With a world health crisis on one side and an extraordinary Indian wedding on the other, the game of who has the grandest wedding has undergone a total shift. With insights from some of the biggest experts, we take a look at some of the most remarkable changes a small virus has made to the $50 billion wedding industry
By: Prateeksha Guruji
Posted on: September 20, 2020
An awe-inducing luxurious resort, rich decorations from flowers to lights, 500 guests mingling in suits and sarees over delectable cocktails, a sumptuous menu rendering the revelers speechless and the happy couple dressed in designer wear getting their candid photographs clicked as they dance away to their favourite Bollywood songs. Sounds like an ideal big fat Indian wedding, isn’t it?
An Indian wedding is more than just the penultimate transformation point of a boy and a girl. It is a driving force for most major decisions in our lives. We want to get everything right for that grand and luxurious wedding which will be more than just an affair to remember. But 2020 is a year of unexpected changes. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everything, including the $50 billion Indian wedding industry. From the palatial venues to the elaborate list of events, the Indian luxury wedding scenario is facing uncertainty like never before.
Last year, we witnessed some of the biggest celebrity weddings in India. Magnificent in every aspect, the sangeets were dazzling, the mehendi was a burst of colors and the shaadi ceremony saw brides and grooms gleaming flawlessly, flaunting bespoke designs by the country's most illustrious couturiers. All of it, juxtaposed against an ultra-lavish venue under the royal Jaipur skies or by a fairytale lakeside mansion in Europe. 2020, however, stands in stark contrast to 2019.
The resplendence has not been completely replaced, but it has been drastically toned down. As the world stumbles through a health crisis, one of the biggest we have ever faced in modern history, the big fat Indian wedding industry also is reshaping. From invitation, outfits to catering and gifting, all major elements have transfigured as COVID-19 creates a new era for Indian weddings.
The Chronicles of Wedding Planning: The Venues, The Guest List and The Safety
Indian luxury wedding planners have found themselves in a new territory. The backbone of a successful wedding, an efficient team of wedding planners, means the families have nearly nothing to worry about. But today, wedding planners are facing a number of challenges. Managing a small number of people but with extra safety measures while maintaining the charm of the event is a monumental responsibility. Whether it is the standalone banquets of Mumbai, or the sprawling farms of Delhi, the venues have to be completely sanitized without compromising on the aesthetics.
From regular temperature checks, following social distancing arrangements and making guests feel confident during the function is the new normal for wedding planners. However, the adaptability of wedding-based businesses is certainly commendable. Top-notch wedding venues like Amaara Farms in New Delhi have come up with initiatives like “Intimate Weddings by Amaara”, offering customizable and affordable packages for millennial weddings. Shivan Gupta, Founder of Amaara Farms, commented, “Our vision is to provide 100 percent trust, joy, and reliability for all bespoke celebrations by using state of the art technology while being a progressive organization harnessing human potential.”
Pre-pandemic Indian weddings were an elaborate affair with at least four different functions and more than 500 guests easily. But now with only 50 people allowed for one event, families are in for a dilemma with respect to prioritising. Bhavnesh Sawhney, Founder and Director of FB Celebrations Pvt Ltd. said, “Slowly with everything opening, I do see the numbers going up to 200 at least by the end of the year. It all comes down to guest lists. There are two ways to look at it. Normally we have three to four functions, so we divide the guest list. For sangeet, there can be more friends and maybe immediate family, while for the wedding of course, you should stick to the family. We have to come up with all these permutations and combinations.” The current wedding scenario is divided between families who are in a position to postpone their wedding till next year and those who would prefer an intimate wedding this year itself. “The big fat Indian wedding with 1000-2000 people is definitely on hold,” he said.
Travel restrictions and destination weddings are inversely proportional. Couples are preferring to hold off their exquisite seasonal international weddings or perhaps opting for boutique hotels at a location accessible by road. But everything has its own advantages. With more budget on hands, there is an increasing need towards personalization and detailing for the guests and the couple.
Personalisation: A New Luxury
Since a lengthy guest list has now been cut down, there is extra budget left to make every aspect extraordinary. A lot more attention to detail is being paid to giving a limited number of guests a very special and personalized experience, which is definitely an upside to the intimate wedding trend.
Puneet Gupta, the Founder of Puneet Gupta Invitations, who specialise in bespoke wedding invites and luxurious gift hampers, commented, “As I always say ‘Invitation is a trailer to the big wedding picture you are inviting everyone for.’ Now clients are opting in for very detailed Invitations and concepts both in the form of luxury boxes and trunks and in the form of well-curated personalized hampers. Simple wedding cards are now replaced with more elaborate fanfare.”
The pandemic has reshaped the idea of luxury. Right now, true luxury is being able to enjoy a wedding safely, regardless of the extravaganza and with all the safety measures in place. Families as well as wedding-based businesses have fully understood and adapted to this idea. Mr. Gupta further added, “A lot of guests are opting in for adding some COVID essentials too in their hampers, for instance a personalized face mask and sanitizer pouch. Also, people are keen on investing in utility-based gifts rather than indulging in food products or mithai, considering everyone's safety and hygiene. We had recently curated a His & Her hamper for an intimate wedding from our accessories and home collection, where we coordinated a clutch and pocket square and utility pouches amongst other things.”
Regardless of the scale of the wedding, it will always be the biggest day of the couple’s life. Last year, we saw some stellar pictures of larger-than-life weddings on social media as opposed to this year, where our feed is flooded with bright and beautiful pictures of happy couples during their intimate weddings. Just like all other elements, we take a look at the luxury wedding photography segment during the pandemic.
Making the Wedding ‘Click’
We have seen the dreamy pre-wedding shoots and cinematic videos of couples till last year but only time will tell if the trend is completely passé. Capturing the opulence has now shifted to capturing emotions as weddings have become more about the closest people than the lavish settings.
Ishaan Suri, Founder of Artfoto Studios, a boutique creative production house that focuses on luxury wedding photography and wedding films, had some spectacular insights to share. He commented, “I’m eagerly looking forward to the post-COVID scenario, only because the wedding environment in India had become too bloated and big fat. There were lesser clients which had value for the subtleties of high quality service providers. And with all the wedding rush, only limited clients had time to pause and appreciate all the vendors and service providers that helped in putting their wedding together. If a wedding gets too large there isn’t enough time to put attention to anything beyond the grandeur of it. But here at Artfoto, a wedding stands for a marriage. It is about celebrating the union of two people as life partners.” With more attention to the moment rather than the event, according to him, couples and families will appreciate the finer things that go behind organising a blissful union.
In all probability, these trends might be temporary and big fat Indian weddings will perhaps return. However, the pandemic has shifted the narrative of upscale weddings. The industry will pick up pace in the coming months but it is the thought process among millennials that will count. Focusing on sustainability and keeping an eco-conscious approach, introducing digital trends for connecting with loved ones, offering a special and personalized experience to all the guests are the trends that may be here to stay, even after COVID-19 is long gone. Smaller weddings have given an opportunity to newer local designers, musicians, mehendi artists, caterers and other vendors to carve their niche. From big, fat to bite-sized, this metamorphosis is probably one of the most historic changes in the Indian luxury wedding landscape.