Variety

Honey, let’s shrink the wedding for now!

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on August 19, 2020

Marriages are going virtual and minimalistic during Covid times

Are Zoom weddings legal, Eric Yuan, founder of the videoconfercing app, was asked during the just-concluded India Internet Day. Apparently, New York has led the way in recognising the validity of video weddings.

In the Covid era, weddings are going virtual, intimate and minimalistic. Even the big fat Indian wedding has shrunk beyond imagination due to pandemic-induced restrictions and in some cases cost-cutting. However, thankfully for the thousands of suppliers and vendors who depend on the estimated $50-billion wedding industry in India, there are many who still desire all the frills of band, baaja, baraat, and are postponing their big day.

The wedding services industry is also trying to fight back by coming up with innovative offerings for the stripped down versions of the wedding.

Going digital

Ankur Sarawagi, Country Manager, The Knot Worldwide, a wedding technology company, said: “Digital channels are playing a huge role in weddings — from planning to online shopping to virtual appointments, meetings/WhatsApp calls or for discussions with wedding service partners. Many wedding related consumer brands are building online marketing strategies like online exhibitions, sales, developing e-commerce sites for jewellery, attire and accessory sales.”

Matchmaking platform BharatMatrimony has launched a ‘HomeWeddings’ platform on MatrimonyBazaar, which offers the services of a curated list of vendors, while adopting safety and hygiene protocols at the doorstep for 50 guests.

Those who want an expanded guest list are taking advantage of the multiple rituals associated with Indian weddings and calling different people for different functions.

Murugavel Janakiraman, Founder and CEO of Matrimony.com pointed out that Indian weddings are big celebratory affairs and, hence, many have decided to postpone weddings to either later this year or next. “Some couples are opting for home weddings or weddings in smaller settings while adhering to the regulations and safety norms,” he added.

Meanwhile, Neeraj Singh (name changed), who got engaged more than a year ago, has decided to go ahead and tie the knot in December, even if the restrictions on the number of guests remain. “With 50-odd guests, I can afford to organise the celebration at a five-star hotel. I could never have considered this option with a guest list ten times bigger in normal times,” he added.

While there has been a lot of buzz around completely virtual weddings, wedding planners said the number of such weddings are minuscule, as couples still prefer their weddings to be an “in-person event”.

Video-calling

But is the pandemic permanently re-shaping Indian wedding ceremonies or matchmaking trends? Matrimonial sites such as Shaadi.com, Jeevansaathi.com and BharatMatrimony have been quick to launch video-calling services or facilitate virtual meetings of families on their platforms. These players believe this feature will find traction from consumers not just during the pandemic but in the long term too.

“In line with the global norms of hosting a wedding, etiquette of RSVP, which earlier was optional, will become a preferred route for couples and families. Additionally, catering as a category will see a longer term change with table/sit-down dining being preferred over the buffet style,” Sarawagi added.

Call to relax restrictions

Unexpected support for the wedding services industry has come from the Federation of All India Vyapar Mandal, which last week urged the Home Ministry to relax the restrictions on the number of guests allowed in weddings and other ceremonies.

With the auspicious period for weddings scheduled in the upcoming festival period, the federation has recommended that the number of guests allowed should be determined based on the area of the wedding venue (tents, banquet halls, farm houses). In their petition, the traders body said millions of people who offer services such tents, pandals, catering, pavilions, banquet halls, band baja, DJ, lighting and decorations, “have no work since March when the lockdown was imposed.”

“Once the government further relaxes restrictions, wedding service vendors are expected to see an uptick in demand,” says Janakiraman.

All indications so far are that the big fat Indian wedding will bounce back.

(with inputs from Twesh Mishra and Amiti Sen)

Published on August 17, 2020

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