Friday, November 30, 2012

Mumbai splurges Rs 1,000 crore on weddings in a day

As lakhs of Mumbaikars attended 30,000-odd weddings during Friday's special mahurat, anecdotal evidence suggests that over Rs 1,000 crore was transacted on the day. Wedding planners, caterers, decorators and music bands had their hands full as they juggled several venues all at once.

Industry experts say the wedding market in India is worth over Rs 1.25 lakh crore, and Mumbai contributes a big share. "People splurge up to Rs 20-25 lakh on the marriage day, not to mention sangeet, mehndi and the honeymoon," said Farhat Hussain, manager of Mayfair Banquets in Worli.

Trousseau, wedding gifts, flowers, decorations, henna and makeup artists as well as photographers all come at a premium with demand peaking, not to mention gold that almost hit Rs 33,000 per 10gm this past week driven by the onset of marriage mahurats.

Real apes reel

Homogenized by Hindi cinema, the Indian wedding has ballooned beyond the nuptials and is now spread over a leisurely three to four days. Mehndi, sangeet and cocktail functions, once the preserve of a particular community or class, are commonplace. Small wonder that henna artist Jyoti Chheda was sleep-deprived from having worked 24/7 over the past few days.

Five brides, all of whom were married on Friday, had requisitioned her services, causing her to shuttle from one house to another. Marked for four weddings, bandmaster Ashok Bhambri rushed from Ghatkopar to Vashi while deploying two teams to manage the rush in Chembur.

Pandit Prakash Pendse of Thane performed at one wedding during the noon mahurat and another at 6.30pm, receiving a fee of Rs 15,000 at each. "The affluent pay anywhere from Rs 50,000 to a lakh."

The economic swing in the wedding market is so vast that all income groups find optimum choice should they shop in time. The Kite Bhandary community hall in Dadar is hired for as little as Rs 30,000-50,000 while Dadasaheb Gaikwad Sabhagruha at Four Bungalows charges around Rs 1 lakh, with a rider that the party use the inhouse caterer. "The caterer charges Rs 600-800 per head," said spokesperson Vijay Jadhav.

The catering is a mix of different palates. Jayaleela Banquets in Goregaon charges Rs 400-600 a plate while Mayfair levies Rs 1,600 plus taxes on its non-vegetarian menu. Mayfair Banquets' Farhat Hussain said Mumbaikars "spend a bomb", particularly on theme weddings that take place at night.

Hours before the Friday noon mahurat, florists in Bandra fetched bundles of fresh tuberose, marigold and rose for decoration. "These flowers are typically suited to an Indian theme, but there are clients who prefer the classy look of orchids and anthuriums," said Preeti Karma of Karma Florist.

Despite the knowledge that people splurge on weddings, planner Rupali Goshalia was surprised by the thousand-crore investment in a single day. "I myself advocate a simple, registered wedding to my relatives but no one listens," she said.