Honey, we've got the money!

BIG SPLASH

Honey, we've got the money!

When was the last time a wedding seized your imagination? No, I’m not talking of Chelsea Clinton’s exchange of vows, with American television reporters breathlessly noting the arrival of every celebrity guest outside Astor Courts, the venue in Rhinebeck, New York. But weddings closer home which are meticulously planned, perfectly orchestrated and extravagantly executed. Weddings that make the average expenditure look like small change! Weddings like the one that Ashnuth Goyal, a wedding planner in Ahmedabad, is currently losing sleep over.

For over a month now, Goyal has been working round-the-clock to cater to his client’s every demand – freeze-dried flowers flown in from Hawaii, gilt-edged invites costing Rs 15,000 each, Bollywood stars like Katrina Kaif to shake a leg at the ‘sangeet’, celebrity chefs serving Jain food and Jal Frezi with equal ease, and specially designed silver cutlery for the A-list guests.

Call it ostentatious or outrageous, breathtaking or bizarre, the Indian wedding has moved into fairytale groove. Taking its cue from Sooraj Barjatya movie sets and Karan Johar’s brand of gloss and shine, every vow that is exchanged is now in the presence of guests in colour co-ordinated sherwanis and lehengas, every sangeet has a sushi station, and the honeymoon is at an exotic location with luxury spa attached!

Branding is ‘in’

Such extravagance doesn’t come cheap. Budgets, insiders in the ever-proliferating wedding industry reveal, often touch Rs 15 crore. Splurging is clearly not limited to the trousseau. Young couples demand and get privileges such as customised websites and snazzy logos. While some websites recount the fairytale romance of the bridal couple in Mills & Boon style, others take the more prosaic route and tell guests when and how to get to the mandap.

Aditi Vaghmare (27) and Harsh Yadav (28), networking consultants who work in Australia, have designed a website to make the countdown to their D-day, on December 9, 2010, a memorable one. “Although the internet is flooded with websites that either provide free services or charge you a small fee, we decided to design our own website as we didn’t want any other domain name attached to our website,” says Aditi. Along with dozens of cozy pictures, they have a special mention of the pal who played Cupid!

Hemanth Kaushik (26), consultant with a business marketing firm, and Madhavi (26), marketing manager with a wine and spirits company, too designed their wedding website, but there are scores of young couples who think nothing of forking out Rs 5,000 a page to professionals to create their wedding website from scratch.
 
Pushing the envelope...literally!

Wedding invitations too have evolved and how! Remember the card maker of yore, who would use religious symbols to embellish a single sheet of white paper, packaged in bright red envelope with some glitter splashed on for good measure? He’s been quietly replaced by upmarket firms like The Entertainment Design Company, which shot to fame after designing the wedding invitations of celebrity couple Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai.

Kapil Khurana, founder-proprietor of the firm, says: “People have money and want to tell others that they have it. With high disposable incomes, they do not shy away from spending lavishly on the wedding invitation. There is a huge demand for cards designed with special paper and fabrics that are embellished with precious or semi-precious stones, brooches and beads.”

The current rage is the 3D invitation. Equally popular are invitations that can easily be mistaken for novels as they run into pages, with elaborate descriptions of each ceremony. “The invites are always accompanied by customised chocolates and gifts,” reveals Khurana.

Krutarth Shah, businessman from Gujarat, went one step ahead and got a logo designed for his sister’s wedding.

“The logo was splashed across the wedding venue, embossed on the invitations and stamped on the return gifts; it even formed the backdrop at the reception,” he recalls fondly.

Sudhir Kuduckhar, who designs logos for weddings, says such exclusivity comes at a price and a steep one at that. “The cost of designing a logo starts from Rs 10,000. Apart from using the logo on personalised return gifts, albums and blogs, many couples have used the logo on the DJ console as well.”

