Personal Finance

Wedding Wows

Arvind Jayaram | Updated on November 19, 2014 Published on August 02, 2014



Cindy Hughes/


Wedding budgets of the super rich are heading northwards, costing a cool ₹50 crore

Very few Indian HNIs would write out a multi-million dollar cheque to acquire contemporary art or a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, but when it comes to weddings, ostentation is the name of the game.

When steel tycoon LN Mittal’s daughter Vanisha was wed in 2004, the family flew 1,000 guests from all over the world by private jet to France where the festivities lasted six days.

The engagement ceremony was held at the Palace of Versailles, followed by a dinner at the famous Jardin des Tuileries and the wedding itself took place at the 17th century Chateau Vaux le Vicomte.

Bollywood actors Juhi Chawla, Rani Mukherjee and Saif Ali Khan performed at the wedding and so did Shah Rukh Khan. Popstar Kylie Minogue also performed for half-an-hour at the reception.

The total cost? Around ₹240 crore, but it’s still not the most costly wedding of all-time. That prize would go to LN Mittal’s younger brother Pramod Mittal, who spent around ₹500 crore on the marriage of his daughter Shrishti in Barcelona in 2013.

Sky’s the limit budget

While that kind of a wedding budget is a little out-of-reach for most people, ₹1 crore weddings have become quite commonplace among India’s elite, note wedding planners.

Much of this may be spent on hosting the wedding at a picturesque location, sourcing fine food and wine from the world’s best destinations and of course, flying in guests as well as Bollywood stars to add a dash of glamour to the proceedings.

“Organising a successful wedding is similar to producing a movie,” says Sushil Shamlal Wadhwa, Founder and CMD of Platinum World Group, an event management firm based in Mumbai that also offers wedding planning services. “The minimum budget for most HNI weddings within the country is usually around ₹1 crore,” he asserts.

“People of a certain stature always like to outdo the other person. If one person calls Shahrukh (Khan), another wants to call someone else,” says Rashika Seth, the Communications Head for Celebrating Vivaha, a biannual wedding trade fair held in India.

“We’re seeing the middle class trying to outdo the upper class and the upper class trying to ace the upper-upper class. People expect to go overboard and exceed their budget,” she adds.

And this is one spending trip on which people are quite happy to exceed their budget. Seth says while she hasn’t seen anyone outdo the Mittals yet, she’s seen a fair share of weddings where the cost has touched ₹100 crore. “A luxury wedding costs nothing less than ₹50 crore,” she declares.

Ruchita Parelkar, the businesswoman behind Elite Wedding Planner says her firm recently organised a seven-eight day wedding at a farmhouse in Jaipur where the décor was conceptualised by an Italian designer and flowers were sourced from Thailand. Around 550 guests were flown into the venue, which was built to resemble a fort, in chartered planes. The cost? A cool ₹9.5 crore.

Wadhwa, too, has seen his share of blockbuster weddings. “A recent wedding that we organised in Chennai, which was four- to five-day affair, cost around ₹8-10 crore. It featured performances by Bollywood musical duo Vishal-Shekhar and the baraat alone had an attendance of 1,500 people,” he reveals.

Parelkar reminisced about one of the recent wedding functions she orchestrated in Mumbai for a Dubai-based groom and a London-based bride.

“For the mehndi ceremony, everything was themed around Dubai. The sangeet, on the other hand, mirrored the groom’s time in Hong Kong. Since the wedding was in India, it revolved around a royal theme. And at the reception, everything had an international theme,” she says, while marvelling that it all just cost ₹5.5 crore.

A chunk of the expenditure for weddings within India is incurred on hiring the venue, besides the catering, decor and entertainment, Wadhwa says. Together, these could make up anywhere between 18-20 per cent of wedding costs. But there are other avenues for the super-rich to go overboard. “People are looking for brands,” says Seth, who recalls, “For one wedding, the invites were sent out in Hermes boxes made of leather. And instead of Mithai for the recipients, they had imported honey inside them.”

“People are also doing a lot of variation in cakes, using Dior and Chanel designsWedding cakes coordinated with the outfits worn by the happy couple,” she says.

Location’s everything

The advantage of holding a wedding within the country, is that more guests are able to attend. Wadhwa says that it’s not surprising for an HNI wedding in an Indian city to have 3,000-5,000 people.

But a growing trend has been for affluent families from cities like Ahmedabad and Mumbai to hold their weddings at more scenic locations, as they feel their own city doesn’t present enough opportunities to showcase their wealth.

“What we’re seeing more today is the Gujarati getting married in Goa. The most popular wedding destinations within the country are Goa and Rajasthan,” says Wadhwa. Seth says there’s a growing trend among people to call designers from abroad to plan the venues.

Destination wedding

When it comes to destination weddings, the most popular international location is Thailand. Wadhwa says the attendance is usually smaller at such weddings, at around 300-500 people, though it could go up to 1,000 guests. “A wedding in Thailand could cost between ₹1.5 and ₹3 crore. If you hold it in Europe, you could spend anywhere upward of ₹2.5-9 crore,” he says.

One of the weddings organised by Wadhwa was a three nights and four days affair held in Phuket with 300 people. The venue was a five-star hotel and his clients, a vegetarian family, had a team of 15 chefs flown in.

Six separate functions were held during the celebrations, with all the décor themed around the initials of the special couple. To boot, an entire island was chartered for a day for the marriage parties and guests to unwind, including a spa zone on the island where therapists gave massage.

Odds and ends

Parelkar says she gets a lot of unusual requests as well. “We did a wedding in Goa last year. The bride wanted to make her entrance from the sea, emerging from a Lotus that would unfold with her inside it.

That wasn’t possible because the government didn’t allow it. But we still had her emerge from a lotus on the beach,” she recalls.

According to Seth, gifting has become huge. One of the most ostentatious displays she’s seen was at a wedding in Ludhiana.

“A fleet of luxury cars was given to the immediate family of the groom. People are dying to spend money on something that can be seen and talked about,” she says.

Published on August 02, 2014
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