Last year, Mumbai’s well-known wedding planner Aditya Motwane pulled off a coup in Monaco. He got the authorities to close Monte Carlo’s Casino Square for a baraat. The only other time this famous tourist spot in the South of France is cordoned off is for the Grand Prix. “High-profile Indian weddings have always been about glamour, flair and showmanship,” says the founder of Motwane Entertainment and Weddings, which managed the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas wedding at Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace last December. “But the guest lists at destination weddings are reducing to an average of 300. So, there’s more focus on elegance and style.”
The millennial generation is also more value-conscious. “They are happy to spend money, but for a unique and novel experience rather than just grandeur,” adds Kunal Rai, VP of Tamarind Global Weddings, a luxury wedding planner in Mumbai. In March, they brought alive a private beach in Doha with a high-energy rangon ki holi for 500 guests. The event — with plates of organic colours, a dance floor, and eclectic music performances — was planned to introduce the couple’s foreign guests to an unconventional, interactive ritual. It included zorb football!
Let’s get personal
Rather than replicating the ‘big, fat Indian wedding’ formula with ostentatious décor and cookie-cutter functions, weddings today are getting leaner. “Intimate functions, with close family and friends on the guest list, not only help couples cut down their budget, but also leave them with enough to spend on maximising their guests’ experience,” says Tina Tharwani, co-founder of Mumbai-based Shaadi Squad, which planned the ‘Virushka’ wedding in Tuscany in 2017.
- A handsome Hudson 8 circa 1933, a Cadillac Series 75 manufactured in 1947 or a restored Bentley from the 1930s... vintage and classic cars are becoming prominent guests at weddings across the country. “Two years ago, we got the bride to make an entry in a vintage car at a wedding in Goa. None of the guests had seen anything like that before,” says Bagri, of A New Knot.
- Last year, 33 cars from the Vintage and Classic Car Club of India (VCCCI) travelled for weddings. “About 10 years ago, one in 20 weddings would see the presence of a vintage car. Today, one in three weddings has a requirement,” says Nitin Dossa, President, VCCCI, which includes a roster of over 150 high-profile collectors. Mumbai-based Dossa’s Cadillac 1947 has been part of weddings in the city and outskirts, such as Lonavala, Aamby Valley, Mahabaleshwar as well as Pune and Goa.
Personalisation is also key: whether it’s designing a mobile app where guests can RSVP, share photos and watch live updates during functions, or offering monogrammed linen and customised leather items as wedding gifts. Themes are also becoming more interactive and experiential. Guests get to play life-size Jenga, dance performances explain each segment of the ceremony, and 3D mapping technology helps teleport them to far-off locales. “This can be used on heritage façades, sand dunes and other interesting outdoor backdrops to create a spectacle,” says Rai.
A recent wedding also had a GIF corner. “We put an iPad on a stand against a backdrop. Guests could click their own images, turn them into GIFs and email to themselves on-the-spot. The idea was to make the wedding memorable in a new-age format,” says Nitya Bagri, co-founder of A New Knot, a Mumbai-based wedding planner specialising in destination weddings.
Time to take off
The Indian destination wedding industry is reportedly expected to reach ₹45,000 crore by next year, with a projected annual growth rate of 25-30%. “These are popular because they lend an air of exoticness, exclusivity and enable a smaller guest list. And even here, the trend is to provide a customised experience that integrates the location, food, décor and entertainment,” says Rai. Of the 12 that his company managed this season, eight were out of India (many in Doha). Azerbaijan and Jordan are among the newer hotspots. “Within India, five-star properties in Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Mussoorie are finding takers,” says Parthip Thyagarajan, CEO, WeddingSutra, a digital resource on Indian weddings.
- Couples are warming up to the sea. Of the five Indian weddings hosted by The Royal Caribbean International Cruises, the most recent, a Sikh wedding last year, aboard the Voyager of the Seas, saw the wedding party sail from Singapore on a three-night cruise. The baraat danced to the beats of the dhol in the Royal Promenade, one of the busiest hubs on the ship. “The landscape, the novelty and the scale of things add a little ‘extra’. A cruise wedding is also cost-effective as everything — from the guests’ accommodation and food, to the wedding planning, décor and service — is taken care of in the package,” says Varun Chadha, CEO, Tirun, the Indian representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Prices for Asia sailings start from $500-$600 per person (for interior cabins).
