It’s the big fat wedding

Did someone say Indian weddings have become smaller? Well, read on as the author spans the ceremony that binds two people

The big fat wedding 

Maybe weddings are still made in heaven, and the priests solemnising the occasion still make the couple say “I do”. But, what has changed in the 21st century is the pre- and the post-wedding proceedings.

Just imagine getting married while flying in a hot air balloon, or the bride descending from the sky like a fairy from a flower-decked mythical helicopter while young girls attired in fairy dresses await to escort her to the groom waiting on some exotically decorated stage. Or, the couple travelling thousands of miles just to get that one perfect romantic shot with the dream location forming the backdrop!

“One of our clients wanted a pre-wedding picture shot in a remote village located in the northwestern region of Italy. Till then we hadn’t even heard of this village — Cinque Terre. The couple, the groom dressed in a white silk long kurta, and the girl in a magenta-coloured silk sari, wanted a picture taken from a particular spot, and to reach that spot on top of a rugged terrain, we had to trek a bit. Early morning light was best for the shot. On the scheduled day, by the time we reached the spot, unusual showers drenched us completely. So, the next day, waking up at 4 am, we trekked again and got the best shot!” recalls specialty wedding photographer Anand Rathi whose company Reels and Frames have so far shot some 250-plus weddings in more than 18 countries across the world. His client list reads like the who’s who of the corporate and entertainment worlds (Aditya Birla Group, Vadilal, Tech Mahindra, Binani etc). Recently, he became popular for covering actor Sonam Kapoor’s wedding.

Then there are couples who want only a particular kind of décor to suit their theme weddings, especially exotic flowers to decorate the venue of the wedding. Days of marigold and chrysanthemum flowers adorning the venue are passé. The time is now for lilacs, orchids, red roses, anthurium, alstroemeria, birds of paradise, gladiolas, carnations and many more. Sourcing these flowers, most of which aren’t native to India, can be a problem. But then, as there are specialty photographers, there are specialty decorators, too. 

Photographs and decorations aren’t the only exclusive items a couple wants for their wedding.

The whole deal

From attire, jewellery, décor, food, entertainment, VIP guests, still and video photography to the venue of the ceremony, everything has to be customised for them. Understanding this ever-increasing demand, professionals in each category have mushroomed all over the world, and very deftly step in to take charge of all the arrangements in a wedding ceremony. For a complete, hassle-free and seamless wedding ceremony, wedding planners have come as a boon to otherwise harassed parents. Recently added to this list of professionals are honeymoon crafters!

Money spent here isn’t counted in lakhs, but in crores. According to several reports, anything between Rs 10 crore and Rs 50 crore is the estimated norm. And for an average Indian, the budget could be between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore!

 

 

Here, we aren’t even considering the weddings in the families of industrialists like the Ambanis where it is reported that only flower arrangements cost Rs 25 crore at the engagement ceremony of Mukesh Ambani’s son Aakash. They form the billionaire club, and we in India have less than 100 of them. We will restrict ourselves to talk only about the millionaire club which has more than 2,50,000 members, and high net worth individuals whose numbers are increasing by the day. This is besides the affluent business communities like the diamond merchants from Gujarat, Marwaris from Kolkata, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, or the Reddys from Andhra Pradesh who, too, spend lavishly on weddings.     

Today, the Indian wedding industry is estimated to be worth Rs 33,000 crore-plus with an annual growth rate of nearly 20%. And it is estimated to grow further, promising a bumper bonanza to all the players involved.

“Weddings have definitely changed from pre-2016 to the present day,” explains Parthip Thyagarajan, co-founder of the web portal weddingsutra.com. “Expenses have certainly increased, but today, weddings have become more sophisticated, with couples preferring to keep some functions very intimate, classy, stylish, and elegant, than opt for over-the-top Bollywood extravaganza.’

By categories

This certainly doesn’t mean the number of people invited for the nuptials has reduced. Even to this day, the guest list for such weddings is anywhere from 250 to 1,000 plus. What has changed is the trend in invitations. Invitations are extended to different people for different ceremonies. For instance, only close friends are invited for the bachelorette or bachelor party, only married women for the haldi ceremony, younger crowd for mehendi and sangeet, only close relatives for the actual marriage ceremony, and extended family and friends for the reception. 

