India's Lavish Weddings Face An Environmental Wake-Up Call

As per industry experts, an average three-day Indian wedding produces about 700 to 800 kilos of wet waste and 1,500 kilos of dry waste


Underneath the laughter, tears and joy, lies an ugly underbelly of the wedding industry, the staggering amount of waste it produces.

In 2022, the Indian wedding industry was evaluated at Rs. 3.75 lakh crore or USD 46 billion. India’s estimated 10 million weddings a year contribute significantly to its annual food waste, worth about USD 14 billion in losses. According to the NGO Feeding India, 10 to 20 per cent of the food served at weddings goes to waste.

As per industry experts, an average three-day Indian wedding produces about 700 to 800 kilos of wet waste and 1,500 kilos of dry waste.

Pramod Lunawat, Founder and CEO, Millennium Event and Marriageuana stated heaps of real flowers, kilos of extra unused food and a lot of packaging material as the primary contributors to the waste generated in a wedding.

It’s not uncommon to see flower arrangements used for one element of a wedding, and depending on how they are created depends on whether they’re easily compostable or end up in a landfill.

Other contributors to this waste include paper products such as menus and single-use items like disposable cutlery, cups, plates or napkins. Most decoration items are single-use products and contribute heavily to the waste generated after a wedding.

Weddings also contribute to a waste of resources such as electricity with extravagant lighting and also lead to carbon emissions with guests and vendors travelling to the wedding venue.

It is estimated that more than 10 million weddings happen in India every year. With the industry growing annually at a startling rate of 30 per cent, we are not prepared to deal with the issue of waste disposal. The biggest concern with the waste generated at weddings is that they are in the form of ‘Mixed garbage,’ where waste is mixed together, which makes reusing and recycling an impossible task. The large quantities of waste generated also leave a massive carbon footprint on the earth.

On mitigating particularly, the food waste generated in weddings, Manoj Jain, Chief Executive Officer, FNP Weddings & Event said, “In the wedding industry, catering has been a significant source of waste. However, the tides have turned, and the industry is embracing sustainability.”

Jain elaborated on the initiatives taken by FNP Weddings, he said, “At FNP Weddings, we’ve taken a pioneering step by implementing waste management machines, including composters. These innovative systems are designed to address the waste challenge comprehensively. They effectively convert all forms of waste generated during events into nutrient-rich compost, which not only minimises environmental impact but also contributes to the creation of a sustainable ecosystem. This strategic move reflects our unwavering commitment to reducing waste and promoting responsible practices in the wedding industry, fostering a brighter, greener future for all.”

‘Weddingline Dukan’ has emerged as a popular and fun way to mitigate food wastage. Customers can personalise the items in their hampers leading to less wastage. 

Chetan Vohra, Managing Director, Line Communications & Weddingline elaborated, “Every wedding has a hamper for every room. Many people would open a packet of chips, have maybe two or three little pieces and leave the rest. Now that’s waste, you can’t do anything about it, and you can’t give it to anyone else. We came up with the concept of a live ‘dukan’. It’s called the ‘WeddingLine Dukan’, It’s like a convenience store. When you check into a hotel for a wedding, you are directed to this convenience store and you can decide to pick up whatever you want. This saves money for my client, and it saves a lot of waste in the industry. We’ve seen that there’s been a 70 per cent reduction in wastage because of this.” 

There are agencies trying to use flowers to create incense sticks, compost and dried flowers. Some families prefer décor with artificial flowers or plants that can be taken back. 

Lunawat asserted, “As far as unused food is concerned, certain NGOs are trying to distribute this to the poor, but reputable 5-star hotels have an issue with this because their hygiene and ethical standards do not permit this. Sustainability is not an easy thing to follow in opulent mega Indian weddings.” 

Initiatives such as Feeding India, which distributes unused food in 45 cities and runs a Meals with Love campaign. NGOs remain critical in preserving the leftovers, the Robin Hood Army, and No Food Waste work with couples and catering companies to manage waste, but also strive to educate Indians to cut consumption.

Couples are now increasingly opting for eco-friendly alternatives for their wedding décor, venue and food. There has also been a trend shift to ‘zero-waste’ weddings in recent years. This generational shift, with younger couples being more environmentally conscious will be monumental in curbing the Indian wedding industry’s waste problem.

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