Money no object at the great Indian wedding

NEW DELHI - A royal palace in Rajasthan as your wedding venue? Or a white-sand beach?

A plane-load of orchids specially flown in from Bangkok? Or a pop band from the Philippines to sing for your guests?

The answer to all these requests is 'no problem'.

Welcome to the great Indian wedding where parents think nothing of spending 500,000 (S$18,600) to one million rupees for the event. And that's only for the middle class.

Move up the socio-economic ladder and there is literally no limit to the wedding expenditures of the wealthy upper-middle class.

The figure of 50 million rupees has been hinted at in gossip columns.

'Just on decor, upper middle-class families can spend 10 million rupees,' said the organiser of a popular bridal show in India.

'But it is impossible to put a finger on an industry turnover figure. It is enormous, but nobody knows just how much because families don't like talking about how much they spend,' Ms Divya Gurwara told The Straits Times.

The show Bridal Asia, held on the eve of northern India's winter wedding season, is a good barometer of how weddings are evolving into mega events worth billions of dollars to the wedding industry.

When the wedding extravaganza first made its debut in 1999, the show drew only 40 exhibitors and 9,000 visitors.

Today, it has more than 80 exhibitors and draws an estimated 28,000 visitors from India as well as Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Canada and England.

Apart from wedding clothes - which range from 500 to 40,000 rupees apiece - the show now offers a plethora of 'ancillary' services, from astrologers to gem advisers, consultants on gift packaging and beauticians.

In fact, for many of India's top fashion designers, the bulk of their income comes from the money they make from wedding clothes.

Depending on the social standing of the families, a typical Indian bride would tailor-make several outfits, complete with exquisite jewellery.

Some mothers even start saving up for trousseaus when their daughters are only eight years old.

'Parents save their entire lives to finance weddings, and Indian families are still close-knit and conservative and a wedding is a major issue,' Ms Gurwara said.

Wedding planner Jai Raj Gupta agreed.

'It's always been ostentatious, but certainly the middle class is trying to move up the value chain. Weddings are now better organised. They are spending more but also spending wisely,' he said.

He added that there were also marked differences in how families from various parts of India went about weddings.

'In the north, they are more ostentatious. In West Bengal, more restrained and artistic. In Maharashtra, conservative. In Gujarat, as well as the Punjabis, extravagant is the word,' he said.

Gaining popularity among Indian couples is destination weddings. Around US$2,000 (S$3,600) will buy a modest wedding for a small group of people in a Rajasthani palace or on a beach or in the Himalayas, he told The Straits Times.

Also on the rise are wedding planners like himself.

Ms Pallavi Agarwal, a planner, said that instead of having scores of relatives coming together to prepare for a wedding, families now turn to professional wedding planners.

'Many feel it's okay to tell your budget to a stranger rather than to family members who will remind you of it for the rest of your life,' she told The Straits Times.

'But while there are many who are giving more money to the bride and groom as opposed to spending on frills, there are as many who are spending more on frills in order to make a statement.'  -  By Nirmal Ghosh             Singapore Straits Times         14 October 2002

Tai Tai's - here's flip side to marriage in Indian culture.

Two-year-old to pay for uncle's adultery

MULTAN (PAKISTAN) - A village council in Pakistan punished a man for adultery by ordering his two-year-old niece to be betrothed to the husband of his alleged lover, police said yesterday.

Tribal elders also ordered Mohammed Akmal, 20, to pay a fine of 230,000 rupees (S$6,300) to Mr Mohammed Altaf, 42, who has since divorced his 32-year-old wife.

Police said the Kacha Chohan village council decreed last week that the two-year-old would be married to Mr Altaf when she turns 18.

Area police chief Maqsoodul Hassan said officers have begun investigations, but had made no arrests because no one had filed a complaint.  ASSOCIATED PRESS     22 Feb 2005


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