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Marriages are made in heaven, so goes the saying. But that certainly does not take into account the intense preparations that go into organizing a wedding, right from choosing a budget to booking a venue, to arranging for the best feast and shopping for clothes and jewellery.

And then there is culture to contend with, particularly if the bride and groom are from different communities.

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Radhika Gupta, MD & CEO, Edelweiss AMC, fondly recalls her “entertaining dual wedding". “My husband is a Catholic and I am a Hindu. So, we had a few Catholic ceremonies and then the Hindu ceremonies. The Catholic customs were funny to us, and the Hindu customs were funny to them," says Gupta.

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Indian weddings can be a lot of fun but organizing them can be a mammoth task. Mint reached out to a few people who got married in recent years to understand how they planned and organized their weddings. We also interviewed a few others who are set to tie the knot soon and asked them about their wedding plans.

Budgeting for the big day

Malad-resident Shaili Shah says her sister Devanshi Vakil’s wedding preparations kept her very busy. Her sister works as a senior financial analyst in Canada. “We had seen many weddings happening in good halls. This gave us some idea about the costs, and we added an inflation rate to arrive at the budget for my sister’s wedding," says Shah. The families of the bride and the groom spent around 25–30 lakh on the wedding functions, besides 12 lakh for the bride’s jewellery and clothes and wedding gifts.

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Vallabh Remani, a product manager at a life insurance company, says, “We had some idea of how much each category such as food, venue, etc. would cost based on what we had seen at the weddings of our friends and siblings." Remani and his wife Aishwarya Vuppu also fixed a limit for wedding expenses: their combined annual salary. Eventually, excluding jewellery, they spent around 22 lakh on the wedding.

Nikita Peer and Riyaz Ahmed, who are getting married on 8 December, and their families were very clear that they would not splurge. “We wanted to have the wedding within Dombivli (Mumbai) where my mother and our relatives stay. Going far would have added to the costs," says Peer. They are spending 19 lakh on the wedding, excluding 25 lakh spent on Peer’s jewellery. “My mother felt jewellery is like an investment and wanted to give me 300 grams of gold, roughly the same as what was gifted to my sisters on their weddings," says Peer. One-third of this jewellery was bought 10 years ago, while the rest was bought closer to the wedding, she says.

For Bavadharini KS, the main expenses for her sister Paripoorani’s wedding held in Chennai in February related to booking the venue, caterers and the purohit (priest). Her sister’s wedding expenses totalled 13.5 lakh.

Most of the couples we spoke to said a bulk of the wedding cost was borne by their parents. Many brides said part of their jewellery was gifted to them by their mothers.

Expectations Vs expenses

Despite the elaborate preparations, many couples found some things to be more expensive than expected. Both Shah and Peer, as did some others, pointed to the exorbitant costs of wedding photography and bridal make-up. Peer says she is spending 2.5 lakh on the pre-wedding shoot and photography, including video shoots, for other functions to be held in Mumbai and Vijayawada, and another 1 lakh for bridal make-up.

For Paripoorani though, the photography cost less than 1 lakh. “My sister also didn’t want any elaborate make-up either. So, we spent only 8,000 on that," says Bavadharini.

Remani, whose engagement and wedding functions were held in Hyderabad in June, found the cost of the venue décor at 5 lakh to be far more than what he had anticipated.

So, does starting early with the wedding preparations help from a cost perspective? Not exactly. According to Shah, there’s not much scope for discounts, and pre-booking does not help. “People pick auspicious dates for weddings, and most weddings happen during the wedding season," she says.

“We spent 2-2.5 lakhs on last-minute shopping for clothes. My sister feels it would have been expensive irrespective of when the wedding happened," says Bavadharini.

Online versus offline

With the wedding preparations beginning just 10 days before the big day, Paripoorani and her family had no time for online shopping or bookings. Paripoorani works in the Netherlands, and the wedding was quickly organized during her visit to Chennai.

According to Remani, it was tough to find suitable venue options online. “My family had attended other weddings in Hyderabad, and so they knew of some good places. They made a few visits and shortlisted one of them," says Remani.

Peer relied on Instagram for shortlisting make-up options and www.weddingwire.in for photographers. The rest, such as shortlisting the venue and food catering was possible only with actual visits.

Shah feels that online is not an option when it comes to shopping for the bride’s trousseau. “Designer wear is very expensive but Mumbai has some good local boutique and designer shops in Bandra/Khar," she adds.

Looking back

Shah says there should have been a minimal number of functions. “It’s a waste of life savings," she adds. Others told Mint that it would have been better to invite fewer guests. Remani feels that some of the work should have been outsourced. This could have given the families more time to enjoy the events.

None of the people that we spoke with had engaged a wedding planner as all of them felt this would have added significantly to their costs.

Here’s what a few wedding planners had to say about marriage budgets. According to Kundan Singh, CEO, Par@Bliss Events, it’s around 25-30 lakh for a destination wedding. For others such as Gala Events, Hyderabad and 3X Events, Chennai, there’s nothing like a minimum budget and it can vary, depending on what families want.

Many wedding planners charge a flat fee of 2-3 lakh for a 2-3-day event. According to Flinters Management, Bangalore, their clients seek assistance with hospitality, logistics, décor, artiste management, sound and lights.

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In Opinion, Himanshu explains the puzzle of vanishing inequality but rising poverty. Ajit Ranade tells how the RBI's digital currency will help economy. Indira Rajaraman writes on the troubling return of the old pension scheme. Long Story pans the Hindi heartland where Bollywood has gone bust.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maulik Madhu

Maulik Madhu is a special correspondent at Mint. She started her career at the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and forayed into business journalism in 2012. Choosing to specialize in personal finance, she worked at FundsIndia and The Hindu Business Line, before joining Mint in March 2022.
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