The big, fat, grand Indian wedding
There's a saying that there is no limit to spending on a wedding, especially if it's an Indian one. While marriages in India are becoming bigger and grander affairs by the day, there is a personal touch that would-be bride and grooms are giving to the most special day of their lives. DEEPALI DHINGRA finds that when it comes to creating special wedding memories, there is no dearth of ideas and no limit to the expenditure either
When Mumbai-based Meera and Alex, a Russian based in America (names changed), decided to tie the knot, they wanted their wedding photography to reflect how they fell in love. In came KnotInFocus. “Since the couple met and fell in love in America, we suggested doing the shoot in New York. These are small things that make the whole experience very personalised,” says Anand Rathi, co-founder of the Mumbai-based wedding photography and videography company. For the couple, who are set to get married next month at Aamby Valley, this was, no doubt, a wedding memory that they will always cherish.
Indian weddings have always been grand affairs. From arriving on elephant-back at the mandap, to wearing swarovski-encrusted lehengas to having a global cuisine at the wedding functions, to spreading out the festivities over days and ending it with a grand wedding affair at some five-star hotel or even a palace, Indians certainly know how to splurge on one of the most special occasions of their lives. But now, just like Meera and Alex, more and more couples are seeking out ways to make sure that their wedding memories are unlike anyone else’s. So from getting songs specially composed for the sangeet, to shooting short films of their journey, and even blogging about their wedding experiences, there is no idea that isn’t worth exploring.
“Couples desire to surprise their guests by infusing a special dance act by the family members or by the couple themselves, choreographed by a renowned choreographer during the celebrations,” says Manoj Gopalani, director, Var Vadhu Wedding Management, who even conceptualised actor Esha Deol’s wedding. “Personalisation plays an important role here. Hence, couples implement the idea of sending out personalised messages to their guests, showering them with exclusive and premium return gifts etc. In terms of wedding themes, couples look forward to decorative floral venues, personalised thematic wedding destinations and innovative themes that blend technology with traditional values and many more.”
When one looks at old wedding videos, the one thing apart from the usual cheesy poses, are the typical Bollywood numbers that accompany them. But all that is a thing of the past. “We have a lot of clients who are Sindhis, Gujaratis, Marwaris and Punjabis and these communities have a lot of folk songs,” Rathi tells us. Their company re-records folk songs and provides them as background music for wedding films. Taking the same a few notches up, are requests for original songs and music. Mumbai-based music producer Ramit Chhabra admits that original lyrics, music and composition is not a very big trend, but is certainly catching up. “I have also done a couple of them and they have worked out beautifully,” he says. As for copyright of the songs, Chhabra says it’s not an issue at the moment, as it is still at a very nascent stage. One of the primary reasons for coming up with the idea of composing original music, comes from the fact that every couple wants something unique for their wedding. Punjab-based writer and creative consultant Varun Garg recalls recording a 12-13 minute long song for a baby’s first Lohri function. “We have to keep coming up with new ideas. In a small city like Ludhiana where I come from, people have grand wedding affairs and there are 50 or 60 odd families who are bound to be there. So every couple wants something new and unique for their wedding. Special dedicated songs depict their personal journey and add the right flavour,” he says.
Mili Ghosh, the co-founder and creative director of Memories in Motion, a Chicago-based wedding videography and photography studio, has been in the wedding business since the past eight or nine years and admits that she has more and more couples coming up with ideas to make their weddings stand out. “Recently, I conceptualised a wedding for a couple in Las Vegas. As the groom loves playing poker, they had a poker-themed wedding, with even the bride’s mehndi having poker motifs,” she says. Ghosh adds that while for some families, it is about the unique factor, for others, it might just want to be about making the loudest noise. “With the kind of clients we have, the weddings are opulent anyway. So the next step is to make them stand out,” she adds.
