In the word ‘Vivaha’ (marriage) ‘Vaha’ means ‘to flow’ and ‘Vi’ means ‘harmoniously together’. Two different individuals, two distinct personalities raised in two different places unite from that day onwards (I am talking about the arranged marriages and not love marriages and marriages where the girl becomes pregnant first and then the marriage takes place) to find a common identity, a common goal and to be precise a common all! But such ideal marriages have become rarer, in the society impacted by materialistic civilization.
Celebrating marriages has become a trade and a status symbol! For the event managers it is a lucrative proposition.
This business is one of the fastest growing and the avenues of expenditure expand in all directions like the growth of the octopus! Formerly, marriages meant purchasing gold and jewels, apparel and a feast to the guests. Now it is much more! The Big Day has an identity of its own and is an ever-to-remember-event.
It is almost like the shooting of a movie.
Earlier, the status symbol was to arrange marriages in the banquet hall of a Five-star hotel. Now, that proposition is being considered as old-fashioned. Farms and lakes have arrived into the picture, and the couple enacts a part of the honey-moon even before the wedding! The bride does not gracefully walk some distance holding the ‘varamala’ in her hand to join her bridegroom. She arrives in a flower-decorated trolley that moves very slowly towards mandap. Guests are ferried across the brightly lit lakes. Thousands of candles are lit up if the marriage is celebrated near the beach. The demands of the customers and the flight of imagination of the event managers are mind-boggling!
Foreign guests specially flown for the wedding and foreign troupes for dancing, is common place in business weddings. I attended one such wedding recently that was arranged in a rented 10 acre farm house. The wheat crop standing on the farm was specially razed for wedding celebrations, and it took about a month for the stage, tent and trappings to be brought into the shape of a gala mandap, resembling the city of Benares. The wedding planner belonged to that city. The replica of the architectural details of the city was vividly brought into the overall design in that vast ground specially air-cooled for the occasion. 250 valets were recruited to facilitate parking of the guest-vehicles.
I asked the pundit who was the intermediary in arranging the alliance. His business commission for the wedding which is calculated on the total expenses of the wedding @ 2 ½% is 1.5 million rupees he said, requesting confidentiality of the information. The guests consisted an avalanche of businessmen, bureaucrats in high positions, super-politicians, a few Chief Ministers of States, top legal luminaries etc.
Once people attend such weddings, they talk about it for a long time to come. Painting old film posters, mujra performances, gambling for fun with attractive prizes of costly cars, giant paintings depicting the classical themes, have become part of the wedding styles. Some event managers have designed a detailed questionnaire to get an idea of the taste of their clients, and plans are finalized after discussions lasting several rounds. For the wedding of an important Delhi business family member to a NRI bride, the international-fame artist Late MF Husain was specially flown in from Oman to paint ‘live’ at the marriage ceremony. Limited edition of wedding invitations was commissioned of prints of well-known contemporary artists.
Rich Indians spend more than the rich Americans for weddings!
The business of luxury weddings is growing at the rate of about 30% annually. Chartered Jets, proposing to the fiancée at mid-air, bride with the diamond breastplate, food at the rate of Rs. 4,000/- per plate–things that could not have been imagined a few years ago, are happening now! Corporate marriage alliances are also common.
The unfortunate aspect—the divorce rate is also on the increase! Mercifully it is just 1.3% in India (13 out of the 1000 marriages fail), where it is 54% in USA and Sweden.
When big-budget marriages fail, the results are ‘colossal losses’ for the parties concerned.