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Garima and Parv were in love, knew exactly the kind of wedding they wanted, and had spent a good part of 2019 meticulously planning their big day. Come February 2021, however, they realized the impracticality of physically welcoming 200 of their family & friends – travel restrictions made it nearly impossible. After tossing around a bunch of ideas, they decided to have a virtual celebration, with the two of them marrying in Hawaii and guests joining virtually for wedding, 'sangeet' and 'mehendi' and other minutest detail hosted on WeddingWishlist.com- a Chennai based start up which offers complete virtual planning platform taking care of everything right from sending invites to gift registry. “ I am proud to say, it was an event to remember! with dance and singing performances, as well as a Havan! Warm anecdotes and banter flowed throughout the virtual event, and gave everyone a chance to catch up," said Kanika Subbiah, founder of Wedding Wishlist who started the company ten years back on her return to India after 16 years studying and working in the US.

With the pandemic likely to keep people indoors in the foreseeable future this is the new avatar of the big fat Indian wedding – the not-so-big, hybrid, Indian wedding. Hosts invite the physical presence of their ‘inner circle’, and remaining guests are invited to join virtually. Hybrid celebrations may lack the physical presence of every guest, but offer many redeeming benefits. For one, they are accessible to any guest anywhere in the world. “ No complicated travel and logistics. Not to mention that these celebrations can be executed at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding. Consider for example, the typical wedding photography and videography bill of 2-3 lakh while a digital; album can pull the best from livestream and virtual guest footage for as little as 35,000," maintains Subbiah.

India is home to nearly 11 million weddings every year and platforms like WeddingWishlist.com are fast becoming the new age alternative to host smart, waste-free celebrations be it wedding, anniversary, baby shower, birthday or another life event.

“Over the following 3-4 years, we understood the needs of newlyweds and prospective couples, and expanded into digital invites and websites. Our virtual platform was born out of Covid, to accommodate a new set of requirements needed for virtual celebrations. In the initial months of the pandemic, the wedding market came to a standstill," Subbiah said, adding “After that, we started helping couples plan their unions with just a live stream. In the following year, Wedding Wishlist grew into a full-fledged space for celebrating virtually, beyond weddings to any occasion, and beyond India to any geography, as virtual celebrations have no borders."

The epidemic has had an adverse impact on many businesses. Post-Covid, most of these businesses will fully revert to their original demand, e.g., restaurants, hotels, travel, airlines. In the case of Indian weddings however, industry watchers believe that hybrid models are here to stay given the sheer convenience and efficiency of attending an event virtually. “ This is not to say that physical guests are not important, it just means that well after restrictions on physical guests ease, some guests will continue to participate virtually" Subbiah said.

Many would agree. Imagine inviting and physically hosting the 50-100 key guests, while 400 other guests participate virtually. While physical guests enjoy a meaningful, intimate ceremony, virtual guests enjoy a personalised experience, thanks to online guest parties with ushers, and meals and gifts delivered to them. To both sides, technology presents compelling options, here to stay well after the epidemic is gone.


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