Sarang Naroth muses that hailing from a family of hoteliers in Cannanore, Kerala, hospitality was always in his blood. In fact, it was during his stint at his family’s restaurant that he conceived the idea of Aira Wedding Planners. In 2011, his family was approached by a young Gujarati couple from Canada, who had come down to Cannanore to practice yoga. Carried away by the charming coasts of Malabar, they made the impromptu decision to be married in the romantic location.
Although initially having approached the restaurant solely to cater the event, the couple fell deep into conversation with Sarang, and ended up asking him to take care of the entire decor for the event, describing their dream wedding to be “simple yet elegant”. A delighted Sarang agreed, eager to indulge his long-held secret passion.
“I have always had an inclination and passion towards design, and special elements that can transform a space! I replied without a thought, ‘Yes, I would love to’. There it started… a Gujju groom on an elephant and whatnot! I am so grateful for the blind trust the couple laid on me, for my journey all started with that!”
With the first wedding, Sarang began the blissful journey of Aira Wedding Planners accompanied over years by his wife, Archana, who currently handles Marketing, Public Relations and Client-Specific Requests. Although they began with a strong belief in minimalist ideas that could transform a day, they were aware that their philosophy could be a hit-or-miss with the couples they took on as clients. This is because India’s wedding market usually revolves around the statement of “The Big Fat Indian Wedding” – an event emphasizing celebration, large crowds, lavish decor, and most importantly, pomp and ceremony.
However, Team Aira’s first zero-waste wedding originated with a UK-based couple, who asked them for a wedding with minimum waste, usage of recycled and upcycled materials or an eco-friendly setup. “Their wedding was the start of this idea. Then, our team started researching more on his subject, partnering with various people working on the same initiative,” says Sarang, on the wedding that kickstarted their true vision.
So, what truly goes into creating a zero-waste wedding? Team Aira makes sure to hold on to certain fixed ideas and special touches. For instance, their mandaps (archways), where the bride and groom stand to be married – are usually constructed from bamboo pillars, and feature jute carpets. The wedding invitations are usually made from seed paper – and their return gifts and the rest of the decor are created and designed with sustainable material- such as bamboo, banana fiber, coconut, betel nuts and leaves, and fruits.
“We try and re-use as many materials we can from each of our weddings. We use real flowers, that can be made use of later by organizations that help make agarbathis, dhoop cones, handmade soaps, fragrances, potpourri and more.”
Aside from sustainability in the materials used, the team believes in giving opportunities to rural artisans. “We are just progressing with an initiative, where domestic women, members of old age homes, and gifted women will all be part of our project to make a business out of these materials used in weddings and make a living out of it,” says Sarang.
“Our mehendi and sangeet event hangings and props are mostly made by differently-abled children from Ashrayam Special School in Kannur. Beading is a form of therapy for these children, so as and when a requirement such as this is posed, we get it done by them and also give them some money that acts as a feel good factor for them.”
Although the team has conducted over 300 weddings since they began, their motto is that “every wedding is unique and every wedding is an experience.” The team customizes every element of the wedding according to the tastes and preferences of the clients – their services include hiring choreographers and videographers, designing wedding decor, bridal wear and makeup, creating the perfect wedding venue, shooting wedding films, and customizing gifts and favours. Over the years, they have encountered several fascinating requirements from clients, and insist that they are present to help the bride and groom realize their fairy tale dreams.
Although the team’s focus is on sustainable and eco-friendly weddings, they are aware that sometimes, it can be difficult for them to execute their vision in India. “India should be the first country to move to zero-waste weddings, especially because all the traditions can easily be dealt with using eco-friendly substances,” insists Sarang. “But the question is – does a family or a couple only look at tradition, or something more than that? Unfortunately, in India, weddings still happen based on prestige and comparison. For example, a parent could just say that their neighbour’s daughter entered their wedding in a golden chariot, so for my daughter, we should create a platinum chariot,” sighs Sarang.
“The more natural you go, the more expensive it gets. So the wedding parties’ thought process is that they might as well spend on diamonds, rather than a bamboo bottle,”
However, after analysis of several of the weddings they have conducted, Sarang also says that when couples plan for their wedding, their first instinct is to move towards simplicity, subtlety and eco-friendly in their tastes. “It is not until the family pitches in and makes it an “extravaganza” that it truly happens. We are hoping a revolution will be created, that is well-perceived and headed in the right direction – for an eco-friendly wedding is the need of the hour to keep the world going!”
Team Aira’s future plans, aside from spearheading India’s eco-friendly wedding revolution, is to dedicate their time to research more on sustainable elements – especially ones that could be used for upcoming weddings. It is also Sarang and Archana’s wish to create more job opportunities for rural artisans – all the while directing and educating them towards environmental responsibilities. Aside from rural artisans, they would love to offer more handcrafted chances to members of old age homes, differently abled and homeless communities.
“We want to identify their unique talents and help them create a world they can call their own! The plans are endless, as we progress through our everyday learning. Weddings are more than just business, I feel it’s the only job that gets you to see and feel real emotions. You see people as themselves, their unconditional love and infinite dreams surpassing the universe!” ends Sarang, with cheerful enthusiasm.