Honeymoon travels, the prequel

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By The great Indian wedding is shifting venue - to the beaches of Goa and the royal forts of Rajasthan, says Varuna Verma
  • Published 30.09.07

Deepti Singh was dreading getting married. The Mumbai-based interior designer says she went weak at the thought of facing hundreds of pesky relatives and sitting through endless, unfathomable rituals. “Getting married seemed like a painful process,” says Singh.

That was till she and her businessman fiancé opted for a wedding in Goa. Only the immediate family of the bride and the groom was invited and there was nothing ritualistic about the wedding agenda. “We played beach ball, took hot air balloon and sea scooter rides, had a poolside party and got married under the palm trees,” says Singh about her wedding last year.

The great Indian wedding is shifting venue. “A lot of people are saturated with the idea of calling hundreds of guests for their wedding. Young couples now look for small, exclusive and personalised marriages,” says Dipa Sheth, head, Occasionz Unlimited, a Mumbai-based wedding planning firm. ‘Destination’ weddings provide this in plenty. “As Indian brides and grooms are increasingly managing their own weddings, they opt for a wedding-cum-holiday combination,” says Sheth. Getting married in Goa has become a fad among young Mumbai couples, she adds.

Foreigners — à la Elizabeth Hurley — have regularly been heading to India to get married in the palaces of Rajasthan or the houseboats of Kerala. But now Indians are discovering the charms of mountaintop marriages and sandy ceremonies under swaying palms. “Till two years ago, we organised destination weddings only for foreigners and non resident Indians. Now half our clients are Indians,” stresses Jairaj Gupta, chief executive officer, Shaadionline, a Delhi-based destination wedding planning firm. Gupta says he gets three to fives queries from within India for destination weddings every month.

Like all good things in life, destination weddings come at a cost. “Udaipur is the most exotic and expensive venue. A wedding here costs upwards of Rs 20,000 per person, a day,” says Gupta. A beach wedding in Goa is easier on the wallet — at Rs 8,000 to 10,000 per person, a day.

But this hasn’t stopped young brides from packing their beachwear along with their Kanjeevarams. “The average attendance at destination weddings is 40 to 50 people. Since the number of invitees is small, it is within most upper middle class budgets,” says Sheth. Gupta adds that decreasing air travel costs have also helped the industry to grow.

Weddings are a Rs 4,400 crore industry in India. “The increasing number of Indians opting for destination weddings has added a spin to the market. Indian clients are where the real numbers are,” says Gupta.

His company is going the whole hog to promote destination weddings among urban Indians. It is working with state tourism promotion boards and endorsing destination weddings in tie-ups with hotels like Park Hyatt, Goa.

Unlike foreigners, elephant processions don’t alone excite Indian nuptial imagination. “We get requests from Indians who want to wed in diverse places such as the Himalayas, Ranthambore and Mount Abu,” says Neeti Bhargava, CEO of the Lucknow-based planners Mystical Moments India. Bhargava recently catered to a Delhi-based client who wanted to exchange vows against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. They wed in Manali.

There’s nothing like a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun wedding. The Udaipur-based Regal Weddings Pvt Ltd has tied up with Hyderabad’s Ramoji Film City to offer Bollywood wedding packages. “Clients can choose a wedding backdrop of any film set — from the Taj Mahal to the Mughal Gardens. Local artists sing and dance. The clothes and jewellery are straight out of Hindi films,” says Ankit Bhargava, managing director, Regal Weddings.

The taste of Bollywood is omnipresent. “We have a movie theme — ranging from Pakeezah to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge — for all occasions,” adds Bhargava. The Bollywood wedding package was floated recently and costs are still being worked out. But Bhargava claims enquiries are pouring in.

Foreign locales are also becoming popular. “In the last one year, we’ve seen a three-time jump in the number of enquiries coming for weddings in Singapore and Malaysia,” says Shaadionline’s Gupta. Since Singapore is already a common honeymoon destination, its tourism board is now actively wooing Indian to-be-weds to opt for marriage-and-honeymoon packages, he adds.

But for now, Goa’s ivory beaches and Rajasthan’s sandstone palaces still hold fort. “Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Goa are the most popular wedding destinations,” says Subrato Mukherjee, manager, Exotic Indian Weddings, Delhi, whose company has handled 60 destination weddings to these places in the last three years.

A palace wedding comes with a royal touch. “We arrange camel processions, an elephant for the groom, vintage cars, folk dances, palanquins, torch bearers and royalty-style clothes for the bride and groom,” says Vishv Vijae, CEO, Regal Weddings. With 50 destination weddings handled this year, he says his three-year-old firm is working overtime.

A Goan wedding comprises all-night beach parties, disc jockeys, local dancers, a sea-facing mandap and free flowing wine and coconut water. After attending a friend’s wedding in Goa earlier this year, software engineer Avantika Juneja has decided to say ‘I do’ the same way. “I always thought fun wedding was an oxymoron. Not any more,” she says.