MOST Indian weddings are no small affair.
With upscale northern Indian weddings, you’ll find that an unending cycle of costume changes, fantastically shimmery jewelry, large (oftentimes dancing) crowds, and festivities that run for a week are commonplace.
Many Indian families regard their child’s wedding as a platform to showcase personal grandeur and style, and it’s quite a spectacle to behold if you have the honor of attending one.
Going hand in hand with the scale of many Indian weddings, the wedding tourism industry is reaping the benefits. India’s “big fat wedding industry” is known to be expanding at breakneck speed and growing at an annual rate of 25-30 percent.
According to a report on Business Insider, a person in India spends an average of one fifth of their personal wealth accumulated in a lifetime on a wedding ceremony.
The report added the ancillary markets benefiting from this boom include the gold and jewelry industry, wedding planning services, apparels, makeup, and other services such as wedding photography and catering.
A separate report on Business Standard said that there are 300,000 wedding-related vendors across the country, which altogether employ three million people during the peak season.
Indians’ love affair with weddings has also brought along a growing trend of destination weddings. The exoticism and novelty of a destination wedding helps to showcase a family’s style and wealth.
Largely owing to its distance and cost effectiveness, Thailand seems to be favorite among couples and families. In fact, Thailand was voted the Best Wedding Destination by readers of Travel + Leisure India and South Asia, the fifth consecutive year Thailand bagged the title.
Thailand hosts about 300 weddings from India every year, or roughly one event every two days. Each wedding party comprises between 100-600 people, covers three to six days, with budgets ranging from 10 million baht (US$290,000) to 50 million baht (US$1.43 million) per event.
Neha Mehrotra, owner and stylist at Foreign Wedding Planners, told Travel Wire Asia, “[In Thailand], you get the perfect blend of a venue by the beach coupled with world-class resorts, stunning locations and great flexibility.”
Thailand too is a treasure trove of luxury resorts that are considerably cheaper than those in a coastal city like Goa. Areas like Hua Hin and Rayong allow Indian couples the reality of a five-star experience.
Mehrotra said, “[Thailand has] the stunning hills of Chiang Mai for a mountain wedding or more exotic locations like Koh Samui, Krabi or Phuket for those who want a quieter wedding venue.”
Services like flowers and food are also equipped to cater to Indians owing to the volume of weddings in Thailand. Candice Pereira, creative head and co-founder of Marry Me, told Travel Wire Asia, “Most hotels [in Thailand] have held Indian weddings at their property and are well-versed with the requirements like food and rituals.
“There are also lots of local vendors for Indian weddings which makes it more affordable as you don’t have to fly in all your vendors.”
Whether it’s caterers that specialize in Jain food, dhol walas, baraat bands or mehndi artists, vendors and planners are not scarce in Thailand. Of course, couples can also opt for services such as DJs, Thai cultural artists, and aerial dancers.
In the case of Foreign Wedding Planners, Mehrotra said her staff are well-versed in Thai, Hindi and English so that language barriers don’t get in the way of wedding planning. The company also offers services for Indian couples such as sight-seeing recommendations and topping up SIM cards.
“We often get told that the guests hardly felt they were in a country of foreign language,” she added.
An average sized Indian wedding in Thailand for 150-200 pax across four days and three nights can cost between 80 to 140 lakhs (US$120,000-US$209,000).
While Thailand is the most popular ASEAN country for Indian weddings, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bali, Singapore, and Vietnam are destinations on the rise. If these countries want to see tourism revenues roll in, they best be upping their wedding service industry to cater to Indians.