The blushing bride dressed in fineries, surrounded by her bridesmaids, the gallant groom dressed royally, being hyped by his band of groomsmen. Families on both sides, extremely involved in all the proceedings, with the elders showering their blessings and the young ones creating mischief. Fragrant flowers adorning all possible surfaces, and delicious smells wafting from the kitchens. The photographer, equally torn between taking gorgeous shots of the bride and groom, and cheeky clicks of the guests gorging on food. Indian weddings have always been a celebration unto themselves.
Weddings signify much more than just a bond between two people. They are a testament to the strong familial values in our society and a celebration of togetherness of all.
Enter 2020, and with it, the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in March, 60% of the weddings had to be rescheduled or cancelled, according to one survey. According to a KPMG report in 2019, India’s current wedding market estimated at $50 billion growing with a rate of 25-30% per year, having over 10 million people associated directly or indirectly, had come to a standstill.
"The meeting was at full capacity throughout the 2 hours and 30 minutes."
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) April 24, 2020
The pandemic morphed the celebrated concept of togetherness into an atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty. When lockdowns were being implemented country-wide, ingenious trends of weddings over video calls became the rage. So much so that in the first couple of instances, even the bride and groom were at separate locations and connected over a video call. As subsequent easing of the lockdown has begun, gatherings of 100 people are being allowed so as to institutionalize the holy matrimony of two individuals. Still, this time around, there is a ‘new normal’.
In the new normal, even though there is a cap on the number of guests, which would lead one to believe that expenditure has been reduced, this, I feel, is not the case. The phenomenon of ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’ has become the main driver, with the expenditure remaining almost the same in pre and post lockdown.
Instead of planning one huge event, the bride and groom are now throwing multiple small events to engage with all their friends, family, and colleagues. This is also keeping the wedding industry well in business. In fact, users’ time on matrimonial sites like Shaadi.com, Jeevansaathi.com, has seen an increase of over 20-25%. These sites have taken initiatives for Home Nuptials where they are providing end to end services to facilitate marriages over videos, and guests are provided with login ids and passwords to stream live weddings.
Unfortunately, not all situations have been able to turn the pandemic around for the better, and the pandemic’s effect has been observed for the worse in certain circumstances. As the mobility of married individuals has diminished, and people have started looking inward for increased amounts of time, support, and entertainment, friction has started brewing, testing the tenacity of the bond of marriage. Divorce rates have witnessed an uptrend as compared to pre-covid times.
The pandemic has not only disrupted education but also given rise to an unprecedented increase in child marriages. Government officials mentioned that Maharashtra is considering the quick reopening of residential schools to tackle an ‘unexpected’ rise in child marriage. Authorities in the state have prevented more than 100 such weddings from April to July but fear that many others may have gone unreported.
Having explored both sides of the effects of the pandemic on Indian weddings, it is too early to comment on the institution’s future. The best that can come out of the situation is that we as Indians continue to cherish the love, joy, and togetherness that the bond of marriage brings and keep the celebration alive in our hearts.