The wedding industry in India is one of the biggest in the world. Honed for grand celebrations, A Big Fat Wedding is often an attraction for many overseas. Weddings account for the fourth biggest industry in the country according to some estimates, second only to banking, infrastructure and finance. A staggering 1 crore of weddings take place in India every year and the wedding industry is growing at 25-30% annually, and India is estimated to have about 40 crore weddings in the next 15 years.
“Big fat weddings will always be a part of our industry, it’s just that people are more conscious of the experience they want to create today,” said Anika Dhawan, Founder, Rani Pink and Rani Pink Gifts.
While the wedding industry accounts for around 15-20% of the overall clothing industry sales, weddings constitute around 60% of jewellery sales and for cosmetics companies, it is the most crucial period. According to a survey by WeddingWire India in August the per month earnings of nearly half of its wedding vendors (42.5%) have gone up in 2022 as compared to 2019 and around 31% of vendors in the wedding industry have increased their charges due to high product and labour costs across categories.
In light of the pandemic, guestlists are getting smaller, ensembles are getting more wearable, and sustainability is being championed above all for some; and for others, Big Fat weddings continue to be the way to go. “The incredibly restrictive nature of the pandemic sparked a wave of small and intimate weddings. Celebrating their ‘I dos’ with a close-knit circle of the nearest and dearest, wove a magical charm and is here to stay for a longer haul,” said Shubham Gupta – Founder & Creative Head – Beyond Photos. But on he said… ” Yet there is no denying that there are couples still dreaming and waiting to host the big fat Indian wedding. A lavish affair or intimate nuptial ultimately should be a day you can look back upon fondly with nostalgia. The wedding season is booming in 2022.”
The pandemic has forced the Indian market to re-think one of its most grand affairs — A Big Fat Indian Wedding. According to a survey conducted by WedMeGood in 2021, only 60% want to plan large weddings with over 200 guests. But that’s not all, according to a report by WeddingWire India, there has been a paradigm shift in how Indians are planning a wedding in the new normal. From intimate and micro, civil and digital weddings to e-invites and customized wedding websites, and with as 76% of couples (compared to the year before) opting for non-saaya dates, the approach has become more modern and practical. The wedding industry has seen a drastic change during the pandemic that is continuing to live on even after. In today’s world of weddings, “.. everything is more minimal and more detailed,” said Anika Dhawan. “Along with lavish weddings, it is in trend to have intimate pre-wedding functions. It’s also quite in vogue to have glitzy cocktails and bachelor parties. An upcoming trend is having theme-based pool parties,” points out Ajit Singh Garcha, General Manager, of THE Park Hyderabad.
Intimate weddings, elaborate events, same spending power
A small guest list with close knits ones, that initially started as a mandate for weddings to contain the spread of COVID, seems to have carved a niche for itself in society. Being engraved into the hearts of many, small-scale, intimate weddings are becoming a preferred choice for many, no matter what the socio-economic status of an individual might be. ” I feel like there’s been a huge shift in mindset. People are more about unique personal details post-pandemic. People are enjoying the concept of smaller intimate weddings where they can concentrate on the details. It’s also much more personal. People are choosing more fun destinations, their own homes and smaller gardens to host their weddings,” says Anika Dhawan, Founder of Rani Pink and Rani Pink Gifts. But does that mean the luxury aspect of weddings is eliminated? We’d say no. While guests list, luxury and opulence remain a central theme for many wedding celebrations. “Intimate soirees as far as I have witnessed are based on individuals’ choice of how many guests they would want. And yet, their events are quite elaborate,” shared Manish Malhotra.
For Anika, weddings have changed in terms of scale, but the spending power remains the same. The key change she has noticed is a change in their priority list that is redefined on things that matter more. “The scale is definitely smaller but I don’t think that luxury is defined by it, and so that hasn’t been affected. People are spending on things that matter most. I don’t think that aesthetics or experience is defined by budgets, so people are still spending, but more thoughtfully. She goes on to say….”The budgets aren’t changing immensely, but the concept of design has changed today. The idea of luxury consumption is a lot more understood because people want to pay attention to the smaller details. For me, it’s all about storytelling today.”
Weddings and sustainability
Yet another noteworthy outcome of the pandemic, is rising conversations around sustainability in terms of weddings – from couture to décor, jewellery and more. While some brides are upcycling old sarees carried down over generations, others are using ancestral jewellery. Anika also pointed out that there has been a change in the use of materials pre, and post covid… “everyone is more aware and less wasteful.” Anuja Joshi, Founder of luxury flower company, Interflora India, further validated this point saying that sustainability is at the root of their philosophy when organizing special occasions, especially weddings. She says, “We upcycle flowers after events to create floral candles and diffusers and we use floral waste to turn it into biofuel post.” But at a deeper level, not only is the material sourced ethically but they also follow cold chain solutions at every stage from sourcing to delivery to ensure minimal wastage.
However, the idea of slow and thoughtful living is today intrinsically interwoven into every aspect of our life. People are more conscious and there’s a new understanding of slow living and luxury as per wedding designer Anika Dhawan. Today, people want luxury which is more valued and brings more happiness versus large sets, big numbers and lavish wasteful concepts. The idea is to work with the surroundings rather than trying to create over-the-top designs,” says Anika.
