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Weddings by design

Designer weddings are no longer the sole privilege of the super rich. More consumers are opting for planners and designers who customise the occasion to suit varied pockets. Himani Chandna Gurtoo reports. What is driving desi designer weddings

business Updated: Mar 18, 2012 21:51 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo

The wedding season is kicking off in India. And this is no longer the old-world stuff. What started off as large, lavish designer weddings at exotic Indian palaces, seven-star venues, and even Goa’s and Kerala’s beaches mostly for non-resident Indians and the super rich, is now a more widespread phenomenon. Indian weddings have always been big-spend occasions, with ostentation in varying degrees of affordability the norm. In the post-reform economic boom, it is acquiring new colours.


“The wedding management market was nowhere 10 years back, and then it arrived for the richest. Today, it is for everyone ready to spend a little extra,” said Neelabh Kapoor, creative partner, Studio Neelabh, a wedding management company. “We have grown 300% in the last three years.”

Arun Kant, a Delhi-based businessman, has hired a wedding planner for Rs 40 lakh for his second daughter’s wedding. “We spent well on my older daughter’s wedding too, but this time, we are spending consciously through planners,” he said.

Ritu Marya, director, Franchise India, which helps global salons enter India, says a typical Indian wedding in the US costs three times the average American ceremony. “This is the reason many of the global salon brands are looking for ways to enter the rich Indian market," she said.

Nilesh Shah, who hired planners to design his daughter’s wedding last year, invited 300 people and spent Rs 50 lakh for “a well managed, tension-free wedding,” which he describes as “pocket-friendly.” He added that thanks to the planners, he and his wife did not miss out on the fun and celebrations.

The estimated Rs 1,50,000 crore Indian wedding industry is growing at 20% annually. The planners offer one-stop solutions including venue selection and design, dress and jewellery planning, florist services, catering, entertainment troupes and designed programmes, make-up services, and gifting and guest management services.

“We not only help in finding the right venue and catering but also offer services ranging from the design of invitation cards to choosing and getting the type and style of return gifts,” said Neha Chauhan, senior wedding planner, back2culture.

As aspirations soar, sometimes so does the desire for a wedding experience that stands apart. Bijal and Vinay Shenoy, who wanted a beach and backwater wedding in Kerala, hired back2culture. “Our wedding had to meet different needs — all rituals observed but also not losing sight of the ‘glam’ factor,” gushed Bijal.

Destination weddings, though they cost 30-40% more, are hot. Neelabh Kapoor said mid-sized towns such as Chandigarh and Kochi yield high-value clients. Clients from Gujarat and southern India do what was earlier an NRI fad.

Neelabh and partner Aditi Kapoor, who have designed television show sets, designed the wedding event for Bollywood actors Ritesh Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza. Décor designs can cost Rs 4-40 lakh, while spending on the actual stuff can range from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 crore, designers say.

Wedding outfits, accessories and make-up services are also seeing a huge amount of personalised choice.

“Our couture business has increased by 20% this year. People are now more inclined towards experimenting,” said fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani.

As Kaya Skin Clinic’s head of marketing, Suvodeep Das, pointed out, it is not just about brides and grooms anymore. “Today, friends and family also come in for the occasion, for that perfect look,” Das said.

International luxury brands are also hooking into the opportunity. Canali’s Nawab collection, inspired by the bandhgala, has been a runaway success. Jimmy Choo has a Chandra clutch and ETRO has an India jacket.

“We have seen international luxury brands coming up with limited edition 'India inspired' products that connect with the ethnicity of the Indian,” said Sanjay Kapoor, managing director, Genesis Luxury, the marketing and distribution company for many international luxury labels in India.