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Made in India [Suniaina Kumar, Indian
the rich American millionaire and his arm-candy in Bunty aur
Babli who aspire to buy the Taj Mahal for the ultimate romantic
wedding? Well, Steve and Julie of the United Kingdom were
not quite as ambitious but close.
planned their wedding, the couple wanted to realise their
long-cherished dream—to tie the knot at the ultimate monument
of love: the Taj Mahal. So, they flew down to India, had a
de rigueur Indian wedding, with the accompanying rituals,
ceremonies and fanfare and then exchanged rings in the backdrop
of the marble wonder.
and Julie are not alone. As more and more couples from around
the world look for unique ways to wed at exotic destinations,
wedding tourism has become a multi-billion dollar global industry.
Wedding tourism as a legitimate and upcoming part of the tourism
industry is a phenomenon that has taken off worldwide in the
past three-four years, with Britain, US, Australia and Japan
sending out the largest number of couples worldwide to romantic
cities for destination weddings, be it South Africa, Scotland,
Thailand, Switzerland, the Caribbean, UAE or Sri Lanka.
India has been figuring on the agenda for this increasing
tribe of adventure romantics. “India represents colour, culture
and exoticism and all this is very appealing to couples on
the lookout for exciting new wedding destinations,” says Jairaj
Gupta, CEO, Shaadionline.
Hawking and Robert Martin, graphic designers from Australia,
who had an elaborate Indian wedding at a fort in Rajasthan,
complete with Anne assuming the name of Chandni and arriving
on a palki and Robert as Shergill lugging a prince’s armour.
While their style was more exotic, for Sophie Kjeldsen and
Luke Ormes, copywriters from UK, nothing less than a completely
sanctimonious Hindu wedding with a pandit and mandap at a
temple in Benaras and of course a Benarsi sari, would do.
of Tourism has taken the cue and though it shares no official
figures on inbound wedding tourism, it is considered the market
for the future. Says Amitabh Kant, joint secretary, Ministry
of Tourism: “We are taking wedding tourism very seriously
and promoting it in all our foreign offices abroad and also
looking at more initiatives to sell India as a top wedding
is trying to market India’s festive spirit as its USP. “India
has the best of food, culture and festivities and there’s
a huge sense of drama, which is what international tourists
love. People are coming in with chartered planes for the complete
Indian experience of heritage hotels, elephants and camels.
Bollywood has also helped a lot in generating interest in
Indian weddings and getting tourist inflow,” Kant adds.
couples making their way to India are looking out for two
types of Indian weddings: the Maharaja Wedding and the Brahminical
Wedding. The Maharaja Wedding experience is replete with riches,
exoticism and palaces while the Brahminical wedding is all
about spirituality, mysticism and Vedic rites. Needless to
say, the much-speculated wedding extravaganza of Liz Hurley
and Arun Nayar in February would fall in the Maharaja Wedding
category, with the groom all set to arrive on a white horse,
flanked by camels and elephants at the majestic Devi Garh
Palace at Udaipur.
hotel industry, typically oriented towards conventions, corporate
meetings and sporting events, has realised the benefits of
joining the wedding party. Says Vasudha Sondhi, VP Sales,
HRH Group of Hotels, Rajasthan, which has hosted several such
international weddings in Udaipur: “The wedding industry constitutes
a fairly large segment of our total revenues. We have a lot
of domestic and international traffic at peak wedding season.
We're offering regal wedding venues and we like to give our
clients customised packages. People come to our hotels for
not only weddings, but also sometimes to retake their vows”
the Hurley-Nayar celebrity wedding is expected to do for Rajasthan
what Madonna’s wedding did for Scotland, set off a beeline
for I-dos-in-India from across the world. Almost a third of
all weddings that take place in Scotland now are tourist weddings
with the tourism board stepping in to change legislation making
it possible for couples to conduct their nuptials at castles,
boats, even golf courses.
planners says India could well be a hot international wedding
destination, but a little tailoring would be necessary. “Wedding
tourism may be a low-volume market in terms of the numbers
of tourists coming in but it is definitely a high value market,
because the spends are so big. Weddings are the time for spending
and all related sectors, including catering, décor,
entertainment and transport benefit from it,” says Gupta of
average, 5,000 international weddings take place every year,
each wedding typically bringing in about 30 to 50 guests to
the host country, who stay for about two weeks and spend big
bucks, resulting in a win-win situation for all. Wedding planners
say that with couples coming to India; Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala,
Agra and Varanasi are the most popular wedding destinations.
to forget the honeymoon. “What India offers is completely
unique with combination wedding-honeymoon trips…A couple getting
married in Varanasi can head to Goa for a completely different
experience for their honeymoon,” says wedding planner Mehar
wedding tourism is becoming a high-value bracket, wedding
industry insiders are of the consensus that unlike other countries
which actively market themselves as wedding destinations,
the tourism board in India has not been able to cash in on
offers everything, from beautiful resorts to beaches and palaces.
Yet, it does not figure on the list of top wedding destinations.
What would be ideal is for the tourism ministry to tie up
with wedding planners and hotels and properties to target
mid-budget weddings,” says Parthip Thyagarajan, director,
major deterrent has been an archaic law, according to which
foreigners who want to get married in India must stay in the
country for 30 days. “We get so many interested enquiries
from all over the world, but those people are put off when
they learn about the 30-day mandatory stay. It's a law which
needs to be changed,” says Gupta of Shaadionline, who organised
a wedding party for Cathy and Horace of Germany. When the
couple planned their great Indian wedding, they could only
take out 10 days so they first got their marriage registered
in their home country and then came to India with a bunch
of friends for a gala Indian wedding party, the highlight
being a red bejewelled odhni. Read
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