We not only spend an inordinate amount on our weddings, we also have the world’s largest number of guests. Mala Ashok tells you how you can get thrifty and yet have an exotic wedding, when you plan it away from home
Indians have the dubious distinction of being among the world’s leading spenders when it comes to weddings. This trait transcends all income ranges, and the common theme is, “spend more than you can afford,” to keep up with the Joneses.
The Government pats itself on the back for its “tough on dowry” stance. However, the insidious practice of dowry continues regardless of this ban. The practice is very much prevalent whether overtly or covertly. In all fairness, sometimes there are no demands for dowry, but there are lots of gifts given from the parents under the guise of helping the youngsters settle down.
In this climate of “giving,” the “spending” on the actual wedding celebration also thrives. Not only do we spend an inordinate amount on each guest, we also have just about the world’s largest number of guests! Every so often, society makes a lot of noise about this enormous waste, till a “Monsoon Wedding” comes along and the practice is glorified!
Away from home
Why not emulate the West, where the parties are trimming the fat in the already bare bones spending? The next fad to hit the wedding scene there is “Destination Weddings.” These weddings take place away from home in an exotic destination such as a tropical Island. Thirty one per cent of brides under 30 are opting for these weddings.
It may appear that extravagant weddings away from home at exotic locales may be an undesirable luxury in these tough times. However, wedding planners in Canada and America say weddings away from home are cheaper than weddings at home. Some couples even dispense with event planners and instead of flying to an exotic destination get married aboard a cruise ship with just the most important guests! The cost is controlled by keeping the guest list to a bare minimum. Our country’s large numbers originated not only from large joint families but also from the fact that we did not register our marriages and instead relied on guests as witnesses sanctifying the union both socially and legally; now neither of these is a factor so there is no justification for these big ticket weddings.
Trimming the fat
A leading North American consultant plans several weddings a year at a tropical island resort which is a favourite of couples. The average “big” wedding at one of these resorts consists only of 50 people! This enables the cost to be under $15,000 as opposed to the average of $30,000 it costs them in their home country. The bride and groom or their parents pay only for the people in the wedding party such as the bridesmaids and the best man and ring bearer. The other guests are expected to pay for the trip by themselves. Most of them treat this as a wonderful opportunity to visit a new place and since there is a lot of advance notice given, planning is not difficult.A friend of mine from America was invited to a wedding in Vienna. She used this “chance of a lifetime,” to attend the wedding, visit Salzburg and she even undertook a bicycle “Sound of Music” tour!
We in India have untold opportunities to plan in this area. For example if your wedding is scheduled for say the month of May and you live in Chennai, you’ll be miserable during the entire celebrations as will your guests, because that is the hottest month of the year there.
Why not trim the guest list (you will ruffle a few feathers but that is inevitable in a social event in any case) drastically, and hold the wedding in Ooty, Kodaikanal, or Yercaud, which are the cooler climes in the South? You will have to have a very strict RSVP policy to ensure accurate numbers for booking hotel rooms in a good hotel. We now have very good event planners in India who could make all the arrangements for you. This applies to North India too in June and July.
Your guests from North India would also be delighted if you had a Southern wedding in say Bangalore if they have never been South of the Vindhyas, provided it were at the right time of the year. Likewise Southerners would love to visit the capital, the Taj and so on when they attend a wedding in the North.
One such example of a destination wedding” helping diffuse what may have been a prickly situation was Rahul and Mary’s (names changed). Rahul and Mary were colleagues in Hyderabad. They got to know each other at work and then felt they wanted to share a life together. Despite practicing different religions they won the support of both sets of parents.
This is when an unexpected problem crept up. Both parents wanted to celebrate the wedding! Rahul’s parents invited Mary’s folks to their hometown of Delhi and Mary’s parents in turn invited them to Bangalore. Rahul and Mary talked it over and came up with a unique solution.
The couple and both sets of parents and their siblings travelled to Kerala, God’s Own Country. They rented a four bedroom houseboat which took off in the backwaters in Allepey. The wedding was to take place in the houseboat. A Hindu pundit and a Christian priest both officiated and starting from the drinking of tender coconut water with which everyone was welcomed, the wedding was a blast! The atmosphere was relaxed throughout and the tension attending our weddings was noticeably absent.
They did, however, have a party in Hyderabad for their friends and their respective families were invited too. So, everyone was happy. And, the wedding was an experience of a lifetime. The logistics were handled by a travel agent.
Destination weddings would be doable in India, but would require meticulous planning. I talked to Priya Ravi, the CEO of her event planning and travel consulting company, Exclusika. “Destination weddings are not new to us. Several NRI’s hire event planners to celebrate their children’s weddings in India. So, it is only a question of doing the same for locals. Also, most event planners have links with travel agents and together they can arrange an impressive package suitable for any budget.”
Yes, destination weddings are certainly doable in India. All it requires is imagination — and you can rent that from an event planner.