Looks like the Indian wedding has gained back all the calories it shed in the pandemic. It’s big and fat once again. Delayed engagement parties have made up for lost time with extra frills. Matches were fixed after it finally became safe to go out again. In November and December 2022 alone, Indians spent ₹3.75 lakh crore on weddings. Hosts and guests attended so many rokas, roces, haldis, hennas, sangeets, bachelor parties, nuptials, nikaahs, destination receptions, and chauthis, it was anyone could see on Instagram.
This season, there isn’t even a pandemic to blame. WedMeGood’s Annual Wedding Industry Report for 2022-23 finds that the average number of wedding functions is 3.5 up from 2.1 last year. Wedding loans made up for about one-third of all loans in the last financial year. Wedding-related events have spilled out of banquet halls to wine bars, swanky boutiques, neighbourhood cafes and beauty salons. Congratulations, by all means. But calm down, maybe?
Families tend to invite everyone to everything (and everyone shows up too), making a wedding more chaotic than it needs to be. K, a banker who wed S, a software engineer in June in Chennai, says her wedding plans scaled up so much as they unfolded, even starting prep as early as October last year was barely enough. She ended up having to look at 2-3 venues for each event before finalising them, coordinating with multiple planners, and struggling to stay within budget. Meeting the expectations of their 1,200 guests was the most challenging. “Keep in mind from the start that the guest list differs from event to event,” she says. Save the rituals for close friends and family. Only the reception party should have the big crowd. “This is possible only if both families are cooperative and there’s unanimity,” K says.
Mumbai-based Namratha began prepping for her wedding to Bahrain-based Nirmal in April 2023 all the way back in July last year. She had to. “We invited about 2,000 guests from each side and planned events in Kerala and Mumbai,” she says. The celebrations spanned 10 days. Each event had a different theme, down to the décor, music and food. “Having a big, grand affair was a collective, family decision,” she says. “We didn’t think of going for a simpler, minimalistic wedding. We embraced the scale and grandeur of the event, knowing that it would be memorable for us to reminisce forever.” It was a lot of work. “It had to be perfect because guests want the whole experience and it’s small things like this that leave a mark,” she says. Thankfully, there were breaks in between the event to give the wedding party time to recover. “But, amidst the craziness, we made sure we enjoyed ourselves too.”
Multi-cultural couples are finding weddings tricky, often incorporating two of every ceremony to please the families on both sides. Amrusha Shah, a Gujarati, grew up in Toronto, Canada, and is settled in Ohio, USA. She married Ramakrishnan, a Tamilian in May. Prep began eight months before the big day. “Being from different backgrounds, there was so much discussion even before we started the planning,” she recalls. They even made adjustments to the main wedding ceremony by piecing up elements from each style of wedding: The traditional Tamil Kashi Yatra ceremony was fused with the tying of the knot in the Gujarati style.
The fusion worked, Shah says. There was an upside too. “Having a big wedding meant we had to meet people we had never talked to before. At the same time, the beauty of it was that these same people came together and helped us when we needed it ,” she says. They pitched in when guests had to be driven to different venues. They were on stand-by to run errands and complete small tasks during the ceremony. It’s the part of the big fat Indian wedding that we need more of: Hands that don’t merely clap in congratulations, but reach out and help to make a big day special and real.
From HT Brunch, September 2, 2023
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