‘Marriages are made in heaven’ is what most Indians believe and to celebrate this heavenly affair, Indians spend a lot and they do it in style. In fact, Marriages in India have created a market of their own and has become a potential business for many that can be passed on from father to son. But with soaring inflation and growing expenses, families are now compromising on the scale of the marriages.
The pomp with which marriages were performed has lost its sheen and has become a more toned down ceremony. Families of Brides and Bridegrooms are turning out to be stinger to cut down on their budget the expenses.
“People are now a little more cost conscious these days because they’re worried about the economic slowdown”, says Sudha Khanna, a wedding planner.
“I’d say I’ve seen people pull back by about 5 to 10 percent in terms of how much is spent on a wedding in comparison to last year,” she said.
More than calling it a heavenly affair , marriages in India have been branded as a costly affair because every thing in the ceremony comes with a price tag starting from the holy man, the ‘purohit’ to the laborers who decorate the mantap.
The ‘holy’ men too have hiked their prices. Purohits are charging anything between 5,000- Rs 10,000 for performing a wedding. “The wedding season is the only time we earn a substantial sum and our cost of living too has gone up,” says K.Jayaprakash Sastry , a purohit from Sainikpuri.
It’s estimated that over 15 million weddings take place in India every year, providing work for businesses ranging from wedding planners in fancy hotels to the bustling streets and alleys of Mumbai‘s flower markets.
But because of the economic crisis, cost consciousness is creeping in to these celebrations, and affecting all sectors of the wedding industry.
Another sector that is cashing on in the price hike is the beauty industry. Beauty parlors in the city are charging anything between 3,000- 8,000 for ‘bridal make-up’ which might or might not include bridal mehendi. Bridal mehendi is charged anything between 800 to 1500. “For a middle class bride like me spending so much on bridal makeup and mehendi sounds too lavish, so I have decided to lessen the burden for my parents,” says M.Neha.
For the lower middle class and the poor, impending marriages in the family are looked upon as a threat to their existence. “I couldn’t afford to perform my daughter’s wedding. So I got her married in the mass weddings organised by Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams,” said L.Venkataih, a peon with a national bank.
Snigdha Reddy, a software engineer, whose sister got married in April of 2008, feels that it’s high time the bridegrooms realize how heavy the cost of performing a marriage is. Her cousin who got married in 2007 spent nearly 2 lakh less than what they did this year. “The amount charged by the photographer and videographer apart from the floral decorators was overpriced,” she says.
In an interview with Karishma Vaswani, Business correspondent of BBC News, Rajesh Rataria said that “Couples are being more careful these days”, he says. “I’ve seen a 35% drop in business in terms of expensive honeymoon packages.”
“It’s not that young married couples aren’t travelling, it’s that they’re choosing less expensive packages.”
“Whereas before you’d see a lot of young people head off to the Caribbean or to Europe right after they got married, now people are staying closer to home, choosing Singapore or Malaysia instead.”
“Everyone’s worried about saving money – no one knows what’s in store next year,” he said.
Rajesh Rataria runs Cirrus Travels, a travel agency that’s been based in Mumbai for over a decade.