Vizag with its pristine beaches is attracting couples from different cities and fast growing as a destination wedding spot

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry tied the knot with her French beau, actor Olivier Martinez, in an intimate ceremony at the Chateau des Conde in Vallery in France’s Burgundy region in a romantic castle.

Back home, the luxurious beaches of Goa witnessed Bollywood actor Lara Dutta and tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi’s wedding while actor Celina Jaitley exchanged her vows at the 1,000-year-old monastery in Austria. The concept of destination weddings is fast picking up among Indians.

While Goa, Jaipur, Udaipur and places in Kerala top the list of wedding destinations, Vizag with its pristine beaches is also attracting couples and fast growing as a preferred place for tying the knot. City hotels have hosted quite a few destination weddings for families coming from Kolkata, Delhi, Raipur, Bhubaneshwar, Behrampur and Vijayawada. The reason behind the trend, say hoteliers, is due to a combination of socio-economic factors. “The concept of a wedding is evolving from a social function involving more than a thousand guests to a microcosmic bonding of families. Now, couples prefer to make it an intimate gathering with a small group of 100 to 150 guests and later give a final reception back home for all other guests,” says Madhav Bellamkonda, Chief Operating Officer of Varun Group and General Manager of Novotel Hotel, which hosted eight destination weddings last year. For some, it is the emotional connect with the place that draws them to choose a destination over the others. For instance, when two years ago Delhi-based Aditya and Sonal were deciding on a destination wedding, they selected Vizag, simply because they had both spent “fun years” of their childhood in the city before their families migrated to North India. “We wanted to start our lives from the point where we met and the days when we were just school friends. It was a nostalgic feeling,” says Sonal. This growing trend has created an industry estimated at a whopping Rs 1.9 lakh crore , say industry analysts.

Themes and decor

The season for destination weddings in Vizag spans from November to February. Budget is not a restraint, but emphasis is on the novelty factor. Aesthetic décor sprinkled with creativity is a thumbs-up for these weddings. Right from creating a 10-feet-high hydraulic lift for the ‘mandap’ on the sandy beach to decors of white and violet shades or the theme of ‘fishing’ – hotels and event managers in the city are going all out to create the glitz and glamour in creating a different experience for the couple and their families.

Indian colours and customs have been great attractions for foreigners, many of whom have preferred to tie the knot in the country and Vizag, too, hosted a few such weddings. Ajit Singh Garcha, General Manager of The Park, points out that foreigners prefer the wedding venue to retain the natural charm instead of a complete transformation with gaudy decorations. “We recently hosted a destination wedding for a couple who wanted the entrance to be where the grass ended and the sand began, so that it opens to the sea and has a natural feel to it,” he says.

Farm-house weddings

Farm-house weddings have also become increasingly popular with many smaller resorts coming up in and around Vizag, especially in the West Godavari region, promoting the concept of destination weddings. These hotels and resorts have tie-ups with decorators, photographers, beauticians, custom-made bridal trousseaus and other services like assistance for travel.

“We also fly in make-up artists and DJs from cities like Mumbai for some of our clients,” says a hotel executive with a leading hotel group in Vizag. Most destination weddings in the city also add a dash of sight-seeing and shopping to the celebration. “It is like mixing a vacation with the rituals of wedding. Very few cities have a natural geographical advantage like Vizag with its long stretch of beach on one side and the green canopy of Eastern Ghats on the other side,” says Garcha.

Weddings are incomplete without a lavish food spread and to make it more special for the couple the hotels also fly in chefs from other cities who specialise in specific cuisines. “We had couples requesting Thai and Japanese cuisine in destination weddings in Vizag and for them, we called our master chefs from different properties of The Park,” Garcha added. Elaborate and live salad and tandoor counters and a dash of exotic stuff are not uncommon in these weddings. Dragon fruit, Thai rose apples and honey dew melons vie for space with strawberries, mangoes and figs. And this is not all! Hotel staff dresses up in different themes too!

Hotel players in Vizag see this as a lucrative industry and an opportunity to promote the city as a wedding destination in newer markets like Gujarat. However, to beat the favourite destinations like Goa or Jaipur, Vizag has a long way to go. “Assorted value-adds like water sport activities should be developed here.

These are essential elements in a destination wedding. Families want to add a dash of fun and excitement along with the wedding rituals,” says Madhav.