Choosing the destination, how much does it cost, how to plan

The big fat Indian wedding may have been on a diet for the past couple of years. In an unlikely spinoff, Covid has helped take financial flab out of weddings, downsize, shrink guest lists and forge a new trend out of what was seen as the preserve of the wealthy. Destination weddings have gone desi — in more ways than one.

From luxurious getaways to foreign lands and posh country locations, the concept has expanded to include smaller weddings on the hills or on the beach on a budget. The posh snobbery confined to lavish Udaipur or an exotic wedding in Lakshadweep has trickled down to hotels and resorts in unassuming Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with beautiful locations. The Covid-confined Indian wants to free himself from large local receptions to indulge in intimate celebrations outdoors.

“There has been a massive shift after Covid, with people from all walks of life, from all strata and from small towns yearning for destination weddings,” says Chetan Vohra, co-founder and MD, Weddingline, a management company wedding center which has arranged top-notch weddings for celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Yuvraj Singh, and Vivek Oberoi, among others. “People are realizing that a wedding can be a party with a vacation,” he adds.

“They now understand the value of tight-knit weddings with 150-200 guests, instead of big, big ones with 500-800 people, and that it can be done in a much more fun, relaxed, creative and personalized way. manner,” says Shweta Acharya, founder of Baraati Inc, a leading Delhi-based wedding planner. “Events can be conceptualized around two families instead of separately,” she adds. “Another factor is that after the pandemic, all local properties are booked. So people are going out to have something different,” says Rituraj Khanna, CEO of Q Events & Weddings, a leading wedding management company based in Noida.

This has led to the emergence of several new wedding destinations in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, apart from the traditional hubs of Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala. “We are seeing new destinations like Kalimpong, Wayanad and Dharamsala where people want small weddings because they are not only close to the homes of the bride or groom, but the logistics are also easy to manage,” says Vikram Lalvani , MD and CEO, Sterling Vacation Resorts. Agrees with Shreyas Kudalkar of Kings Hotel & Resort: “Places like Alibaug, Shimla and Coorg are affordable places with extremely pleasant weather that offer a variety of travel choices and are easy to plan.” So if you too have planned a destination wedding, read on to find out how much it can cost and which cities you can choose from.


How to choose a destination
The first step in planning is to select the right destination and location.

BUDGET: The choice of city will depend on several factors, the first being your budget. Set the total amount you want to spend on the wedding and allocate 60-65% of that amount to destination and travel.

GUEST LIST: Next, decide how many guests will attend the wedding. This will help you choose a property that has the required number of bedrooms. If the rooms are insufficient, you may need to book more than two hotels. “While I wanted a big wedding in Delhi with 1,000 people, my husband wanted a small international wedding with very few people. We found common ground by getting married in Jodhpur with 400 people,” says Aarti Goel, who got married at Umaid Bhawan Palace last year.


DISTANCE:
An important consideration is the distance of the location from your home. If it’s too far and flights are your only option, consider the higher cost of travel. Driving distances are best, especially if you need to carry a lot of wedding equipment and workers with you.

CONVENIENCE: You will also need to determine the convenience of traveling if you have elders in the family accompanying you. “We chose Jaipur because no flight was needed from Delhi and we had elderly people with us who were more comfortable driving,” says Delhi-based Navya Kapur, who got married at Leela Palace in October last year.

WEATHER REPORT: Weather and time of year are other factors to keep in mind as they will determine the ease of travel and booking. If it’s peak tourist season, you’ll need to plan well in advance, and if the weather is hot and humid, you’ll need to worry about wilting flowers and decoration. Booking out of season is invariably the best in terms of cost and travel.

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How much will it cost?


Depending on your budget, wedding destinations can be divided into three segments: luxury, mid-range and budget. Hotel costs generally include accommodation, food and use of the premises. Most offer additional services for an additional fee, while some include a few services and staff in the package, and still others offer end-to-end wedding management for a higher cost.