So, in order to be in tune with the times, Parthip and his partner Madhulika Mathur formed the weddingsutra portal way back in 2000. Madhulika had a tough time finding perfect vendors at one go when she got married the previous year. This prompted her to join hands with Parthip and form the one-stop portal where every possible information on everything that is needed for a modern-day wedding can be found — wedding planners, dress designers, jewellery designers, décor designers, caterers, travel crafters, photographers, mehendi and make-up artists, hairstylists, and every other service needed for a beautiful wedding. Parthip says, “We are a leading portal that provides comprehensive wedding information, ideas and inspiration.”   

 

 

Till about two decades ago, marriage was only a sacrosanct ceremony. There was no fun or enjoyment involved in it. Of course, even to this day, marriage is a sacred event but is celebrated with much laughter by having games, entertainment, sightseeing etc as part of the event. Earlier, the bride’s parents were expected to host all the ceremonies and incur all the expenses. But, today, it is shared by both the parties involved. Remember Virat Kohli in the advertisement for Manyavaar informing the girl’s parents that everything would be shared by both sides of parents? “Agar shaadi ke baad sukh aur dukh mein baraabar ke hissedar hain, toh shaadi mein kyon nahi?” And this is the exact mantra being followed today.

Another change is the number of days this mega event is celebrated. Today, weddings are being held over two-three days, sometimes going up to a month, to accommodate guests at their convenience. As most invitees are busy during the week, weekends are preferred for all the ceremonies. If the lucky couple gets a long weekend in their scheduled time, then they prefer to have the bachelor/bachelorette party on that weekend, giving friends more time to enjoy, and parents are strictly a no-no for this.

“Till about five years ago, the couple’s involvement wasn’t much. But today, they come to us armed with photographs, information and ideas they have gathered from the social media. It’s truly an exciting time for us, wedding planners,” says Neha Seth Arora, co-founder of Var Vadhu wedding management company, who has planned the weddings of many from the corporate and entertainment worlds, including that of Esha and Aahana —daughter of actors Hema Malini and Dharmendra.

 

 

There is a perceptible increase in the number of destination weddings where the cost of a three-day ceremony ranges between Rs 3 crore and Rs 4 crore in India, and between Rs 7 crore and Rs 8 crore overseas.

 

The cost varies according to the destination, the number of guests, type of food served, and also the kind of entertainment desired. Narrating an incident of a Punjabi marriage party at a locale in Italy, Neha recalls that an invitee wanted to have dal-chawal and naan as she was tired of having the local cuisine. “We arranged for it within no time as we had an Indian cook with us,” says Neha.

Earlier, the preferred place for destination weddings for many were the palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur, near Taj Mahal, the beaches of Goa etc. In fact, many rich foreigners and NRIs too prefer to get married in these places. Since last year, the demand for exotic foreign locales has increased. And the preferred locales are places in Europe — Barcelona, Florence, Milan etc. This year, the Middle-East, especially Oman and Dubai, is attracting Indian weddings.

“All over the world, Indian weddings are famous as expensive ceremonies which generate a lot of employment for the locals. Many a time, officials reach out to wedding planners in India to consider their country for destination weddings,” explains Zuzer Lucknowala of Vivaah, one of the oldest wedding decor companies who have been in the business for nearly two decades now.

Zuzer narrates an incident when he and his wife and business partner Rachana were visiting Cyprus. When the hotel learnt of their profession, they were requested to suggest their country for destination weddings and promised to provide all kinds of facilities.

Entertainment factor plays a huge role in this industry. Way back in 2002, when Vivaah had helped plan the wedding of a Kolkata diamond merchant’s daughter which had then cost the client around Rs 2 crore, singer Shaan was flown in to perform. “Today singers and DJs are a must. Sometimes there is a demand for VIP guests like film stars, TV stars, magicians, dancers etc. It’s the wedding planners’ duty to meet the expectations of their clients.”

In fact, wedding planners are getting bigger. The latest news from weddingsutra.com is that the world-famous fashion house Dolce & Gabbana was roped in to design the engagement ceremony of two scions of India’s richest families that was held at Lake Como in Italy’s Lombardy region.

In fact, the industry has grown so much that certified courses are also being offered in wedding planning and design.

Did someone say Indian weddings have become smaller?

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It’s the big fat wedding

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