There’s nothing quite like the Big Fat Indian Wedding. We know it, the world knows it. And now a month-old startup called JoinMyWedding.com is connecting the dots and offering curious foreign tourists a chance to attend an Indian wedding for a fee.
The website is called JoinMyWedding.com and the idea for it came to Australian start-up mentor Orsi Parkanyi, 33, when a friend told her she was travelling to India for a wedding. “I wished I could go too, but I didn’t have an invite,” Parkanyi says. “Another friend said she would have loved to go too, and after some research, I realised there was a market for such a service and no one to cater to it.”
Parkanyi, along with Hungary-based strategy consultant Márti Matécsa and Mumbai-based brand and marketing consultant Pallavi Savant, launched JoinMyWedding.com a month ago.
Orsi and Parkanyi connected through a common friend.
“I’ve lived in Europe all my life, but a few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a high-end, traditional Indian wedding in Tamil Nadu,” says Matécsa. “Right from the traditions to the beautiful saris and accessories, generous hospitality, spicy flavours and decoration, it was an experience of a lifetime. I remember thinking even then that it would be great to open up such weddings to foreigners.”
So far, the website has a dozen weddings listed -- seven in India, and the others spread across Russia, Turkey and the US. There’s even a Lord of the Rings-themed wedding up for grabs, in the Russian city of Novosibirsk.
India, though, will be the focus of the company, and JoinMyWedding is in talks with travel agents in five Indian cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai and Bengaluru — to promote sales.
“For cultural experiences, nothing equals a wedding, more so in India,” says Parkanyi. “There’s food, music, dance, costume, rituals — it offers you a truly immersive experience.”
Tickets are being sold for upwards of Rs 20,000. Mumbai-based chartered accountants Urvi Ambavat and Paras Shah, for instance, are selling 40 tickets to their December wedding at this price. Each guest will get accommodation and all access across three days of festivities -- including the haldi ceremony, sangeet, baarat procession, pheras, reception and vidaai.
The couple arrived at the ticket price after quick calculations about the cost of meals, transport and accommodation close to their venue in central Mumbai.
“We aren’t looking at this as a way to contribute to our wedding expenses. We’re doing this because my fiancé and I both work at a start-up and we love to encourage new business ideas,” says Ambavat, 26. “I love to travel, and I would love to attend a wedding in another country. Plus an Indian wedding really showcases the grandeur and hospitality of our culture, and we thought it would be lovely to share that with interested travellers.”
Watch: Urvi and Paras talk about why their wedding will fascinate tourists
Other couples listed on the websites are hosting weddings in Delhi, Rajasthan, Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and the hill stations of Mahableshwar and Devrukh in Maharashtra. Each couple will nominate a family member or friend to guide the travellers through the events and explain the rituals to them.
The Rajasthani couple are Bengaluru-based software engineers Lavina Purohit and Abhishek Paliwal, who will be married in traditional ceremonies to be held in Udaipur and Indore over four days in January. They are offering 10 two-day tickets to either city for $400 (about Rs 27,000) each, and 10 four-day passes to all events in both cities, including transportation between them, for $550 (Rs 37,000).
“Udaipur is my hometown, and an international tourist destination. You always see foreigner looking curiously at weddings here,” says Paliwal, 26. “This is a great way to showcase our culture to tourists who are truly interested in it. And not just for foreigners — I’ve lived in Bengaluru for a few years and I’d love to attend a south Indian wedding.”
Among the Indian agencies that has tied up with JoinMyWedding is Delhi-based Kataria Tours and Travels. “In my 15 years in this business, many clients have asked if they could attend a wedding here,” says founder and CEO Omkar Singh Kataria. “After I posted a notice about the service on our Facebook page earlier this week, previous clients have got in touch saying they wish the service had been available when they visited.”