Integral to the Indian way of life, weddings remain a cornerstone of family tradition and lifestyle. It has always been a reflection of shifting societal values...as true to the times then...as now
It’s not called the big fat Indian wedding for nothing. The wheels of commercialisation have always been in place, albeit in a more discreet manner a couple of generations ago.Today’s India has taken a leap of faith by crossing the Rubicon of heavy tradition and marrying it with a new-found elan. This in-your-face attitude, in turn, has greased the heavyweight spoke of ceremonial celebrations to an altogether new level. The new level brings new role models into play, although the traditional format of weddings as an occasion, which is the most celebrated and important lifetime event for families, holds good.
What’s changed is the scale at which the planning and execution is made... its the stuff dreams and legends are made of. It’s also the bottom line of an evolving industry in what is now considered as one of the world’s largest wedding markets.
Making dreams come true
Across all income brackets, weddings continue to consume the maximum savings and spend. It is estimated that, the average Indian will spend 20% of total wealth earned at the time of the wedding on functions, needs, or wedding-related items.
The wedding business in India, according to KPMG, is worth $40 billion, and growing by 20 per cent per year.
Statistics point to the fact that the Indian wedding industry is the second-largest in the world, just behind the U.S. market. The total value of the Indian industry is an estimated $50 billion, compared to the $70 billion in the United States. As an interesting aside, the UK, has an estimated 1.4 million people of Indian descent, who, in turn, create a supplemental wedding industry that is valued at GBP 12 billion.
According to inputs from wedding professionals, even by modest estimates, the size of the wedding market is as high as Rs 50,000 crore. For many analysts, the fact that the average number of weddings is more than 10 million in India each year, suggests that the Indian wedding industry can be categorised as recession-proof.
While the figures are not fully substantiated, there are estimates that big-ticket weddings with combined budgets of Rs. 60 million in metro cities account for around 20% of the marriage service market.
New wedding trends
While the spend on weddings continues unabated, what is noteworthy is the mindset change that is reflected in spending patterns and planning, which are undergoing a sea-change. Weddings are becoming more creative, with personal choices, outsourcing to luxury hotels and wedding planners and popular trends like destination weddings creating important niches.
It is estimated that the Indian destination wedding industry is expected to reach a market size of INR 45,000 Cr by 2020, with a projected annual growth rate of 25-30%. Factors such as the rise of the middle class, a booming economy and celebrity endorsements — amply stirred by social media-induced aspirations — have contributed to this growth.
Mandeep Lamba, President - South Asia, HVS ANAROCK, shares, “Destination weddings have also given a major shot in the arm to wedding planners, banquet organisers and wedding apparel designers – who, in any case, had little to complain about in a country where all stops are pulled out for weddings. However, the biggest beneficiary of the growing destination weddings trend is the hospitality sector.”
Lamba adds, “In India, people are often willing to spend almost a third of their life savings on weddings. Fed on a steady social and even mainstream media diet of opulent celebrity weddings, Indian millennials are more than eager to invest in ‘curated weddings’ and will choose the most exotic locales they can afford to celebrate their big day.”
As per HVS ANAROCK data, 2018 saw the Indian hotel industry witness a country-wide RevPAR growth of 9.6% over 2017, to arrive at an absolute RevPAR of 3,927. In 2019, the RevPAR is expected to see 9.5% growth, with demand finally outpacing supply. Data also indicates that the period between 2014 and 2018 witnessed an upsurge in transaction volumes of approx. INR 64.4 bn – the previous peak being in 2015 at about INR 19.9 bn.
Hitting the limelight
With destination weddings becoming the rage, the sumptuous weddings services market has taken an explosive leap of fancy, with beaches, palaces and chapels, castles and parks being selected as venues and the wedding setup as distinctive as the list of celebrity performers and guests.
New technology giants are offering their services for high- end video projection, while helicopter services are being pressed into service to lower the groom onto the mandap with flower petal showers to wedding artists creating mind-boggling mile-high chandeliers, floating mandaps in a Vienna lake, and the like. Wedding planners undertake turnkey projects, tailor- made experiences, curated themes from environment-friendly to colour-themed to royalty and so on.
Traditionally, wedding planners functioned as mom and pop shops, with word-of-mouth reputation being relied on. However the market has developed substantially over the last few years with organised players stepping in and the market getting accountable. The Ferns N Petals and KWAN collaboration, for instance, heralds a step up with two professionally run companies offering high-end wedding planning with great entertainment.
Talented wedding planners and even international players are creating niche events and as the weddings service market continues to expand, the growth graph is taking a high curve. The ‘wedding planning’ market in India is expected to hit Rs 1.6 trillion by the year 2020. Many wedding planners have begun to charge up to 15% of the wedding budget as their consultation fee.
A Franchise India report puts the Indian wedding market growth curve at 25 to 30 per cent annually with an average cost of a wedding anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore. With half of India’s population being under 29 years of age, the marriage market is obviously looking at a boom over the next five to ten years, the report noted.
Betting big to tap a substantial portion of the flourishing wedding market is the global wedding portal Zank You which is set to make a foray into India. Headquartered in Spain, Zank You, as a premier wedding registry and reference platform will provide information and access to wedding vendors and venues in India and overseas.
“India being one of the largest wedding markets witnesses almost 10 million weddings per year and it’s not an option for players like us to not be present in such a burgeoning market,” Zank You co-founder and CEO Guillermo Fernandez Riba told PTI.
The bold and the beautiful
Would you fly down chefs from Dubai to set up Arabic counters? Perhaps kebabs from Lucknow, Biryani from Hyderabad, Jalebis from Old Delhi, Pethas from Agra?
How about a fly-past? A helicopter flower shower? Jennifer Lopez to set the stage on fire? Wedding planners charge top dollars to create the mood, the scene and the sequence exactly as the client might have dreamt it.
Entire hotel inventories on exclusive islands in Greece or a wedding party of 500 guests to China or Azerbaijan or booking an entire cruise ship and decorating the harbour when guests alight as well as creating mega themed (Jaipur in Mumbai or Rome in Delhi) city sets is how big-ticket planners make a reputation..not to mention a fortune.
Costs start at Rs 1 crore with obviously no upper limit as planning, production and execution take several months to complete. The logistics need an army of expert personnel to handle, say a fleet of 500 cars or 50 chefs or 209 entertainment artistes, green rooms, stage, lighting and all the technology back up that money can buy.
Clients for this kind of market are high net worth individuals (HNIs), for whom the wedding presents an opportunity to showcase influence, wealth, stature and spending power.
If the wedding market was not enough, it’s the Indian honeymoon market that is showing a 20-25% growth particularly in the outbound segment. New trends reveal that newly-wed couples want to splurge top dollars for experiences and opt for long-duration stays.
Budget allocations for honeymoon vacations are generous as families treat honeymoon spend as part of the wedding budget. Honeymoon budgets range from Rs 75,000-Rs 1,00,000 per couple for a week for an Indian destination to Rs 5-10 lakh per couple for a week for an outbound destination. Factors driving the outbound honeymoon segment are a demand for novel experiences and unconventional destinations ...to spark conversations, post on social media and get a bigger bang for their buck.