Stories in silk and satin

As for the wedding wardrobe, Indian and international designers are doing all they can to corner the market. Parul Agarwal, a communications consultant based in Mumbai, says she had always dreamt of getting married, wearing a Sabyasachi Mukherjee saree. Something like the one Bollywood actress Rani Mukherjee has worn in one of her many romantic roles. Parul has just made her dream come true. The cost? “Rs 10.5 lakh! After all, it is the most important day of life, so why not?” she says.

No one is complaining about the pomp or the profligacy. Why would they when it is a win-win situation for both the couple getting married, who believe they are truly prince and princess for a day, and the wedding planners, who are happy to feed such a fantasy.

Wedding planners are in such  demand that even top event management companies such as 360 degrees and Wizcraft  offer a spectrum of services for weddings.

Kapil Khurana says, “Until a few years ago, the wedding sector was very unorganised, which is why I decided to start a venture which would provide professional services and branding solutions to people who wanted a wedding for everyone to remember.”

Radhika Vohra, a wedding planner based in Delhi, says: “People want weddings that will be talked about for years to come in their social circle. It has to be an event which has never been done before and they are ready to pay anything to get what they want.”

Anbu Jawahar, freelance wedding photographer whose bread-and-butter job is that of a visual designer in a software firm in Bangalore, says: “I have wielded the camera in 30 weddings over the last three years. The good money apart, I enjoy meeting people from different cultures, and documenting their love stories.”

Jawahar always meets the bridal couple before accepting the assignment. “You cannot treat it as just another job. As a photographer, you cannot just walk into the wedding hall, trailing wires, and expect to get great pictures,” he says.

Considering how the industry is booming, Jawahar says he might take up wedding photography as a full-time career a few years down the line. Like Mahesh
Shantaram, who switched careers to become a full-time wedding photographer.
“My wife and I have still not forgiven that anonymous photographer who botched up our wedding photographs,” he quips.

Both Jawahar and Shantaram believe that the boom in the industry is because young people have a taste for the fine things in life and will settle for nothing but the best as they feel entitled to it.

Simply awesome

“It all boils down to the fact that everyone wants their special day to be awesome,” says Varun Bhasin (31), a scrap dealer, who got Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor, flown to Delhi for his bachelor party in January this year. “Money is all you need to make your wedding a memorable event,” he says with a grin.

The craze to be “different” sometimes transcends tradition. “I’ve had Marwari clients demanding a wedding where the bride wears a Roberto Cavalli gown, the bridegroom wears an Armani suit and they exchange vows with a three-tier cake in the frame,” says Ashunth Goyal. He confesses that he has been asked to construct a mandap on a boat in the backwaters of Kerala, where the bridegroom made a grand entry on an elephant, giving the traditional baraat a jumbo twist!

DESTINATION WEDDINGS CAN BE A DREAM

Ashnuth Goyal*Be sure of your budget which will help you decide whether you should go in for a national or international destination wedding.

*For a destination wedding, ideally start planning eight to nine months prior to the wedding. Hotspots like Udaipur, Goa and Jaipur in India as well as Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya are booked months in advance, therefore the idea is to start planning early as hotel rooms and transport must be booked accordingly.

*Ideally, a destination wedding should not include more than 300 guests. Having a never-ending guest list will only create complexities in terms of logistics and one would have to compromise on the quality of services offered to guests. For instance, instead of a three-star hotel, a two-starhotel or guest house will have to be organised.

*For international destination weddings, countries that offer visa on arrival should be given priority because it aids in accommodating any last minute additions in the guest list.

*Signing in a chef or any kind of cuisine can be arranged irrespective of the destination. If you are keen on bringing on board a particular chef, it’s more practical to fly him to the chosen destination and make him supervise the local chefs.

*Word of mouth is the only publicity wedding planners garner in the industry and therefore ask around and have a look at some of the earlier projects done by a wedding planner before signing and sealing the deal.

— Ashnuth Goyal, wedding planner

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