Where do you go to say, 'I do!' Indulge catches up on the trend of destination weddings
Like any other girl full of the most pleasant and wonderful dreams, Sanna Vohra wanted a wedding that would be fun, memorable and incomparable to any other.
So, when she and her longtime boyfriend Varun decided to tie the knot, the plan was a little more than a joyous wedding — it was, in a sense, the making of a blueprint for that perfect wedding getaway, of the kind that’s worthy of celebrity attention from India and overseas.
For her wedding, Sanna chose the theme, ‘Welcome to our world’, speaking of two people coming together to create a new world.
The theme was represented at the wedding in various ways, as the invitation showed a globe with elements of the beach, the forests and the seas, and every ceremony at the wedding picked up on one physical element to play on.
The theme was carried through all of the décor, and even all the outfits that Sanna wore, even as the giveaways for guests featured crystals, making a stated note that they’re empowered with healing energy.
The key to the grand wedding was, of course, in the planning. And, even as Sanna pulled off something remarkable for her big day — at the hotel Grand Hyatt Goa for a choice of destination — as a new bride, she quickly transferred all of those experiences and lessons she’d learned into her venture, The Wedding Brigade, pitched as ‘India’s first wedding platform for end-to-end wedding services’, of which she’s the CEO and Founder.
Sanna’s company is one of several new-sprung outfits that are specialising in organising and hosting celeb-style weddings. Sanna, in fact, became one of the highest-funded women entrepreneurs in the wedding industry and was also listed in a 30-under-30 list by a leading publication, in the year 2018.
Meanwhile, the message across the board is quite clear — over and above the all-important aspect of bridal couture, it’s the trend of destination weddings that’s here to stay, getting couples, newlyweds and their entourages to kick the dust off their heels, and explore more of the globe.
‘Never a need to worry’
Expectedly, you get a fair amount of marketing-speak in much of the corporate profiles of these companies. The company Weddingz.in, for instance, calls itself ‘India’s Largest Wedding Company’ while promising ‘a hassle-free wedding experience’, and offering its customers ‘a fully managed, one-stop platform... to organise a superlative wedding experience’.
What you get is a world of options — for everything including beautiful venues, managing themed décor, end-to-end catering, in-house photographers and makeup artistes, all led by a dedicated planner.
Of course, it’s all at ‘guaranteed best prices’.
Following its acquisition by OYO Hotels & Homes in 2018, Weddingz.in now has a presence in over 30 cities, with a roster of over 750 venues. Just as industry reports suggested a 480% revenue growth in 12 months for the company, Weddingz.in announced over 600% growth in bookings, since August 2018.
It helps to note that the company also has a significant following on social media, with 1.4 million+ followers only on Instagram. Sandeep Lodha, CEO, Weddingz.in extends a simple proposition: “We plan to tap the enormous opportunity the wedding industry offers, and expand in India, while being committed to our mission of simplifying wedding planning for Indians, and adding value to our venues and partners.”
Needless to emphasise, you’re never far away from expert teams and curators to bring together everything from photography, make-up, planners, mehendi, rentals, pandits/priests, décor, choreography, transport, entertainment, MCs/anchors, catering, gifting, DJs, invites, and even the quintessential ‘band-baja ghodiwala’ setup. However, far you are from home, there’s never a need to worry about those Indian elements at your wedding.
A booming business today
Sandeep gives us a bird’s eye view of things: “The wedding market in India, which is primarily unorganised, is about USD 40-50 billion (about INR 2.8-3.5 lakh crore) in size. Of this, the venue segment alone is about half, that is about USD 20-25 billion and growing at about 20 per cent annually,” he points out.
As for the evolution of ‘the great Indian wedding’, here’s what Sandeep had to say: “In India, weddings are an elaborate affair... There are multiple functions spread across days with hundreds of guests and wedding vendors."
"While we are seeing a rise in the trend for smaller guest lists, we’ve also observed that the number of functions per wedding have shot up, with higher spends per guest. We have observed that while destination weddings have become popular, new-age consumers are looking for unconventional ways to celebrate their special day.”
Sandeep explains, “Some of the upcoming trends are theme weddings, beach weddings, fort weddings and cruise weddings. Furthermore, by 2020, India is estimated to become the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29, thereby accelerating the growth of the wedding industry. Weddings in India are thus, a booming business today, and with good reason.”
An interesting phenomenon to make note of, he adds, is that “Nowadays, to-be-weds are taking their own decisions regarding their big day, in contrast to the traditional involvement of families in major decision-making.”
For his own pick of top destinations, Sandeep lists out Koh Samui, Hua Hin and Krabi in Thailand, Habarana and Hambantota in Sri Lanka, palace weddings in Udaipur at Chunda Palace and Labh Garh, Chomu Palace and ITC Rajputana in Jaipur, and lastly, a beach wedding at Planet Hollywood, or at Riva Beach Resort in Goa.
