A regular Indian wedding is synonymous with everything grandeur. From over-the-top decorations to expensive clothes and jewelry to never-ending guest list and an elaborate food menu, it is known to be an extravagant affair.
The last thing anyone would have ever thought was the bride, groom and their loved ones wearing masks. Well, there is a first time for everything and Covid-19 has made this happen.
It has changed the literal perception of Indian weddings, at least till the time everything is back to normal.
Tying the Knot amid Covid-19
Kavana Pandikanda Singh and Nilesh Singh got married on July 13 this year in a temple followed by a register marriage in Bengaluru. However, this is not how it was supposed to happen.
Kavana’s expectation was just like every other girl would dream of – gorgeous lehenga, lots of jewelry and a grand ceremony with all the loved ones around.
“Getting married in this pandemic was really overwhelming, both our parents were not even part of our most important day physically,” says Kavana.
Due to the unprecedented increase of Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru, she had to tell her parents not to attend their own daughter’s marriage.
“Travelling was a big risk and I couldn’t have asked them to go through it because of us,” she adds.
Nilesh’s parents were in the North East, hence even they could not travel to attend the ceremony.
Keeping Track of Rules along with Wedding Rituals is a Pain
Even while Kavana and Nilesh chose to get married in a very simple manner, things weren’t easy. Imagine the bride with all the makeup and jewelry, along with a compulsion of wearing a mask.
“It was a pain,” admits Kavana. “The makeup started wearing off due to constant sweat. However, we ensured that all safety and social distancing measures are followed at the venue,” she adds.
The only time they took of the mask was to take a few pictures.
While there are so many things to do prior to the wedding, preparing guest list should top the chart as the most difficult task.
With the restriction of not more than 50 guests at the venue, this has become even more difficult.
“We were very cautious, hence we invited only 10 people,” says Kavana. “It was very tough to prepare such a short list,” she admits.
Kavana has a lot of friends in the city and most of them wanted to part of her wedding. Some understood the gravity of the situation, others did not.
“We can’t keep everyone happy, can we?” she rightly asks.
Even the venues, star hotels, photographers and wedding planners insist on knowing the number of guests expected to attend the ceremony to ensure rules laid down by the government are no flouted.
After the lockdown regulations were eased out, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway has hosted 42 wedding and related social events.
“The client has to share a list of all expected attendees at least two days in advance with travel history of past two weeks and their current address,” says Akshay Varma, Associate Director of Sales at the hotel.
He further adds, “We have refused events with a guest list of higher numbers than the prescribed number by the local authorities.”
Internationally acclaimed wedding planner and events manager, Zubair Abdul Waheed has a similar rule for the events during Covid-19.
“Our first question to our client is – how many guests are expected? We have been approached for projects with 100-300 guests. We have strictly declined to take such requests,” he says.
Zubair has undertaken 6 wedding projects and 1 project each for anniversary, engagement and private dinner between May and August this year.
Change in mindset and unusual trends
As the number of attendees has reduced not by choice but by force, the focus on amplification to the virtual attendees has become equally important to the guests on-site.
“Small will be the new big,” says Akash Kalia, Commercial Director at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bangalore.
“Guests who are engaging in such event discussions are looking for a high level of customization, creativity, increased bandwidth, over the top setups, one-stop solutions and the list goes on,” he adds.
Akash recalls an incident from one of the weddings where the couple could not have their parents physically to be a part of the event due to travel restrictions in place.
He says, “Since the event can only happen once as per auspicious timings and family needs, there was immense focus on increased internet bandwidth to provide seamless live event relay and over the top event setup.”
The hotel even had to strategically place photo cut outs of key family members at the wedding mandap and venue to ensure the event photography includes key members of the family.
Similarly, Kavana and Nilesh created a zoom invite for all the virtual attendees.
“This was an exhilarating experience. Having our parents bless us virtually was something which we never thought,” says Kavana.
Zubair sees the limited number of people as a positive change. He says, “As the number of guests has reduced considerably, we get more places to move around and capture the couple from more angles.”
He further added, “We get to spend more time with the couple to get their shots right as there is no hurry in the rituals or ceremonies.”
However, this Pune based international wedding photographer has experienced an unusual trend – clients expecting a discount has significantly increased.
With limited number of guests, weddings have become an intimate affair. “Due to this, a lot of clients think they can put a budget constraint on photography and expect a discount. However, they need to understand that it doesn’t work that way,” says Taher Hussain, Founder & Director of Amour Affairs.
The structure and work flow for a wedding is the same, be it for 50 or 500 or 5000 people. A wedding revolves around the couple and the moments happening around them. Hence, the number of guests or the size of the guest list doesn’t make a difference.
He further clarifies, “Smaller wedding doesn’t make our job any easier. The amount of hard work, creativity and passion that the photographers put in remains the same.”
“We still work just as hard to give our clients the best memories. This is not a product that can be calculated on the basis of per head cost,” added Taher.
Safety & Hygiene Precautions undertaken by Service Providers
At DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, all the communication with guests happens either on a phone call or through WhatsApp. Everything is contactless including the signing of any documentation.
“We anchor on our communication strengths and go that extra mile to appraise our guests before, during and post an event through regular messaging and updates,” says Akash.
He further adds, “Hotel staff are provided with protective equipment and enhanced training, designed to safeguard the well-being of our guests. When we cater to 40-50 guests, the team conducts several role-plays to master the detailed planning and execution before the event begins.”
JW Marriott Hotel in Bengaluru has upgraded its infrastructures considering physical distancing, creating a safe contactless experience and training its staff to follow the guided protocols without hindering the guest experience or invading their privacy.
“Fortunately the guests so far have taken the ownership of their safety in following the new norms,” says Gaurav Sinha, Director of Operations at the hotel.
Wedding Photographer, Taher has put in place few safety and hygiene rules for his team like wearing a PPE kit along with a mask and keeping the equipment sanitized while shooting.
“Wearing gloves is a personal choice as sometimes it becomes difficult to handle and operate the camera. Hence, we have left the choice to the team members,” he adds.
Sheraton Grand is using stickers and markings at all parts of the hotel reminding the guests to follow social distancing norms and the use of protective gear.
“If guests are seen entering the hotel without any protective gear, the team offers gloves and masks to the guests. If any guest is found walking without a mask inside the hotel premises, he/she is politely requested to wear a mask,” says Akshay.
Covid-19 is an eye opener
Unlike previous times where the families would spend lavishly on destination weddings, most of the couples these days like the idea of an intimate and personal event, making use of digital advancements.
“Spending their most special day with only the ones who mean the most to them, couples are increasingly enjoying their wedding to the fullest where they can be their own self and revel in maximum attention,” Akash of DoubleTree.
Since Nilesh and Kavana did not have an inflated expense at their marriage, Nilesh’s dad suggested utilizing the funds to buy a house for them in Bengaluru. “We found our dream house sooner than expected,” says Kavana.
She has a message for other couples who are planning to get married soon. “Do not spend an exorbitant amount of money on weddings, use it wisely for things which you normally cannot afford but would have a great sense of utility in your future,” she concludes.