The Big Fat Indian Wedding Market

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The Big Fat Indian Wedding Market
Mon 11-02-2013

Indians are known to spend lavishly on weddings, 2 decades after the liberalization of the economy and the revolution in consumer consciousness that followed it.

The Indian wedding industry is now worth more than $25 billion a year and it's growing at an estimated %20 a year. 

Marriage in India has always involved a kind of economic explosion in the life of the family. Whether urban or rural, could always be relied on to spend well in excess of their resources for weddings. This was as much for reasons of social prestige as out of a desire to include everybody in the family's networks of blood, friendship and business. 

Now after 2 decades of India's  incoherent experiment with capitalism have created so much new money that big weddings have to be bigger and better than every other wedding.

In a recent piece in the Hindustan Times, the writer Ira Trivedi reported on going to 32 weddings on the same night in Delhi:
"The speed of economic growth in India, which is responsible for the creation of overnight fortunes, is also creating a conspicuous, yet almost desperate type of consumption at weddings. The average budget for an Indian wedding ceremony in the middle class is estimated to be US$ 34,000… The upper-middle and rich classes are estimated to spend upward of US$ 1 million… This doesn’t include cash and valuables given as part of a dowry."

"Today, Indians travel far more frequently for business, study, employment and pleasure. After decades of being sequestered within their own country by bad economics and red tape, the country's middle and upper classes have come to appreciate the prospects and opportunities available in a globalized world. And as costs for weddings have increased at home, more affluent Indians are looking at other South Asian countries not as honeymoon destinations but as wedding venues."

"Top of this list is Thailand, which is the world's favorite destination for foreign weddings and is only a four-hour flight from Delhi and Mumbai. To Indian families, it offers the twin advantages of a foreign jaunt in a beautiful locale as well as cheaper prices. As one Thai wedding site explains on a page called "Why Thailand?":
The value of the Thai currency (the baht) is similar to the Indian rupee, but the prices of hotels in Thailand are %30-%60 cheaper overall when comparing similar categories. The quality of hotels is among the best in the world. Food and beverage are also %30-%60 cheaper in general, and flights to Bangkok are only slightly more expensive than domestic flights in India and in some cases, just the same price. These means you get a "bigger bang" for your bucks in Thailand."

Many big Thai hotels now have web pages designed exclusively for Indian customers, and a host of wedding management companies in the country (including Indians based in Thailand) have set up websites. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, or TAT, offers many incentives and arguments to Indians for weddings (not the least of them is a book called "Fall in Love in India and Get Married in Thailand"). 

As India enters the mainstream of globalization's currents, the big fat Indian wedding increasingly looks east for lower prices and more exotic pictures for the wedding album.