Big fat Indian wedding gets bigger post-pandemic as spending rises
The big fat Indian wedding is, well, no longer fat, but definitely richer in every other manner. Two years of the pandemic has resulted in trimmed guest lists, at least for a few more years to come, but not spending.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) estimates over 2.5 million weddings to be solemnised in one month, starting November 14 this year, with maximum auspicious dates in November (20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30) and in December (4,5,7,8,9,14) and `3 trillion to flow into the wedding business this wedding season.
For an industry that has been on the back-burner due to Covid-19 in the past two years, this wedding season is full of promise in terms of celebrations and bookings. “We are looking at robust growth figures,” said Vikaas Gutgutia, MD & founder, FNP Venues & Ferns N Petals. He estimates a 25-30% rise in venue bookings this year. “Business is picking up but we forecast double-digit growth from last year with 80% of the venues being booked in advance, hosting an average of two-three events per day this year,” he said. FNP Venues hosted 565 weddings in 2019-2020, 137 in 2020-2021, 372 in 2021-2022 and expects close to 650 weddings in 2022-2023.
With couples abandoning the notion of marrying only on auspicious days, business is only set to boom. “This is a big trend for business growth. With queries and bookings for non-saaya days, most look for complete buy-outs for an intimate or exclusive wedding. In a 100-room inventory hotel, one can book all rooms to accommodate 200-250 guests,” said Monisha Dewan, senior area director, sales and distribution, South Asia, Marriott International, adding that this year their wedding business had crossed the 2019 numbers with wedding revenue YTD versus 2019 about 40% higher, while the average spend per hotel varied. “Depending on the brand and size of the wedding, the average spend has also gone up. An average wedding booking of two nights including four meals in a day can cost anywhere between `80 lakh-`1 crore, which most people opt for,” she said.
Hotel bookings are also seeing strong demand in tertiary markets like Indore or Agra. Dewan says guests are willing to pay for a brand despite inflation. The wedding business has also helped replace inbound travel to cities, says Shyam Kumar, general manager, DoubleTree by Hilton, Agra. “Agra, with close proximity to the national capital, is an ideal destination for weddings. We have doubled the numbers from 2019. With close to 15 residential weddings, including five buy-outs in the next few months, we are expecting growth of 30-40% with a massive jump in average daily rate (ADR),” said Kumar.
Smaller gatherings of 50 to 300 people are still in trend, but the hosts don’t want to cut down costs on the food menu or decor. “They want to limit the number of guests but opt for customised food menu, decor and gifts,” said Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts, Delhi. “City hotels have become destination wedding venues, which is helping us clock 30-40% more revenue from weddings as compared to pre-pandemic,” he said. Similarly, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts, with 18 hotels, is expecting revenue contribution from weddings above 50%. “It’s going to be a rebound year with 25-30% growth over previous years. People now look for design and décor details, food options and branded venues even at a slightly higher budget. An average budget comes to around `30-50 lakh,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts.
While guest count may be shrinking, inflation in commodity prices, record dollar hike, cost of goods and services have increased by 20-50% across all categories. “The big challenge is that most customers are not willing to absorb the inflated costs and are still looking for a pre-pandemic era bargain. While costs have shot through the roof post Covid as expenses are high for vendors, there are multiple vendors available in each category to offer limitless options. This further induces competition, increasing the scope for negotiations and sometimes results in more bookings than expected,” said Gutgutia of FNP.
“The cost for decor, local logistics, and transport has seen a 15% increase post-Covid. Also, the idea of sending gourmet gifts is in great demand,” said Parthip Thyagarajan, co-founder & CEO, WeddingSutra.com, a wedding portal.
With pre-wedding shoots being big business, queries for international destinations like Dubai, Italy, America, Thailand, Singapore and France are high. “Wedding photography is all about Instagrammable content like reels, candid photography, extravagant themes with photos and videos. We received around 50 queries last year but this year, there is a 60% increase in the number of queries. This year we are projecting a revenue increase of almost 40% as compared to pre-pandemic levels,” said Shrey Bhagat, co-founder, Knotting Bells, a luxury wedding photography and videography company.
For Prerika Puri, founder of To The Aisle, a wedding design studio, there’s experimentation in looks, entries and décor. “All this is now part of the wedding rituals, thus driving growth for a design studio like ours, over 10% this year as compared 5-6 % in the previous years,” she said, adding, “Rather than hosting a huge number of guests, people now want to spend more on luxurious experiences for close friends and family.”