The Big Fat Indian Wedding
With the recent celeb weddings, the recession-free Indian wedding market has grabbed international eyeballs and also set goals that are neither aspirational nor humane
The wedding season is hard to ignore, what with the who's who of India queuing up to tie the knot. Expensive venues, Broadway-like sangeets, A-guest listers, designer clothes, blinding dazzle of precious jewellery – the big fat Indian wedding became bigger and fatter in the last few weeks. Between the synchronised moves of the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas familia to the choreographed performances of the Ambani 'khandaan' with Beyonce and the Khans jigging for fun and Amitabh Bachchan himself serving food to the guests – the last couple of weddings gave much to talk about and yes, retch over too.
With our celebrities setting pricey #weddinggoals, the Indian wedding market today is alive and thriving. An average wedding in India can cost anywhere between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 5 crore! This is just the cost of an average Indian wedding. According to the Indian Retailer, there are around 1,00,00,000 weddings in a year in India and the wedding market size is Rs 100,000 crore, clocking an exponential annual growth of 25-30 per cent. A survey on the Indian wedding market in 2018 by Matrimony.com pegs the wedding services market at $54 billion. Obviously, no guesses to know which part of the country spends more – north India leads the highest proclivity to spend with 18.6 per cent, followed by the south (12 per cent), west (11.1 per cent), and east coming in at 10.9 per cent.
Even the wedding overheads have multiplied. From say a wedding ceremony and reception, now there are sangeets, mehendi functions, cocktails etc. to add to the programme. Wedding planners and stylistic photography have been added to the existing food, venue, clothes and jewellery costs. Not to mention the loosening of purse strings to accommodate romantic honeymoons in exotic locales. So attractive is the 'band-baaja-baaraat' business in India that even foreign wedding planner platforms such as Spain's Zankyou, have made market-entry, while Japanese electronics major, Panasonic, is offering audio-visual services to Indian weddings.
With social pressure to one-up the neighbour and individual inclination to simply show-off, the Indian wedding today is a cantankerous mix of crass display of wealth and complete disconnect with the masses. 99 per cent of course, still spend their parents' money and not their own! As I watched the good, bad and ugly (lots of it) on display in the last few weeks, one sent out a eulogy for simple nuptials. The no-frills attached temple ceremonies, or pledging of vows in front of family and friends, or simply just a court marriage followed by a get-together, are becoming few and far between.
Today, the focus is on being Instagram-ready and creating memories that ride on big bucks. Needless to mention that the actual union of two people and its significance is lost in the glitz and glamour. The utter waste and whimsical expenditure all for that one day should be jarring to the human soul but is not. Crores that are spent so easily to celebrate a wedding could do so much more, could help so many more. Therefore, the conscientious few who give back on their special day is heart-warming. Like the sub-inspector couple, Manoj Patil and Sarita Laykar, who donated their savings to charity and opted for a simple ceremony. Or, Abhay Deware and Preeti Kumbhare, who donated money to debt-ridden farmers. Or Himanshu and Pankhuri Saxena who donated half their 'shagun' money to an NGO. May their tribe increase and may our celebrities and India Inc. bigwigs set better examples.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)