Indian weddings are known for their extravaganza but the pandemic has hit the $50 billion industry hard and it will probably take a long time to recover. While digital weddings have gained in popularity, wedding planners, jewelers, caterers, photographers, vendors, designers, florists and the sizeable chunk of workers that the industry employs are at the edge of a crisis and fear for their livelihoods..
“The coronavirus outbreak has sent ripples through the wedding industry, for vendors, wedding planners, and venues to guests, relatives, and couples. Weddings are cancelled/postponed, leads are down”, CEO of the wedding planning company The Wedding Brigade Sanna Vohra tells Sputnik.
The wedding business in India is vast, with 10-12 million weddings hosted every year. It also impacts businesses indirectly linked to it such as retail, textiles, accessories, luxury cars and electronics.
It is not just the lockdown which has impacted the industry but uncertainty about the spread of the virus has placed the future of big fat Indian weddings on hold, given that they are known for hosting huge crowds. While currently a lot of the weddings are postponed and not cancelled, The Wedding Brigade CEO says that they are witnessing a 90% drop in forward bookings.
According to the All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council, Indian jewellers are selling 50-60 tonnes of gold every month but the future looks bleak with no end in sight.
Similarly, a fall in luxurious destination weddings, taking place in exotic locations such as Rajasthan, Goa, Italy, Indonesia, is likely to impact the wedding tourism consisting of travel companies and hospitality firms as those destinations remain under lockdown. In fact, wedding tourism turnover will likely fall to seo, compared with forecasts of $6 Billion in 2020, up from $ 3 billion in 2017.
Match-making: Backbone of Weddings
The one branch of the wedding business that remains unaffected, and is actually benefitting from the lockdown, is online match-making. Arranged marriages are a tradition in the Indian societies, and this older method of meeting prospective brides and grooms remains in place.
But now, online match-making websites are witnessing a surge in registrations and activity on their accounts. On average, there was around 14,000 to 15,000 registrations a day but there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of registrations in recent weeks, says founder and CEO of Matrimony.com Murugavel Janakiraman.
Videos and pictures of online weddings have been going viral but matrimony websites are playing their role in organising them by making virtual arrangements. Shaadi.com marketing director Adhish Zaveri says that everything is the same in a virtual wedding.
Divulging the details of arranging a virtual wedding, Zaveri says, “Customized e-invites are sent to all gusts, the bride is given virtual training on dressing-up, bridal make-up, trained henna artists join the family members to guide them over video, family and friends make performances on video, folk singers and artists also arranged for entertaining the guests and finally priest conducts the virtual ceremony.”
Tying the Virtual Knot
Avinash Singh Bagri and Kirti Agrawal might not have gotten the wedding of their dream but they definitely got a wedding to remember. As their plans for a multiple-day wedding with several events, 8000-10,000 guests, elaborate feasts and a lot of dancing in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, fell flat; the wedding day was saved by their friend who introduced them to the concept of organised virtual wedding.
While the wedding date in India is important for its auspiciousness, the couple says that they did not want to delay the wedding as it had been planned for a long time. “We didn’t want to put our friends and families at risk. An online wedding helped us be together and begin this new phase of our life while adhering to the norms of social distancing and being responsible citizens,” they say.
Like other businesses, the wedding industry is projected to recover after September but the new trend of virtual wedding and norms of physical distancing raises a question over its very existence post lockdown.
Vohra says: “Budgets will be lower and weddings will be more intimate, but they will not be low key. Weddings are at the end of day one of the most important events in a couple’s lives, so I think they will always be important and celebrated. Weddings will be more intimate, planning will be more digital, and there will be more virtual weddings as well”.
She pins hope on 2021 for the recovery of destination weddings, especially abroad, as travel restrictions are eased.
“Weddings in India are a social statement, where size and scale are integral to the celebrations. But as long as the situation persists, Weddings from Home will remain relevant," adds Zaveri.