We spoke to Rashu R Antil, popular Wedding Designer & Planner, on the changing trends of Indian weddings. Excerpts…
The Optimist: What has been the biggest change in Indian weddings in the past three decades?
Rashu R Antil: Surely the tech game: I’m fascinated by how digital innovation and technology have transformed the whole wedding industry. From wedding hashtags to live social media feeds, websites, online planning tools, electronic invites, RSVPs and apps — new couples are keeping their guests in the loop about the wedding arrangements. The digital world has changed how brides find inspiration and bridal magazines are outdated now. Instagram is in and has altered the way local vendors and couples connect and negotiate. Venue owners have platforms and tools, such as 3D virtual reality walkthroughs, so that couples can visit the venue from the comfort of their couches.
The Optimist: Various big-budget weddings are currently themed destination-wise. What has been the primary motive behind such a paradigm change?
Rashu R Antil: A lot of young couples nowadays prefer to combine their weddings with holidays. That’s why ‘destination marriages’ have become the new trend. Most functions take place at these destinations with small groups of people. There is usually a final reception back home for all the other guests. A ‘destination wedding’, for example in Goa for 200 people, could easily cost Rs1 crore upwards, compared to farmhouse or hotel weddings that are much cheaper and are appropriate when the guest list has more than 500 people.
It is because there is no expense on flying down people and arranging for their stay. So, rising affluence and desire for ‘memories with a difference’ is making couples choose to host weddings at their native places as themed-destination weddings. It makes the entire experience unforgettable and within reach of their spending power and allows clients to have a more memorable, intimate celebration with their family and friends.
The Optimist: In specific urban genre, among the millennial, minimalist weddings have become common these days. Is a trimmed budget the only reason for such plans?
Rashu R Antil: A millennial couple of today thinks out of the box. Couples want to keep a wedding as realistic and traditional as possible. The setting may change to minimalist, but the marriage — as a traditional form — does not change and certainly not the budget most of the times. Minimalist weddings are all about merging the quirky and fun elements and personalisation of the things you traditionally cannot do at a wedding to give a flawless look.
For instance, a bride who has always liked butterflies, or feathers, or a particular colour, or a groom who has been inspired by the latest Avenger movie can create and have fun with all these elements at their wedding. Young couples love to personalise everything — their wedding crest often features everywhere — on their napkins, on the bride’s delicately embroidered dress, the groom’s brooch, the dance floor settings, lightings, the mini-macarons and so on.
There are other interesting ways to customize weddings, too. For instance, they can theme the food counter ‘the bride’s favourite’ and ‘the groom’s favorite’. Moreover, return gifts can also be personalised. Minimalist weddings are interactive and experiential.
The Optimist: 20 years ago, budget weddings didn’t have variations. Nowadays, even such weddings have carved out a niche for themselves. What are the integral parameters of an organised budget wedding?
Rashu R Antil: Weddings today are all about experiences. Today, Indian weddings (of any budget) require customisation in every aspect. Another trend throughout has been that couples nowadays want their guests to notice the little efforts that go into planning their special day irrespective of budgets. They create new ways to entertain their guests — whether creative food or artistic desserts. Their decór is themed ‘DIY wedding’, and their tastes run not to traditional items, but more local goods — from local honey to bottles of wine, or small, delicate pots from a local nursery.
Trends have further shifted to smaller weddings at boutique hotels, waterfront restaurants, local homes, outdoor venues and even in the backyards. From rustic to retro, even their love story — the possibilities are endless. For instance, a couple looking at a Mykonos setting can recreate that vibe and atmosphere with the right minimal décor and budget. All you need is some LED lights, a big bar and some great music you can dance to. For a carnival feel, the look can be created by adding jugglers, vending machines, candy floss stations and so on.
The Optimist: Like the urban segment, is the Indian rural sector also witnessing a change in weddings?
Rashu R Antil: Yes of course! In a country where Bollywood is an integral part of our diet and, with up to 12 million weddings taking place a year, the growing middle class is increasingly putting on lavish ceremonies to emphasise their status. A rural marriage marks the coming together of two families and lineages and, at times, larger groups, such as whole villages or communities. Marriage is an important rites passage that signals an individual’s and his or her family’s status — economic, social, or political. Pushing one’s financial limits at a wedding can, of course, be seen as an attempt to achieve a higher social status in rural areas and respect within the wider community and the rise of extravagant ceremonies is linked to an ‘increasing penchant for consumerism’ and the influence of Bollywood.
The Optimist: Wedding management is a much-discussed term these days. Has wedding management enabled maximum utilisation of resources, or is it just another makeover?
Rashu R Antil: The trend of hiring a wedding management team is growing. With most couples busy with their careers and a breakdown of the joint family system, there is neither time, nor the human resources to organise big weddings. It is almost impossible for people to make elaborate arrangements for weddings without professional help. Wedding management is a real-time need.
How can one compare an average Indian wedding to that of another country?
Rashu R Antil: There is no particular comparison as such. In many countries, weddings are bringing together the “Western” and the “Indian” into the wedding experience. That is what I think is the best part about weddings; you can design them the way you want to and portray what you want in any ceremony, such as how much tradition and modernity and how many mixes you need. The only thing a couple needs to remember is that the wedding should reflect the couple and their family values, traditions and culture.
At Hindu weddings, the line-up of wedding events includes traditional ceremonies associated with community-specific rituals, while Christian weddings last just a day, with one day of a bachelorette party. Christian weddings require decoration of the church — flowers and catering services, followed by such events as cocktail parties and grand receptions with multi-tiered cakes. But, now, the ‘haldi’ ceremony has become a common and fancy affair across Western weddings, too.