New Delhi (Sputnik): Traditional Indian weddings are known for their fanfare spread over several days, consisting of elaborate arrangements of celebrations including cocktails, feasts, gold and gifts. But the glimmer of wedding glitter has begun to fade with the COVID-19 outbreak, new social norms and an unprecedented nationwide lockdown.
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 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.
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.
While those in the wedding planning business are expecting to downsize, matrimony websites have leveraged the lockdown situation to their benefit by introducing initiatives such as Wedding from Home to adhere to the physical distancing rules.
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.
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.
Sputnik / Virtual wedding via Shaadi.com
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.
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.