The traditional Indian wedding usually involves a grand ceremony, elaborate receptions, huge meals, bartering and dowry negotiations, the list goes on. Although these elements of the celebrations are admirable cultural and social norms, they do not always align with the values of couples who are interested in maintaining environmental sustainability. To them, a marriage is not only a contract between two people but also an agreement between society at large and the natural world. In this article, The Desi Bride brings you the story of Rhea, an ecopreneur and environmentalist who dealt with balancing her desire to wed organically while fulfilling her vision of a fairytale wedding in India.
I got acquainted with the concept of sustainability about 10 years ago, while I was in high school and read about the garbage patch floating which was larger than the size of Hawaii, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Since then, I've been trying to do whatever I can in my capacity to reduce my carbon footprint. From giving up meat and leather to switching to a lot of eco-friendly alternatives, I have been trying to turn towards a sustainable lifestyle. A couple of years ago, while dining out, I noticed the restaurant offered paper straws. They were the first restaurant I saw to follow that practice in Mumbai. I went and applauded the manager and that's when he told me that he was actually not very happy with them because you have to cut trees to take the paper and you have to use unbleached paper. Every drink was using three straws instead of using one plastic straw. He asked me to help him come up with a solution to combat this issue. That's how I came up with the idea of using eco straws. We started with making a couple of prototypes for him, and he turned around and placed an order for three of his restaurants. That's what struck me: if I can supply to three restaurants, why not look at supplying them to different restaurants all over India. What started with straws, turned into other bar accessories and other eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic.
Since I've been acquainted with this concept of sustainability and all of us today are so aware of what happens, we knew that the wedding had to have the least amount of impact because weddings can be very wasteful. Be it the food wastage, fresh flowers and any kind of single use item, including those hideous tiny plastic water bottles that people tend to serve. So, a couple of pointers that we knew we wanted to do was definitely not to have those little plastic bottles give people water in jugs, how back in the day our grandparents used to. We also wanted all our decor to be reusable. Choosing from things that were existing with vendors or if a prop was custom made for us, the same prop had to get used across all our events in different fashions. We focused on eliminating or reducing the use of vinyl or flex in that context since it is difficult to recycle. Choosing to use a carpet instead of using flex sheets that people tend to put on the dance floor, not having any waste such as straws, people now tend to have the hashtags and those little little things. We told our planners we did not want to have balloons, we didn't want to have any firecrackers and we did not want to use any animals during the Baraat, for which we used a car instead. Furthermore, small things, say the gifts that we gave to our guests which people usually put together a huge basket and include food items within that. We knew that for anyone to carry the food baskets back to their homes would be very difficult given weight restrictions by airlines. So we used scrap cloth which was beautifully printed and created these reusable bags with a little tag on it saying please take this back and reuse it for storage or to go buy your groceries. There were no paper invites and if there was any paper that was printed for the wedding, it was done in a very small, minimal way. All the food that was leftover from the food hampers was collected. We had given those very clear instructions to the hotel as well as our wedding planners, that please collect all that food, whether it's a bottle of Coke and we ensured that nothing went to waste. The day after our wedding, we took the collected food over to an orphanage in the airport itself. The kids had a gala time with all those chips, coke, and everything. It was a mini party for them. I think that gave me more happiness than the wedding celebration itself. We had also locally sourced all the presents that we would give to the guests, which were packed without using plastic in reusable muslin bags.
We got married in the midst of the pandemic in February 2021 at Udaivilas, Udaipur Hotel, Rajasthan. Our basic priorities were, of course, a hotel that could accommodate around 150 to 200 people. We wanted just one hotel that we could fully book out and accommodate all the guests as well as we needed it to be a little picturesque. We wanted our venue to be amidst nature and surrounded by all things that we appreciate. That is how we came across Udaivilas and decided to host our wedding there.
We're aware that food wastage is a huge part of weddings. There are agencies such as The Robin Hood Army that could be contacted to come and take all the leftover food. However, a lot of the hotels don't permit that. Udaivilas, where we had our wedding, have a policy where they keep a sample of the food for three days just in case anyone gets sick so they can test it out. Hence, what we did was set up stations so that if you wanted to eat something, you would go and take a quantity of your liking versus picking out stuff from a buffet. Of course, there were things that we couldn't change. For example, the desserts had to be served in a buffet style.
We were stuck in the lockdown and no one could really travel. I loved art and everything that kind of inspires the burning man festivals. We wanted to bring that to our wedding. We didn't want to have a typical wedding welcome lunch with the whole Indian concept. We wanted to be transported to a different place. So that's when we thought of doing this burning man or themed brunch. In fact, The Wedding Duo, our team of decorators, got in touch with an artist who's based in Delhi and makes art and sculptures from upcycled metal waste. He created these really cool pieces of art such as a big cat, a robotic, transformer sort of piece of art, which we rented from the gallery, just for the duration of the wedding. It was pretty fun and interesting.
We got to hear from a real-life environmentalist bride and what she had to say was impressive. She put together a stunning, sustainable wedding that was in line with her environmental values and we were blown away by how beautiful it was. Rhea tied the knot to Divish in a three-day event in Udaipur, complete with music and dancing, an artfully-decorated venue, picturesque vistas, and the craziness of an Indian wedding. Being an ecopreneur, the bride was also successful in incorporating elements of sustainability, with restored and rented pieces of art, locally-sourced flowers, leaf, and carnation varmalas, gift hampers packed in reusable, printed bags, and more. From start to finish, it's an eco-friendly celebration for any couple who loves the environment, who wants to set a good example for others, or simply loves doing things the green way.
If you are interested in planning a sustainable wedding, check out our recent article, The Complete Indian Wedding Guide For Everyone Planning An Eco-Friendly South Asian Wedding. For other wedding planning tips, you can visit our blog or search for luxury Indian wedding vendors through our curated directory.
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