India: The colossal rise of the wedding industry of the ultra-rich
By Shilpa Dhamija24 janvier 2023
For India’s ultra high-net-worth families, the wedding is the ultimate time to splurge. From commissioning multi million dollar bespoke bridal ensembles to hiring Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez for setting the dance floors on fire, nothing is off limits. Analysis.
The wedding business in India is the industry of all superlatives. While the average celebration lasts only one to two days in most cultures, Indian weddings can last from three to seven days or more. Many industries are therefore involved: hotels, catering, decoration and entertainment are key sectors. In the last two months of 2022 alone, it is estimated that 46 billion dollars (3.75 lakh crore INR) were spent on weddings. And according to a specialised institute, this figure is expected to reach 159 billion dollars (13 lakh crore INR) in the first six months of 2023. "Indian weddings are an explosion of colour, glitter, sparkle and, of course, love! They are much more elaborate than any other culture's wedding celebrations," says Joseph Radhik, a wedding photographer who has captured some of the most sought-after wedding ceremonies, such as that of actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, former Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and even the Ambani family.
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Planning the ultimate soiree
In ultra high-net-worth family weddings, expectations are sky high, as not just the family but all the guests are amongst the world’s most distinguished and discerning individuals
Kainaz Sethna, wedding planner
To make the grand affair one for the books, India’s affluent families do not plan the weddings themselves, they dream about it and leave it to a team of experts to turn it into reality. “In ultra high-net-worth family weddings, expectations are sky high, as not just the family but all the guests are amongst the world’s most distinguished and discerning individuals”, reveals Kainaz Sethna, one of the carefully selected wedding planners that organised the multi-day wedding celebrations of the Ambani scions. “With world travellers who have seen everything, there is always a scope to push the envelope”, adds Tina Tharwani of wedding planning company Shaadi Squad, who counts Priyanka Chopra Jonas and many other bollywood millionaires as clients.
The key here is to give a unique experience to everyone attending the wedding. The price there is secondary to what it comes for
Devika Narain, wedding planner
The wedding planning commences with the selection of a suitable destination either in the home country or overseas. “Indian weddings have gone to far corners of the earth, from Mexico to snow capped mountains, castles and many places in Europe. The key here is to give a unique experience to everyone attending the wedding. The price there is secondary to what it comes for”, reveals Devika Narain, who designed a distinctive pastel wedding for Virat Kohli and bollywood actress Anushka Sharma in Tuscany. “Expenses for destination weddings of the ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals can begin anywhere between 600000 to 3 million dollars”, adds Tina. For the top-end budgets, imagination is the only limit.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas chose the Umaid Bhawan Palace (Around 1000 dollars per room per night in peak season) in Jodhpur, to marry Nick Jonas in a multi-day wedding affair. The entire Palace with about 70 rooms was booked for several days along with its inhouse facilities.
One of the most extravagant Indian weddings hosted in recent memory is that of Isha Ambani Piramal, daughter of Mukesh Ambani (8th richest man in the world) with Anand Piramal, son of billionaire Ajay Piramal. The grand string of soirées started with an official engagement ceremony for the duo at Lake Como in Italy, with decor designed by Dolce & Gabbana and a performance by singer John Legend. Some of her pre-wedding functions were hosted in Rajasthan’s iconic 16th-century City Palace hotel. The guests in attendance were wowed by legendary performances by Bollywood's top celebrities and a private concert by Beyoncé.
“About 60% of the weddings we plan are destination weddings, unless there is a very big crowd that has to be accommodated”, notes Tina of Shaadi Squad. She added that Rajasthan rules the roost for destination weddings in India while Turkey, Dubai, Bali, Doha, Switzerland and other European countries are currently trending for overseas destinations. “When choosing a destination, we also have to consider the travel time for guests who may be scheduled to attend 2-3 consecutive destination weddings during the peak wedding season”.
Wedding jewellery, a market worth almost 80 billion dollars
Bridal jewellery in India is a symbol of wealth and status
Manish Malhotra, Indian couturier
Wedding trousseau and jewellery are another crucial and indispensable part of the grand Indian wedding. So much so that wedding jewellery sales drive a majority of India’s gems and jewellery market that stood at a value of 78.50 billion dollars in 2021. “Bridal jewellery in India is a symbol of wealth and status,'' says Manish Malhotra, one of India’s most celebrated couturiers who’s UHNW client list includes Priyanka Chopra Jonas, middle eastern princesses and pretty much every wealthy Indian fashionista. “Every accessory holds significance whether it's a nath (nose-pin), necklace, ring or earrings”, he elucidates.
Trousseaus are carefully planned over months with bespoke creations worthy of the ultimate celebration. Isha Ambani Piramal’s trousseau included the first ever Indian lehenga made by Maison Valentino, several graceful gowns and traditional Indian couture. But it was her wedding-day ensemble that was probably the most expensive Indian bridal finery in recent history. Rumoured to be worth 11 million dollars, it was elegantly customised with a variety of traditional Indian embroideries along with priceless blessings from her mother. Isha incorporated her mother, Nita Ambani's wedding sari in her wedding day ensemble, “which has been pleated and enhanced with majestic zardozi borders'', explains the designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla who created the dress.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas wore a bespoke red lehenga for her Hindu wedding by designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and another bespoke Ralph Lauren gown with a 75-foot long veil for her Christian wedding. Bespoke wedding ensembles are no more limited to the bride. Couturiers are now hired to design complementing ensembles for the entire immediate family of the bride as well as the groom, so that those Instagram images have the perfect composition of a fairy tale wedding.
Zardozi comes from two Persian words: zar or zarin meaning 'gold', and dozi meaning 'sewing'. Zardozi is a type of heavy and elaborate metal embroidery on a silk, satin, or velvet fabric base. Designs are often created using gold and silver threads and can incorporate pearls, beads, and precious stones.
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