Virtual weddings to overcome real lockdowns

From work from home to weddings from home, digital world has a solution for all

Society

April 23, 2020

/ By / Mumbai

Virtual weddings

The distance of 1400 km from the groom did not take away the solemnity of the occasion

April marks the beginning of wedding season in India. But with the lockdown ruling out large gatherings, some couples are turning to the digital space to tie the knot.

Clad in a white sherwani (groom’s wedding attire) with a red turban as soon as Sushen makes entry, where the mandap (dais) was already set, the bands start playing wedding tunes and hundreds of baraatis (wedding guests), start throwing flowers and join in the dance. The priests start the ceremony and Sushen every now and then steals a glance at the bride who is dressed in a traditional red lehenga (bride’s wedding attire). Soon the pheras (circumambulation around the holy fire) take place and the wedding ceremony is complete.

Looks like any usual Indian wedding? But it isn’t just any wedding! This is the wedding in times of coronavirus pandemic where the entire ceremony took place in the digital space. The wedding venue was replaced by Zoom app, which brought together the bride and groom, physically almost 1,400 km away from each other, the priests and all the baraatis from different states and some overseas, in the same digital suite.

This unique wedding took place on April 19, in Mumbai, the capital city of the western state Maharashtra. Even though this wedding was organised during the lockdown it didn’t miss out on anything. From wedding band and sangeet performances to guests donning traditional attires, the couple experienced every aspect of a tradition Indian marriage.

“It was an amazing experience but also a gamble as we didn’t know how many people were going turn up. But we were glad that everyone was part of it. Everybody was dancing, we popped champagne and my friends sent us videos of them dancing. Everybody was dressed up and they even made special dishes for themselves. Keerti (the bride) wore her mother’s lehenga and jewellery that my mother had given. I wore my mother’s necklace and used a dupatta (stole) as the turban. I even broke her earring to make a broach for my turban. There was a lot of creativity involved. It was a real wedding experience,” Sushen Dang, tells Media India Group.

Virtual weddings

The groom and his parents were also decked up for the occasion

Even though both Keerti and Sushen had legally got married on February 10, they had finalised April 19 for their social wedding. “For the social ceremony we had booked everything, resorts, we had a proper guest list. So after the lockdown was announced we cancelled everything,” adds Sushen.

However, even though it was a wedding from home, it was the great Indian wedding as nearly 16,000 people were a part of it. “About 16,000 people watched it live through Facebook besides the 100 cameras through Zoom. From family we had 300-400 people from almost every city,” he adds

“The experience for me was very similar to those that one experiences in social weddings. Each and every member of the family was there and with the priests and pheras everything felt real. We might have another function during our first wedding anniversary where we will invite everyone,” says Keerti who emphasizes that the experience was every bit real for her.

The wedding was organised by shaadi.com, an online matchmaking service that has over the years taken a large part of the huge Indian marriage market, at least in terms of getting the potential brides and grooms together. The company says it developed the concept of a virtual wedding in response to the current situation prevailing in the country.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns implemented across countries, many couples have been forced to postpone their wedding indefinitely. For Indians particularly, the wedding date is of immense value. Not just the mahurat (auspicious date), but also the fact that so much planning has gone into it for so many months. And in these times of social distancing and lockdowns, we at Shaadi.com, along with Leo Burnett, found a completely new way to help these couples get married, without even stepping out of their homes. ‘Weddings From Home’ is an initiative wherein the entire wedding ceremony and celebrations, right from sangeet to the pheras, are conducted virtually, from within the safety of their homes,” Adhish Hemendra Zaveri, brand marketing director of Shaadi.com tells Media India Group.

He says that though the experience was a novel one for everyone, especially the families of the couple, there were hardly any major demands imposed by them. “I don’t think the family had any demands in particular. Just some expectations in terms of how the ceremony would be conducted and how many guests could attend their wedding. Which was easy. The larger mandate we took upon ourselves was to ensure that we made their day as special as possible. Weddings in India are not just about the ceremonies. They’re about a lot of fun, fanfare and people coming together. It’s probably going to be the biggest day in the couple’s life and it was important to us that we made it one to remember,” he says.

For the virtual wedding to be a success, a lot of rehearsal is needed, just as for the weddings held in the physical world. Proper training is provided to the bride, the groom as well as the parents of the couple and also the guests. The bride is also given virtual training on how to dress up and wear bridal make up, while trained henna artists guide her and family members over video on how to apply henna. The band and the music is also organised remotely, while the priests sanction the marriage and conduct the ceremony. “And with that, the wedding from home is complete with the same level of fanfare that would’ve been expected of a wedding otherwise,” adds Zaveri.

Zaveri says during the lockdown, virtual weddings could indeed save the moment for many a family as the Covid19 pandemic has entirely disrupted the huge Indian wedding industry. Over 10 million weddings are held each year in India and April marks one of the key months for the weddings to take place due to the traditional Indian calendar and hence the spread of the epidemic has indeed disrupted hundreds of thousands of weddings. With no visibility on the end to the crisis, many have been forced to call it off. A recent survey indicated that close to half of those planning to tie the knot in the coming quarter have postponed or cancelled their plans. But unlike big metros, nearly two-thirds of the respondents in smaller cities said they would still go ahead, the survey says.

While most of the weddings that were to be held in the next couple of months have been postponed to the later part of the year, 55 pc couples who were to get married in the second quarter of the year hope things would get better in the near future and have made little or no change to their plans while the rest have postponed or cancelled their wedding for now.

It is the couples who had earlier planned to get married somewhere around these dates but couldn’t by virtue of the lockdown. “We are seeing a lot more traction coming in from the couples themselves, particularly from the ones who are staying apart that shaadi.com is targetting,” says Zaveri.

Already two virtual weddings have taken place and another 10 are on the cards. Though created as a solution for the period of the lockdown, the demand for this may outlast the pandemic, at least this is what Zaveri hopes. “Who is to say? We honestly don’t know how and when the world will get back to normal. We also don’t know if social distancing will become a norm or will things get back to normal once the threat from coronavirus ends. If it does become a norm, then Virtual Weddings should pick-up and can become a fairly normal thing in the future,” he adds. With the cost a fraction of the physical wedding with all the glitz, indeed virtual weddings could be a way of life even in a country like India where wedding is perhaps the most important social event.

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1 COMMENTS

  1. Avatar Ashini S Mehta says:

    This is pretty cool to be honest. Wedding invitations online and wedding gift registry should also be part of this. – https://www.weddingwishlist.com/wedding-invitations

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