Wedding ceremonies are conducted differently even in India, with some couples choosing large religious ceremonies, while others lean towards a more intimate celebration.
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Indian weddings are big business. But some of them may not be as important this year as they once were.
The celebrations are known to be extravagant, week-long affairs filled with elaborate religious ceremonies, glamorous attire, song and dance, and of course lots of jewelry.
Many couples in India marry from November to February, which is considered an auspicious time in Indian culture.
According to Nikkei Asia, trade body Confederation of Indian Traders (CAIT) estimated that 3.2 million weddings would take place from November to December last year.
Celebrations that month reportedly generated 3.75 trillion rupees ($46 billion) for companies in the wedding industry, a big increase from 2.5 trillion rupees in 2019, Nikkei Asia reported on the CAIT database.
It’s no surprise, then, that lavish Indian weddings often attract up to 1,000 guests – and that comes at a steep price.
However, millennial mindsets in India have changed and many are beginning to believe that less is more.
Couples are moving away from “big and fat” Indian weddings for intimate celebrations with a slimmer guest list, said Tina Tharwani, co-founder of Mumbai-based wedding planning company Shaadi Squad.
They opted to give guests a more personalized experience at the event, rather than making it a competition with their peers over who can throw a bigger wedding, Tharwani told CNBC.
Smita Gupta, founder of Delhi-based wedding planner Wedlock Events, agreed.
“The success of weddings obviously depends on the guests, but it’s not the number of guests these days,” Gupta said. “They are more worried [about] customer experience.”
“If you’re calling 600 guests to your wedding, that’s just extra money you’re paying,” Manika Singh, 29, said. She is getting married in December 2023 and plans to invite up to 250 guests for the main celebration, which will be held at Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.
Renting the venue for two days will cost the couple 1,500,000 rupees ($18,400), about 600,000 rupees ($7,400) more than before the pandemic and rising inflation.
Feeding people is not cheap
But cutting his guest list came with a caveat.
To accommodate his parents’ desire for a grand wedding, Singh will also host a luncheon for 300 guests at the family home the night before.
“You won’t even know half the people, it’s just acquaintances from your parents,” she said, adding that it’s a common practice that couples often succumb to in order to appease their differences. families.
Although couples are downsizing their weddings, they are spending just as much. Even with a shorter guest list, spending big on venue, food and decorations is still the norm, Gupta said.
Singh agreed, adding that inflation has driven up the cost of food and rice prices have “exploded”.
Rising inflation has pushed many soon-to-be married couples to spend a large portion of their budget on food.
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Although retail price inflation in India fell from 5.88% in November to 5.72% in December, grain and milk prices continue to rise, according to Reuters.
Singh expects food to be the most expensive item for both the lunch reception and the wedding celebration in December.
This confirmed her decision to reduce the number of guests at her wedding but spend more on her outfit and jewelry, which cost her 700,000 rupees ($8,600)
“More people mean less luxury at your wedding,” Singh said, “we can splurge on that instead of feeding people.”
Expensive gold? No problem
Gold prices hit eight-month highs on Tuesday, with spot gold trading at $1,877 an ounce.
But that’s not stopping brides and grooms from buying gold for their big day, said Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director of Kalyan Jewelers.
High costs haven’t necessarily deterred people from making big purchases, but they can wait a few weeks to see if prices drop, Kalyanaraman said. “It’s not a drop” in sales, he said, but “a delay in their purchases”.
According to the World Gold Council, India’s gold industry contributed 1.3% to the country’s GDP and is dominated by small and medium enterprises.
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And it was no different during Covid.
Kalyanaraman said the ticket size for wedding jewelry was much higher during the pandemic as people were unable to spend money on entertainment or rent large wedding venues due to the government restrictions.
“Gold jewelry is not a fashion accessory; it is, in fact, part of every custom and ritual,” he said.
Kalyanaraman said that in some Indian cities, parents start buying gold for their daughters from birth and will continue to add to the collection as they get older. Many of these pieces are then worn on their wedding day.
Singh said she had a different stance and wouldn’t be decked out in expensive jewelry. She will only buy one set of new jewelry and use another from her engagement ceremony. For the rest, she “just goes to wear fake jewelry”.