The top segment includes upscale 5-star hotels, palaces and forts, with costs starting at Rs.35,000 per room for one night and going up to Rs.5-7 lakh per night. The total cost can be as high as Rs 3-5 crore for a 2 day wedding for 200 guests, but can further increase depending on the needs of the family. Most of these venues, with lavish decors and services, are found in Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan.

The middle segment includes 4 and 5 star luxury and heritage hotels, starting at Rs.20,000 per night per room, and total spend can range from Rs.45 lakh to Rs.2 crore. Major hotel brands in this segment include Hyatt, Leela, Taj, JW Marriott,

Welcomehotels, among others. The budget segment includes 3 and 4 star hotels and resorts with costs ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000 per night per room, and the total cost amounts to Rs 15 to 45 lakh.

These include Radisson, Sterling, Lemon Tree Premier and other local stations. Although destination weddings are perceived to be more expensive than local weddings, this may not always be the case. Since your destination guest list is drastically reduced to include only family and close friends, you save on the costs that would have gone into a larger local wedding with 800-1,000 people. Also, you can reduce your decorating and entertaining costs if you choose a scenic venue that doesn’t require too many flowers or decorations.

Need a wedding planner?

While Indians have long planned elaborate weddings themselves, destination weddings require more advanced planning and logistics to handle travel, out-of-town guests, decoration and on-site entertainment. Wedding planners charge a flat fee for defined services, which typically amounts to 5-10% of the total wedding cost.

It’s a small price to pay for the convenience that comes with planning and managing the complex dynamics of a destination wedding. “For our wedding in Goa, the planner not only negotiated a good hotel discount, but also handled the guest transfers without any delays, which is considered a big problem in Goa,” says Swati Verma , based in Bengaluru.

Great planners typically provide end-to-end services including guest reception, travel and transfers, food and beverages, entertainment and decoration, leaving the host family a stress-free celebration.

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How to reduce costs


Whether it’s a luxury or budget wedding, there’s always an opportunity to cut costs (see Cut your wedding costs…). While hotel discounts have dried up after Covid as demand has increased, there are other ways to cut your expenses. “A good option is to negotiate with the hotel during low season when demand is low, which reduces your costs by 20-25%,” says Vohra. You can also use local vendors and artists, greatly reducing the travel and living expenses of staff members you would otherwise take with you. Choosing a nice location can also help you reduce decorating costs.

How to plan

Planning should start at least six months before the wedding, starting with setting your budget, your guests, your ceremonies and your destination. You will need to do a pre-selected venue scouting with the wedding planner at this point. After finalizing the destination, you will need to go there personally to decide on the food and drink, venues for the various ceremonies, themes and decorating ideas, etc., at least 2-3 months before the wedding.

If your planner has good contacts with local suppliers, it will prove cheaper and more convenient. Generally, however, people prefer their own makeup artists and henna artists, choreographers and DJs or singers, which will need to be booked in advance. About a month or 15 days before the wedding, the planner should have finalized all the details without any specifics.

Take out wedding insurance

When planning extravagant weddings, people often overlook one crucial detail: insurance. “Even if they want it, many don’t know how and where to get it,” says Acharya (see Marriage FAQ…). The sum insured should roughly correspond to the size of the expenses incurred for the wedding. “It will cover marriage cancellation or postponement, burglary, damage to valuables, accident, death and even civil liability,” says Raghavendra Rao, distribution manager, Future Generali Insurance India. “The policy will cover non-reimbursable expenses incurred in connection with the marriage,” adds TA Ramalingam, Technical Manager, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

Best Cities for Destination Wedding

Here are some popular and upcoming locations for destination weddings. These cities offer a range of options, from high-end luxury palaces and 5-star luxury hotels to historic 3- and 4-star hotels, affordable boutique hotels and budget resorts. Hotel packages usually include accommodation, food and venues, with costs ranging from Rs.5,000 to Rs.5 lakh per night per room.

The prices listed here are not the total cost of the wedding, but the hotel rates for a 2-day wedding for 150 guests, which constitute the bulk of the expenses. As some hotels in smaller towns may have fewer rooms, you will either need to reduce your guest list to 50-75 people or book more than one hotel.

Read also: The best cities for a destination wedding in India

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