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Can Indian weddings be vegan? | One Good India

Can Indian weddings be vegan? | One Good India

Two couples who recently got married show that despite the differences in how they got married, they could happily celebrate their big day without compromising on their vegan values.

The first couple is Dipti and Vardhan, who celebrated a traditional Indian wedding. Dipti became vegan on the day of her engagement, November 20th, 2020. Vardhan has been vegan since August of 2016.

The second couple is Ritika and Dhivakar, who celebrated a vegan Indian-Western inspired wedding. Ritika has been vegan since August of 2016, and Dhivakar has been vegan since December of 2014. 

Why did you do a vegan wedding?

Dipti and Vardhan: When we learned about the suffering that goes into getting milk from a mother cow and how it’s used in our ceremonies, we didn’t want to celebrate by inflicting harm on animals. Vardhan’s mother couldn’t contribute to the suffering of another mother in the name of tradition. Coming from a Jain family, the question of using meat never arose. 

Ritika and Dhivakar: As Animal Rights activists and people who are anti-oppression, it was very important to us that our choices didn’t cause any unnecessary harm to other beings. We couldn’t possibly celebrate a happy occasion like our wedding at the cost of non-human animal lives, so there was never a doubt that our wedding would be vegan. Everything associated with our wedding was vegan- the cloth on the tables, the make-up, the decorations, our clothing, the wedding album cover, and of course the food.     

How did you keep it traditional?

Dipti and Vardhan: The Pheras, a Hindu tradition, involves the bride and groom encircling a flame that is continuously kept burning with ghee was the biggest challenge custom-wise. But thanks to our very accepting Pandit, Nirmal-ji Maharaj, we were able to do the exact same ceremony with Vansapati and it worked perfectly! We were willing to forgo the Pheras altogether if the use of alternatives wasn’t accepted, but it was such a blessing that we could use a vegan substitute for this ritual. 

Ritika and Dhivakar: We actually didn’t, but we don’t blame veganism for that! We’ve always spoken about planning a wedding without any traditional rituals or events, we just wanted to sign at the registrar’s office and throw a celebration with our nearest and dearest. That’s not to say traditional weddings can’t be vegan. There are lovely vegan weddings that stick to traditions, making it non-traditional was just our personal preference! 

What were the most important vegan substitutes you used to serve food?

Dipti and Vardhan: Indian Sadya meals typically have a lot of ghee, milk, curd, and honey. We were able to substitute all of these. Chef Zafar from The Leela Palace Hotel was artistic in his execution of vegan food. Goodmylk was a saving grace with their affordable vegan mylk and curd. The texture and flavour felt indistinguishable from the dairy versions. Abhay Rangan behind Goodmylk had large quantities of vegan dairy products delivered to us so that we could enjoy the Sadya meal and other occasions in the wedding hassle-free. 

Ritika and Dhivakar: We used tofu, soy chaap, and Goodmylk curd. The idea that you need to have a lot of substitutes to have a vegan wedding is misleading. There are so many delicious foods you can offer guests without relying on substitutes as they are easy to veganize. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised when the chef at the hotel knew so much about veganism. At our first meeting, he came prepared with a full vegan menu he specially curated. It didn’t rely heavily on substitutes, and after a taste test we loved it.

Sample menu for a vegan wedding

What was different about your wedding versus a non-vegan one?

Dipti and Vardhan: Our wedding was distinct in the sense that Dipti, originally from Kolkata, got engaged to me and became a vegan right away and understood the concept and chose to be compassionate, right from the beginning. Both our families were completely onboard with making the wedding as cruelty-free as possible. Everything from the make-up to the attire to the food and the customs were 100% vegan. Ultimately, we didn’t want our celebrations to result in someone else’s suffering. It helped to start our relationship on a conscious and auspicious note.  

Ritika and Dhivakar: Probably that we were roasted and not the animals! And of course, our happy day didn’t come at the cost of others’ lives.

How did your friends and family react?

Dipti and Vardhan: All our guests were pleasantly surprised when they realized all the food and beverages were 100% vegan. They reported no difference in taste and they all felt they didn’t miss out on anything. They were surprised with the entire spread Chef Zafar prepared, as he left no stone unturned to provide the best options with products like Goodmylk’s mylk and curd. It was a wonderful experience without any compromise to health, ethics, and the environment. 

Ritika and Dhivakar: We celebrated with those nearest and dearest to us, and since they already knew how important it was to us, they weren’t surprised. They knew it would be a vegan wedding. Many of our guests were from the vegan community, but those who weren’t vegan loved the food. Our vegan friends were particularly excited about the all vegan buffet since they didn’t have to check if it’s vegan or not! 

Was it expensive to make it vegan?

Dipti and Vardhan: This is a misconception. Finding alternatives is so much easier with new ventures bringing innovative and conscious products to the mainstream market. The wedding was conscious in terms of food and beverages served and expenditure overall. One extenuating circumstance to keep in mind was the fact that our wedding was very minimal in terms of the number of guests invited due to the Delta variant of COVID, which gave us no option but to limit the event to 30 people. 

Our monetary, physical and mental expenditure was lesser than one might otherwise expect. As a result, we are now all for smaller weddings. There’s less waste, less expenditure, they’re more eco-friendly, and it also lets us be more in the present moment with the bride and groom without running around and attending to the needs of hundreds of guests and arrangements. 

Ritika and Dhivakar: It wasn’t expensive and worked well within our budget. In fact, other wedding buffet options that were shown to us first at the hotel were a lot more expensive than the curated vegan menu we asked for! So actually, we saved money serving vegan food as non-vegan foods like meat and dairy are quite expensive.

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