Tie a green knot

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By Do your bit for saving the planet by opting for eco-friendly weddings that are creative yet environmentally responsible, says Chitra Papnai
  • Published 9.01.10

You have been for the caviar and champagne weddings and you’ve tripped delicately over the red carpet at many five-star nuptials. But now it’s time for something different: why not cut down on your carbon footprint and get married on an ecologically sound note?

Now you don’t have to be a dedicated environmentalist to do this. Yes, there are a few sacrifices that you might have to make, but, they’re small ones — and you will have the consolation of being different from the herd. “If global warming is a big threat, going eco-friendly is a small price a couple-to-be can pay,” says Shripal Shah, founder, Asal, an organic food and natural products store.

Take a look at hotels and organisations like Asal which are pushing for marriages that put as little pressure on the environment as possible. They’re suggesting that you drop the opulent chandeliers (in favour of trendy castor oil lamps) and other fancy accoutrements and give everything a traditional touch.

So, in come organic food, organic clothing, jute decorations and even khadi tents — yes, you really will have the satisfaction of being different.

Franklin Simon of Leonia Holistic Destination in Hyderabad says: “Due to the increase in the levels of awareness and as well as concern for the environment, more people are aspiring for eco-friendly weddings.”

In order to bring down the carbon emission levels of a wedding, Leonia asks their guests to use luxury coaches instead of a fleet of automobiles. “Rent a hybrid, compact, or old-fashioned vehicle. Instead of a stretch limo or Hummer, make your wedding eco-friendly by reducing your carbon emissions,” says Vinay Singh of Hotel Uppal’s Orchid.

Don’t think that going environmental on your wedding day is just for Green extremists. Take, for example, businessman Prashant Balar who insisted on going all the way on the environmental and organic front. To begin with, he opted for khadi tents for the wedding and went to the extent of getting a sherwani made from non-violent silk (woven from a cocoon derived after the worm completes its natural lifecycle). “What added glamour to the tents were the block prints done using natural colours. And for decoration, mirror-work on cow-dung smeared floor added the sparkle,” he explains.

Balar didn’t even allow photography or video and, instead, commissioned artists from the villages who painted portrait of the bride and the groom. Food was prepared in chulhas, from organic ingredients. Says Balar: “It was a gesture of paying nature back on my big day and setting an example and showing that one can have a wedding without disturbing nature or polluting the environment.”

Similarly, Wedding Consultant Neeta Raheja points out that most NRI couples who get married in India do not want to disturb the nature or add unnecessary elements to the venue. “Young couples are going for settings which lend a naturally beautiful ambience,” says Raheja.

That’s why they pick already picturesque settings like a beach in Goa or a palace in Rajasthan so that they don’t have to be worried about the décor.

Hotels like Leonia offer custom-made solutions right from wedding invitations onwards. And Leisure Hotels too has distinctly different offerings for its customers. “We use biodegradable seed paper for wedding invitations. Then, we suggest local and seasonal flowers and instead of knick-knacks, we give the guests live wedding gifts such as seed packets, bulbs, or tree seedlings,” says Vibhas Prasad, director (Business Development), Leisure Hotels.

There’s one great upside to all this. A green wedding is not only eco-friendly but also pocket-friendly and cheaper than a more elaborate affair. Consider:

The invitations

Instead of regular cards, recycled or handmade paper is used to print the wedding invitations. Another option is using seed-embedded cards. If you haven’t come across these yet, what happens here is that invitees use the seeds to grow plants. “When the wedding invitations come in bamboo, banana stalk and sugarcane paper and in seed-embedded cards it makes people think about keeping the environment green,” says Singh.

Also remember an additional detail: the ink used on the paper should be chemical free.

Of course, there is another way out of the invitation dilemma — super-cheap and absolutely environmentally friendly. Send your invitations out via email. This possibly isn’t the most stylish way, but it’s terrifically efficient and in this day and age which of your friends isn’t on the Net?

Adds wedding consultant, Raheja: “Some couples also create websites for their guests to log on and find out the schedule for different functions.”

Dress code

It might be time to forget those satins and even some of those silks. If you want to be kitted out in a suitably green way it’s probably best to turn up on the Big Day kitted out in organic cotton or even khadi. And, if it’s silk you fancy, make sure it’s non-violent silk. “We even get silk achkans and kurtas made for grooms apart for other members of the family which look elegant,” explains Shah.

Today when many fashion designers are also inching towards eco-friendly fabrics it is very easy to get customised wedding attire in the fabric of your choice. Even the method of dying the fabric can be done in an eco-friendly fashion without using any chemicals.

Décor deal

Opulence with minimalism is the mantra here. So if you don’t spot fancy lamps in the venue, you’ll find thousands of oil lamps lending their light to the proceedings.

Instead of synthetic decorations, real flower power rules the venue at an eco-friendly wedding. Potted plants and flowers are a major part of the decorations. Hotels like Leonia use locally available and seasonal flowers and plants to beautify the surroundings.

Even at ground-level everything can be different. On the floor you could get a rangoli done using natural colour or even rice powder or turmeric powder and so on. Asal suggests jute decorations on the floor. Besides that he has created patterns on the floor with cow-dung as the base and decorative mirrors on top.

Like Balar, some weddings have also gone to the extreme shunning cameras and videos “Instead of pictures we get a portrait of the couple done by artists” explains Shah. Getting diyas instead of bulbs and portraits done by artists are not only eco-friendly but also generate employment for small scale artists. And the green wedding planners suggest that your local florist can tell you which bouquets are local and seasonal. “This is an inexpensive way to make your wedding eco-friendly because local and seasonal flowers are often cheaper,” says Singh.

Bite right

At a green wedding the food is usually vegetarian and the ingredients used to prepare the meals are organically grown vegetables and pulses. And there’s more. The food is prepared on environment-friendly chulhas. “Instead of booking big caterers all you need is organic ingredients and a good cook,” says Shah.

Also, to take it a step further, hotels like Leonia provide re-usable cutlery instead of handing out disposable stuff to the guests. At some weddings the food is served on banana leaves while Asal recommends the use of copper vessels to serve food to the guests. Interestingly these copper vessels are sourced from the Kansara community in West Bengal who have a traditional way of making copper utensils without using any electricity. “It is not only healthy to have food in a copper vessel but it is also a traditional practice,” says Shah.

Wild settings

One other possible touch is to leave the big city behind you and head out to jungle hideaway when it’s time to say your vows. Leisure Hotels organises weddings very close to the jungle. “An eco-friendly location is one which in terms of accessibility, everyone can reach easily in groups using a common transportation. Also the surroundings should be green with natural lights, fresh air and above all a cool atmosphere,” says Prasad.

The site you choose for your ceremony will depend on considerations like the number of guests, climate and geography. If you want to head all the way to north India to Corbett National Park, Leisure Hotels gives you the option of choosing between properties like The Corbett Hideaway or the family cottages of The Riverview Retreat. And, if you want to go the whole hog and have a complete jungle experience, try The Hideaway River Lodge which has luxury tents inside the park.

Alternatively, beach weddings and palace weddings are also becoming very popular as, at such spots also, you can’t improve on nature and don’t have to do much to add to the already scenic setting.

So are these eco-friendly weddings pocket friendly for the clients? “Certainly, in fact, it’s a blessing in disguise for clients as an eco-friendly wedding or a green wedding cuts costs when compared to a usual wedding,” says Prasad.

If you shop and plan in advance, this could be an inexpensive way to make your wedding eco-friendly. Says Singh: “Not only is it healthy for the nature, it lends a nicely whimsical touch to the proceedings.”