Sunday, July 26, 2009

You are invited to my big, fat Indian wedding

You are invited to my big, fat Indian wedding

The nofrills Indian nuptial ceremony has become a relic of the past as more brides and grooms splurge copious amounts of money on lavish, dream weddings.

Tough economic times may have resulted in slightly trimmer guest lists, but there’s been little sparing of costs on wedding garb, jewellery, venues, decor, invitations, photography and, most importantly, food.

Prenuptial festivities, too, have become extravagant affairs. Gone are the days of family and friends gathering at the homes of the bride and groom for the traditional meal, music, dance and wedding rituals.

These days bridal couples are opting for fancy venues — from deckedout halls to restaurants — to host their guests before the big day.

Wellknown Durban set designer Koogan Pillay said Indian weddings had become more elaborate.

“More and more people are going for small numbers and attention to detail from the appointment of tables to the dinner service and napkins.

“In the old days, it was paper napkins. Now it’s the starched type. The younger generation are well researched on international weddings, right down to the type of cutlery.”

Pillay, whose signature sets include giant stonelike Hindu deities, said some people spent up to a R1million on prewedding and wedding festivities.

“We have reached Bollywood proportions, if not more, by our standards,” he said.
Pillay, who has been in the industry for 28 years, said it was concerning that, despite the recession, some people were still splurging on weddings.

“Wanting to be better or keeping up with the Joneses is a thing of the past. Now it is what people specifically want and their tastes.

“Weddings have evolved into big social events. Traditional ceremonies are now being followed by a reception, where extended family and friends have a big party,” he said.

He said weddings had become stage productions because of the venues which lent themselves to a theatrical setting.

“My passion for theatre is coming through in weddings with a theatrical feel. We are trying to make weddings more interactive. It’s an experience that should tickle all the senses. There is also the use of pyrotechnics.

“I try to remind clients that the wedding is a religious ceremony and that spiritual ambience has to be created,” he said.

A new trend of garden weddings also seems to be becoming popular with Indian bridal couples, with white marquees for receptions being transformed into fairylands with lighting, drapes and airconditioning.

One such recent garden wedding, at Durban’s Botanic Gardens, was a lavish affair with a beautifully decorated area for a Johannesburg bride, the daughter of a wealthy Durban businessman, and her groom set up in the pond.

It also featured stunning lifesize stone deities illuminated with soft lighting, a giant marquee complete with a big screen for more than 500 guests to view the nuptials and a fairylight draped white dining tent.

Bridgette Bester, sales and events coordinator for Liquid Chefs, a mobile bar service, said they had set up six bar stations at different spots, serving alcoholic and nonalcoholic cocktails for the wedding.

“There were 750 guests, which was a wedding to remember. The interest in having mobile bars at weddings has broadened. We are getting more Hindus asking us for quotes, ” said Bester.

A Reservoir Hills businessman, Sanjith Dukhi, whose daughter, Anusha, recently married Mukesh Mittal, said people were willing to splurge on weddings.

Dukhi said his daughter’s prewedding festivities took place at Kashmir Restaurant in Umhlanga and Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom, respectively, followed by the wedding ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. The Mittals, who are both actuaries, live in Hong Kong.

“Although the size of weddings have become more intimate, the wedding celebrations have become very expensive.

“No matter how many guests, the venue, food, decor, clothing and jewellery still costs a lot. People are moving away from the home scene to venues, where you can create an atmosphere with the decor and you have more space to dance, ” said Dukhi.

In February, Durban actress and model Tarina Patel tied the knot with Iqbal Meer Sharma, the deputy director general in the Department of Trade and Industry, in an elaborate fairytale affair at Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort.

The couple, who had Islamic and Hindu ceremonies, had the set of a Rajasthan palace built in India, shipped to South Africa, and set up at the venue. They also flew in two Indian chefs and a DJ. Patel said she had replicated one of the world’s top Indian weddings.

Durban model Kamisha Nanhoo, who recently married Sudir Maharaj in the Kendra Hall, said couples these days were opting for ultramodern and glamorous weddings. “We chose ours to be simple and traditional. The stage setting was the replica of a temple,” she said.

TELL US: What do you think about opulent weddings in today’s economic climate? Email your responses to before 11am on Wednesday, July 29.