Indian shaadis are all about opulence with merriments lasting for days and lakhs of rupees splashed around, even by those who are otherwise tight-fisted. When the coronavirus raised its head, the Indian wedding industry was one of its first casualties. The industry came to a standstill overnight as several marriages originally scheduled to take place in the first half of 2020 were postponed.
However, with the pandemic showing no signs of abetting, some couples are choosing to conduct small, intimate ceremonies while others are trying the ‘online wedding’ route wherein attendees are invited to grace the celebrations virtually. However, just because it’s small, it doesn’t mean it can’t be innovative. Couples are not only becoming inventive, but enterprising as well when it comes to tying the knot — right from saying ‘I do’ online to sadhyas at the doorstep.
Recently, the wedding invite of a couple, in Tamil Nadu, went viral as it carried the QR codes of their digital wallet platforms. This was so that guests, who preferred to gift cash, could do so without any hassle. Speaking to the media, TJ Jeyanthi, the mother of the bride said, “Since there is a restriction to the number of guests to the event, most of those who could not attend the wedding, transferred gift cash digitally. Around 30 such guests transferred cash to the bride and groom.”
Another wedding that hit headlines was that of Shivaprakash and Mahati last month. The live-streamed wedding didn't lose its traditional flavour, as the 'guests' received a ‘Kalyana saapadu kits’ (wedding lunches) delivered to their doorstep. The kit had over 36 items including raw ‘appalams’ that guests were instructed to fry at home.
Closer home, a Covid-19 care home in Kochi witnessed a wedding celebration with a difference in September 2020. P Faziya who tested positive was shifted to a Covid care centre in Mattancherry a day before her wedding. Her inmates, who discovered this, decided to throw her a surprise by dressing her up in bridal finery and held an Oppana for her. Meanwhile, her wedding was solemnised on the day it was scheduled since the bride’s presence is not mandatory. A video of the celebration, which went viral, ends with a selfie of a beaming Faziya surrounded by other patients at the centre.
If once weddings were big and fat, keeping it simple and sweet seems to be the trend during the pandemic. Instead of long guest lists and extravagant food spreads, most couples place proper sanitisation as their top priority, says Adarsh Murali, Managing Partner of Marvel Events, Karunagapally. As facemasks are a must due to safety reasons during the pandemic, Adarsh recalls how a couple wanted custom-made matching facemasks for their wedding. “They wanted one that said ‘Mr’ and another that said ‘Mrs’,” he says.
According to Sobha Vishwanath of Weavers’ Village in Thiruvananthapuram, custom-made masks are popular for weddings with many placing orders for kasavu masks. “As weddings are more muted affairs these days, women order kasavu masks that match their saris. I remember a family ordering matching masks for the entire attendees to the wedding — that was around 25 to 30 masks,” she says.
Adarsh points out how most couples these days want a simple yet tastefully done stage and décor for their wedding. He also notes how couples are also reducing their guest list, “partly due to the Covid-related protocol”.
Maya Koshy, a techie who exchanged her wows recently, said she wanted floral installations to be the highlight of her wedding venue in Kochi. “I didn’t have any fancy stage or backdrop. Flowers can be artful and attention grabbing. I love roses and had the wedding event team arrange just pink and white roses in the wedding venue,” she says.
Charted accountant Laksmi Priya had to cut out the pre-wedding ceremonies she had been dreaming of ever since she was a child. “I love Bollywood films. I love those big fat Indian weddings, especially the haldi, mehndi and sangeet ceremonies in the movies. However, due to Covid restrictions, I dropped the idea, as it wouldn’t be fun without all of my friends. I will instead get my younger sister to organise the events when she gets married so that I can experience them,” laughs Laksmi, who adds that her cousin, while going ahead with her wedding ceremony did not hold a wedding reception. “She hopes to hold one when the pandemic dies down.”
According to jewellers and textile retailers, although the pandemic did hit them hard during the start of the pandemic, things are beginning to look up.
N Lakshman Sreenivas, the Managing Partner at Parthas Trivandrum, says there has been an increase in footfall to his store for bridal wear since October 2020. However, things are slightly different. “Earlier, the bride’s family would gift new clothes to relatives, and now, it’s just for the immediate family,” he adds. While some things remain the same when it comes to jewellery, there are also small changes. Sajeesh S, Assistant Manager of Bhima Thiruvananthapuram, notes that while gold is still the preferred choice for jewellery; people do pick up a diamond set or two. “People are not stinging when it comes to jewelry. They have a fixed number of pieces to buy and are buying them.”
Make-up artiste Renju Renjimar, who runs a beauty studio Dora Beauty World in Angamaly, says most of her brides-to-be have postponed their weddings. “These are girls who dream of a big fat wedding. They have pushed their wedding dates to later this year in hopes that the pandemic is curtailed and restrictions revolving around it, lifted.”
Anjana R Pillai, a journalist from Aluva, whose wedding is set in April, is keeping her fingers crossed for hers. “Hopefully, Covid-related restrictions will have relaxed more by then and I can invite more people. A wedding is a wedding only when you have your entire family and friends around you.”
While some couples admit they are happy to have saved a lot of money by marrying frugally, others like lawyer Reshma John in Chennai, for instance, say they feel robbed of their once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I didn't get to fulfill my childhood dream of being the perfect Indian bride at an opulent ceremony,” says Reshma. “From the original guest list of 1,500, we had only 15 people at our wedding on April 7, 2020. My husband, Tony, who wanted his cousins to come down for the wedding in Chennai from Kerala was disappointed.”
Despite the austerity, some remain hopeful that high-end weddings will become feasible again in the future. A bride-to-be who prefers remaining anonymous says she can’t imagine big weddings disappearing from Kerala. “I have been dreaming of entering the wedding venue to the beats of a chenda melam since my childhood. As my wedding has been postponed to June, I am hopeful things will take a turn for the better.”
While some things have changed during the lockdown, it looks like the big fat Indian wedding will make a comeback after the pandemic ends.