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July 20, 2024

Will the pandemic lead to a future of intimate-yet-lavish weddings?

Muskaan Thakur

Other than its remarkable hospitality, India is known for its big fat weddings. Weddings in India have always been a luxurious affair. A majestic decor, a wide range of delicious delicacies, best of Bollywood music and a never-ending guest list. This is how Indian weddings used to be like. But with the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the scope of event management has drastically changed. To provide couples and their families with great memories of the special day, luxury hotels are back to the wedding business, this time, with a small-yet-lavish bang.
Luxebook spoke to industry experts from India’s top luxury hotels to learn more about the new normal intimate weddings, the significance of AR/VR technology and the future of event management in the hospitality sector.
JW Marriott Mumbai
Debarati Bose, Director of Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
Debarati Bose, Director of Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
#ShaddiByMarriott has been offering the guests a chance to live up their dream wedding for years. Debarati Bose, Director of Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, elaborated how Marriott is focusing on making micro weddings lavish by providing a more personalised and meaningful experience whilst maintaining the luxury quotient. The ‘destination wedding’ concept has taken on a new meaning and people are seeking destinations within a drivable distance.
The hotel’s expansive landscape, lush gardens and unique architectural structures allow the guests to choose different venues for different functions. A natural backdrop of the beach and picturesque views of the Arabian Sea is a cherry on the top. Over the past few months, the hotel has innovated its offerings and created new outdoor venue options to cater to the rising demand.
JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
Courtesy: JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
“Personalisation is at the heart of the experience we curate,” she highlighted. From the guests’ arrival until their departure, each service has a personalised touch. This comes in the form of personalised welcome amenities, elaborate suite set up for the bride and groom, personalised hampers for the family members, the customised decor at each venue, experiential activities suited to the family and staycation gift vouchers, amongst other specially curated services
When asked about the role of digitalisation in intimate weddings, she said, “Digitalisation plays a key role in weddings in the new normal and our hotel can cater to this requirement for guests who cannot physically attend the wedding. Moreover, for a complete wedding experience, we can send personalised hampers and wedding meals to guests of the family across India through Marriott on Wheels, our food and beverage home delivery initiative. For those who want an intimate wedding at home, we are also providing outdoor catering services and bento boxes, following the necessary safety and hygiene standards having extensively trained our teams to operate in the new normal.”
To maintain the safety of guests, the staff emphasizes the need for wearing a mask at all times and guides the guests through other safety measures as well. The on-site team has been trained throughout the past six months to effectively implement the processes of ‘Commitment to Clean’, Marriott International’s extensive program on safety and hygiene measures.
JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
Courtesy: JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
Read: Dhoom Dhaam Trunk, a popular wedding show, goes online
“The food and beverage aspect has been revamped to adapt to the new normal standards and each process has been made contactless. The concepts of pass around hors d’oeuvres and self-service buffet have been eliminated. The concepts of sit down pre-plated meals, individually portioned plates, more live counters and even a personal bento box will be incorporated moving forward. We are incorporating the use of immunity-boosting ingredients in all our menus. Our focus is on superfoods, organic ingredients, nutrient-rich and Vitamin C-rich foods, and we are curating menus based on this. We are incorporating immunity-boosting beverages in our menus as well. Our culinary experts endeavour to provide a gastronomical experience to our guests whilst ensuring safe and healthy food for them,” She added. 
According to her, this seems to be the way forward for the next 6-8 months at least. Guests have adapted to the mindset of lavish micro weedings, with the support of technology and personalisation.
The St. Regis Mumbai
Monal Prabhu, Associate Director of Catering Sales, The St. Regis Mumbai
Monal Prabhu, Associate Director of Catering Sales, The St. Regis Mumbai said that weddings at the hotel are unique affairs designed to offer impeccable service, exemplary cuisine and unforgettable settings.  Weddings with a smaller crowd are no different as they will be customised and personalised. Also, the advantage with a smaller guest list is that the hotel can use this opportunity to provide extremely personalized services.
The hotel is offering a variety of unique services like exclusive spaces for a photo opportunity, luxurious spa packages, luxury car pick-up and drop for the family and venues for sangeet practice. In fact, there are also dedicated team’s hand-crafted packages and options like the gifting options with involves sending the invitation with the hotel’s hampers, artisanal chocolate boxes and flavoured macaroons.
“Although technology has taken huge leaps in the wedding planning process for quite some time, the current situation has propelled the use of technology and digital tools as couples seek to find solutions for one-on-one merchant interactions. At The St. Regis Mumbai, we have a complete hotel and venue virtual tour. Our wedding specialists host live video chat consultations with our guests for their convenience. The hotel affords an additional level of distinctive venues, each configured with the latest technologies to tailor well-executed gatherings. We also arrange for a set up for hybrid weddings so that the guests in other cities can be a part of the wedding, from the comfort of their homes. We can get our food delivered to the guests through Marriott on Wheels during the wedding so that they feel like a part of the new age digital weddings,” said Monal Prabhu.

