Baahubali star Rana Daggubati’s wedding would have been one of the biggest celebrations in the south film industry had it not been for the Coronavirus pandemic. Given the star’s stature and friends across the Indian film industry, the guest list would have run into a few thousands with numerous events spanning several days. However, Rana’s wedding with Miheeka Bajaj in Hyderabad at the Ramanaidu Studios on August 8 saw just about 30 guests in attendance with close friends and relatives joining in through LifeVR, thanks to livestreaming.
With the lockdown in India since March due to the global Covid19 outbreak, grandiose wedding plans of many young couples have gone awry. Telugu actor Nithiin was reportedly set to tie the knot with his fiancée Shalini Kandukuri in Dubai but eventually got hitched at the Taj Falaknuma, Hyderabad, on July 26, in a low-key affair with just family and close friends. But it’s not just celebrities who have had to give up the big fat Indian wedding for a small, intimate affair with friends and relatives joining in over video/livestream services. Couples across India have had their wedding plans scuttled and have settled for a wedding at home or even pushed their wedding date. Alongside, masks, sanitisers, PPEs, and social distancing are all par for the course at weddings today with meals being prepared at home or in hotels under strict safety measures.
Shaadi Squad organised the uber-luxurious Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli wedding at Tuscany, Italy, and Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas engagement in Mumbai. Speaking about the weddings taking place during the times of the pandemic,Tina Tharwani, Co-founder, Shaadi Squad, says, “Couples are now choosing to seal the deal in the backyards or lawns of their homes, farmhouses and private properties to keep the affair only limited to both families. While the budget has drastically come down owing to the smaller scale of weddings due to the reduced guest count and smaller size of venues, greater monetary focus is being given to hygiene and sanitisation of the venue and a good portion of the budgets are being diverted towards ensuring hygiene and cleanliness, setting up of sanitisation stations, thermal screening and distribution of sanitisation kits to guests.”
Sumyog Weddings in Chennai have also scaled down their weddings not just in terms of guests and decor but execution too. Rekha R Rangaraj and Vidya Singh of Sumyog are working closely with the couple as well as hotels to make sure social distancing and safety precautions are in place. “A sanitation station is now mandatory and we will provide masks as well as sanitisers to all guests. We are also requesting clients to avoid the traditional reception of guests with haldi and kumkum and place those in the take away thamboolam bags itself.”
Lavish and luxurious weddings running into tens of lakhs and – even crores – of rupees are passé and budgets have now been slashed drastically. In fact, budgets for weddings for most couples now over around five lakh rupees say wedding planners. “The budgets for intimate weddings are not even a tenth of what they used to be for the Big Fat Indian Wedding,” say Yamini Shah Rochlani and Rishi Rochlani, Co-founders of Mumbai-based The Wedding Designers, adding, “The list of things they are spending on is much shorter than the things they aren’t spending on. For example, the bride is now opting for her mother’s or grand mother’s wedding outfits or a favourite from their wardrobes rather than purchasing a new designer outfit, Décor has been curtailed automatically due to space constraints and wedding invites have been replaced with personalised messages.”
But there are also new trends that we see emerging at this time which are likely to continue for a while. “Couples are going for acoustic bands and smaller artists rather than huge bands comprising 15 members to go with the mood of the venue. Similarly, couples are also choosing food customised to their guest’s preferences as opposed to large spreads of food with multiple cuisines,” explains Tina Tharwani.
Elaborating on these new aspects, wedding planner Divya of Divya Vithika in Bangalore says, “Everyone is keeping the wedding low profile yet making it memorable with just close set of family and friends. Innovative masks, customised gift hampers, specially curated wedding lunches and dinners delivered to guests, who are witnessing the wedding online is a big hit with guests. The delivery is done with utmost precautions and kept contactless.”
The Big Fat Indian Wedding, however, has not disappeared for good state wedding planners confidently. They believe that this is just a phase the wedding industry is witnessing and ostentatious weddings will make a comeback with a bang in a while. “Indians are very resilient and mature in these matters. We are a society that enjoys and thrives on community interactions and celebrations,” emphasises Divya.
Yamini Shah Rochlani and Rishi Rochlani have the last word, saying, “There is a lot of pent up demand as most couples don’t want to compromise on their wedding festivities and have decided to postpone their celebrations by even as much as a year. It doesn’t seem like we have seen the last of the Big Fat Indian Wedding yet!”