The big, fat Indian wedding, with week-long functions, tons of relatives and a lot of naach gaana, is on a diet this year, thanks to demonetization. So this wedding season, the invites are thinner and without ten different leaflets listing out the various ceremonies - mehendi, sangeet, haldi, cocktail, the main wedding, reception etc. With not enough cash available to pay for so many ceremonies, while many are cancelling or postponing their weddings, others are cutting down on the pre and post-wedding functions and only sticking to the important ceremonies.
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A Delhi wedding that will take place next month was planned months in advance with a total of eight functions. After demonetization, however, the number has been brought down to four, and the bride and the groom's families will jointly host them to cut down the expenses. Vasant Vihar resident Sakshi Malhotra's brother's wedding was scheduled for early December and the initial plan was to have different functions for engagement, cocktail and mehendi at different venues before the main wedding. But after realising that they have limited cash to pay the mithaiwallah, phoolwallah and for sagan, they decided to have just one combined function for engagement and mehendi. Sakshi says, "Three individual functions would have meant more sweet boxes and sagan envelopes to give to relatives, so we decided to have just one function. Also, we had only booked the venue for the main wedding in advance and were planning to fix the venue for the other three functions closer to wedding date."
"But when we started approaching banquet halls and hotels, all of them wanted an advance payment in cash. We ended up hosting that one pre-wedding function at our home. Now that the wedding is over, we realise that that was a wise move, and we saved a lot of money by not having the other two functions," says Sakshi.
'Too much show-shaa means unwanted attention right now'
Wedding planners tell us that even the most elaborate and lavish weddings in Delhi these days don't have more than three functions. They add that for some families, the issue is not the availability of cash, but the attention that a lavish wedding might invite. "These days, every large scale wedding is making it to the news, so no one wants to take any risk right now. Our clients are requesting that they do not want the wedding to look very grand. Even if they are spending a lot of money, it should look subtle and low-key. We have the option of payment through credit cards and cheques, but no one wants to come into notice at a time when everything is being closely monitored and there is a limit on cash withdrawals. Right now, if someone has a wedding with five grand functions - which, otherwise, is very normal in Delhi - even relatives and friends start talking about it," says Somya Khurana, a wedding planner. Another wedding planner, Amrish Pershad, says that while earlier, even a small puja around the wedding date was organised as a big function, this year no one is doing that, "The idea that 'shaadi toh ek baar hi hoti hai, duniya mein joh ho raha hai hone do' is no longer applicable. Reducing the number of functions is the easiest way to cut down budget and still have the wedding you want." says Amrish.
Cocktail, reception are the first ones to be knocked off the list
While cutting down the number of functions, wedding planners and their clients feel that cocktail and reception parties are a waste of money. "This season, we organised a wedding where the client wanted to reduce the number of functions, and the reception party was the one that was knocked off the list. In most weddings, the reception is the most expendable function. The energy levels go down after the wedding and these days couples do not like the idea of standing on a stage and meeting relatives. That can easily be done on the wedding day itself. Those who are planning a wedding these days are very careful about every penny they are spending and wasting money on a reception is a big no. Many people say that payments can be made through cards and cheques, but in case of weddings, the ground reality is different. You need to pay people hired for a day for the decorations, give cash at the phool mandi and to the mithaiwallah. I recently did one wedding where mithai boxes were required for guests, and the vendor said that he would only accept cash as he needs to pay his karigars and halwais. My client had to go to the bank to get cash urgently. The more the number of functions, more such situations are likely to arise. One friend had planned a grand reception with a performance by Badshah, but after the demonetisation, she wanted to cancel it. However, that was not possible, since advance payment was already made to the celebrity. In only such cases are people carrying out their original plans," says Shradha Malik, a wedding planner. Many people are also doing away with the cocktail party. "Most people used to buy a lot of alcohol for wedding functions in cash, which they don't have now. In many cases, the sagan and mehendi ceremonies are being retained, but not cocktail party," says Somya. "Also, for a cocktail party, you need a new set-up and venue, but for mehendi and sangeet, the same set-up and venue can be used. So people are clubbing the two ceremonies," says Nidhi Sharma, a wedding planner.
It's not just functions, even the guest list is filtered now
With the bride and the groom's side hosting functions together, they are also shortening the guest list. "We are planning for our wedding in January, and my family and my future wife's family are pooling in and hosting functions together. Both sides are making sure that the guest list only has close relatives and a few friends for the pre-wedding functions. We don't want our functions to be too crowded," says Ashish Mehta, a Defence Colony-based engineer. To bring down the number of guests, some couples are also going for destination weddings. "Weddings have turned more intimate post demonetisation. Only close family and friends are invited. I have already done two weddings where the couple decided to have one function in Delhi and the main wedding was hosted in another city with hardly 50 guests. The guests pay for their own travel, and the stay is organised by the host. Such weddings are hosted at resorts and farmhouses around Delhi where people who are not close to the family will not travel. The number of destination weddings has gone up in the last one month," says Chhavi Chadha, a wedding planner in Delhi.
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