Interestingly, earlier in October this year, Weddingz.in also marked its foray in the offline space, launching its first physical store in New Delhi, to mark its evolution from an online service enabler to an omnichannel platform. The new showroom offers real-time interaction with customers, while the offerings are integrated with the Weddingz.in app.
Namaste to all Indians!
The rise of destination weddings as a trend has also prompted hospitality chains like Hilton to unveil innovative seasonal programmes for its Indian patrons. Recognising the need for unique, personalised experiences, Hilton has launched ‘Namaste’, an exclusive offering that’s designed to deliver tailored experiences for groups travelling to Europe from India.
“Huge population, rising incomes, improving infrastructure, among others — offer a strong growth opportunity... India is one of the biggest growth markets, with Indians now preferring luxury and overseas stays with their improving financial status,” reasons Fiona Robson, Senior Director of Hilton’s Sales Operations in Europe.
As a growing number of Indians are now inclined to explore offbeat destinations, Hilton is looking to cater to Indian groups at destinations like Malta, Budapest, Cologne, Baku, besides destinations like Vienna, Prague, London and others, she notes.
“Indians are very interested in Barcelona, which is known to be a hub for cruises, and the release of the Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which was partially shot in Barcelona and Costa Brava, massively increased the interest of travelling clients.
The wedding of Shristi Mittal in 2013 reinforced the interest, making this an ideal destination for weddings,” observes Joachim Hartl, General Manager of the Hilton Barcelona Diagonal Mar.
The folks at Hilton also present a quick look of things to come, with some essential number-crunching. “Approximately 25 million Indian tourists currently head overseas for professional or personal reasons,” states one such report. “Europe commands an estimated market share of about 20% of all Indian outbound departures,” the report adds.
For a massive growth projection on the horizon, you could consider reports that cite the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for its prediction that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020.
In addition, according to the Global Business Travel Association, India is expected to be the fastest growing market over the next five years, picking up an estimated 11.3% in average growth.
The buzz has reached the farthest shores from India. Alessandro Cabella, Managing Director of the Rome Cavalieri, agrees, “Italy is an attractive destination for weddings.”
Alessandro continues, “Also, those who are interested in visiting locations used in the 1970s for Bollywood movies, such as Rome and Venice, and production companies wanting to produce movies in Rome, find it to be an attractive destination.”
Like a Maharaja and Maharani
Back home, the Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), prominently identified as South Asia’s largest hospitality enterprise, is also amping up its offerings, especially to further the trend of royal-styled weddings.
Given a roster of palace hotels in India like no other group — including Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad; Taj Usha Kiran Palace, Gwalior; Jai Mahal Palace, Jaipur; Taj Nadesar Palace, Varanasi; Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur; Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur; Taj Hari Mahal, Jodhpur; and Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur — IHCL is now extending exclusive packages at all of its properties, each of which happens to be a royal palace revamped into a palace hotel.
While weddings continue to be one of the biggest events for all those involved, there has been a paradigm shift in the manner in which weddings are planned and conducted over the last few years,” observes a spokesperson for IHCL.
“In this era of the evolved customer, an increasing number of couples are choosing to hyper-customise their weddings — from the décor to the menu to the overall theme. Today, weddings weave in the couple’s personal touch at every bend,” he said, in an email exchange.
“And, nothing plays a more important role in a wedding than the destination itself. From setting the tone of the overall wedding to being an extension of the couple’s personal choices, the destination of the wedding marks the overall experience and theme,” he adds.
As the custodians of royal palaces in India, the Taj Hotels group offers couples a number of magnificent grand palaces for choices. “Each of these palaces is a gem in itself, offering couples a unique experience — from an intimate wedding to a large-scale extravaganza with friends and families, fit for royalty,” extends the IHCL spokesperson.
“India is a country where the palaces of the Maharajas of yore weave together memories of a lifetime,” he said, by way of elaborating on their offerings. “While palaces converted into heritage hotels are timeless, and will always be trending destinations, they make for timeless wedding destinations,” he adds.
“Weddings hosted at one of the palaces are akin to an authentic royal affair, adding to the overall experience amidst stunning backdrops and majestic structures and allowing the happy couple to celebrate their most important milestone like a Maharaja and Maharani,” offers the IHCL representative.
Pleasing couples, first
By all accounts yet, it’s Wedniksha, the initiative by Wizcraft, that’s gaining the most favour for its lavish wedding affairs, with an awe-inspiring portfolio of dream weddings hosted across locations at Malta, Barcelona, Turkey, Singapore, South Africa, Dubai as well as cities in India like Udaipur, Jaipur, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Goa, Pune and Mumbai.
