While most Indian weddings are about excesses, some are wonderfully understated. Still better are the ones that cause least disruption to the planet.
Vegan weddings are slowly gaining ground in the world with young couples setting examples for relatives and friends and propagating a lifestyle which respects Mother Nature and all her beings.
Abhishek Raje and Sowmya Reddy – who married in November 2015 – served only vegan cuisine like jackfruit biryani, mockmeat, qubani ka meeta, jalebi, Mysore pak, soya milk tea and coffee at the four ceremonies celebrating their union.
Abhishek, an honorary animal welfare officer with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and Sowmya, a politician and member of AWBI, were both meat eaters who turned vegan. None of the couple’s attire had silk, leather or wool and neither did they gift any to their relatives. Sowmya used cruelty-free cosmetics for her bridal make up.
A Loving Note on Veganism
Interestingly, a ‘vegan starter’ goodie bag was given to fifty near and dear ones with a note about veganism penned by the couple. The note explained their philosophy well:
Love and passion for animals and the planet is what brought us two together and we wanted to share this with you, with a vegan lifestyle sneak-peek. We are both proud vegans! A vegan lifestyle means abstinence from the usage of any product that is derived or that has any implication on an animal as we do not believe animals are ‘commodities’. So silk, milk, ghee, curd, leather, honey, bone china, wax are off the table for us. ….As a wedding gift to us, try a vegan lifestyle for a change and see how your body, mind and soul respond to a cruelty-free lifestyle!
The kit contained toiletries that weren’t tested on animals, a non-leather wallet, a chocolate biscuit pack and a key chain with a message to always adopt animal friends into one’s family.
They printed invites on recycled paper and gifted their guests with plant saplings instead of tambulas. These guests were encouraged to ditch silk, leather and wool products on the D day.
We banned the use of plastic and implemented zero-waste management for the food served at both our Bengaluru and Hyderabad receptions.
While most Indian vendors aren’t vegan friendly, many are open to the idea. Abhishek had to sit down with the catering team and explain what veganism is and what options they could cook with. But some have picked up on the trend, like White Cub vegan ice cream from Delhi.
Run by Sonal – an anthropology major who is inspired by Maneka Gandhi’s work on animals – the brand makes 10 flavours of vegan (dairy free) ice cream, using ingredients like nuts and fruits.
We have done ten weddings and found great support. Dairy free yoghurts and bakery items are next in line for us.
Making the Connection
Another duo who identify as an eco-conscious minimalist vegan couple, Monica Pandian and Praveen Raj chose to get engaged on November 1, celebrated as World Vegan Day.
23-year-old Monica, an entrepreneur who runs a venture for earth-friendly alternatives and 27-year-old Praveen who is pursuing his masters in global management at Royal Roads University, Canada, have decided to reduce their carbon footprints as long as they live.
With the rising global temperature, increasing landfills and pollution, we must provide a better planet for future generations. While using fuel powered vehicles is kind of a necessity, having lavish, tonnes of waste generating weddings are not.
Their wedding had the theme ‘Make the connection’ (between nature, animals and humans). Monica wore a cotton saree from Co-optex along with jewellery made of seeds and grains. Their eco-friendly handmade paper invites had info on veganism and short environmental documentaries were screened at the function.
We didn’t wear gold or diamond jewellery because these need mining. We do not need to hurt the planet and humans to look beautiful. But for the mangalyam, we were under extreme pressure to use a gold thali, so we melted waste gold and upcycled it. A local goldsmith designed the tree of life on the thali to show the importance of nature. Also, the marigold flowers used for the décor were later turned to compost.
They even paid special attention to the musical instruments that are traditionally made of animal skins. Monica and Praveen had musicians play the SRI Mridangam. The synthetic fibreglass shell mridangam – designed by vocalist and scientist Dr K Varadarangan – is completely cruelty free.
Monica invited 800 guests to her outdoor wedding (to minimise electricity usage) which was held on June 5, 2016, celebrated as World Environment Day.
Relatives were initially unhappy that we did not sport any silk or gold. But our parents were enthusiastic. This was the first such eco-friendly wedding in Chennai.
Peta India that supports veganism vouches for such weddings.
Weddings are supposed to be fun, not grisly. Vegan couples want to ensure their weddings are happy occasions for everyone, animals included, and many consider it important to share their values with loved ones on their special day.
Bhuvaneshwari Gupta, campaigns and nutrition advisor, Peta India
The youngsters opting for veganism feel the greatest takeaway is the peace in knowing that their efforts add up.
Being a catalyst in spreading awareness on a lifestyle based on non-violence to sentient beings and making sacrifices because one is aware that he or she is not more important than another sentient being, feels great.
(Runa Mukherjee Parikh has written on women, culture, social issues, education and animals, with The Times of India, India Today and IBN Live. When not hounding for stories, she can be found petting dogs, watching sitcoms or travelling. A big believer in ‘animals come before humans’, she is currently struggling to make sense of her Bengali-Gujarati lifestyle in Ahmedabad.)