A Smaller, Leaner Indian Wedding Could Be A Blessing In Disguise

How couples should use the money they save on a smaller wedding this year.

(Image: BloombergQuint)
(Image: BloombergQuint)

The pandemic has shrunk the big, fat Indian wedding and financial advisers say the newlyweds should be glad.

Indian weddings are elaborate, with multiple ceremonies and large gatherings of up to 1,000. But amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the Home Ministry’s guidelines don’t allow more than 50 guests. With the number of infections mounting every day, the restrictions aren’t expected to be eased soon.

“A lot of couples have said they will shift the dates but they want to make it a grand wedding,” said Sahil Shah, founder of WedWorks, a company that helps organise weddings. But equally, Shah said, there are couples who are keen to carry on despite the restrictions.

Fewer guests mean smaller, cheaper weddings. To lure hesitant couples and drive business during the slowdown, hotels and banquet halls are now offering special packages. According to Shah, costs have fallen by 40-50%. “For smaller banquet halls, for example, where 200-250 guests were initially accommodated, the charge has gone down from Rs 3.5-4 lakh to Rs 1.5-2 lakh. This includes the cost for sanitisation kits and decoration.”

Harshvardhan Roongta, certified financial planner and co-founder Roongta Securities, calls it “blessing in disguise”.

“Nobody likes to spend so much for weddings. They do it because of societal pressure,” he said. Parents who are spending on their children’s wedding, he said, should ideally give the excess money to the couple so that they have more security when they start their life together.

Natasha Fernandes (name changed on request) had set a budget of Rs 15 lakh for her wedding in December. But now she intends to get the marriage registered in court and throw a party for a small gathering of family and friends as it won’t be safe for people to travel. “We felt it wouldn’t be right to call some people and not others. So we won’t be having a reception.”

That, Fernandes expects, will save her close to Rs 12 lakh. She and her fiancé plan to use part of that to travel abroad for their honeymoon, whenever it’s safe.

Couples, Roongta said, should definitely use a portion of what they save to spoil themselves. “But you should also keep a part of it aside for your goals. The best thing to do is to invest it in equity for retirement, considering that most couples getting married right now are around 30 years old and have 20 years or so to retire,” he said.

Not everyone thinks of smaller weddings as savings.

Sahil Sharma (name changed in request), too, intends to go ahead with his wedding in July despite the curbs. The hotel he booked for two days will take care of everything from food and lodging of guests to the mandap. Initially, the hotel bill was working out to Rs 25-30 lakh, but’s fallen by half to Rs 15 lakh.

“We don’t look at this as money saved,” Sharma told BloombergQuint. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and it must be grand. Also, my bride is the only child, so her parents want to make the wedding memorable,” he said. “We didn’t have a budget to begin with so how can we say we have saved money?”

But according to Roongta, a couple would have spent the money on the wedding and chances are, they wouldn’t think about it for more than a few days. If they invest the surplus and forget about it for 20 years, they will be doing themselves a favour.

“Everybody needs money at retirement, and often the amount that we need is much more than what we anticipate,” he said. “We can calculate based on 7% inflation, but often even that number falls short.”

For those planning to postpone their wedding, Mrin Agarwal, certified financial planner and founder Finsafe India, said it would be a good idea to move the funds kept aside for the wedding into an ultra-short duration or low duration bond fund.

For those getting married now and saving on expenses due to Covid-19 restrictions, she advises a balance. “You could invest part of the funds for financial goals and use the balance for lifestyle needs or something you have always wanted to do.”