Coming to the other side, the hospitality industry is scaling up on its green promises. While JW Marriott New Delhi sanitizes reusable glass bottles and diverts more than 1.M plastic bottles from landfills in a year, making sure all the rooms use these water bottles. Ajit Singh Garcha, General Manager, THE Park Hyderabad says, “After the wedding festivities are over, we encourage our guests to distribute the leftover food among underprivileged children and old-age homes to spread the joy. We encourage fresh flower décor and completely avoid single-use plastic during festivities. And the live food stations like chaat, golgappas etc do not endorse the use of plastic; rather we use thermocol or cardboard.” This points to the change in the use of material making it an eco-friendlier choice.
Changing wedding attires and décor
Less is more in 2022, and bride and grooms have shifted their focus to what they really want as opposed to societal norms. From wedding apparel to beauty and jewellery, fashion designer Varun Bahl believes that modern brides have started opting for more unique colour palettes, embellishments, and embroideries for 2022 weddings. “Today’s confident and powerful brides are no longer looking at the traditional bridal attire, but opting for a more modern, minimal and powerful look. Brides and grooms want a fusion between traditional and contemporary wear now. Earlier it was just a classic red lehenga for the bride and a sherwani for the groom. Now brides go for colours and different styles and so do grooms. I think all brides should be able to enjoy their wedding as much as their guests and that is why I truly believe in transformative attire. I also believe in going for something comfortable for the wedding so that there has to be no transformation.” Further, Manish Malhotra states, ” We see a change in the scope of events; brides want more meaningful soirées, so they opt for versatile and personalized attire Couples are rewriting weddings and celebrating that define their persona so that many personal touches will be added to their wedding trousseau. Modifying old classics with a modern touch adds emotional value.” This creates not only an emotional value but also a touch of sustainability. Hence, it’s safe to say that even styling norms have changed too with a focus on comfort and movement.
While Anika believes that today’s generation of brides and grooms have changed with a desire to look like themselves, they want their fashion to be an expression of who they are. Along with a change in fashion choices, she also has noted some key changes in wedding décor. One of the most distinguishable ones is the focus on more detail and storytelling. “I believe in old-world nostalgia and slow-living luxury, so honestly, I’m having the best time creating these stories and experiences. It is a huge change. For example, if I were to create a charming mehndi afternoon, now I can create old-school polo tents in checks and stripes, with rattan garden furniture and layered trees and pots with tangerines and hanging wildflowers. Instead of multi-coloured loud gimmicky elements. I design the table linen and do hand-painted menu cards instead of printed ones. The change is that now people will appreciate this attention to detail unlike before where these things weren’t paid attention to.” Adding to this Shubham says, “Prices have skyrocketed post-pandemic and bloated wedding expenses to soaring levels. The persistently rising inflation has pushed average people to crush the guest list, shaving down extra frills on the décor and menu. Swapping the dates to leaner wedding periods or merging different events, e-invites versus invitation cards are also gaining popularity. Yet those with a luxury wedding budget are still pursuing their fantasy and going for upscale, glamorous events filled with drama and glitz.”
“Big fat Indian wedding is the way to go, and we say why not!” says Mr Ajit Singh Garcha, General Manager, THE Park Hyderabad.
While farm and hotel weddings in cities have their charm, destination weddings have seen a drastic boom in the post-pandemic world. It’s not to say that they didn’t exist prior, but the numbers have definitely scaled up. “The pandemic has redefined the concept of a destination wedding. It’s no longer just about scrumptious menus, flashy decors, and extravaganza events, rather it’s about thoughtfulness, personalization, and celebrating with loved ones. A place with scenic or ancestral significance, and India has many such locations,” says Manish Malhotra. With Rajasthan being one of the most popular destinations, the advantage is a smaller guestlist and more attention to detail, customization, and integration. However, Ajit has also noted an increase in the number of destination weddings in South India. “Popular for its mesmerising Hussain Sagar Lake Views and an infinity pool it is apt to plan a dream wedding which is bright, beautiful and full of joy. Even Vizag is an upcoming destination for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters make for a beautiful backdrop.” Summing this up Shubham says, ” An experiential destination is a buzzword in the current times, one that focuses on exuberant experiences throughout the entire event.”
The bottom line
Although 2020 and 2021 were slow for the wedding industry in 2022 the business for wedding vendors is on the rise. With people becoming more sustainable and digital in their approach Ajit Singh says, “we have more events coming which are technology driven. “However, the new buzzword for Shubha is flexibility. “Bookings, contracts and deposits should be fine-combed and have the ability to pivot around, viewing the rear view of the past years.”
While there is a change in the kind of weddings from scale to materials used and new techniques. As the covid curve is flattening out, people are also keenly awaiting to get back to the big fat Indian weddings. “As things are flattening out, to pre-pandemic levels, we see a resurgence of fairy tale weddings. Fresh and improved, they are back with a modern makeover, with couples having the final say in the events: gay and dazzling parties but a week-long saga cutting short to two to three days of affairs. The pandemic-led shift is there, but subtle with the quintessential celebrations back in force,” says Shubham. Adding further, Malhotra feels that the big fat Indian wedding will always be a mainstay. “India as a country is huge and communities diverse, and rituals are as varied as the religions, castes, and people who host them. But the big fat Indian wedding—a combination of traditions and Bollywood influence—does have fascinating stability. Even through economic turbulence, social reform, modern technology, or a pandemic, the big fat Indian wedding remains a mainstay.”