Marriages are forever, they said. The waste footprint of these modern weddings is also forever, they never said. Marriages are made in heaven, they said. Wedding wastes never leave the earth, even long after we are gone, they never said.

The ‘Big fat Indian wedding’ has come to represent everything that is wrong about the way we celebrate what is essentially a union of two individuals, two families. I speak for all of us, including myself, with self-reproach, for the amount of disposables that goes into the making of a wedding that differentiates a normal wedding from a ‘grand’ wedding. When I got wedded four years ago, I didn’t know enough about ‘zero-waste’. Which is why, when Mr. Kannan approached us with the idea of a zero-waste wedding (ZWW) for his daughter, I wanted to accept. It would give me the opportunity to learn first-hand, to work with the naysayers, to influence more people to go zero-waste in their own weddings and life in general, but mostly to demonstrate to the city and city government that a zero-waste wedding is really possible. But it was when Mrs. Jayashree Kannan, the mother of the bride said, ‘Every religion prescribes renunciation or giving up something with the hope that it becomes a way of life. Zero-waste wedding is an opportunity to break free from the toxic relationship we have with wastage and plastics, at least for a couple of days. - it is unfair that our private celebrations come with a social cost and we want to change this’, that I felt obligated to work with the family.

Moral obligation aside, the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 spells out the responsibility of a waste generator. Rule 4(4) clearly puts the onus on the event organiser/waste generator. It reads, ‘No person shall organise an event or gathering of more than one hundred persons at any unlicensed place without intimating the local body, at least three working days in advance and such person or the organiser of such event shall ensure segregation of waste at source and handing over of segregated waste to waste collector or agency as specified by the local body’. I am reminded of the legendary exchange between Shivaji Ganesan and Kamal Hasan in the cult movie Thevar Magan where the former says ‘Idhellam perumaiya, kadama, ovurutharoda kadama’, roughly translating to ‘This is not a favour, this is every man’s responsibility’. Nothing sums up this moral and legal position better for me.

A zero-waste wedding is not a 21st century innovation; it is in fact just the opposite of it. It is the weeding of several unsustainable practices that somehow became norms, redefining the way events, weddings, in particular, are conducted in modern times. It is, in fact, a mere reinvention of the wheel- a call for conscious choices and practices that are very much in our DNA, but were somehow lost in vertical gene transmission, a decade or two ago.

When Mr. Kannan approached CAG for making the wedding well and truly ZW, we realised, he had already walked half the distance by achieving 100% compliance with our ZWW protocol. We gladly took on the assignment to help with the final, yet most important, leg of the celebrations, disposal of the waste. But before we get there, here’s a little bit about how he and his family made the job easier for us.

Invitations

Hand–made invitation cards, designed by the bride herself. It depicts the theme from a Sangam-era poetry landscape (Kurinji Thinai), usually associated with the union of a couple. The painting itself is a wonderful keepsake from the wedding. No plastic, no glitter, no wastage, and with that, they were already onboard the ‘reuse’ theme.

Give-aways

Whether it was the hand-painted reusable cloth bags or the native potted plants, the give-aways were simple, earthy, in complete sync with the Kurinji theme of the invitation, and most of all, a great way to refuse plastics in letter and spirit.

Decorations

The Kurinji theme offers so much scope for a green wedding and the family had truly leveraged this. The decorations- welcome board, name boards etc, typically full of Styrofoam and thermacol letters and patterns were replaced by coir in a prosperous green background made of natural leaves and flowers.

Catering

This is perhaps the most important part of any event. An average meal today comes with unfathomable amounts of packaging, all ending up in the landfill after single-use, lasting perhaps a  few seconds more than Usain Bolt’s record 100 m sprint record. Reusable cutlery in steel, including steel tumblers for water and beverages, glasses for juice, compostable cutlery made of bagasse, and areca nut plates and bowls can up your ZWW game and your commitment to reducing your waste footprint to a whole new level.

Well begun is half done, they say. But, can a wedding be fully ZW without proper disposal? Diverting discards from landfills and dumpyards is the most important step. Moreover, minimising discards can take us further.