Goodbye, Big fat Indian weddings?

Has COVID changed our approach to weddings?


My son Naganathan married Vaishnavi

We had a welcome addition to our family earlier this month, the arrival of our daughter Vaishnavi (nee daughter in law).

Weddings during the pandemic is no easy task, but we executed a safe function with all COVID safety in place. What we did enjoy though was an intimate wedding function like no other weddings that I have been part of

For one, the wedding was restricted to very few, about 40. My parents, my mother in law, 2 of my brothers with their children and my two brother-in-laws, sister-in-law and their families where present. The bride side had even lesser number of people, Vaishnavi’s uncle, aunt and a few other close relatives.

The wedding ceremonies were cut down to 2 session; an evening session of fun (Sangeet) and the next day morning for Tamil brahmin rituals. This is a big change from convention of 2 and half days, with the modern extensions of Sangeet and Mehendi functions.

However, the functions were very enjoyable and we managed to engage our extended family through technology. There was almost 9 hours of live streaming watched by 500 of our extended family and friends!

Some of our cousins decided to engage the extended family and choreograph dances and songs for nearly 2 hours the first evening. It was a fun session that was live streamed and also covered through Zoom calls, whatsapp video and what not. Guests dressed in costumes they would normally wear for weddings and participated virtually from across the world. It was such a lovely atmosphere, with comments, chatter and laughter enabled by technology.

Everyone saw the wedding streamed online. Unlike in a conventional wedding everyone got a closeup of all the events (a South Indian Hindu Brahmin wedding ritual is pretty long, almost 4 to 5 hours). The priest took time to explain the reason behind each ritual and it was enlightening for most. For the family, we actually got time to enjoy the wedding, rather than run around tensed taking care of a large group of guests, we were doing this virtually.

Overall a very happy event.

But then the consultant in me started looking at implications for the society. Will this be the way future weddings will happen?

Here is how I see future weddings

While, quite a few will revert to large weddings as soon as things permit, a significant number of weddings will revert to cosy, small wedding format, with only the immediate family being physically present.

I foresee better technology enabled engagement of extended family, not a mere live streaming solution. I foresee LED panels in the wedding hall showing all the online participants their comments and emotions.

I foresee significant business for big hotels hosting wedding receptions to introduce bride and groom to friends who couldn’t be invited to the wedding.

I foresee that the big wedding halls will have to rethink their operation. There will be fewer demand for them as small weddings in these large halls that costs INR 500000 and more a day (USD 7000 or more per day) rental will not make sense.

Wedding catering is a big industry in the South of India and they will have new demands, smaller weddings. However, I have already seen one wedding, where the caterer delivers the same wedding food to all those who are participating virtually! Talk about innovation.

The smaller weddings will make the luxury hotels and spas an attractive wedding destination. Earlier they have been attracting only the wealthy, but with small weddings, even the middle class and upper middle class families may begin evaluating them as wedding locations.

Finally, I believe that smaller weddings would lead to less number of people breaking their banks. It would be financially less damaging for the parents to organize weddings.

Krishnan Naganathan

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