A multi-billion pound industry, Indian weddings are the most glittering example, like Christmas, of a traditional event being turned into a glitzy, glamorous and free-spending affair by marketing wizards.
Swarmed by wedding planners, armed with slick catalogues and sophisticated computerised directories, marriages have now become a state-of-the-art affair.
These planners promise a never-ending supply of gourmet food, mélange of music from Bollywood, helicopters, yachts, Maybach saloon cars and even white horses.
These planners offer you the world. You can replicate Bollywood wedding scenes; host the ceremony at castles (for only £55,000), Rajasthan forts or Paris in the winter.
A recent wedding in Dorchester Hotel cost £95,000 with performances by Sukhbir, Neha Dhupia, Sonu Nigam and Malaika Arora thrown in.
Yet with all these modern trappings, Indian weddings still retain the quintessential ritualistic elements. Dr Nandkumar, executive director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London and a Vedic scholar said, “The weddings among the wealthiest of the wealthy are just like those in big Indian cities. They are spread over days and all rituals are performed.”
He has performed wedding ceremonies not only in London but also in other parts of Europe and even across Atlantic in New York. “At these weddings I am asked how long would the ceremony last. They prefer an hour at the most. But the fact is the essential rites can be finished in at most one and a quarter hour.”
The biggies, like the Hindujas have always held their family weddings in Mumbai, which are attended by guests flying out from here. Lakshmi Mittal held his son’s wedding in Kolkata. Most people insist on adhering to all the rituals.
Ravi Sharma, the Sunrise Radio broadcaster, too has performed weddings in New York and even in Dubai. Both Nandkumar and he give interesting insights into mixed marriages. Most couples choose to retain their faiths and want the significance of various rituals to be explained to them.
Of course funny things often happen at such events. Last year, a young Punjabi married his long-time Gujarati girlfriend. The wedding ceremony took a hilarious turn when the bride’s side briefly interrupted the pre-planned schedule with a quick recital of a Jain chant, in turn the groom’s relatives responded by standing up and singing a particularly rumbustious version of Om Jai Jagdish Hare.