Indepth: Band, Baja, Baraat - Thriving economy behind the big, fat Indian weddings
Wedding celebrations are rarely muted in India. They are largely big, magnified celebrations extending over days – grand spectacles filled with traditions, rituals, and celebrations that reflect the country’s rich cultural diversity. Over the years, the wedding industry in India has evolved into a thriving business, encompassing a wide range of ancillary services and creating a significant economic impact.
In this two-part report, Adgully delves into the multifaceted world of the wedding business in India, exploring its growth, trends, and the diverse services that contribute to making each wedding a memorable affair.
The big fat spends on Indian weddings
The Indian wedding industry, despite being largely unorganised, witnessed remarkable growth in 2022, reaching a valuation of about Rs 3.68 trillion. The projections made for 2023 indicated an expected growth of 200%, which has been surpassed.
As per a study titled ‘Ipsos IndiaBus Views on Wedding’, 4 in 10 (43 per cent) citizens endorsed big fat weddings, believing them to be a part of our tradition and celebration; 36% felt big budget weddings are somewhat important as they have a cultural significance, but not essential; while 2 in 10 (21%) of citizens polled, perceived big budget weddings to be unimportant, unnecessary and wasteful. 73% of citizens in east zone endorsed big, fat weddings believing it to be a significant part of our tradition and celebration. And 49% citizens in south zone somewhat supported a grand wedding as it is intrinsic to our culture, at the same time they felt it was not essential or compulsory.
After facing a downturn in 2020 and 2021, destination weddings experienced a significant resurgence in 2022 and went to even greater heights in 2023. This growth may be attributed to factors such as pent-up demand for grand celebrations, economic recovery, industry innovation and adaptation to challenges, the appeal of destination weddings, and the enduring cultural significance attached to weddings in Indian society.
The industry’s ability to bounce back and thrive showcases its resilience and adaptability in the face of changing circumstances. As per Dr Chackochen Methai, COO - Franchise Development International Markets, Naturals Salon & Spa, “A positive impact has happened in the industry. During the pandemic many weddings were postponed and now since things are getting better. Therefore, there are huge celebrations and wedding occasions that have created revenue for the industry, vendors, artist and many allied businesses.”
The wedding industry in India is worth an estimated $30 billion. This is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2025.
According to a survey by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an estimated 3.5 million weddings took place in 2023, between November 23 and December 15, resulting in purchases and services worth approximately Rs 4.25 trillion. This is an increase from around 3.2 million weddings and Rs 3.75 trillion in business during the same period in 2022.
Amit Adarkar, CEO, Ipsos India, noted, “Wedding is big business in India and is pegged at Rs 4.25 lakh crore this year, according to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and professional wedding planners, DJ, make-up artistes render the task much easier for those looking for theme weddings. It renders the task easier of managing a mega event.”
Delhi is expected to host 10% of these weddings, around 3.5 lakh. The survey predicts 50,000 weddings in the luxury category with expenses exceeding Rs 1 crore, and another 50,000 with expenses around Rs 50 lakh. Additionally, about 6 lakh weddings are expected to have expenses of around Rs 25 lakh, while the majority, nearly 1.2 million, will incur expenses of around Rs 10 lakh, and 1 million weddings will have expenses of about Rs 6 lakh each.
So, it can be imagined that wedding industry has surely taken over and brought a lot of profits to the entire retail, hospitality as well as travel industry.
Concept of big fat Indian weddings
The wedding business in India has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years, propelled by factors such as a booming economy, changing societal norms, and a desire for opulence in celebrations. Moreover, the marriages of affluent families have a lasting influence over normal couples and their families.
One such wedding can be of Isha Ambani, daughter of Mukesh Ambani, and Anand Piramal in 2018, which was a spectacular and opulent affair. The festivities kicked off with an engagement ceremony at Lake Como, Italy, featuring decor by Dolce & Gabbana and a performance by John Legend. Pre-wedding events took place at Rajasthan’s City Palace hotel, known for its 16th-century architecture. A private concert by Beyoncé was a standout moment, making the wedding one of the most talked-about and extravagant in recent memory.
