At one end of a ground the size of a football field stands a grand stage with snazzy lights and the best sound system. Twelve thousand people are seated in front of it, their feet tapping in rhythm to the chartbusters that Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are belting out, their hands occasionally reaching out to the array of canapés being served by waiters in smart suits.
Soon the lights dim and the act changes: a man and a woman dressed in glitzy finery make a slow aerial entry suspended from giant cranes, almost like blingy angels descending from heaven. In their hands they carry garlands, which they expertly exchange, almost as though they have practised the move a dozen times before. Applause and cheers follow.
On another night, in another place – a faraway, exotic one this time – a group of about a hundred people sits down for dinner in Greek-inspired settings. Soft white curtains billow in the breeze, white tulips from the Netherlands compete with white orchids from Taiwan, and sterling silver cutlery is complemented by expensive crystal flutes.
The bride and groom walk in, elegantly dressed in matching beige lehenga and sherwani. They peck at the caviar, truffles and foie gras elegantly. Later, they clink glasses, read out their vows, and raise a toast.
These are settings for the weddings of the rich and the famous. These are heady affairs, a far, far cry from what you, I and the average Joe know about weddings.
Shine like crazy diamonds
“A luxury wedding can take anywhere between 15 days to 18 months or more to conceptualise, design and produce,” says Neelabh Kapoor, founder and creative director of Studio Neelabh. An experiential wedding design company, Studio Neelabh has worked on some of the biggest, most extravagant Indian weddings in the one decade that it has been around.
Stuff of fairytales
However, not all the rich and famous like to go over the top at their weddings. Actress Dia Mirza, who got married to her longtime business partner and producer Sahil Sangha last month, tells us about her relatively less ornate Delhi wedding.
“The mehendi ceremony was all floral, kitsch, Rajasthani themed. I insisted on using only local flowers. We had a qawwali singer and dhol-tappa walis who sang traditional Punjabi songs. The food was chaat and North Indian ghar ka khaana like kadhi chawal and rajma chawal.”
When less is more
Many celebrities do seem to be going down the same unassuming road as Mirza when it comes to celebrating the most important day of their lives. Earlier this month, Fukrey star Pulkit Samrat got married to Salman Khan’s ‘rakhi sister’ Shweta Rohira at a destination wedding in Goa.
While the tabloids were buzzing with stories and pictures of “Bhai” and other celebs at the wedding, sources who attended the wedding said it was in fact a close-knit affair of about 200 people, consisting mostly of family and friends. “There were no stars performing at the wedding, nor was it over-the-top glam. It was a nice, warm event with lots of food, booze and drunken dancing… just like any typical Punjabi wedding,” a source said.
Around the same time, actor and TV anchor Gaurav Kapur got married to long-time girlfriend Kirat Bhattal, a TV host on a lifestyle channel. Theirs too was an intimate, private ceremony in Chandigarh, attended by the couple’s friends from the industry like Neha Dhupia, Yuvraj Singh, Maria Goretti and Mini Mathur, most of whom were dressed simply.
“These two crazies got married today and it was nothing short of perfect,” photographer Prarthna Singh (@psingh400) tweeted with a photo from the wedding.
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Back in Delhi, chess champion Tania Sachdeva got married to architect Viraj Kataria in a traditional wedding that lasted six days. “In the olden days, in the villages of Punjab, the women would carry matkas on their heads (the matka had a small fire burning inside it), and go from house to house to invite people. We did that as a little tradition for Tania’s mehendi,” says her mother Anju Sachdev.
“These special little touches made the wedding so much fun… like Tania entering the sangeet not as a coy bride but dancing to the song Lag Gayi Lottery. It wasn’t a destination wedding, but everyone who attended, came out feeling it was nothing short of one.”
Mirza echoes her sentiments, “For me simplicity is beauty. The desire is not to make a statement but to create an environment where everybody comes together and has a wonderful time.” She says that for a lot of people, especially those who are not a part of the movies, a wedding is that one big occasion of their lives where they get to live a dream, a movie.
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Prakash Tilokani, 48, is known as the man who photographs the luxury weddings of India’s rich and famous. His client list includes the Ambanis, Laxmi Mittal, Bhushan Kumar of T-Series, Shilpa Shetty and many more.
“Capturing a wedding with a fixed thought process is absurd; every wedding is unique,” Tilokani says. “Emotions dominate and one has to emotionally immerse oneself to capture the essence. Also, every wedding has a theme to it these days so I try to capture and retain that theme in pictures with respect to its scale, grandeur and authenticity.”
He refuses to divulge his fee, but according to a 2013 Reuters story, Tilokani charges a minimum of Rs 3 lakh for a day.
Real to reel
But a photograph can only say a thousand words. For the rest, there are films. And we don’t mean the several-hours-long, yawn-inducing videos of people entering, greeting, eating and leaving. Wedding films are now as good as feature films, shot with the best cameras by the best cinematographers, with great production values that capture not just the laughter, tears and anxiety of a wedding but also the entire journey of the two people. Among the best known makers of such films is The Wedding Filmer.
Started four years ago by film director and producer Vishal Punjabi, who had worked with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment before, the company was born out of his own wedding. “Back then there was no concept of keeping your memories in a way that gave them some respect. And that is what we wanted from our own wedding,” says Zara Chowdhary, Punjabi’s better half and producer at The Wedding Filmer.
From HT Brunch, November 16
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