When the weddings are so interesting, can the honeymoons be far behind? Travel curator Manjari Verma of Broken Compass and her partner Avni Patel have often added some interesting elements to their client’s itineraries, specially if it’s a honeymooning couple. “There was a couple who wanted to get their names tattooed together at their honeymoon in Bangkok,” recalls Verma. The curators managed to source out a talented tattoo artist, who operated only at night. “We got them an appointment and the couple got their first tattoos done together on their honeymoon. Now that might not sound very romantic, but it was very special for them,” she adds.
In another instance, a Mumbai-based lady who was celebrating her marriage anniversary in Greece with her husband, wanted the curators to organise something special for her better half. “We found out a guy who does horseback rides at beaches. So we organised for them to be picked up from their hotel.
They rode around the city on horses and even went for a ride on the beach, followed by a chocolate-strawberry-wine set up along with a bonfire later,” says Verma. The curator adds that none of these activities have been repeated. “It’s no fun then. It’s like going to a branded shop and wearing what is common.
And even though it’s a honeymoon, everyone has diverse personalities and we cater to them accordingly,” she says.
Pre-wedding shoots, too, have gained momentum over the years. They are no more stuck in the ‘get the bride to look coy and the groom to look at her lovingly’ kind of shoots for the new-age couples. Now, they want to have fun and get the best out of candid moments. Entrepreneur Aastha and her fiancé Rohit, a doctor by profession, plan to get married in January and were looking for a wedding photographer to suit their needs, when they chanced upon KnotInFocus to do an underwater shoot. “Their work was like a fresh breath of air and we knew they can push beyond the regular candid stuff,” says Aastha.
And although she admits that it was more difficult than she thought it would be. “Staying under water with our dresses was tough. We had to decide the pose on surface and then dive in deep to be able to shoot,” she says it was all worth it, even though they came out all drenched with their clothes completely ruined! “We have always believed that since our wedding is unique, so should be the photographs. I’m certainly going to remember the whole experience for a long time,” she laughs. Aastha and Rohit’s wedding is also interesting in some other ways. The couple plan to send personalised newsletters to all their guests for the three days of their wedding functions, and also have an award ceremony with some really funky awards on their wedding day. Talk about being creative!
‘Tech’ing matters in their hands
And when it comes to creating out-of-the-box experiences, can friends lag far behind? Technology and Internet have managed to bridge distances, no doubt, and now, they are coming to the rescue of would-be brides and grooms, who want to share their experiences with the world, literally. Supriya Popli, who’s all set to tie the knot in January next year, was not much of a writer before the blogging bug bit her and she decided to share her experiences. “I’m a Punjabi girl getting married to a Catholic boy. I thought it would be fun to document this ‘different’ wedding. When I started my blog, I thought it would be great to share my experiences with my friends, but in the process, I managed to connect with other would-be brides around the world, who are also keen to share their experiences,” says Popli, who started her blog ‘Ramblings of a Crazy Bride’ in February this year. But why blog when she could have exchanged emails with her friends? “Blogging is lot more satisfying when you have strangers around the world who give you instant feedback. You feel like you belong to a certain community,” she smiles. Touching base with friends was also the reason Abu-Dhabi-based Siddharth Jain created a website for his wedding with Andheri girl Niyati Gupta. “Since the wedding is taking place in Mumbai and I have friends coming from all over, I thought rather than couriering cards to everyone, it would be more convenient to create a website with all the details,” he says. While scanning the cards and sending them as e-invites is common, Jain says he felt a website was a more dynamic way of going about things. “Guests can just click on it to see photographs of various functions, see the details of the venues and more. It also saves time and effort,” he re-iterates. And while it’s absolutely great to have grand, opulent weddings with the unique touch, Ghosh warns against the ‘bit much’ factor. “There are lots of times when you lose out on shooting intimate moments of the bride and groom, as they don’t get to have them in the middle of all the grand ceremonies. It becomes more about the celebrations. So when people plan their weddings, they should ensure that they try and put aside some time just for the two of them.” Because matches may be made in heaven, but marriages take place on Earth.
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli