Tying the knot at Kunming or taking the path to marital bliss at Dali could soon become a fad as the big fat Indian weddings get the Made in China tag.
With its clean and modern cities, shopping choices, affordable logistics and exotic cuisine, China is luring Indians whose rising affluence and desire for celebrations with a difference are making destination weddings increasingly popular.
Eager to get a piece of the expanding Indian wedding market, Chinese tour operators and entrepreneurs, always on the lookout for new business opportunities, are aggressively marketing cities like Kunming, Lijiang and Dali as attractive wedding spots.
The most popular tourist draw in southwest China, Kunming, is known as the City of Eternal Spring for its pleasant climate and flowers blooming all year long. With a history of more than 2,400 years, it was the gateway to the celebrated Silk Road that facilitated trade with Tibet, Sichuan, Burma (now Myanmar) and India. It is also just a two-hour daily flight away from Kolkata.
Chinese Consul General Wang Xuefeng said talks were on with Indian firms and tour operators to find partners in China for organising Indian weddings in the country and facilitate not only financial ties but cultural and traditional relations as well.
"Much like ours, Indian weddings too are an epitome of the people's rich cultural heritage," said Wang.
While Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia continue to be the preferred destinations, stakeholders believe China's proximity and cultural similarities with India as well as economical logistics may prove to be a game changer as the trend of getting married in overseas venues is now moving beyond the illustrious and nouveau riche families.
"Destination wedding is now fast catching up with upper middle class and with budget and logistics being the two important criteria, China surely is an alluring proposition. While Thailand continues to be the most preferred destination, people are also looking out for newer venues," said Neha Mehrotra of Foreign Wedding Planners.
Observing that cheaper airfare and hotels make China an attractive destination, Travel Agents' Federation of India's eastern region chairman Anil Punjabi said efforts were on for forging collaborations with Indian and Chinese stakeholders.
"There are no doubts of China being an alluring proposition, but only that which is seen is sold. So efforts are being made so that delegations of tour operators and other stakeholders visit the cities and engage in talks to concretise collaborations," said Punjabi.
Famed wedding planner Ankit Bhargava said destination weddings, which started mostly with NRIs and foreigners opting for Goa's exotic beaches and Rajasthan's princely palaces as their wedding destinations, are now fast catching up with the upper-middle class and middle class and from the Metros to even Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
"A large number of families are now looking at venues beyond the usual Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore or Dubai. Chinese cities like Kunming and Dali are known for their natural beauty plus the Chinese cuisine, all that make them a good proposition," said Bhargava.
Talking about the wedding market, roughly estimated at around Rs.250,000 crore ($41 billion), Bhargava said besides remaining vastly insulated to meltdowns, the sector has been rapidly growing with new players steadily joining in.
"The rise of the middle class has made people splurge on weddings, leading to an increased trend of hiring a wedding planner and opting for overseas venues," Bhargava added.