From the shimmering summer sea in Koh Samui to the infinite landscape of Tuscany, Indian weddings are travelling far and wide to make the big fat affair, one for the books. An increasing number of couples from India are selecting overseas destinations to tie the knot, more than ever before. For tourism and hospitality sectors worldwide, these weddings are proving to be lucrative businesses because of their multi-day festivities combined with the pent-up urge to splurge post-lockdown.
“About 60% of the weddings that we do in a year are destination weddings,” reveals Tina Tharwani of Shaadi Squad. This Mumbai-based wedding planner was the person behind Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli’s picturesque Tuscany wedding in 2017. “This year, we have already hosted a few weddings in Turkey and London”, she adds.
“Nowadays, people understand that weddings need not necessarily have thousands of guests and can be done at a destination with a smaller number of guests,” says Joseph Radhik, the popular wedding photographer who captured the picture-perfect nuptials of Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan in 2022, and Athiya Shetty with cricketer KL Rahul this year. “A selected gathering of family and friends is like a big family holiday and you don’t want to pull back on making this experience the best ever,” he says.
The Thai affair
Thailand, with a variety of alluring venues like Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket, Hua Hin, and Chiang Mai, is reigning as one of the hottest destinations for Indian weddings. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Indians now make for the largest number of tourist arrivals into the country by air. It is of little surprise then, that nearly 60% of destination weddings in Thailand in 2022 were those of Indian residents! To make the most of these inbound visitors and the possible post-lockdown demand for weddings, Thai tourism is partnering with wedding planners in India this yearto promote its locales, prepped to host large Indian weddings. “Now that most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, Thai officials are hoping for a huge jump in revenue — by at least ₹87,466 crore approximately. Indian weddings and honeymooners are a big part of this plan,” informs Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT governor.
Planning an Indian wedding overseas results in revenue generation for not just hotels but also a bouquet of hospitality services like event production, logistics, decor and entertainment. On average, about 400 couples from India tie the knot in Thailand every year, with an average number of guests ranging from approximately 100-400 per wedding according to TAT. “There are also ancillary revenue streams like shopping and extended stays. Ultimately, it is the overall experience that guests are taking back with them that earns a destination its popularity for tourism and for Indian weddings,” elucidates Kainaz Sethna, one of the wedding planners who organised the multi-day grand nuptials of two Ambani scions, Isha Ambani Piramal and Akash Ambani.
West Asia has amongst the largest room and event space inventories to host big fat Indian weddings. Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ras Al Khaimah are amongst the most popular destinations in that region, reveals Kainaz. Bader Ali Habib, head of South Asia, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, concurs that India has always been one of the top destination-wedding source markets for Dubai. “The broad spectrum of offerings and the can-do attitude from the city to deliver highly bespoke and personalised experiences are definitely the catalysts,” he explains, adding, “Guests from all over the world can easily travel to attend weddings in Dubai as the city ranks among the best in the world for airline connectivity”.
Despite rising inflation, about $10 billion was spent by Indians on overseas travel from April to December 2022, which is more than the travel expenditure seen in any full financial year, according to some reports. In December alone, about $1,137 million was spent on foreign travel. “Indians are now travelling beyond the predictable destinations. Countries like Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Kenya, Tanzania, and Morocco are seeing a lot of interest this year,” says Kainaz. If overseas destinations want a pie of the big fat Indian wedding, she recommends offering more flexibility in the hosting of such events. “It is of utmost importance to ease access to various essential factors that make a wedding experience successful at a destination — visa facilitation, encouraging airlines to increase the number of flights and offer charter flights at competitive pricing, increasing the inventory of rooms and unique event spaces, easier customs clearances for import of Indian food and beverages, having a good selection of locally available vendors for logistics, decor and event production are amongst the most important factors in choosing a great destination,” she concludes.
Hosting a multi-day Indian wedding overseas, is a big budget affair and India’s appetite for the ultimate D-Day celebration is only expected to get bigger. According to a wealth report by Knight Frank, India’s HNI (high-net-wealth-individuals) with over a million USD net worth are expected to rise 77% from 2021 to 2026. Combine this rising millionaire population with an increasing exposure to overseas travel and it’s a match made in profitable heaven for the international hospitality industry.