Indian destinations giving tough competition to International locations
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Vocal for Local’, India has been promoted as a major wedding destination across the world. We have several many affluent people, including film stars, now having their weddings in India.
Sharing her views on this, Anam Zubair, Director & Head of Consumer Marketing, WeddingWire India, said, “The trend toward destination weddings is rising, both internationally and in India. According to trusted sources, approximately 15-20% of weddings globally are estimated to be destination weddings. Within India, this trend is growing significantly, with around 20-25% of weddings being destination-based.”
Along similar lines, Amit Adarkar of Ipsos, said, “The allure of India is being re-harnessed via Incredible India and destination weddings are catching up as they provide scintillating celebrations, away from the rough and tumble of city life.” He added, “Post the pandemic, we see Indians looking out for more and more ‘affordable luxury’ experiences. Weddings are a good way to deliver and partake in these experiences. With rupee depreciation and the TCS on foreign transactions beyond a particular limit coming into force, many Indians will find it prudent to spend money in India instead of spending it abroad, giving further boost to India wedding spending.”
Top wedding destinations
“We can say Delhi is the wedding capital of India! It's like a wedding hub where dreams come true,” exclaimed Vikaas Gutgutia, Founder & MD, FNP Weddings. He further said, “Coming to destination weddings, instead of big hometown weddings, couples are now choosing something more intimate. It is more of taking your wedding on a little adventure with each location having its own charm. For destination weddings, Udaipur and Goa have always been the stars, but Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are also stealing the light nowadays.”
Talking about the favourite destinations, Amit Adarkar said, “We are seeing a lot of celebrity weddings taking place at historic, royal destinations within India. Rajasthan has of late been the favourite wedding retreat of Bollywood. There are no published figures of top locations for destination weddings in India. But for novelty and attractiveness, Udaipur, Jaipur, Goa, Mussoorie, Agra, Kerala tend to appeal most to Indian sensibilities.”
Anam Zubair added here, “As per bookings on WWI, Jaipur and Goa continued to stay top of mind in 2023, and Dehradun saw a growth of 50% in wedding requests compared to 2022. Rishikesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lavasa, and Mussoorie are some of the emerging destinations for 2024.”
With the increase in weddings, the honeymoons are also increasing and making the wedding business more bigger and better. Daniel D'Souza, President & Country Head - Holidays, SOTC Travel, shared, “At SOTC, our unwavering commitment extends to offering honeymooners with a dreamy romantic getaway that surpasses expectations at handpicked destinations, including from favourite international and national locations, like Switzerland, Paris, etc., to domestic front – Kashmir, the North East, Rajasthan, Kerala. Couples are displaying increased affinity for exceptional experiences like learning pottery in Rajasthan, cooking with a local chef in Goa or Kochi, experiencing a lavish breakfast by the stream in Mussoorie, tandem biking in Maharashtra’s Lonavala or Rajasthan’s Jaipur, snorkelling or scuba diving in Lakshdweep.”
Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, said, “At Thomas Cook, we stand at the forefront of this trend, committed to providing couples with vacations and extraordinary journeys that etch beautiful memories for a lifetime. To cater to the unique requirements of our customers, we have thoughtfully curated a portfolio of products that offer truly memorable locales and experiences to India’s honeymooners and couples celebrating special occasions. India’s couples/ honeymooners are displaying increased interest for those once-in-a-lifetime experience including an enchanting journey on the Palace on Wheels, Orient Express, panoramic views aboard the VIP car of the Golden Express or premium cruise lines; an elegant chateau stay in France or in a palace/ haveli in Rajasthan; exclusive accommodation in jungle lodges/ tree houses or plantation villas in India’s tea and coffee estates.”
