Recession or not, the big fat Indian wedding with its unfathomably large and over-the-top arrangements continues to woo people from across the globe. Depending on whose figures one wants to go by, there has been a considerable rise in bookings by non-resident Indians (NRIs) for marriage ceremonies on Indian soil ? by as much as 300% ? this year.
While the country?s economy has taken a severe beating, thanks to the free-falling rupee vis-a-vis the US dollar, the increase in marriage bookings seems to be merely coincidental as of now due to the lack of any credible study or research on the subject.
That said, one professional community that is smiling all the way to the bank coffers are the wedding planners.
?We are seeing a big rise in the number of NRIs wanting to get married in India this year, as well as for the next year. We are even getting enquires for the December 2014 wedding season,? says Sujay Pathak, co-founder of the Mumbai-based Elite Wedding Planner. ?In August last year, we had 23 NRI leads looking to plan their weddings in India. This year, however, we have already crossed 67 and August is not over yet,? adds Pathak.
The currency hit its eighth recent low, 65.56 to the dollar, on Thursday. The decline has hurt many companies doing business here, for example, through higher import costs. But it may benefit the NRIs planning a wedding in India as foreign revenues are converted to the depreciating Indian currency.
Some of the planners are even witnessing a sea-change in the way payments are being made for pre-booked weddings, with many of them getting as much as 50% of their payments well in advance.
?Usually, we charge 15% of our payments beforehand, but recently we have seen that our customers are splurging. Some of them have already paid 50% of the fees,? says Ankit Bhargava, director of Rajasthan-based Regal-Weddings.
Bhargava is hopeful of a further rise in the number of marriage bookings by NRIs if the rupee rate continues to remain above the 60 mark in the coming two months. Regal-Weddings organises 20-25 marriages for NRIs during the peak season.
Shaadikitayaari.com, a wedding planning portal, has seen a huge increase in the spending pattern of the NRIs who recently got married or are planning to tie the knot in the coming days.
?The decrease in the rupee value has increased the lavish quotient of these weddings. The NRIs, who used to stay in three-star hotels are now wanting to stay in five-star accommodation. The food, the dress, etc, that they are demanding now have become more lavish. They are spending a lot more money now compared to what they used to do earlier,? says Gaurav Verma, head of Shaadikitayaari.com. As the bookings are done well in advance, Verma believes that the coming months will see an increase in their number too.
For Bangalore?s Myshaadiwale.com, which does selective and unique NRI weddings priced anything between R30 lakh and R80 lakh, the depreciation of rupee has led to an increase in enquiries from the UK, the US and Australia.
?In the past two years, we have done 16 weddings for NRIs in places like Goa, the Andamans and Rajasthan (Udaipur and Jaipur). Now, we are planning three weddings simultaneously, two in Rajasthan and one in Kerala. With the falling rupee, I am sure more and more NRIs would want to get married here. Today, NRIs have an option of doing a big fat Indian wedding at a very reasonable cost,? says Rashida A, business development head, Myshaadiwale Wedding Planners.
Wedding planners are now looking forward to tourism associations to promote the country as a marriage destination.
?The Indian and state tourism associations need to promote India as a destination for weddings, just like the way Thailand and South Africa are doing for themselves. This will help the industry generate a considerable amount of foreign exchange for our country too,? says Pathak of Elite Wedding Planner.