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Anoothi Vishal  |  New Delhi 

The gets bigger and the Big Day gets grander in form and scale, taking on an identity of its own.

Human” statues or specially flown in blonde hostesses. The bride moving in a trolley in slow motion towards the mandap, or guests being ferried across a marigold-filled lake. Heritage havelis decked with flowers, thousands of candles lighting up a Goa beach, or an Indian polo ground transformed into an English county cricket field (with ex-cricketers officiating a match between the bride’s side and the groom’s). Nothing is impossible for today’s wedding planners who are ready to accede to all the impossibly romantic — or plain idiosyncratic — demands of their customers.

When telecom mogul Sunil Bharti Mittal’s daughter got married last year, for instance, the venue was transformed into a mini Benares. The theme, after all, was the temple town and ace wedding planner of The Wedding Design Company, Delhi, didn’t just settle for cursory impressions of the ancient city. She recreated the temple architecture in detail. The mandap too was fashioned exactly like a temple and Mohan says she was particular about micro architectural details, including “the kind of arch there should be”.

But if this theme exuded a sense of the classic, others can get whacky. When Dabur’s got married some years ago to of the hoteliering family, the pre-wedding party involved the creation of an entire Matrix film set! Artist Shivv Singh, who conceptualised the event at Hotel Intercontinental Eros, says he created a New York skyline, with projectors playing snips from the Matrix. There was customised black leather furniture, special coffee tables created with “sewer tops”, and no less than 25,000 Czech crystals. “It was a look that people talked about for a long time,” says Singh, who mentions another wedding theme he did: “One thousand and one Bollywood nights”.

The cost of 'I Do'
DECOR: 20-25 per cent of the entire budget.
WEDDING PLANNER: Up to 12 to 13 per cent of the wedding budget.
FLOWERS: Exotic orchids like cymbidium (from New Zealand and Australia) can cost Rs 900 a stem. In Mumbai, expert planners can charge Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per function (weddingsutra estimate).
FOOD: Rs 3,000-4,000 per head for a five-star menu. 
INVITATIONS: Delhi’s Entertainment Design Company does cards for Rs 2,000 upwards (weddingsutra estimate). Ordinarily, an elegant card with a box of chocolates could cost around Rs 1,500.
ENTERTAINMENT: If this calls for an A-list Bollywood superstar like Shah Rukh Khan, the cost can run up to Rs 5 crore, say sources. Bollywood starlets too command Rs 50 lakh plus air tickets and five-star accommodation.
(Rough estimates based on inputs from industry professionals)

Theme for a dream
Bollywood, of course, is an all-time favourite theme — right from the Pakeezah night enacted during the multi-destination wedding of with NRI hotelier to Shivv Singh’s Umrao Jaan act. Here, filmy posters were painted by artists from Lucknow and mujra performers were called from Lahore. Should you want such fantasies enacted, what would be the cost? Singh’s estimate: Rs 15 lakh to “unlimited” for the Matrix evening and Rs 8-12 lakh for the Bollywood night.

But that’s hardly all. Mumbai society was abuzz with talk of pre-wedding function at the Grand Hyatt some time ago. The entire ballroom was ostensibly turned into a giant “bingo” set where people gambled in good fun — except that there were some heavy duty prizes, including an Audi A4, a BMW 3 Series and a C-Class Merc!

The big day calls for big planning. “Visual communicator” Sumant Jayakrishnan, a much in demand collaborator when it comes to grand weddings, says he gives his clients a quiz and brainstorms with them on their taste. The wedding design is an outcome of this process, like the makeshift farmhouse “train” he came up with or giant 27x30 feet Thanjavur style paintings at the venue or a theme inspired by

Location matters

Of late, it’s destination weddings that have caught everyone’s fancy. When the daughter of Sajjan Jindal of JSW Steel got married, a couple of hundred guests were flown down to Florence for a wedding that was described as one of the most “classy” ones in recent times. But few can beat the extravaganza in Phuket, when the scion of a family got married to an NRI bride. Artist MF Husain was flown in from Oman to paint “live” at the wedding. That’s not all. According to an invitee, wedding invites comprised specially commissioned, limited edition prints of well-known contemporary artists, including Paresh Maity.

