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Weddings 2.0: And they blessed the couple virtually

A wedding mandap at Taj Exotica, Goa   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The big fat Indian wedding has become leaner, adapting to the new COVID-19 normal.

While weddings have been taking place during Unlock 3.0 with up to 50 real-time guests, now Unlock 4.0 permits social gatherings with a ceiling of 100 guests. After months of lockdown, bookings are accelerating, with weddings bringing cheer to families, as well as the hospitality, fashion and textile sectors.

Actors Prachi Trehan, Manish Raisinghani, Nikhil Siddhartha, Nithiin and Rana Daggubati, director Sujeeth and producer Dil Raju were among those who tied the knot in the last few months. In Bengaluru, weddings of former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son and that of actor Nikhil Gowda were in the spotlight.

There have been several other weddings, away from the celebrity cliques.

VR-enabled weddings
  • Bengaluru-based firm LifeVR which provided the tech support for Rana Daggubati’s wedding, had facilitated a similar VR webcast of actor Venkatesh Daggubati’s daughter Aashritha’s wedding in 2019. For Rana’s wedding, guests were sent VR headsets with customised messages, an explanatory video and text instructions: “We sent them test links prior to the event,” says Abhilash Jain, technical director of LifeVR.
  • The company has so far enabled 300 VR weddings and Abhilash says, “VR is the future for sport, cinema and events but it’s still a niche segment. The pandemic is making a few more people consider the option.”
  • The firm will be hosting VR webcasts of weddings in Jaipur, Udaipur and other cities in the coming months. “When ceremonies are smaller with limited guests, the emotions can be captured better. For VR, it’s important to film in such a way that the viewers, while feeling like they are transported to the actual venue, do not feel dizzy watching through the headset,” adds Abhilash.

Masked getaways

Families now opt for toned down celebrations with fewer ceremonies, at hotels that promise to adhere to hygiene protocols. The norms include maintaining a registry of guest details, temperature checks, individual sanitiser bottles, fresh masks, frequent cleaning of touch points and restrooms, and distanced seating arrangements.

Renu Basu, senior vice president, global sales and marketing IHCL (the parent company of Taj Hotels), states that among the Taj hotels, the properties in Rajasthan, Karnataka and Telangana were among the first to host weddings after lockdown. “Resorts and hotels at drivable distances from cities, for instance, Mahabalipuram from Chennai, Damdama, Rishikesh and Corbett from Delhi as well as the hotel in Nashik that’s a few hours from Mumbai are witnessing a significant number of social celebrations, including weddings,” she says.

LifeVR enables live webcast of weddings with virtual reality

LifeVR enables live webcast of weddings with virtual reality   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Grand Hyatt at Bolgatty Island, Kochi, has been hosting 10-12 weddings a month, says general manager Shrikant Wakharkar: “This is the peak season for weddings in Kerala and we abide by Government regulations to make people feel secure by providing a sanitised environment.”

The Leela Goa is gearing up to host 15 destination weddings between October 2020 and April 2021. The families that have booked these weddings are from Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. General manager Shridhar Nair says the fear psychosis which loomed large in the early phase of the pandemic is waning: “People want to enjoy their special occasion while taking precautions. We will be offering Bureau Veritas (an inspection and certification company) certified sanitisation for the events.”

A wedding arrangement at Amaara Farms

A wedding arrangement at Amaara Farms   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In Delhi, Amaara Farms has been hosting weddings in its open-air venues. “When we hosted the first wedding after the long lockdown, there was a lingering fear; but the families soon began enjoying their special occasion. Enquiries are on the rise now. Most weddings we have hosted involve either the bride or the groom’s family from Delhi and others driving down to reach the venue,” says founder Shivan Gupta. He notes that there has been a shift in conversation, moving away from the ostentatious nature of the event to focus on safety and hygiene.

Hotels now offer e-concierge and virtual tours of locations. The F&B services have also been tweaked. Guests are asked to keep their masks on while going to the buffet counters. A few properties offer pre-plated starters and main courses instead of buffets.

Like many other sectors, the hospitality sector also bore the brunt as business plummeted during lockdown. To attract more guests, hotels stated that they are offering wedding packages at prices 10% to 20% lower than that of 2019. Sanitisation and hygiene come at no additional costs.

Dressing up for Zoom

Miriam Matthen who recently got married at the Hyatt Bolgatty Island talks with happiness when she recollects her wedding.

Originally scheduled as a destination wedding in April 2020, lockdown forced the families to change plans four times and finally, she was glad that the ceremony could be organised in her home town. Friends and family participated in the celebrations via an online link. “Some of them even dressed up to keep with the celebratory mood,” she says.

Sanitisers and masks greet guests at a wedding at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, Kerala

Sanitisers and masks greet guests at a wedding at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, Kerala   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Masks in white and gold fabric that is synonymous with kasavu saris of Kerala, greeted the 50 guests at their flower-draped open-air venue, anchored by the hotel’s villas.

When bridal couture spells luxury, the accompanying masks too have to look the part. Designers are busy making customised masks that match the ensembles, with zardozi and all finery. Masks with embroidery and embellishments that match the lehenga or sari, are now part of the trousseau.

Samhita Gadde who got married mid-August at a resort on the outskirts of Hyderabad says her family and that of the groom were concerned that none of the invitees fall sick, having come across news reports of families testing positive after attending social gatherings.

“We had a small gathering but booked a hall that would, in normal circumstances, accommodate 1,000 people,” she says. The pre-wedding ceremonies like the mehendi were held outdoors. Their initial plan, before the pandemic, was to have around 3,000 guests. “But the scaled-down celebration turned out to be fun; we could talk to all the guests. We had a live webcast for those whom we couldn’t invite,” she says.

Bengaluru-based Nilma Dileepan, a wedding designer, has been organising weddings with small gatherings at venues as varied as backyards of homes to a presidential suite of a five-star hotel.

“Around 75% of the people have cut down their budgets and millennials are enjoying the simple weddings that they always wanted. Sometimes the requests are for arrangements within ₹50,000 or a lakh of rupees. There’s more attention to masks, sanitisers, chair décor and other props. Couples are also open to mindful, sustainable choices like using local flowers in terracotta pots and chalk boards as opposed to flex boards,” she says.

Bridal couture

The fashion and textile industry which is still dealing with piles of pending stock from lockdown is also limping back in to action, thanks to weddings.

In mid-July, Tarun Tahiliani showcased his bridal-festive collection ‘Pieces of You’ through a live fashion show on Instagram.

A model sports a bridal ensemble designed by JJ Valaya

A model sports a bridal ensemble designed by JJ Valaya   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Couturier JJ Valaya who recently launched his e-commerce portal notes that buyer interest is back. Valaya admits that many in the fraternity thought this year would be a washout and had decided to focus on the next season. But he was pleasantly surprised when the footfall at his stores showed an increase: “People are connecting through the video walk-through. I recently dressed-up a bride from Sri Lanka, whose wedding ensemble was decided and arranged for, online.”

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 4:08:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/covid-19-weddings-get-leaner-adapting-to-the-new-normal/article32619957.ece

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