In India, there is a trend that has seen many Indian families scale down their celebrations over the past 12 months.
India’s wedding seasons from mid-October to January and April to July bring with them street drummers and musicians, processions and open-air ceremonies where the statement often seems to be: the bigger and louder the better.
The industry is estimated to be worth 1.25 trillion rupees (27 billion dollars) a year. One leading wedding website Shaadi.com put the average cost of a high-end marriage at 44,000 dollars.
But wedding planners say that as the effect of the worldwide recession hits exports, imports and the service industry, India’s wealthier urban upper classes are cutting back on costs.
A traditional Asian wedding is lengthy and elaborate, starting with a trip to the astrologer or family priest who chooses the auspicious day and time of the ceremony considering phases of the moon.
Rings are exchanged at the engagement, followed by the “mehndi” ceremony, where the bride’s arms and legs are intricately painted with brown henna dye to ward off evil and strengthen love. The next day sees an elaborate “sangeet” – a musical, dance or even Bollywood-style extravaganza.
The wedding itself usually comes 24 hours later, followed by cocktails and a lavish evening meal. Moroccan- or Turkish-style weddings – with billowing tents, vast pavilions, hookah smoking pipes and finely-upholstered, low-slung divans – have proved popular with expat Indians who travel home to tie the knot.
India’s salaried urban middle classes are also learning to streamline costs, amid concern for their jobs.
Is having a grand wedding important to you? Do weddings really symbolise a good start to a new life? Are weddings really happy memories that last a lifetime? Or for the lady, a reality of what she has been waiting and planning for since she was three?