The bigger, fatter Indian wedding | Mint

The bigger, fatter Indian wedding

While guest lists are becoming thinner, couples are focusing on ensuring premium experiences.
While guest lists are becoming thinner, couples are focusing on ensuring premium experiences.

Summary

  • The wedding season is expected to generate Rs4.25 trillion in business over just 23 auspicious days in November and December as couples, and their families, splurge more than ever

NEW DELHI : A glitzy upper-crust wedding this week at a sprawling Delhi farmhouse–one of about 400,000 taking place in the capital this matrimonial season–is being attended by the who’s who in the city. The ceremonies, involving two business families, one in construction and the other in, let’s say, consumer goods, will include a cocktail party at Delhi’s Roseate Hotel before the wedding.

The grand party will have artist Bismil performing for about 400 guests. The food, organised by the five-star hotel, has had to have caterers come in specially from Delhi 6 restaurant. The function will cost upwards of Rs6,000 a plate, including taxes. 

All these apart, the wedding itself will have specialised catering from Mumbai’s famous Mahesh Lunch Home.

The budget for the entire wedding: Rs6-7 crore.

That includes expenses towards the venue, gifts, catering including alcohol, and about Rs2 crore for entertaining the guests.

Mukta Kapoor, the planner for this mega-budget event, said the wedding business has never been better, with more than 3 million weddings taking place around the country between November and December alone. Traditionally, this is considered the peak wedding season in India. It slows around mid-December and resumes a month later, going all the way up to April.

Kapoor’s Delhi-based Yuna Weddings and Events has signed up to handle 85 weddings across November and December, taking charge of design and flowers for about four weddings a day as well as two or three big-ticket weddings for which her team oversees everything beginning with the concept. This is 15% more than the weddings the company handled last year, she said.

Most Indian families time weddings based on ‘saya’, or auspicious, dates. This year, the Hindu and Sikh calendars have 23 such dates in November and December, resulting in a boom in the wedding market. 

The five months between November and March (barring about 30 days between December and January) account for more than 60% of the auspicious wedding dates in a year.

“When the demand goes up, so does the price," said Kapoor. “Everything from florists to labour becomes that much more expensive at this time."

It does not help that most products in the wedding value chain, as with other products in general, particularly food, have seen a price increase over last year. Catering costs have increased 25-27%, Kapoor said, and specialised catering even more so. Prices for flowers are up 5-7%, and furniture and labour costs have become 2-3 times more expensive than last year.

Another couple in their 30s who are getting married in March is already planning ahead of time. The couple is looking to host a pre-wedding cocktail at The Claridges Hotel in Delhi. They plan to invite about 400 of their family and friends to the hotel’s Viceroy banquet hall, paying about Rs6,000 per guest, not including service charge, taxes, or alcohol.

Flowers and entertainment would cost another 3-4 lakh. 

In all, the couple will end up spending Rs45 lakh for just this one pre-wedding event.

“We are aware we are spending a lot of money on one function and we can see that some of our friends who got married before or during the pandemic had spent far less. But what choice do we have? It’s not like we can curb our guest list down any further," said Alisha Singh, the bride, who works as a consultant with a hospitality company. Her fiancé works for a marketing company. 

The premium play

Catering at weddings has become a more specialised affair, with people splurging much more on food than before. On average, specialist caterers have gone from charging Rs4,500-5,000 per plate to Rs6,500-7,500. 

Liquor, a key ingredient in several Indian wedding celebrations, at least in the capital, is at least 20% more expensive.

An exclusive survey that wed-tech company WeddingWire India conducted for Mint showed that the Indian wedding industry has seen a steep price increase this year, with average spending on the celebrations shooting up 31% over last year to $25,000, or Rs20 lakh.

Despite a general shift towards more intimate weddings and smaller guest lists post the pandemic, the overall budget hasn’t seen a corresponding decrease. This is because wedding vendor services have experienced significant price hikes, negating any potential savings from a smaller guest count.

With thinner guest lists, couples are also opting for ‘premiumisation’—allocating their resources more judiciously to create personalised experiences for their guests. This translates to higher spending per guest, WeddingWire India said in its report.

“The overall demand for vendors that our company tracks saw an increase of 5% in the first half of this year over last year, which has sustained," said Anam Zubair, director of India marketing for the company. “Even now, we see that couples are actively booking last-minute services for this wedding season, which will continue into the first half of next year."

Leaner, but better

Unsurprisingly, northern India states command a major share of the wedding market, with about 31% of the weddings in the country during the season held in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh.

Delhi will contribute the most to the weddings in the northern states. The number of weddings in North India registered on the WeddingWire India platform grew by 21% year over year.

“We are doing or have done about 200 wedding and wedding-related functions on the 23 auspicious dates in November and December, and can’t see any signs of any slowdown in spend(ing)," said Vikaas Gutgutia, founder and managing director of Ferns N Petals Pvt. 

The company has a robust wedding business and leases 13-14 venues in the Delhi-National Capital Region.

“The only thing we are noticing is that weddings are definitely leaner now," Gutgutia said. “For instance, 1,000-people weddings are down to 600-700 people. But the quality has become far better."

The economic impact: not much

The Indian wedding season is expected to generate Rs4.25 trillion in business over the 23 auspicious days in November and December, according to a new report by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). 

This economic boost is expected to be brought on by an estimated 3.5 million weddings set to take place between November 23 and December 15. Last year, about 3 million weddings took place in the season. These numbers are based on a survey conducted by the CAIT Research & Trade Development Society.

While such concentrated high spending in a period should typically result in a large economic impact, wedding vendors told Mint that many of the dealings in the wedding business still involve cash. 

Families organising weddings typically prefer paying for only 20-40% of the total expenses via transactions that can be accounted for, because the sector is heavily taxed on for most services, inviting as much as 28% in taxes. 

Gig-workers, too, such as make-up artists, florists, and photographers, typically demand to be paid entirely in cash.

Catch all the Industry News, Banking News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
more

MINT SPECIALS

Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App