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Austere by choice

india Updated: Aug 11, 2012 23:07 IST
Shalini Singh
Shalini Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

One of contemporary Hindi cinema’s most watched pair — Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan — have said they will tie the knot in a low-key ceremony towards the end of this year. While their reasons for doing so might be soberingly personal (Khan recently lost his father), actor John Abraham also recently expressed a wish to have a ‘non-Bollywood’ style wedding with his partner Priyanka Runchal. It’s not surprising, feels Rajnish Rathi, publisher-editor of Wedding Affair magazine. “Such figures crave privacy in their personal life and would make their wedding affair low-key and guarded,” he says. “On the other hand, those who don’t get much media attention indulge in larger-than-life affairs to gain attention.”

In a country besotted with glamour and ostentatious display at weddings, there are other, non-celebrity couples in India, however, who’ve already gone understated in what most consider an important event in a person’s life — and by choice. The Big Fat Indian Wedding has in some cases gone slimmer and more personalised. Photographer Udit Kulshrestha who’s currently researching on Hinduism even calls these weddings a ‘sub-culture’. “The monies may be kept low/neglible, but some of these are rich in the traditions and culture they follow,” he explains. Low-key weddings have one thing in common says photographer Ramit Batra who shoots 4-5 such weddings a year. “The couples have different cultural-religious backgrounds. Socio-economically, they are well-to-do. They are just making a conscious choice to not have a lot of ‘bling’ — in any form — in their wedding.”

The elements of such weddings include: the couple not wearing designer labels or spending too much on decorations, keeping the guest-list limited to close family and few friends, putting in time and effort to DIY stuff at the wedding, simple ceremonies, followed by a brunch/dinner.

However, with the Indian wedding industry pegged at Rs. 1,90,000 crore according to 2011 estimates and growing at an aggressive rate of 25% per year, low-key weddings remain more the exception than the norm, say experts. Adds Rathi, “Low-key weddings are practiced on and off but all-in-all the pomp and show associated with the Indian wedding will always remain intact.”

Our special day with close ones
Prashin Jobalia, 27, wife Zeenal, 31
Spent Rs. 50, 000

Prashin Jobalia, 27, and wife Zeenal, 31, both from affluent Gujarati families, were married four years ago. Prashin is a senior manager at Godrej Properties and Zeenal an assistant manager with the Future Group. Determined not to have their big day coloured by family squabbles and endless preparations, they opted for a registered marriage followed by a dinner party.

“We wanted to celebrate our special day only with close ones,” says Prashin. The wedding celebration cost them Rs. 50,000 without exchange of elaborate gifts and lengthy ceremonies.

“I ruled out the idea of wearing a ghagra-choli, which is the norm,” says Zeenal. “It would have cost me a bomb and I wouldn’t have been able to wear the outfit ever again.” Zeenal chose a pink sari and Prashin, a black suit.

Prashin, is not the first person in his family to have a registered wedding. The couple splurged on their honeymoon in New Zealand and Hong Kong.
— Ridhhi Doshi


We spend on things that matter
Utkalika Badu, 30 & husband Tarun, 32
Spent Rs. 2.5 lakh

For Utkalika Badu, 30, and husband Tarun Pandey, 32, who live in Delhi’s Pitampura, opted for a low-key wedding in 2009. Being working professionals; both say that their families taught them to value money.

So much so, the MBA couple funded their wedding. “We didn’t take any money from our parents. Everything was taken care of from our savings,” she says. The ceremony was held in an Oriya temple in Hauz Khas. This was later followed by a party for 70-odd people at a restaurant close-by.

Badu and Pandey’s marriage was a multi-cultural union. Initially, she says relatives were shocked at the scale of the wedding.

“I’ve seen enough of the big fat Punjabi weddings!” she says. “One cousin spent Rs. 10 lakh just to book a venue. Another bought a lehenga worth R1 lakh. But I was never convinced to spend so much on a wedding even if one can afford to,” she explains. The couple wants to pass on similar values to their children.
— Shalini Singh

I wanted to change mindsets
Tajida Tahseen, 30 & husband Rauuoof, 32
Spent Rs. 2.5 lakh

In what was a first for India and possibly the world, Shaikh Subhani, the municipal commissioner (MC) of Salur in Andhra Pradesh celebrated his daughter’s wedding in a beautified dumpsite in May this year. The wedding was attended by over 1000 family and friends as well as some VIPs says Subhani’s son-in-law Mohammad Rauuoof.

“Weddings in India are usually a costly and lavish affair. Being professionals, one couldn’t imagine we’d hold our marriage in this way,” he says.

Subhani took over as Salur’s MC in March 2011, and got the choked waste site cleaned up within 40 days. The decision to hold the wedding in the dumpsite was inspired, by another IAS officer Janardhan Reddy who held his regional meeting in nearby Bobbili town’s cleaned dumpyard in July 2011. “I wanted to set an example to change mindsets and make people more eco-conscious,” he says.

Daughter Tahseen adds that similar weddings will take place in their district now.
— Shalini Singh


Proud to have such a marriage
Pooja, 27, husband Amrit Prakash, 30
Spent Rs. 36,000
Associate professor at a management college Pooja Prakash, 27, and businessman Amrit Prakash, 30, stand apart for their choice to keep their marriage a low key affair and abide with the Radhasoami faith. By not going for a lavish wedding they decided to make a statement by choosing to not go ostentatious.

Amrit Prakash says, “We were unanimous in making our wedding a low-key affair and used to share our thoughts against lavish spending in marriage.”

“My family and friends didn’t react on our simple marriage but appreciated the whole idea of the function being held in Dayalbagh.

Rs. 36,000 was the entire budget of our marriage with no exchange of gifts. Our marriage was too different from the regular ostentatious weddings as we wore simple self-made attires by Satsangis themselves and had printed simple and small size card to invite all relatives and friends," he adds.
— Himender Chaturvedi