Weddings on an austerity drive
Weddings on an austerity drive. Indians have always been susceptible to extravagance at weddings where competitive splurges and ostentatious displays of jewellery and gifts have more or less been the norm.
In this season of marriage, the budget has been trimmed for the big, fat Indian weddings.
Indians have always been susceptible to extravagance at weddings where competitive splurges and ostentatious displays of jewellery and gifts have more or less been the norm. A few years back, my friend Simran Brar stood at the centre of a huge opulent hall. To her left, a troupe of flashily attired dancers was gyrating synchronously to loud Bollywood tunes. Adjacent to the crowd was a sumptuous, multicuisine spread where the womenfolk had congregated, glittering in their bejewelled best in the most attractive colours. The big fat Indian weddings are famous in the world.
A lot of queries were stuck in Simran’s mind. Is this what happens at most weddings now? Is this the amount of expenditure and show-off families will have to go through? Most importantly, at what point was the simple and traditional Indian wedding replaced with a pretentious imposter?
But times have changed. Rajkumar Bansal, who works as a collection officer in a bank, is planning for his daughter's marriage this June. He will take a loan to meet the wedding's cost. And, he is not alone. As this year's wedding season kicks off, many like Rajkumar would be facing a double impact of an economic slowdown and high inflation.
The higher up the social ladder you are, the greater is the societal pressure to have a vanity wedding. And of course, economists will tell you that big fat Indian weddings keep the wheels of commerce spinning in a splendid way. But it’s just as true that among much of the middle-class and lower-middle-class India, the compulsions of lavish weddings push entire families into indebtedness and problems.
Even the higher-end weddings have been impacted. Shubham Weddings, wedding planners, which aims for a budget of more than Rs 25 lakh, going up to 'luxury', has seen a 25 per cent drop in its business.
"A lot of our customers have money stuck in real estate or stock markets. All are going easy this year and the business is seeing a dip," points out Vijay Garg, owner of Shubham Weddings. Bifurcation and elections also have had an impact.
Purnima and her sister Meeta have completed their masters from the US and have selected their NRI life partners. Both have planned to get married on the same day for to cost cutting.
But the impact of the global economic downturn has caused them to rethink the extravagance, following a trend that has seen many Indian families scale down their celebrations over the past 12 months.
“I want it to be simple, keeping costs under check,” said Meeta who has cut back the days of festivities to three from the five customary in her family and also slashed the number of ceremonies to three from nine.
“People are curbing expenses", said Tejal Kadakia, who founded Knot Forever, a Mumbai-based wedding management firm. Everything is about cost cutting and time saving. Rings are exchanged at the engagement, followed by the ‘Mehndi’ ceremony. The next day sees an elaborate ‘Sangeet’ – a musical, dance or even Bollywood-style extravaganza. The wedding itself usually comes 24 hours later, followed by cocktails and a lavish evening meal. Short sweet and less expensive.
Tejal says, “Families are choosing to skip the music and dance altogether. Couples pick and choose from a menu of possible cuts, including trimmed guest lists, slightly less sumptuous matching sari and jewellery sets - think pearl- and ruby instead of diamond and platinum. Guest lists have fallen, invitations are less ornate.”
Jai Raj Gupta, chief executive officer of Shaadionline, one of the first and largest Indian companies devoted to planning weddings, says, “The main wedding is still a grand affair, but on a much smaller budget. One has to settle for the second-best now if there are financial restraints.”
Mahima Rana, who is going to get married in June, says, “In the present times of growing globalisation and modernisation, it is critical not to forget that today; the most important gifts that parents can give their daughters are education, self confidence, courage. We cannot deny that we do deserve all the joyous festivities and the merry-making. Sometimes in life, less is more. That applies for the weddings also. The beauty of the sacred promise should not be diminished in this showbiz.”