The location may be foreign, but the spirit remains strictly Indian. And the baraatis in their heavy-duty lehngas and bandhgalas can transform almost any snotty resort or city. The wedding of Swatee Jayaswal, daughter of Nagpur-based business magnate Manoj Jayaswal, and Bangalore’s Lalit Tayal is a case in point. The wedding planners — Ahmedabad-based Red Events — booked the entire 700-plus party at the Grand Laguna and Banyan Tree resort in Phuket. The guests glittered in their diamonds and elaborate ethnic wear — even in a Thai beach resort.

An increasing number of upwardly mobile Indians too aspire for such spectacles. Mumbai-based Swati Pandya Sood of Bollywood Dreamz recalls how a young executive wanted something she’d seen at a fashion event in Paris recreated for her ring ceremony. “We did a ‘tree of life’ against a white background,” says Sood.

Bucks and benefits
But if everyone agrees that the big Indian wedding is getting grander, quantifying the mega event is tough. recently ran an article comparing Chelsea Clinton’s Rs 15 crore wedding with the “average” big Indian wedding, contending that Indian luxe weddings are cheaper — beginning at about Rs 2-5 crore for four functions.

But who can forget the massive spend incurred by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal? It had it all: a French chateau, performances by the entertainment world’s who’s who (including Kylie Minogue and Shah Rukh), an estimated 5,000 bottles of Mouton Cadet, air tickets for 1,000 lucky guests... The cost? An estimated $55 million, which surpassed the wedding of American business magnate Donald Trump’s son.

Neha Seth, of Mumbai-based Var Vadhu luxury wedding planners, estimates that an average Indian wedding ($34,000) costs almost 30 per cent more than the average American wedding ($26,327), while rich Indian families spend as much as $2 million dollars (Rs 10 crore). A consensus is that the luxury weddings business in India is growing at 25-30 per cent annually.

Besides the cost of décor, food, venue and travel — chartered Falcon jets are the latest fad to propose to the fiancée, mid-air — there are other spends too. As Shivv Singh recalls, “At Roshini Nadar’s wedding last year, the centrepiece was the bride herself in her diamond breastplate.” Need we say more?

Based in Delhi, she’s behind some of the most ‘it’ weddings in the country, including the spectacle set in three cities and 14 hotels. Her career in planning luxury weddings is a result of her work with corporates. The first assignment came when Sona Steering’s Surinder Kapur organised his daughter’s wedding about a decade ago. Kapur wanted to treat it like a corporate event with the same level of planning and detailing. Mohan, who was working with his company, stepped in. 
Mumbai-based Puri specialises in personalising events. Her list of clients reads like a who’s who of the country’s best known names: From Bollywood’s Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar to Sahara’s Subrato Roy, Zee’s Subhash Chandra Goel, and the Tayals of the Bank of Rajasthan. Society watchers say Puri first came into her own when, some years ago, she pitched in with the wedding of Parmeshwar Godrej’s daughter Tanya.  
When Motwane joined PDM India in 1999, he handled multiple portfolios across genres — from sports to fashion, entertainment and even TV award shows. Today, as head of PDM’s wedding management division, he is a veteran at organising “medium to largescale” weddings in India and abroad. The company specialises in an end-to-end experience and Motwane’s list of clients includes the (Sahara) Roy family, Rashmi Mehta, LN Mittal, and the Goa Gutka group. 
He is not your quintessential ‘wedding planner’ but he’s in demand for organising grand weddings. A well-known visual communicator — whether it’s in the field of theatre, fashion or films — Jayakrishnan is the man behind the film Water. He’s been part of Tim Supple’s multilingual, multicultural recreation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and has created sets for the fashion week in Mumbai and His talent has also found expression in the grand Indian wedding, thanks to designer Tarun Tahiliani who initiated him into this business. Jayakrishnan’s wedding décor (he did one with giant photo frames) is unusual and on a different scale. 
A former director with Grand Hyatt, Seth quit her job to start her own company. Seth, who has organised weddings for the Rahejas, Oberois, Sarafs, Wasans, Bhojwanis, Tayals and Jhunjhunwalas, says the latest trend is sourcing wedding gifts from across the world — China, Prague, Turkey… The mega event now even includes “pampering lounges” for family and friends, etiquette classes, personalised workout regimes and more. 
One of the earliest in the business, Raheja focuses on NRI weddings where, she says, she takes on the role of the “family elder” – doing everything, from advising people on rituals and foods of that particular community to recommending personal shoppers. 

(Anoothi Vishal is a Delhi-based freelance writer)

First Published: Sat, October 30 2010. 00:16 IST