As the preferred planners of a number of reputed weddings across the globe, Wedniksha offers something of a look-book for celebrity-styled weddings.
For one thing, they handle any manner of personal request, celebrity or otherwise, in terms of fanciful ideas, or going the distance for a neat, custom touch.
Apart from everything else, the hosts at Wedniksha take special care with their security arrangements, and in particular, ensure a much-needed sense of privacy, notes well-known wedding planner, Bhavnesh Sawhney.
When it comes to Bollywood-styled ceremonies, these hosts have pulled off Sangeet functions starring celebrities such as Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandes and Shilpa Shetty along with live performances by Sonu Nigam, among others.
The grand celebrations typically begin with an elaborate mehendi function, followed by song-and-dance celebrations that frequently also bring together wish-list celebrities and film star guests.
When the guest list includes a lot of high-profile guests, security has to be very tight,” admits Bhavnesh. “We are also very particular about upholding their privacy.”
In terms of wedding venues, the preferences vary from beach weddings to palatial celebrations that befit royalty, he adds. “With respect to décor, we believe that couples these days are now moving away from extravagant bold colours to light shades and pastels. Pastels are very popular currently, adding a classy European touch to Indian wedding celebrations,” he notes.
“Having said that, every wedding is made personalised, keeping the couple’s tastes in mind.” When it comes to concepts and themes, they’re often dictated by the destination, he explains.
“For example, a Moroccan-themed wedding will be suitable for a destination like Turkey, rather than Thailand. Times and trends have changed and weddings are no longer simplistic ceremonies. Couples look for never-seen-before décor, which can differ depending on their taste, and changing trends.
Some want extravagant, larger-than-life palatial décor with traditional Indian elements, whereas others prefer minimalistic simple elements with a European touch.”
Still, the biggest trend of all, appears to be in the best interest of the bride and groom, themselves. “Most couples these days have abandoned the idea of pleasing the world,” affirms Bhavnesh.
“They personally want to enjoy themselves at their wedding celebrations and they do not want to be tied down by unnecessary formalities.”
To that end, these wedding planners go all out of their way to curate the most innovatively designed weddings, at the most exotic locations — but never stray too far from the core idea of creating memories that you can cherish forever.
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Dreamy wedding locations
‘Marriages are made in heaven, and heavenly marriages are made at destination weddings’ — that’s the bottomline message this season.
Quite simply, if you’re planning to say ‘I do’ to the love of your life, why not do it in style? Picture yourself on a spotless beach, surrounded with white canopy tents laced with sprightly orchid decorations, with chilled champagne being served all around — as you and your partner exchange the rings of your dreams, and proceed to take your wedding vows.
If it sounds like a fairy tale, then that’s exactly what you’re looking for. To help couples make that decision for a perfect wedding, here’s a look at the top destination options around the world.
The choices are many, to be sure — from picturesque hill-tops to white-sand beaches and even gliding parachutes. But our short-list is of sure-shot destinations that also count as some of the most amazing places to visit in the world, even as you perform your nuptials, host your ceremonies and get hitched in style.
Mauritius is easily one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world. From some of the most stunning beaches to ethereal sunsets, this is a haven for people wishing to get married at an exquisite location.
This island nation offers some immaculate settings, and some of the most luxurious resorts on the planet. Rich in different cultures, the island speaks of the perfect climate all year round, while inevitably offering the perfect setting for a dream wedding.
Crystal clear seas, gorgeous reefs, white sand beaches and phenomenal weather; it’s no surprise so many couples consider having a Maldives wedding. A barefoot paradise with exceptional backdrops of glistening waters and palm trees, makes for a delight for any couple.
Maldives has all the ingredients for a dreamy destination wedding - from sunset cruise weddings to natural backdrops for exchanging vows, there’s no doubt that a wedding experience here will last a lifetime.
If you’re looking for a romantic outing in a tropical scene, one of the best places to have to consider for your destination wedding is Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives. This upscale island resort is a haven for couples whether they want an unforgettable honeymoon, a romantic time out or a special anniversary.
The resort offers five stunning wedding locations — for magical ceremonies beneath century-old banyan trees, barefoot celebrations on the beach, even underwater nuptials and vows aboard a luxury sailing yacht.
When it comes to dreamy weddings, Turkey sits on top of the mind as a fairytale romantic destination. The place breathes magic and has a natural charm and aura, exuding bliss like few other places can.
Couples prefer to get married in Turkey as the place is known for having the world’s finest cuisines, and some of the friendliest, most welcoming locals.
Besides the friendly ambience and beautiful surroundings, Turkey also offers exclusive opportunities for recreation. A haven for some of the world’s most beautiful resorts, hotels and beaches, Turkey is indeed a beautiful and friendly place to tie the knot.
