It can be Bali or Phuket. Goa or Nainital. Marriages are now made in holiday destinations. T. Krithika Reddy talks to couples, service providers and designers about the growing popularity of destination weddings among Chennai-ites
Anamika Sharath tries hard to lock her bulging blue travel bag. She’s packed a mini wardrobe in it! Bikini, resort-wear and silk suits. Casual Crocs, strappy sandals and sequin-spattered stilettos. She’s off to her friend’s wedding in Phuket with a multi-page, trunk-shaped invite that lists the flow of events for two days with dress codes and logistic support.
A trunk-shaped wedding invite? “Yes, why not? It instantly sets the mood,” says the 26-year-old entrepreneur. Like Anamika, there are many Chennai-ites taking off to Bali or Bangkok, Goa or Nainital for weddings. The concept of marrying in the presence of an intimate group of people in a far-away destination is catching on. And guess what? To the couple, their families and the guests, it’s a wedding and a vacation!
“Weddings can be extremely exhausting if you conduct them in your hometown. We wanted to spend the special day only with people who mattered most. So Pattaya, with its postcard-pretty beaches and happening parties, was our choice. Given our creative backgrounds, we did all the planning ourselves — from itinerary and choreography to décor and menu. We also had a “Red Carpet Glam” evening for which guests had to follow a dress code. It was like one big vacation at the Garden Cliff Resort and Spa. It’s well over a month since we got married, but our guests still can’t forget those happy moments,” says designer Eesha. Her husband Pratik is a city-based digital designer.
Did she turn to new-age candid wedding photographers to freeze those memories? “No, interestingly, I stumbled upon a contest by rocknrollbride.com. In it, Rutko Photographers of Poland had asked couples to write in with descriptions of their proposed weddings. If they found it interesting, they’d shoot it for free! I wrote to them, and they agreed to come. Their work is amazing.”
When Preeti and Yeshwanth Sunku (head of operations, Kalaniketan, Chennai) were scouting for a luxurious outdoor location, they zeroed in on Templetrees Leisure which offered a touch of Bali in Bangalore. “A wedding is a new beginning, so we wanted it to happen in a special place. We preferred something unconventional, yet contemporary and fun. Bangle and flower counters, nail art, caricature, balloon twister, parrot astrology… a whole line-up of activities was planned to entertain our guests. On the second day, the muhurtam was a marigold and kalash-themed traditional affair. The mantap was set up in front of a waterfall! It was an enjoyable getaway for our families and friends,” says Preeti.
The travel and tour business too is gearing up for this surge in destination weddings. According to Mohit Gupta, Chief Business Officer – Holidays, MakeMyTrip, “Destination weddings provide an opportunity for the couple and their families to spend quality time together and bond as they enjoy new places and experiences. Destinations are selected on the basis of their suitability for both a wedding and a holiday. Nowadays, couples prefer non-mainstream destinations and come to us after doing impressive research. Palace weddings in Rajasthan, beach weddings in Goa, and backwater weddings in Kerala are considered by those wishing to tie the knot in style and provide a fun experience for their families and friends. Popular international locations for hosting Indian weddings are Indonesia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Greece and Morocco are for those looking for exotic experiences. The wedding segment is becoming a strong contributor to our holiday business. Despite high expenses, the Indian wedding industry is growing at an aggressive rate of 25 per cent annually.”
A relaxed wedding in a holiday resort can be a logistic nightmare. That’s where wedding planners chip in. Says Vidya Singh, who runs Sumyog with Rekha Rangaraj, “Planners like us are ready to handle anything the client wants us to — from coordinating with hotels/resorts, travel and transport logistics to menu and décor. For us, the challenge is to work around different spaces at different locations. It is not easy working with local vendors and getting local logistical support. Transporting props (we prefer to use our own) is another challenge. Resorts and beaches are popular wedding destinations. At a wedding in Goa, the bridegroom was playing beach volleyball with his friends till an hour before the ceremony! Some destinations offer good sightseeing and shopping options that guests enjoy.”
Talk about the cost factor, and Vidya responds, “It’s a wrong perception that such weddings are expensive. They’re proving to be cheaper than you might imagine. At the outset, the guest list is pared down to the most important people. Hotels in holiday spots in Southeast Asia offer fantastic packages and are geared to handle Indian weddings.”
It’s no doubt a game changer. Says Disha S., a techie, who is preparing for her wedding at a resort in Bentota, “Couples and their families don’t want ho hum experiences anymore. Even if they can’t afford to have weddings at sandstone palaces with elephants and palanquins like celebrities from the film world, youngsters are open to experimenting with locations that are affordable, unconventional and promise wonderful memories.”