There have long been calls from sections of society to make the great Indian wedding a more moderate and intimate affair. But the way the pandemic has shrunk celebrations has taken everyone aback and left the wedding industry — planners, caterers, decorators, outfit designers, photographers and other vendors — struggling for survival.
A cap on guest numbers, mandatory health screening, travel challenges and other Covid-linked obstacles have forced couples and families to drop plans for an elaborate ceremony. Under the current guidelines, a maximum of 40 people can attend the event. Some weddings in the districts are now taking place on verandahs and in small halls. Close relatives bring potluck food and take up photography duties. This may ease the pressure on families to set aside big budgets, but many people also feel that the most important day of their life is being reduced to a formality.
The size of the Indian wedding industry is about $50-billion, and the state’s sector accounts for 25 per cent, according to Sanjeev Kapoor, the president of the Karnataka Event Management Association (KEMA). On the condition of local businesses, he said: “We are now at zero. The pandemic has broken the back of the industry. Skilled employees are on the bench, and there is pain across segments, be it catering, photography, decoration or entertainment.”
M Indira, a retired professor of economics from the University of Mysore, said that Covid restrictions had brought down expenses associated with nuptials, which was good in some ways. “But it’s a disappointment as far as sentiments are concerned. For many, the wedding is a lifetime memory,” Indira said.
Before the pandemic unfolded, Shrinivas Deshpande, a retired school teacher in Dharwad, thought he would have to use his Rs 21 lakh gratuity and take a loan for his daughter’s wedding. “In the end, I saved about Rs 3 lakh and didn’t need a loan,” he said.
Joyal D’Souza, who had to postpone his wedding thrice because of the Covid-19 crisis, said that moments mattered more than money. “Restrictions are good; some money can be saved. But what is the fun of a wedding if your loved ones are not invited. At the end of the day, money goes and comes, but not memories of a lifetime,” said Joyal, who works in Qatar. Professional wedding photographers Prajwal Ukkuda and Hemanth Kumar said some of their friends in the industry sold off their cameras and gadgets as they could not repay bank loans. Caterers and hall owners are wondering how they will cope. “What profit can we earn from orders or bookings for only 50 to 100 guests? Orders above 300 guests are ideal,” said Primus D’Souza of Prince Caterers.
According to KR Sathyanarayana of the Mysuru Choultry Owners’ Association, a choultry provides livelihood to 35 to 40 people, from cleaners to guards, and all of them are struggling. C Narayana Gowda, a choultry owner in Mysuru, is hoping for some recovery after a year.
Kapoor of KEMA said that things would improve once vaccination coverage increased and families became more confident of organising social functions. “A father needs the hope that he and his family are safe from the third wave. That’s the only hope we have at present,” he added.





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