Home Health & Fitness The surprise entry: Comeback of 'destination weddings' as India unlocks

The surprise entry: Comeback of ‘destination weddings’ as India unlocks

Destination weddings are the ultimate aspiration for millions of couples around the world. As a concept, international celebrity couples popularised the concept of destination weddings in India. In 2019 itself, India witnessed a media (rather social media) frenzy around Big Bollywood couples tying knots across Europe’s exotic locations. Every year, lakhs of destination weddings take place around the world, with many Indians joining the bandwagon to celebrate their ‘D Day’ abroad. However, with COVID-19 jolting the entire world into confinement, several countries under some form of lockdown, and air travel taking a backseat, the big question for the big fat Indian wedding industry is — Are destination weddings going to make a comeback in India? The answer is a resounding yes!According to a KPMG report, prior to COVID-19 with nearly 10-12 million weddings taking place annually, the Indian wedding industry was estimated at a staggering $40-50 billion. However, this growth came to a screeching halt with the pandemic, while India was placed under a stringent lockdown. Now, as the country moves forward and takes a step towards normalcy, with each unlocking phase, there have been certain demand surges, with upward traction for destination weddings.Now, before we dive into what the future holds for the wedding industry, let’s take a step back to understand lessons learned from black swan events in the past. India has witnessed one too many crises in the past two decades, including the 2008 financial crisis, multiple terrorist attacks, and epidemics. Through it all, it’s interesting to note the resilience of the wedding industry. It always bounced back. The reason why some like to call the Indian wedding industry ‘recession-proof’ lies in its cultural significance. It’s a big milestone for Indians, considered as a holy union between two families rather than just two individuals. Here’s why destination weddings are the next big trend for the Indian wedding industry.Small is the new bigIndia has begun unlocking, cautiously. However, as per government guidelines, gatherings are still restricted to 50-100 people, depending on the measures implemented by local authorities. In such a world, social distancing has become a way of life. Couples that are tying the knot during the pandemic are adhering to guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests, therefore, giving rise to intimate wedding trends, favorable for smaller, more close-knit gatherings. Couples are embracing this trend like never before. With reduced guest lists, hosts can now organise a more elaborate wedding, which is experiential.Smaller weddings also mean reduced budgets. In this case, there are two types of customers – ones who save and cut down their budget on the overall celebration, and the second – who save on the guestlist and spend the same budget on a more elaborate wedding at exotic destinations like palaces, or affordable resorts a drive away from the city. With air travel taking a backseat and state borders opening up, customers are excited to travel within a motorable distance, resulting in an upswing in domestic tourism, and therefore, destination weddings in India, as opposed to international locations, thereby tapping on the discerning consumer base as well. Interestingly, since Unlock 4.0, Weddingz.in is witnessing an upward trend for consumers opting for elaborate yet safe resort weddings. While some choose to go ahead with venues in their city, some others prefer to opt for resort venues at a drivable distance, for example, from Jaipur to Delhi.Weddings gone virtualThe pandemic has forced the wedding industry to embrace technology. With the number of attendees dropping drastically from an average of 300-400 guests to a mere 50-100, Live Streaming of events has emerged as a rising trend at weddings and it’s here to stay.While couples are inclined towards destination weddings, besides big budgets, another factor that downplayed the concept for many was the transportation of friends and family from one location to another. Seemingly, most Indians host their weddings at their native place, where the majority of attendees reside. With the size of the wedding reduced by a third, this obligation doesn’t exist today. Moreover, enabling all your guests to be a part of your wedding celebrations virtually is another game-changer. This is especially beneficial for senior citizens who won’t be able to attend the wedding to maintain their health and safety given the current situation.New age millennial couples prefer experiencesMillennials are shaking things up. And therefore, their preferences have drastically changed the traditional Indian wedding industry in the past decade. Today, there’s a demand for exotic floral arrangements, aesthetically appealing e-vites, simple yet elegant decor that brings out the couple’s personalities, pre-wedding shoots, candid photography, among much more.It’s a social-first approach to life. Every milestone is pictured in a visually appealing Instagram post. Keeping up with the times, and slightly influenced by their western counterparts, many new-age Indian couples are aspirational about small weddings at a beautiful location. Something that extends beyond a ceremony, a weekend celebration, or a holiday with their close family and friends. COVID-19 has given these couples an opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for such a ‘dream wedding’. Besides consumer preferences, in-city, resort weddings are also seeing an upswing in demand owing to the couple’s requirement to house guests outside of their homes, at hotels that are safe and sanitised. Private villas, farmhouses, lavish resorts with large open-air venue spaces accessible through a road trip will continue to see a rising preference in 2021.The pandemic has changed the way people buy groceries, shop, work, socialize, and also get married. While COVID-19 has disrupted the world, as we know it, it has also come bearing a lot of new opportunities, pushing the world to think differently and most importantly, teach people to embrace local talent and offerings. So, while guest lists may have shrunk, it’s time to pave the way for safe destination weddings – a game-changer for the Indian wedding industry.Sandeep Lodha is the chief executive officer of OYO’s Weddingz.in.

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