How To Plan A Sustainable South Indian Wedding – Part 1

Weddings are an expensive affair.

Almost every article I’ve read on weddings starts with that sentence. Yup. And actually, it IS an expensive affair! Every time I think about the amount of money we have to spend on A DAY, I feel like crying.

But it’s a wedding right? It needs some sort of ‘investment’. While I firmly believe that investment should be in life, and not an event, weddings are not just for two people – it involves your entire family. And when it’s the first wedding in both families, you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices (ideas, finance, etc.).

We really, really wanted to have our wedding in India. In Prasanthi Nilayam. A quiet, simple wedding with a handful of people; and then a big reception party in KL. Obviously, that idea went out the door. Why, you ask? That’s a story for another day.

It was decided that the wedding will be in KL, and we finally locked down a date. Now, the planning. First thing we did was to set aside a ceiling on our budget – this is whatever you think should be your idea of ‘affordable’. Trust me, ours is leaning on the lower end of the spectrum.

I don’t know if this post will help, but I hope it will inspire and help you to plan a South Indian wedding that is consciously sustainable, green, and supportive of the community we are in, on an acceptable budget.  I can’t say this wedding will be 100% sustainable, but I’m pretty sure we’ve done the best we can to make sure we are at least more than halfway there. In this post, let me share how we decided on the most important things for the wedding apart from the ceremony – venue, decoration, photography, food and attire.

WEDDING VENUE

This is the base for the whole wedding. So when deciding on the venue, you need to think about a few things – will it be accessible for all your guests, can it cater for the number of people you are expecting, does it require a lot of setup (hence more stuff, so more energy required to get the place ready), AND does it vibe with your energy?

The best option hands down is always a simple temple wedding. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go with that option as our guest list is quite big.

We really wanted to find a place that resonated with us, where we would be able to connect to the ceremony more than anything else. The place where the next chapter of life begins had to be spiritually connected to the both of us. We searched high and low for the right temple – the ones we really wanted never materialised. The ones that were suitable were not resonating at all. Some were ridiculously expensive. Some were not equipped to handle a large crowd.

We finally decided on the Sri Subramaniar temple in Sunway. Why?

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  • It was the most affordable place that would cater for at least 700 people, and you could choose between the newly built wedding hall (it’s really beautiful) OR the temple itself
  • The total cost is inclusive of the ceremonial proceedings, nadaswaram (live traditional music) and professional fees for the priest to conduct the ceremony
  • They had an in-house decorator, plus other services like photography/videography/live video feed/etc.
  • They already had a panel of caterers we could choose from
  • It was central enough, so the majority of the crowd didn’t need to travel too far – hence reducing carbon footprint for many people
  • Easily accessible for the rest of the guests from overseas; KL is either somewhere in between or cheaper to get to
  • There are really good hotels close by (for our international guests) and Uber works great in this area. The more people carpool and reduce driving, the lower our environmental impact is
  • Since it’s a morning wedding, we are most likely going to use less electricity. Because this hall is so big and bright, we may not even need all the lights inside the hall during the day!
  • The temple has beautiful vibes; the priest was incredibly friendly and ready to help explain the ceremony to us; the temple deity is Lord Murugan who happens to be the god form that both sides of our families connect to easily. My grandparents on either side for example, were both Murugan devotees
  • Most importantly – I loved the calm energy in this temple. It always feels settled and peaceful. No pretense; just pure Love

 

WEDDING DECORATORS

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The temple has their own in-house decorators, Advanced Event Management ,which worked out great for us. If you really want to be sustainable, look for deco that can be reused. The deco we chose for our wedding is a set that has been used many times over by couples previously. It looks grand enough for a wedding without overpowering the hall, or the ceremony. It comes with some simple flower decorations, which was exactly what we were looking for. The flowers, kolam and everything else is customisable. They also manage everything from setup inside to outside (canopies, tables, etc.).

Our event manager Sahil, is an amazing guy who has great ideas and is very accommodating! He patiently spent time explaining details to me, and also listened to what we envisioned. Why we love this guy – he totally gets the classy, elegant and simple concept!

Also, I requested for special access for friends and family who are differently-abled. They have so kindly agreed to help us build a special ramp for them so entry into the wedding hall is easier 🙂

For the flowers, we’re going to go with something that has the least impact on the environment around us – hopefully things we don’t usually think of, that will look beautiful on this rustic gold canvas we’ve been given to experiment with!