As part of their management process and protocols, they brief the host of the event with all the guidelines that are required and need to be followed by each of the guests. During the event, their signage is a gentle visual reminder for the guests. Further, their associates are always at hand to remind and provide masks if needed.
The hotel now has a new capacity chart and layout taking social distancing into consideration. Meeting capacities have been reduced by least 50% for an informal setup. A round table will have a maximum of 4 guests. A classroom setup will have one guest per table. In theatre style, a minimum distance of 1 meter between the chairs will be maintained. For a U shape, there will be a 1-meter distance between the guests. Whereas in a boardroom setup, the seats will have a 1-meter distance and will not be face to face.

The culinary team is fitted with prescribed PPE suits. Their expert chefs have created and curated innovative concepts for safety like a unique buffet where guests can access freshly made selections at the time of consumption. Another notable innovation is the hotel’s ‘Floating Buffet’ concept were specially designed selections are individually plated and presented to the guests on floating plates. It’s done as bite-sized portions with a varied mix of hot or cold meals in a bowl to give the guests the experience of a buffet without the traditional style of a buffet.
The hotel has specially created menus with varied options like pre-plated, sit down thali, and all things live, keeping in mind the new norms There are refreshing immunity boosters energizing the celebratory tradition suited for each of the traditional events. The menu includes wholesome dishes having plant-based, nutritional and beneficial ingredients for the body, health, immunity. No high-risk perishable food will be displayed for more than 2 hours.
Commenting on the future of event management, she said,” Weddings in India are all about traditions with multiple celebratory occasions. Currently, guests and our teams are mindful of the situation and the government guidelines and respectful that this is in the best interests of everyone. However, this pandemic has changed everyone’s notion towards ‘the big fat Indian wedding’ and families are taking advantage of technology. They are focusing more on ensuring that the wedding is conducted with close family and friends while beaming the wedding online to their guest list who cannot be present at the event. The future of this style of celebration will largely depend on the situation and we are sure that many families and couples may continue this trend of celebrating in this minimalistic fashion.”
Taj Hotels
Renu Basu, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, IHCL
Renu Basu, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, IHCL
Whereas Renu Basu, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, IHCL believes that hospitality comes naturally to Indians which is the core of our culture. Taj being intrinsically linked to India’s history and culture has built a reputation of trust which extends to celebrations, and weddings are no exception. 
She said that the outcome of the current scenario has generated more opportunities for smaller, intimate and highly personalised weddings which are equally special. These weddings, which now involve only those closest and dearest to the happy couple are also more cherished.
Courtesy: Taj Hotels
Courtesy: Taj Hotels
The guests get to choose from Taj’s most unforgettable locations. Even destinations having a smaller inventory of rooms, such as Gwalior can now host weddings, with the entire palace or hotel available exclusively for the celebrations due to the reduced number of guests. The destination weddings will become focused around exotic locales domestically. Taj’s network of awe-inspiring hotels and palaces across the country, we will continue to weave their magic around intimate weddings this season.
“Through its unique wedding proposition, Timeless Weddings, Taj has set a benchmark for hosting the most magical and memorable moments over a century. Adapting to the times we recently introduced Intimate Timeless Weddings for the small-sized, intimate and highly personalized weddings, offering unique locations, carefully curated menus, exotic themes and the quintessential Taj service which has been re-strengthened with the assurance of the highest standards of safety,” said Renu Basu.
Courtesy: Taj Hotels
Courtesy: Taj Hotels
Commenting on the venues, she added, “We offer residential weddings for those looking to book the entire or parts of the hotel exclusively for their function including outdoor spaces. Each celebration has a unique requirement and therefore needs to be personalised and customised to their needs. We continue to host wedding ceremonies receptions and related functions at our hotel venue.”
Further, the hotels will follow a pre-defined set of safety protocols during a wedding. This includes the thermal screening of guests and staff, usage of face masks by all present and availability of hygiene kits at vantage points. Redesigned seating arrangements and re-plated portions of dishes have been put to use. Banqueting processes have also been remodelled and reengineered to follow the guidelines laid out by the Government. Other measures include use of que – guards and supervision by associates to ensure protocols are maintained during events  In the case of residential rooms, resting of rooms between guest stays and health declaration forms on arrival are some of the other key measures.
Courtesy: Taj Hotels
Describing the role of digital technology in every business and every aspect of our lives today, she uses the term ‘enabler’. To keep up with current times and safety measure, they have introduced an E-Concierge who will digitally assist guests in the wedding planning. This consists of virtual visits to hotels and locations. The single point of contact at each location, this concierge will assist in bringing together wedding specialists as well as culinary consultations with chefs, florists, photographers and others on a single platform to create dream weddings.  
The wedding ceremonies can be live-streamed for their guests are not unable to attend due to travel and social gathering restrictions. Also, they have developed and launched a service model for catering at homes as well as a hybrid model of simultaneously catering meals at homes while guests celebrate events digitally through Qmin, ICHL’s food delivery platform. 
“We live in a very dynamic world where change is the only constant. The future of event management in the hospitality industry depends on the situation we are in. Once the current situation eases, we are confident things will normalise. In the medium term, we will be back to large gatherings depending on government guidelines. Even though temporarily events will not be the same as before, we will keep innovating to keep up with the trends, also keeping the safety of our guests and associates in mind. As ever, innovation remains the driver for success,” she explained.

Kannav Chaudhary


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