Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Jan 2019 10:37:47


By sonali jha chatterjee,

Would you invite strangers to your wedding? These strangers, rest assured, are not gate-crashers; they are well-meaning foreigners who would like to be a part of your wedding ceremony. And they are willing to pay for the privilege.

Welcome to the concept of wedding tourism where couples tying the knot may invite strangers to their wedding!

First things first. Why has the Indian wedding ceremony blown up to such proportions as to merit a whole new chapter in tourism? Well, today’s weddings are no longer only about the pheras around the fire accompanied by Vedic chants and the rituals that the bride, groom and the family members partake in.

Now most high-profile Indian weddings have spilled over from a few hours to a few days. What was once a simple ceremony palpable with intimacy is now a three to five-day entertainment event for guests and the families as well as for the couple. This means there is a need to be extravagant and lavish and of course, all this comes at a price.

Templates for such ‘ideal’ weddings, though in a smaller version, have been set in recent times by the media bombarding all with wedding photos of celebrities. Anushka Sharma wed Virat Kohli, Deepika Padukone wed Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra wed Nick Jonas, Isha Ambani wed Anand Piramal. Most of these wedding ceremonies went on for days. Pictures around these weddings are no less than a setting of a block buster Bollywood movie.

With such examples on display, is it any wonder that many foreigners want to be a part of the elaborate dos which they usually do not experience in their own milieu. Besides, it could be the ultimate guide to the cultural, traditional and ritualistic picture that India presents in their imagery.

However, the question also crops up: is this truly a typical Indian wedding? If the wedding tourists want to get a feel of what is real, then the glamorous weddings only the rich can afford is far removed from it.

Indeed, how does a wedding become a touristy affair? To say that a wedding ceremony is now open to consumers who have enough money to pay for food and drinks would be taking it a bit too far, according to some couples.

André Baptista, 29, is tying the knot in February, 2019. When queried about having foreigners at his wedding on payment, he says, “It’s extremely subjective. Personally, while I am planning the wedding, I’m trying to make it an intimate affair with family and friends. So, no, I wouldn’t like my wedding being ‘gate-crashed’ by strangers, no matter the monetary benefits. I would not like to be treated like a character in a show putting on a performance at this extremely meaningful moment in my life. The beginning of a new chapter is trivialised by spectators who are fascinated by what they might consider a novelty.”

Ruchika Kohli who married three years ago has a different take on this subject. She says it is a good idea because “it gives foreigners an opportunity to explore the traditions of Indian culture and its rituals. Also, Indian weddings are an extravagant affair unlike in the western world,” adding, “The tourism perspective is not bad with all the extravaganza coming in exchange of dollars.”

But the idea of floating an invite to all those who want to attend in exchange of money depends on those who have the final say in decision making. In a large number of cases in India, the bride and groom are hardly the ones who decide on their wedding arrangements; instead it’s the immediate family.

Says Baptista, “Most weddings planned in India don’t involve the bride or the groom. The celebrations being more status symbols and a social declaration by parents and relatives, an average wedding can throw up a guest list of anywhere between a few hundreds to a thousand, most of whom are known neither by the bride or the groom. So, what’s a couple of more strangers, in this case foreigners, matter? And if they pay to attend, it would help offset a few costs.”

Interestingly, the website is helping those tourists who would like to be a part of an Indian wedding. Those who want to invite strangers to their weddings get in touch with each other. The brain child of Orsi Parkanyi and Marti Matecs, the website is quite a hit and seems to be getting a good bit of traffic. The economics of it also seems to be working out with the host, guest and the coordinator satisfied with the outcome as is evident from what Austrian citizen, Christoph Flamm says, “It was the coolest thing I did in India. The food, the people, the culture - you get everything!”

Well, what about the money they had to spend as entry fee? US citizen Adam Swanky says, “The monetary contribution I made was the best and easiest to thank the couple for their hospitality and this extraordinary experience.”

As for the hosts Urvi and Paras, they were enthused by the fact that their families “couldn't wait to meet our special guests on the big day and explain all the beautiful Indian wedding traditions to them.”

Blending in with the local colour and making new friends is what seems to attract those who genuinely want to immerse themselves into this experience of understanding a new culture.

Image: joinmywedding website and Pixabay
(Trans World Features)