In March, Mussoorie witnessed the wedding of fashion designer Anita Dongre’s son, Yash, with image consultant Benaisha Kharas. The couple was keen on a destination that paid homage to India’s untapped beauty and picked the hill station “for its beautiful, uninterrupted backdrop of the Shivalik mountains”. The three-day celebrations — with 250 guests in attendance — included a millennial touch, with a carnival-themed brunch featuring stalls serving candy floss, popcorn booths, a life-size game of Snakes and Ladder, beer pong and acrobat acts.
They opted for a minimalist décor, with the Himalayas forming a natural backdrop for the pheras . “Benaisha and I had discussed some of her inspirations for the décor,” says Dongre. “To my surprise, the spring-summer vibes of my Lakmé Fashion Week show and the campaign shoot we did in Coorg, which featured benches decorated with flowers set in the midst of a forest backdrop, were part of her mood board. We worked from there.”
Candid and casual
With the Instagram feed replacing the photo album, images that spell ‘expressive’ have become the new cool. Who hasn’t seen the viral BBC video of the couple from Kerala sitting in a copper vessel in a pond, with artificial rain creating the ‘ambience’? Couples are encouraging photographers to push creative boundaries and are even willing to pay up to ₹10 lakh or more for a day’s shoot.
At another wedding in Kerala, photographer Siddharth Sharma managed to get the bride to shoot a goofy video (pouting, smirking and sticking out her tongue) right after the ceremony. “I was hesitant because it’s usually when most brides are teary-eyed, but she was relaxed. That’s also because the wedding photographer has become a couple’s friend. They seek our inputs on how to structure the event flow and light the venue,” says Sharma, founder of House on the Clouds, a Bengaluru-based wedding photography and videography studio.
- The trend for zero-plastic décor and invites that can be upcycled is picking up, courtesy a growing tribe of environmentally-conscious couples. “Clients ask us to create elements [as part of the invites] that can be used post the wedding,” says Delhi-based invitation designer Ravish Kapoor. One such had a 3D picture frame of Lord Krishna. “Invites with movement, sound and audio-visual elements are in bigger demand, too,” he says, adding that 3D-printed invites will become the next big thing. Meanwhile, wedding planning resources like WeddingSutra and Wedding Wishlist have charity registries (featuring a list of NGOs that a couple can choose from) for guests to make online donations as their wedding gift.
Social media is also changing their deliverables. “It has such a powerful hold on the families that they want pictures and videos instantly,” says Raja Jain, co-founder of Badal Raja Company, a Delhi-based photography and videography outfit. Their latest offering is an Insta Film shared with the client within 10 hours of the wedding. “A team of four editors went through about 15 hours of footage and produced a two-minute film with music and graphics. It was hectic but worth the happy reactions,” he adds.
Many wedding films have started including original compositions recorded in professional studios and sometimes, with brides singing the tracks. Remember the music video from hell (Pride and Bridezilla) in Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven ? New equipment is coming into play, too. Like, the Virtual Reality (VR) cameras. “We shot a bride’s entry using VR cameras last year. It helps couples relive the memories in an immersive way,” says Vishal Punjabi, filmmaker and founder of The Wedding Filmer, which has produced original compositions in Hindi and Telugu.
That said, VR and other emerging technologies haven’t been able to steal the charm and power of wedding photographs. “All of us look back through rose-tinted glasses. Explicit memories in videos can spoil the romance associated with nostalgia. On the other hand, wedding photographs become the core of a bride’s memory 20 years later,” says Joseph Radhik, the popular Mumbai-based photographer who’s clicked Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas and Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Naga Chaitanya on their wedding day.
To encourage a resurgence of photo albums, Radhik sends more than 50 images to each couple as old-school, 5x7 inch glossy prints. “There’s a certain joy in holding them in your hand. It’s a long-lasting medium that transcends all ages.”