Lavish Indian weddings are back and bigger than ever
Indian weddings can be elaborate occasions, often lasting several days. But a break from tradition due to the Covid-19 pandemic meant intimate or home marriage became the norm for many. Now the big Indian wedding isn’t just back, it’s bigger than ever for the couples who have the means to throw extravagant flings.
In the past year, high-profile brides, grooms, and their elite families have chartered charter flights, rented gondolas to transport guests around Venice, privatized an Italian square for dining by a Michelin-starred chef, and even shut down Monte’s famous Casino Square. Carlo for a ceremony.
According to the Confederation of All India Traders, the supreme body for India’s trading community, 3.2 million weddings would take place from November to December alone last year, generating about 3.75 trillion rupees in business, or about $45 billion, for India’s wedding. industry – a surge of 2.5 trillion rupees, or about $31 billion, in 2019. CAIT reported that a majority of weddings cost from $3,657 to $121,902 late last year.
But there are also those who spend much more. Devika Narain, a wedding designer who is a go-to for Indian celebrities, said such weddings can cost anywhere from $1 million to $5 million, or even more, for around 250 to 500 guests. “Decoration, jewelry and guest entertainment tend to be the biggest expenses,” Ms Narain said.
The Economic Times reported that a two-day destination wedding at a five-star hotel in a prime Indian venue for 200 guests can cost $365,706 to $609,510. That amount can increase even more, depending on the needs of the family.
Khushnooma Kapadia, the senior marketing director for South Asia at Marriott International, which has 137 hotels in India, half of which are suitable for weddings, is seeing an increase in demand for wedding bookings.
“There is no impact of inflation on the wedding segment in terms of size or scale,” Ms. Kapadia said in an email. She added that Marriott expected wedding revenues to increase 20 to 25 percent this year from 2019.
Some wedding industry experts are calling the growth pandemic revenge. “Couples are excited to celebrate, and they don’t apologize for it,” says Vandana Mohan, who works with high-profile Indian couples and is the founder of New Delhi-based Wedding Design Company and Backstage Productions.
Vikram Mehta, founder of Mpire Events, who has planned more than 150 Indian weddings around the world, added that the average cost for these weddings is around $792 to $913 per guest per day for a wedding of 150 to 200 people . “These are expenses for the venues and service providers on the days of the wedding events,” Mr Mehta said. “It does not include the bridal trousseau, airline tickets, or the couple’s clothing and jewelry.”
In October, Alya Gupta, 22, a New Delhi-raised psychology student at the University of Toronto, and Harman Taneja, 26, a businessman based in Bengaluru, got married at Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa, a luxury hotel in Bahrain. Three hundred and fifty guests flew in from around the world for their four-day destination wedding, with six events. “We both have large families and it was important for everyone to be a part of our celebrations,” said Ms Gupta.
Traveling with 350 guests is not uncommon for an Indian wedding, says Siddharth Sharma, the founder of House on the Clouds, a wedding photography and film company based in Bengaluru. Some couples even travel with 500 to 600 guests, said Sharma, whose company is a go-to for Indian celebrity couples. “Two hundred is considered an intimate guest list,” he added.
Mr Sharma said he recently received an application from an Indian political family for a reception party with 100,000 people in attendance.
Despite the size, there is now greater intimacy in the way these weddings are planned.
Families are no longer the main driver of marriage decisions. “Every detail is personalized according to the bride and groom – their favorite colours, songs, designers, food, artists,” Ms Mohan said. “It has to be relevant to them.”
Ketan Sawant, a founder of A New Knot, a luxury wedding and event planning company based in Mumbai that has planned several weddings of celebrities and industrialists, said, “The focus is not on showing the world how much you spend, it’s about micro-level detail Families leave no stone unturned when it comes to hospitality and guest experiences.” This includes catering for guests’ dietary requirements and providing amenities such as steam irons in hotel rooms.”For weddings outside India, our teams have collected luggage from the departure airport and then delivered it directly to the hotel rooms at the final destination, allowing guests a hassle-free travel,” he said.
Many couples want their wedding to be one big party. “We hosted a 1920s-themed party in the lobby while guests checked in so everyone could get in the mood right away,” Ms Mohan said of a recent wedding she helped plan.
Ms Gupta said she and her husband booked various performers and performers to entertain attendees over the four days. “It was a private concert-like atmosphere,” she said, “and we catered to all age groups.”
Food was another big focus for the couple. The menus included local Middle Eastern delights and Indian favourites, with some specialty chefs flown in from India. “All the cottage cheese used in our menus is also sourced from India, because we wanted a certain quality”, Ms. Gutta added.
Ms Mohan noted that Indian weddings have become cosmopolitan and global while still being culturally rooted. “Indian couples are well-traveled these days and are doing painstaking research,” she said. “They find the best of the destination — chefs, artists, wines, gifts — and bring it to their event. A couple we worked with visited several bars to discover local musicians who would be performing at their wedding. Another bride personally visited 15 overseas destinations before finishing one.”
Mr Sawant added that couples were also looking for landmark hotels and unique venues outside the banquet halls to add even more novelty. “For a destination wedding in Doha, one of the events was at the National Museum of Qatar, which is not easy,” he said. “We had to get special permissions for it. We are even working with government agencies and tourism agencies to get certain locations on board.”
Europe was a popular destination for Indian weddings in 2022. Mr. Sharma and his team photographed weddings in Paris; Istanbul; Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, both in Italy. Rome is on this year’s itinerary; Lake Como in Italy; Cancún, Mexico; and Budapest.
Other popular options are the Middle East and the South of France. Rajasthan and Goa are still sought after locations in India. “But couples will grab what’s available this year because so many venues are already sold out,” Ms Mohan said.
Mr Sawant predicts the surge in high-end, global Indian weddings will continue well into 2024.
But as Indian weddings have grown in scale and flair, Ms. Mohan would like to retire the “fat” suffix often used to describe such lavish affairs. “It’s just an Indian wedding,” she said.