 

WEDDING ATTIRE

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This was something we really spent time looking for. Hint – set aside some money and invest in pure silk/pure handloom attire. It is a little more expensive, but you’ll be spending that money for something that can be reused over and over again. We got Bala’s ceremony veshti and kurtha from Kumaran Silks in Chennai, handmade, pure silk (look for the silk mark, it comes with everything that’s 100% pure silk!), and both my manavarai and koorai sarees from Kanakavalli, a beautiful boutique that works directly with weavers from Kancheepuram. There is only one of each saree in this beautiful place, and the sarees are really simple, clean and gorgeous – free from all the jingles and bling that seem to overpower these drapes nowadays.

It took me two days to end up at Kanakavalli – the first day in Chennai was wasted as I walked from store to store in T Nagar, only to be shown really gaudy looking sarees. All covered with stones/bling/too much going on.

Kanakavalli really represented everything I was looking for – simplicity, elegance, and class. The best part : I can definitely reuse my wedding sarees after this day is over.

They also score top marks for customer service! Trust me, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the service.

Why is silk sustainable? Read an excerpt I found online below:

Silk fabric when produced by weavers on handlooms has a near zero energy footprint and satisfies most of the guidelines for sustainable fabric production. 

 

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

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This is a tricky one. We didn’t book a videographer, so getting the right photographer was super important. We also wanted to hire someone who was not part of a huge event company – we were looking for the self-made individuals who are artists in their own right, working on creating art that represents their own personal style and creative energy. People like this start out from scratch, and work their way up in the industry.

I guess it really depends on your take on photography, and what you want to see on your wedding day. Both Bala and I are really visual people, so this was one of the things we took the longest to decide on. There are tons of really good photographers in KL, so it was hard to look at so many and not know who to go with. We finally booked Ashevin K Photography – his style of photography wasn’t cliche, posed, ‘fake’ or repetitive (this last thing was really important to Bala).

Why we liked Ashevin:

  • He responded to our query REALLY fast, and met us within a couple of days to discuss our options (almost everyone else took at least a week to respond)
  • He didn’t talk much, but allowed us to share what we really wanted to see with him first, before sharing his thoughts and work with us
  • He was super honest and upfront about payment terms  (for booking the service and final payment after delivery) and also his delivery timeline
  • He was sweet enough to recommend some makeup artists to me (I hadn’t booked someone yet at that time)
  • His professional packages are affordable and customisable – ie. he doesn’t do the pre-wedding house photography unless you want that (which is great! because I think it’s such a waste of a person’s time to hang around while someone gets ready), and he could immediately visualise things based on the venue – hence good suggestions on places and images
  • He asked all the right questions – what our colour theme was, timing, people, crowd, and what we really wanted to see
  • His payment process was easy, smooth and fast. I’ve actually made full payment for photography already because I know this guy knows exactly what he’s doing! Total trust that he’ll capture our marriage beautifully

 

WEDDING CATERER

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Probably the most important part of a wedding, apart from the ceremony – the FOOD! Choosing a caterer is the biggest task. First, make sure you know the caterer and have tasted their food. The caterers we booked were Shiridi City Caterers, a name familiar with a lot of Sai devotees in Kuala Lumpur as we usually cater from them for Sathya Sai Baba’s birthday celebrations and other major festivals. They are really humble, down-to-earth people and are always ready to speak with you for a consultation.

I went with my parents to meet the caterers (Aunty Devi and her team), and spent over an hour mulling over the brunch menu. The experienced veteran that she is, she even pointed out things I never thought of – like making sure there are some snacks and coffee/tea for family who arrive super early for the wedding, since ours is a morning wedding.

Why we booked Shiridi City Caterers:

  • Food’s yummy! Tested and tried many times before – their vegetarian nasi lemak especially, is the best
  • They are catering a full vegetarian brunch spread for us – and everyone knows by now that being vegetarian equals lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
  • They DO NOT use styrofoam at all. They are equally environmentally-conscious folks
  • She recommended the right amount to cater for based on our current guest list, so we don’t end up wasting any food (we are also making some ‘please do not waste food’ signs to remind everyone to be conscious of what they are putting on their plates!)
  • They always pack and send any leftover food to a network of orphanages that are on their list. That way, nothing is wasted

 

So…there you go. we spent quite a bit of time making the decisions above. We made sure not to rush anything, and considered many things before signing off on them – especially the impact it will bring to society, and the environment around us.

There are still a ton of other things involved in wedding planning (as we found out over the past year!). In the next blog post, I’ll share what we decided to do for our wedding invitations, wedding door gifts, and wedding snacks.

Regardless of the event preparations, one thing I’ve really tried to do during this whole process is to keep my focus on the ceremonythe wedding at the end of the day, is just an event. The ceremony on the other hand, is your spiritual marriage. To me, that is the most important part of a wedding. The ceremony represents everything a spiritual union stands for – everything else is just there on the peripherals as a complement to this energy.

Do you guys have any suggestions we should think about for the wedding day? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us too! 🙂

 

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