Wedding

Vivaham Byah – To big or not to big, that is the question

This edition of the Vivaham Byah series dives deeper into the unsustainable aspects of weddings which have grown to become accepted norms. Most environment-unfriendly actions are masked under the labels of culture, tradition and most importantly, “Itna toh karna padega na?”, which translates to “This is the least we have to do, isn’t it?”. No we do not! Change begins with you.

Number of Guests

When I visited the Smoky Mountains during the Thanksgiving break back in 2019, we stayed at a bed-and-breakfast. One morning, when we woke up, the gazebo outside was decked with flowers, and there were about forty white chairs lined up in front of it. While we had plans to be out hiking all day, a wedding was about to take place in the gazebo that day. I had watched small-scale weddings in western movies, but I had not seen anything like it before. Only the closest family and friends would be gathering there, witnessing the beautiful union of their loved ones, set against the backdrop of misty mountains, grazing cattle, and a long winding path. Until then, I had never planned my ideal wedding, but that day a dream was born.

An intimate wedding in Smoky Mountains

When I finally came back to reality, I realized that when my parents started listing their guests, the count reached 400-500 people, excluding the guests from my fiance’s side. That was ten times more than what I had in mind. We deliberated and narrowed down the list for the smaller functions by keeping the circle intimate with only the closest family members. In the end, we only retained a large number for the wedding ceremony (the final count would be subject to COVID-19 restrictions) and the reception in Mumbai. Although I’m not thrilled with it, we had to meet in the middle.

Travel

In the event of eased COVID-19 restrictions, our relatives will be coming in from all over the world and from all over India. It’s a North-meets-South wedding after all. With hundreds of people opting for flights, the carbon footprint of our wedding would shoot up significantly. Since we want our loved ones to be there, we would have to wrap our head around the necessary evil. However, there are some tips and tricks to reduce the pain and damage caused to our environment.

  • Carpooling: Ours, like a lot of Indian weddings, will be having plenty of local guests. In such scenarios, sharing cars to weddings can reduce the fossil fuel consumption. If being sustainable is not down your alley, then I’m sure atleast saving money floats your boat. With the recent fuel price hikes, carpooling helps you save on unneccesary spending.
  • Trains/Buses/Cars over flights: We have a lot of guests coming in from towns and cities which lie just a few hours drive away. We have encouraged them to opt for ground transport which again would reduce the fossil fuel consumption and pollution per person.
  • Carbon Emissions Estimate: In the cases where flights are the only options, while booking flights, do check out the Carbon Emissions Estimates on Google Flights. If ticket costs are comparable, picking a flight with lesser emissions is a good way to make an eco-conscious choice.
Carbon Emissions Estimates on Google Flights

Venue and Accommodation

Even though I was opposed to the idea of a full-fledged wedding, there were some dreamy details which I had planned. I was hoping to go with nearby picturesque destinations such as Alibaug or Lonavala . On the other hand, my parents wanted to throw a destination wedding in the likes of Goa or Rajasthan. After a lot of deliberation, my future in-laws accidentally came up with a solution. Since they hail from northern India, they want our December wedding to be in a warmer place and not very far from an airport. This caveat left us with only one familiar option – Aurangabad. It is my maternal native place and thus well-known to us. We picked Lemon Tree, Aurangabad, a hotel ten minutes away from Aurangabad airport, to meet the distance criteria. Additionally, we decided to book all the rooms in the same hotel to minimize the commute between the venue and accommodation. Lastly, we picked an outdoor venue in the hotel for all the functions to take advantage of the natural lighting.

Decorations

The charm of an Indian wedding is brought on majorly by its decoration. However, the materials used largely contribute to one-time-use plastic and other forms of waste such as flower decoration foam, styrofoam, etc. These aren’t biodegradable and, in most cases, not even recyclable. If we were to have a sizable wedding, self-decoration was not a feasible option. Thus began a laborious search for a decorator who would understand my vision. For days I would scroll through Instagram and WedMeGood and would try search word combinations on Google. The toil and trouble finally paid off. I still don’t recollect how, but I came across Nose to Tail Green Events. They are wedding designers based out of Mumbai and Bangalore and have a portfolio of some of the most pristine green weddings. I went through their past work on Instagram, and was floored by their use of glass bottles, coconut shells, dried flowers, macrame, and more, in A-list-wedding-style decorations. The decision was simple. It had to be them!

A sustainably decorated mandap designed by Nose to Tail Green Events

Photography and Videography

Picking a team for photography and videography was a taxing process, primarily because of the plethora of options out there. I must’ve gone through the work of approximately fifty photographers and had calls with atleast ten of them. To put an end to the amorphous search, I reached out to an old friend. She has worked on some of the premier wedding photography teams in India. She gave me tips and tricks to narrow down my search.

  • Narrow down: Shortlist five to six profiles that you like best and are in the ballpark of your budget
  • Reach out: Contact them individually and ask them for the complete set of photos and videos that they captured and compiled during at least two weddings. The suggestion was beneficial because most photographers post their best clicks on Instagram, thus displaying a skewed showcase. When I went through the entire collection of photos and videos, I understood their perspective much better.
  • Meet the team: It is crucial to meet the team before finalizing them. Meetings help understand if the photographer’s personality is a fit. As a bride or groom, one tends to spend a significant portion of the wedding with the photographer. It has to be a pleasant experience.

During this process, I came across Lavanya Ullas‘s work. She moved back to India a couple of years ago and has since been expanding her photography portfolio. Her pictures captured raw emotions exceedingly well. The best of them was one where a father had pursed lips and held back his tears with great difficulty as his daughter walked down the aisle. That picture was as natural and emotional as it could get. I decided to meet Lavanya at a cafΓ©. We planned a small meeting to discuss the specifics and wrap up soon, but I felt like our interests were an instant match when we met. We talked for much longer than planned. I knew that I had to swipe right before she matched with someone else. We shook on it, then and there!

A teary-eyed father, as captured by Lavanya Ullas

A lot of these solutions are applicable to a wide range of celebrations and events. In the next edition, I’ll talk about a major polluter common to most weddings. Stay tuned!

If you found the above tips helpful, do drop your comments below!

14 thoughts on “Vivaham Byah – To big or not to big, that is the question”

  1. Well done SonikaπŸ‘πŸΌ Your research has been thorough, keeping in mind what you want for the wedding.
    Wishing you all the very best in your journey to the wedding day πŸ’—

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  2. πŸ‘Very well researched and written Sonika.
    Blessings and best wishes for your wedding and next endeavors in life.

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  3. Best idea…also focus on sound pollution in every wedding has …it’s tough to make everyone happy those who are coming in wedding….I like your idea..keep it up

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  4. Woww.. when u were small I remember u had done a project in reducing the electricity consumption n the lengths u had gone to do it.. u have an eye for detailing and I m sure that your wedding will be worth every efforts that you have taken in planning. I loved the concept of using the natura n biodegradable products for the decoration. Really looking forward to your other posts and also the wedding. God bless you baccha .

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