Heard of digital shaadi? It’s here to stay

The ongoing COVID 19 pandemic has brought several industries across the globe to a halt, including India’s $70 Billion wedding industry. But the show is still going on, in a digitalized format.

Weddings are an auspicious and celebratory moment in ones life. Indian weddings are a synonym with lavish, over the top and expensive, no wonder it’s called the Big Fat Indian Wedding. The preparations for weddings begin several months in advance including venue, menu, guests and decoration. The date for a wedding or “muhurat” is set in accordance with astrological charts, and cannot be shifted easily.

So what do people do who wish to marry their partners in times like these? They turn to digital wedding over Zoom, YouTube and Google Hangouts.

Such was also the case for Sushen Dang and Keerti Narang.  The couple had dreamt of a Big Fat Indian Wedding. The couple who had planned for a wedding at the middle of the Jim Corbett National Park, ended up getting married over the video conferencing app Zoom on April 19. The date of their nuptials, set for its auspicious astrological coordinates, fell amid a stringent national lockdown caused by the coronavirus.

Dang, who is currently living with his parents in Mumbai, appeared on the screen wearing a turban made out from his mother’s scarf. While Narang, lives hundreds of miles away in Bareilly, wore her mother’s wedding lehenga. The holy matrimony was conducted by a Hindu priest from another city of Raipur. The priest chanted hymns in front of the fire and asked the bride’s father to do a “digital kanyadaan” or giving away of daughter. The wedding was witnessed by hundreds of guests logged in from their homes who showered blessings on the newly wedded couple and danced to the latest Bollywood songs.

“Not even in our wildest dreams did we imagine our wedding would turn out this unique,” said Dang, a competitive intelligence analyst based in Toronto.

The couple had cancelled all their plans and they were stuck in two different cities. Until a friend of Dang asked him to check out Shaadi.com’s Instagram handle and that’s how he got to know about online wedding. They saw an ad of WFH, acronym for Wedding from Home. They got talking and on April 19, as was decided, the couple got married over a Zoom call and it had all the elements – from the dhol to the priest and all their loved ones. They had all the proper functions involved in an Indian Wedding, from mehendi to sangeet to the actual wedding. They had video call slots for the functions too!

Keerti’s mehendi read “Love in time of Corona”.

”We thought it was an exciting idea – something nobody has ever done” Dang told Business Insider in an interview right before their wedding.

“It’s a very different feeling. I was very relaxed, all I had to do was get ready and sit in front of the camera. Now I’m waiting for the lockdown to get over,” said Narang.

The ongoing COVID 19 pandemic has brought several industries across the globe to a halt, including India’s $70 Billion wedding industry. But the show is still going on, in a digitalized format.

“It’s the great Indian Lockdown wedding,” said Anupam Mittal, founder and chief executive officer of online matchmaker Shaadi.com, which facilitated the Dang-Narang event. “We are helping them make the best out of the situation in these times of adversity.” The matrimonial site has also posted a short clip of the wedding on their social media handle.

For startups, now is the time to reinvent themselves. Shaadi.com has helped coordinate several digital weddings with online makeup and mehendi (or henna) professionals, digital wedding invites and food deliveries to guests’ homes. The online matrimonial service, with about 2.5 million live profiles, plans to build a separate resource for digital nuptials.

Weddings are also a matter of financial status in India, where even the poorest of the poor spare no expense to marry their children. Though poor by global standards, the country can claim some of the most expensive weddings ever. One of the costliest nuptials is of the billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s daughter Isha Ambani which was reported to be of $100 million. The wedding was complete with private jets for guests like Hillary Clinton, a concert from Beyonce and dances for the traditional sangeet ceremony choreographed by Bollywood celebrities.

Still, Mittal can’t imagine that extravagant ceremonies will disappear. “In India, weddings are social statements,” he said. “A marriage is between the families, not just the couple.”

In current scenario where we have seen several to-be weds violate the essence of lockdown, this new format of Indian Weddings is a great innovation. So don’t be surprised if you get an invite for a wedding time slot.

By Paromita Gupta

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