You don't necessarily need a sky-high budget to get married at a five-star venue. If you plan in advance and cut out the frills, you can manage within Rs 10-15 lakh.
"Planning a wedding at a five-star property may seem expensive but can be affordable as a premium banquet hall in the neighbourhood," says Minnat Lalpuria founder & chief executive, 7Vachan.
Anand Shahani, CEO of Wedmegood.com, points out that there are properties available starting at Rs 1,400-1,500 per person in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, and Hyderabad. This price only includes food and banquet hall. Decor, DJ and taxes will be extra. In metros, five-star hotels can be broadly put in three categories-based on charges. There are iconic hotels like Taj Mahal Palace and The Oberoi in Mumbai or ITC Maurya and The Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi, that have higher charges compared to others. Then, there are hotels such as Shangri-La's Eros Hotel in Delhi or Sahara Star and ITC Maratha in Mumbai that wedding planners call premium or luxury five-stars. Finally, there are standard five-star properties which include boutique hotels and properties that are part of known hotel chains but with a different brand name.
Premium properties: Rates for this category can vary between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500 a person, excluding taxes. Many of these are famous as wedding venues as they offer a few advantages. They may have larger halls that can accommodate 800 or more guests. Some are known for their hospitality while some are known for the food. The decor charges are upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh.
Standard five-stars: They offer a complete package at a competitive cost. Their food and banquet charges can be between Rs 1,400 to Rs 2,500, excluding taxes. The cost for decor starts at Rs 75,000.
For a wedding at iconic hotels, the budget needs to be at least Rs 20 lakh for 450-500 guests. The budget for premium properties is around Rs 15 lakh, and for standard ones, the minimum budget needs to be Rs 10 lakh. These costs can go up further if one includes liquor. For a reception of 200 guests, the cost of liquor will be around Rs 1 lakh if premium imported brands are included. For 500 guests, it would be around Rs 3 lakh. Families are allowed to do wedding rituals at the hotel without any extra charges.
Very few hotels allow the bride or groom's family to get their own liquor but charge a royalty for it, known as corkage. A family should also account for different taxes and fees. "Different hotels charge taxes differently, which can range from 21 per cent to 31 per cent," says Sunaina Sharma, co-founder of Memorable Indian Weddings. Many five-stars also ask customers to arrange for licences related to liquor, music and performance. These can cost between Rs 40,000 and Rs 65,000.
Bringing the cost down
The best time to approach a five-star is six to eight months before a wedding, as bookings usually start four-five months in advance. Prashant Rangnekar, country head at Elegant Marine Services, booked a Mumbai-based premium five-star hotel 10 months in advance for his daughter's wedding. "It gave me room for negotiation and I managed to get the desired date (December 24) during the peak season," says Rangnekar.
If the wedding is scheduled during the off peak season of August-October, you can easily get a discount of up to 20-25 per cent. Many times, families also hold a reception at the five-star a day or two after the marriage, if they are late to book, or if they want discounts and are willing to take the venue on dates when hotels don't have bookings.
There are also many online wedding and event planning websites that can help you with venues. As these companies do regular business with the hotel, you can expect at least 15 per cent discount during November to February and up to 40 per cent discount in the off-peak season.
You can also skip a wedding planner for a five-star wedding unless you are going for an elaborate wedding with a budget of over Rs 50 lakh and a guest list of 800-1,000 or more. Opt for the ballrooms instead of the lawn to save costs. The decor charges for lawns are usually higher as everything needs to be set up from scratch. Five stars usually push customers to opt for a decorator on their panel. If you bring your own, they charge a royalty for it, which can be upwards of Rs 40,000-50,000. "These hotels usually have a minimum rate at which they want to let out their properties. They won't go below a certain threshold. However, they will be willing to throw freebies like free or discounted rooms or extra food stalls in the same budget," says Baid.
Destination weddings in Rajasthan's palace hotels and in Goa's beach properties have become popular of late. These are expensive affairs, where stay and travel for guests comprise 50-60 per cent of the overall budget.
On an average, for the popular destinations in India, the cost of a two-day wedding could range from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 lakh per person. This would mean spending at least Rs 50 lakh if a family is expecting 200 guests, without including their travel expenses. But some of Rajasthan's iconic hotels such as Jagmandir Island Palace, The Leela, Udaipur and Oberoi Udaivilas would still not fit in the budget of Rs 50 lakh.
Destination weddings require an early notice period from the guests to let the host make arrangements accordingly. Generally, one should start 10-12 months in advance. Hiring a wedding planner is good idea as they can help select the right place, based on the budget and requirements. Increasingly, many are asking guests to come on their own, while the host arranges for accommodation.
Chief wedding planner and founder, Regal Weddings