Until recently, Oman was hardly an option when people where exploring places for a destination wedding. But that’s quickly changing, and for good reason.
Rich in history, natural beauty and traditional delicacies, this Middle Eastern state offers a great blend of modern conveniences and facilities. For those looking to have a dreamy Arabian nights-themed wedding, with a touch of eastern exorcism and charm, Oman can be the perfect destination.
The country is home to world-class hotels, spas and resorts that can serve as wedding venues with a plethora of activities available at hand, including shopping, water sports, river cruising and desert stays that are bound to make for fun getaways.
A note on the weather: as summers in Oman can be unbearably scorching, it is advisable to explore the prospect of a winter wedding here.
A magical combination of alluring beaches, breathtaking gardens and pristine islands, Sri Lanka is quickly becoming one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world.
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest factors that’s attracting couples to opt for Sri Lankan weddings is price, and affordability.
From the currency to cheaper flights, everything here makes for an extremely attractive destination for young couples. Also, the tax slabs are far lower when compared to India, and the formalities are less tedious in comparison to most other countries.
As for the couples, the choices are endless — choosing to silently float on a hot-air balloon, or getting on a jungle-themed or sandy beach wedding or gliding along a river on a beautiful boat.
It’s being hailed as the new destination that every wedding planner should know about. In the matter of just a couple of seasons, Azerbaijan has emerged as a top spot for big-budget weddings.
From its cool climate to magnificent mountain slopes, Azerbaijan’s natural beauty makes for a truly romantic backdrop. What’s more, you get experienced wedding planners, picture-perfect weather, beautiful locations and luxury hospitality chains to help you with that perfect wedding.
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Caucasus’, combining modern architecture with an old-world charm, Azerbaijan has transformed into a haven for the quintessential Indian bride, with bespoke hospitality venues opening their doors to host the most lavish celebrations.
For wedding guests who want to make a holiday out of the festivities, Azerbaijan is a hotpot for cultural and adventurous excursions. From Baku’s modern Flame Towers, to the depths of the medieval UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s something here for everyone.
With Azeri artistes and performers, mystic calligraphers, carpet weavers and a plethora of gourmet options, couples can pamper their guests with the culture of Azerbaijan.
As Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of Azerbaijan Tourism Board, extends by way of a personal invitation, “Azerbaijan is still undiscovered by many, making it the perfect location not only for wedding celebrations, but also for a wonderful honeymoon. Couples can celebrate their love and romance in a beautiful and unconventional way.”
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Decor trends for a picture-perfect wedding
Quirky, fun and personalised — these are the buzzwords for any wedding today. While most planners look for a mix of tradition and modernity, couples are moving towards trends that are versatile, yet distinct. The choices are clear — they have to be Instagram-worthy and create picture-postcard memories. Here are five top trends to help you spruce up that wedding venue:
1. Designer mandaps
The mandap is by default the central attraction of any Indian wedding, with all eyes focused on the altar, where the couple-to-be exchanges their vows of eternal love. Mandaps are typically bedecked with cascading drapes, a canopy of floral blooms and foliage, with muted fairy lights.
The most popular weddings of 2019 witnessed couples going for experimental options like a tent-shaped mandap, open mandaps with foliage, and also, mandaps featuring art installations. Poolside, beachside and floating mandaps are also popular. (In pic: Mandap by Mazda Studios)
2. Abstract floral arrangements
While 2018 was all about floral wreaths and classic hoops, 2019 as the year of weddings promised a more adventurous outlook, with abstract installations combined with organic arrangements. Many couples are looking to transform their weddings into floral fiestas, with topiaries and arches at the entryways, with centerpieces, walls covered in vines, and abstractly arranged blooms. (In pic: Decor by Weddings by Vivaah)
3. A touch of rustic charm
Speaking of trends, boho-chic options can never be too far off. Now, you’re looking at decor with rustic elements and even country-style aesthetics. Expect rattan furniture, wicker accents, mason jar centrepieces, lanterns, jute elements, and flickering candles — all adding a unique charm. (In pic: Decor by Devika Narain & Co)
4. Custom neon signages
What better way to add a personal touch than customised signages? Think larger-than-life neon signages or laser-cut metal monograms of the couple’s names. For couples who prefer simplicity and minimalism, wooden signs and mirrors with floral accents are preferred. (In pic: Mandap by Stories by Joseph Radhik)
5. Retro photo booths
A dedicated photo booth with quirky elements can spruce up any wedding. Floral walls with signages, swings with bright throw pillows, bicycles covered with flowers or even a retro photo booth (any Dr Who fans?) — are all great options to consider.
As more couples opt for elaborately themed weddings, a photobooth helps to accentuate the theme in a memorable way. (In pic: Decor by Altair Decor)