling existing material — so you can do-it-yourself (DIY) using the ideas I’ve shared throughout this blog or reach out to a local decorator to help you. As far as the outfits are concerned, go old school and experiment with your parents’ or grandparents’ wedding outfits. Bonus: they come with tons of emotional value and love!
The good lies in the details
Doing the little things well makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. For example, the slightly coarse, earthy feel of jute packaging instead of the cold, distant plastic has a big effect on the experience of receiving a gift. So we paid very close attention to the details.
For the “bride” and “sister of the bride” sash I used old robes lying at home. I jazzed up old footwear with fabric scrap and lace to create the bride’s footwear for haldi. Both examples of not just upcycling but also reusing of items we grew up around, had emotional attachment to.
Even if a 100 guests found this experience memorable and made eco-friendly choices as a result, we would consider this endeavor a success. This wedding was afterall a celebration of love — between two souls and also our collective love for nature.
This article is written by Prakriti Rajvanshi. You can follow her Instagram handle @creativemindscorner and if you want any further information on the vendors you can contact her directly. All photos have been clicked by Simran of Beginnings.