Decoding The Business Of The Great Indian Wedding

Parthip Thyagarajan, Co-founder and CEO of writes about the economics and consumer patterns behind weddings


When I interact with international delegations, particularly those from tourism boards or hospitality chains, wanting to understand the Great Indian Wedding industry, I start by telling them that there is no such thing as an “Indian” wedding. There’s a Marwari wedding, Gujarati wedding, Punjabi wedding, Tamil wedding etc. Each is different in scale, spending, and celebration style. Similarly, when we talk of weddings of the affluent i.e. HNIs and ultra HNIs, I would make a slight distinction between business families and non-business families. 

Business families typically opt for big and grand weddings with lots of guests which are held over many days. In contrast, non-business families may invite fewer guests and host a lesser number of functions with over 100 guests. 

How is the outlook of a business family different from a non-business family when it comes to spending for a wedding?

Business families may wish to invite a large number of their connections and professional acquaintances. Those in corporate jobs, even if they have the ability to spend, may not wish to invite a large circle of professional acquaintances. With business families, it is also the time to build new relationships or forge new connections. Here, I will quote a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) for the Taj Group of Hotels. This comprehensive study was conducted some years ago and they stated: “Weddings in India are not about the bride and groom, it’s about two families getting to know each other, building long-term bonds and both enhancing their social circles thanks to the new alliance. And this is how weddings or matrimonial alliances in India are majorly different from those in the West".

Besides scale or spending, how is decision-making different in business families?

Here’s my observation: Business families by the very fact that they have been attending many weddings, particularly grand ones or at destination wedding hotspots, are typically well aware of wedding vendors beyond just wedding planners in their circle. There is a tendency to give business to those whom they know personally, or those who have offered their services for their friends' weddings. And hence the power of "word of mouth"!  Decision-making in choosing wedding vendors is not just a rational one. It’s an emotional decision too.  Relationship factors and community references majorly come into play. 

Business communities across India who are amongst the most sought-after destination wedding properties in Goa, Rajasthan, Mahabalipuram, and also international decisions, include Marwaris from Kolkata and other metros, HNIs from Rajasthan, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Business families from all over Gujarat, NRI Gujaratis and Sindhis, HNI Punjabis and Sindhis from all over India. 

Hotel chains who have luxury properties targeting families with a budget (for stay/ venues/ F & B) of over a  crore, actively look to engage with these families directly or through a network of wedding planners or even travel agents specialising in bulk buys/ hotel contracts for weddings and social events.

How spending and allocation happens for luxury and destination weddings.

A new trend is that the spending is increasingly being split between the bride and groom’s family. This is yet not a norm though. The celebration format typically is a welcome dinner on Day 1, a mehendi /haldi on Day 2 in the first half, and a sangeet on the second night. Day 3 is typically the wedding followed by a post-wedding party.

In the case of destination weddings, in most families, the rooms are taken care of by the hosts, and sometimes flights for closest friends and families. Otherwise, guests pay for their own air travel. Air travel connection and flight costs are one of the key deciding factors when deciding on the destination. Second is the grandeur of the property and its proximity to the closest airport.  Many other factors come into play. Their experience with managing hospitality for big Indian groups, their willingness to allow outside caterers, the plushness of their ballroom, and their room inventory of course. 

To summarise, the key factors include

A) A beachside or poolside or fabulous outdoor location for the mandap

B) A grand ballroom

C) Connectivity via a single flight of not more than five to nine hours from where guests are travelling, and property not more than a two-three hour drive from the airport. 

D) Hotels with diverse venues that make themselves eminently suitable to host thematic functions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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