Weddings seek exotic locales: Kovalam, Udaipur and Goa are top picks

From theme-based weddings to exotic locations – ranging from Goa, Kovalam and Udaipur, to Abu Dhabi, Oman and Thailand – young Indians seeking to get married are pulling out all the stops to make their occasion a special one. The outcome of this zeal is leading to some interesting trends for the outbound and domestic travel segments. Jyoti Balani engages with some top hotels and wedding planners in the Maharashtra region to uncover some major unfoldings in this niche segment.

mr-vinayak-mhatre1Weddings are special occasions which call for special celebrations and more so in countries like ours where weddings become an excuse for people to let their hair down, celebrate life and new beginnings. India as a country has always been a favourite with several tourists who wish to get married here. In fact, on several of my overseas travels, the friends I make always ask me if they can get an invite to a wedding in India. Our very own desi weddings have always reflected pomp, grandeur, colour and celebration at their opulent best. The tourism industry benefits immensely by the fact that so many couples all over the world want to visit exotic destinations in India to get hitched and locals scout for unique locations all the time within the country.

Luxury hotels in Mumbai are a hot favourite these days with the who’s who of society. The St. Regis Mumbai seems to be the destination hotel of choice for recent celebrity weddings which become the talk of the town owing to their high-profile attendance and are a major business segment for the hotel industry in India. “Everyone wants a fairy tale wedding. Destination weddings are the current trend where both the bride and the groom along with their families can live in the same hotel. This gives them the feasibility and an opportunity for the couple to celebrate their wedding at a gorgeous destination of their choice,” says Vinayak Mhatre, Director of Catering and Event Management at The St. Regis Mumbai. “Thnoureen-moranie St. Regis Mumbai has hosted a lot of Mumbai’s most exclusive and memorable events and wedding receptions. At the St. Regis Mumbai, brides and grooms receive the highest level of care and attention from their initial meeting with our experienced staff to the last moment of their enchanted gathering. It also depends on the scale of the wedding. Usually the guests use their own wedding planners so the hotel works in tandem with the wedding planner to finalize the food and beverage, themes and venue. We also offer a panel of vendors and wedding butlers to ensure a seamless experience. Celebrities who have had their wedding functions in the recent past at The St Regis Mumbai are Shahid Kapoor, Priety Zinta, Bipasha Basu and Masaba Gupta. It is our endeavour to ensure that as each couple approaches their wedding day, The St. Regis Mumbai offers the attentive service beyond expectation to make the celebration a magical and majestic affair. From customized dining options to bespoke spa treatments for the bridal party, to even assistance in selecting the finest linens, our wedding planner will thoughtfully curate the every element to make the couple’s vision a reality. Weddings at The St. Regis Mumbai are perfectly organized with refined meals characterized by the best Indian and International traditional flavours in modern presentations. Our focus is to ensure that our chefs work closely with the families to curate a menu that matches the theme and to ensure that the family’s guests enjoy an opulent spread befitting the wedding,” he goes on to add.

manish-dayyaWedding planners in the region are extremely busy at this time of the year and creating a unique theme for everyone seems to be a challenge. “This year we have seen a steady demand in newer and more exotic destination-based themes. Where earlier people wanted Moroccan and Arab themes or Rajasthani elements, this year we’ve done a wedding where we had to draw inspiration from China and create a theme that we called “Looking East”. We also did one inspired from our visit to Paris! Jewel trends and deeper colours are definitely back for the winter, and opulence in general is the mood,” says Noureen Morani, Business Head of Cineyug. “Europe seems to be the hottest destination this season, though of course not over the winter. But we have also had some amazing opportunities to discover the Sultanate of Oman as a new and upcoming favourite and we were so impressed that we will be definitely recommending it to those looking for a culturally rich and exciting new destination. Croatia, Budapest, Morocco, Abu Dhabi are just a few of the top of my head, but travel, in fact is one of the most efficient areas of planning, since it can be completed much in advance and other than a few changes last minute, clients end up saving quite a bit in bulk bookings or chartering flights ahead of time.

Exotic culinary offerings integral to a theme wedding

divya-chadhaDestinations with natural scenic beauty are a favourite with many a couple who plan to get married. Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach is a popular choice in Mumbai as it is attached to the beach and makes for a romantic setting for weddings. “The latest trends in the wedding business as far as an Absolute Beach Front Property like Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach is concerned are mainly that, apart from the formal marriages and wedding receptions that take place inside the banquet halls and indoor space, high demands are also for the Pool Side venue overlooking the Arabian Sea with expectations for floral theme based décor, sundowner parties and exotic multi cuisine offerings. The trend in the wedding space additionally has highly transformed from just having a regular buffet dinner or lunch to now more for experiential food and beverage offering with a high demand for live cooking stations. While providing guests with all assistance needed in the wedding related preparations and requirements, we realize that the food plays a vital role to suit every ritual and ceremony from engagements to Mehendi, Sangeet and formal sit down dinners, theme based nights thus giving the hotel a great opportunity to showcase the various food and beverage offerings and work along for all the themes from colors to states ethnicities to cultural ambience” reveals Manish Dayya, General Manager-Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach.

‘Trendy’ locations important element to an Indian wedding

Divya Chadha of A Klass Apart, a boutique wedding agency feels when it comes to the latest trends – the wedding industry is constantly evolving. “The Indian wedding market has caught onto this and we are seeing more couples getting involved in the decision-making process of their weddings and this allows for a fantastic fusion of contemporary design with hints of Indian elements. Wedding locations are subjective to where the couple and their families are from. Within India, popular destinations are Goa, Jaipur, Udaipur and Kovalam; however, destinations such as Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Mussourie, Bikaner and Ajmer are getting ‘trendy’. For international destination weddings – Thailand, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman are favourites for couples/families based out of India – although we are getting more enquiries for Jordan, Egypt, Malta, Greece, and Italy. Couples who want a more whimsical and carefree wedding tend to opt for beach locations such as Goa. Those looking for something more regal and palatial opt for the beautiful palaces in Rajasthan (Devi Garh, Jag Mandir, Shiv Niwas, Manek Chowk), Hyderabad (Taj Falaknama) and Turkey (Ciaragan Palace on the Bosphorus and Mardan Palace). When it comes to Food – the trends are endless. We love the idea of focusing on live counters and forgoing on the standard buffet practices that are popular within India. Thematic food trucks are a big hit along with curated bite size food pairings (think mini tacos with a shot of tequila or oysters and champagne)”, she said.

Families and couples in India and abroad seem to pull out all stops when it comes to spending money on weddings as opulence seems to be the name of the game. “The money that is spent on travel varies for each wedding. NRI’s coming into India from UK or USA prefer locations wherein they can get direct flights as it is more cost effective for them and their guests. For couples or families from India – some communities even pay for flights for their guests – so the location is picked based on ease of accessibility and cost of flight tickets. For international destinations, the travel cost is a big factor in determining the wedding guest list as well – especially if guests are paying for their own flights. On an average, we have noticed that wedding families and guests are willing to spend up between `5,000 to `15,000 for destinations within India and `35,000 – max `40,000 when travelling from within India to an international destination. NRI couples from UK / USA who are having a wedding in India will spend between £400 – £600 from UK and up to $1500 on flights (majority of the guests pay for their own rooms so the flight cost is very important to them),” reveals Divya Chadha.

By the looks of it, the wedding market in India only seems to be burgeoning which augurs well for the travel and tourism industry in the country. 

By Jyoti Balani

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