Ticket to the big-fat Indian wedding

An Australian startup wants foreigners to get a taste of traditional Indian weddings by buying tickets for the soirees.

The big-fat Indian wedding has always been an object of wonderment for the West — the song, dance, colour, and rituals make for a rich cultural experience. Join My Wedding, an Australia-based startup is taking the Indian wedding extravaganza a notch higher, by allowing couples to sell tickets to their wedding to curious travellers who wish to be a part of the shebang.

Dubbing the ‘arrangement’ wedding tourism, Pallavi Savant, the marketing head of the startup tells us that the idea for this startup came when the strategy head of Join My Wedding, Marti Matecsa attended a wedding in India. “The wedding took place in 2012 in Tamil Nadu, and it got Marti thinking,” informs Pallavi. “She was very enamoured by the wedding, the flowers, the jewellery and the colours. Weddings in the West are rather limited in terms of rituals and are on a much smaller scale than Indian and Asian weddings.” Pallavi also points out that unless one has an Indian friend, it’s not quite possible to be a part of such a function.

Thus, was born the idea of allowing foreigners planning vacations to India to buy tickets and be a part of a wedding soiree in the country. Says Namrata Nataraj, who along with soon-to-be husband Nitin Bathi has registered her wedding on the site, “We’ve not seen anyone selling tickets to their wedding ever. So, having total strangers at our wedding was an exciting prospect.” Namrata explains that she and Nitin thought it was a great idea to meet new people. “Suppose someone comes and attends our wedding from another country and we happen to visit that country some day. What better thing than to have friends in an alien country!”

Mumbai girl Urvi Ambavat, who has also registered on the site along with fiancé Paras Shah, has a more pragmatic approach to the idea. “There’s nothing concrete we’re expecting to come out of this in terms of forging bonds with the guests. People visit India for its rich culture and our weddings provide that; it’s supposed to be a part of an Indian tour experience.”

Given the uniqueness of the idea, Pallavi and the startup team had some misgivings about bringing in the money factor for wedding tickets. “You know how people perceive weddings in our culture,” she says with a sigh. “They are prestigious events. The first problem was, ‘why someone would invite total strangers to their wedding’ and second was ‘why they would charge them’. We had to explain to patrons that putting a price on the attendance will avoid travellers and couples alike to not take this for granted. Besides, you will have to allocate a few friends or relatives to take charge and help these travellers out with everything from explaining rituals to taking care of their needs.” The website also takes a 15 per cent commission fee with the whole deal.

“It’s completely up to the couple to put a price on their wedding tickets,” continues Pallavi. “When you call people to your wedding, and say it’s a four-day affair, there’s a lot of cost involved, specially with lodging and food. For a regular family, an additional cost of say '50,000 means a lot.” Both Urvi-Paras and Namrata-Nitin have priced their wedding tickets at $300 per head. “We’re already having a guest list of about 1,200 people coming in,” says Urvi.

“For our families, the number of guests didn’t make too much of a difference. We quickly did the math before pricing our tickets and realised the major cost was that of lodging in the hotels we’ve booked for the guests. We threw in meal costs and came down to this figure.” Namrata explains that while they were quite excited at the prospect of making new friends at their wedding, their families are concerned at the kind of people who will attend the wedding. “We’ve got people asking us, how can you risk absolutely crazy people coming in for the wedding, but we thought we’ll give it a try because you never know; anything can happen!”
Pallavi says that the company has several layers of checks before they allow either couples or travellers to sign up for Join My Wedding. “The number of weddings that make it to the website are barely 30 per cent of what we get,” she says. “Every wedding goes through a screening process. Both couples and travellers are made to fill a questionnaire and only once we’re satisfied with the authenticity do they make it to the list,” adds Pallavi.

Not just Indians, the website has hit it off in countries like Russia, Australia and China too. A place of pride on the website is occupied by a wedding from Novosibirsk, Russia, where a couple is hosting a Lord of the Rings themed wedding. “We thought it would take a while to take off,” says an excited Pallavi. “We’re trying to sell an ‘experience’. The whole premise is based on bringing people together to celebrate. We bring world cultures together.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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