Flourishing sectors associated with weddings
The wedding industry is a substantial economic force, encompassing a diverse array of businesses and services. Weddings are often considered major life events, and as such, people are willing to invest significant resources to make them special and memorable. There’s a trend towards more extravagant and unique wedding experiences, with people opting for ticketed weddings, themed receptions, live performances on charter flights, game nights, and other creative ideas. This surge in spending on luxury and out-of-the-box concepts suggests a growing desire for memorable and celebratory experiences.
“An Indian wedding is incomplete without the equal participation of sectors like venue, wedding planning and decoration, catering, wedding photography and videography, wedding entertainment, invitations, bride and groom’s wedding outfits, jewellery, hair and makeup, and wedding transportation,” said Anam Zubair. She added, “Each of these sectors and more play a pivotal role in putting a wedding event together. One is incomplete without another. This is one of the major reasons why, over the years, wedding businesses have learned to collaborate and support each other in bringing a dream wedding event to life.”
Both large and small retailers are capitalising on this trend, targeting the booming wedding industry. The 2023 wedding season was one of the most extravagant and glitzy ones in recent times, as predicted by experts.
A look at the various wedding sectors, which when combined together, make a booming wedding industry:
Banquet sector: Wedding venues, such as hotels, banquet halls, gardens, and historic sites, are crucial components of the industry. Couples often spend a substantial portion of their budget on securing the perfect location. On the banquet industry, Anam Zubair said, “During 2023, there was an increased demand for event spaces and infrastructure development.”
Weddingz.in, an online platform for venues and related services, witnessed 60% growth in revenue in OND quarter 2023 versus the same period in 2022. The company’s focus on key cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Lucknow is reflected in the highest bookings during the December 2023 wedding season. The notable surge in revenue from Tier 2 markets like Lucknow and Nagpur, with a growth of over 100% compared to the same period in 2022, suggests that wedding venue organizers like Weddingz.in, are successfully expanding its reach and popularity beyond major metropolitan areas.
Talking about the hospitality sector, weddings are a key revenue generator for the industry. Amit Adarkar noted, “Weddings continue to be money spinners for the hospitality sector. We see a huge demand for wedding venues and occupancy around weddings and most hotels show sold out status during December for instance when the weather is conducive for celebrations.”
Additionally, for global hospitality major Hilton in India, 12-40% of room share comes from weddings. Similarly, for Marriott, weddings are a very important business segment. In 2022 alone, reportedly 5,000 weddings took place in Marriott properties across India. The figures have surely surged much higher in 2023.
Taking note of the demand in Tier 1 and 2 cities, hotels in satellite towns are seeing a good demand. Courtyard By Marriott Aravali Resort in Faridabad, has seen a notable increase in bookings and a revenue growth of 15% from 2021.
Event Planners and Wedding Organisers: More and more people now want weddings that are special, beautiful, and unique. They prefer celebrations that are all about them, even if it means having the wedding at a different location. And that's where wedding planners come in – they help make all these wishes come true.
The wedding planning industry in India has undergone significant changes in the last two decades. Once considered a luxury reserved for the elite, wedding planners are now in demand by a broader audience seeking style and glamour for their weddings.
Vikaas Gutgutia of FNP Weddings observed, “In today’s trend-focused world, couples and families trust wedding planners to take care of all the small details, allowing them to enjoy special moments with their loved ones. These planners become like the architects of the big day, handling everything so that the bride and groom can have an amazing and unforgettable experience that everyone will remember.”
He added, “According to reports, in 2023, there were around 4 million weddings in India! This surge in weddings is definitely one big reason why more people are turning to wedding planners to make sure everything goes perfectly. To meet this demand, we introduced Shaadi Central’s “Universe of Weddings”, a one-stop solution for everything people need for their dream wedding. This season, we handled 250 weddings, up from 200 last year. FNP Weddings is not just keeping up with expectations; we’re going above and beyond to make wedding planning stress-free and unforgettable for couples.”
(Tomorrow: Part 2 of this extensive, indepth report will highlight how the great wedding industry in India supports the Jewellery, Travel & Tourism, Florist, Beauty & Wellness Services, and Entertainment sectors, as well as the trends shaping the wedding business, and providing a big economic boost for local businesses.)