“I felt lost in a sea of 11,000 guests! The entire town came to a standstill. The wedding took place in an open ground where something like a movie set was erected. Hostesses wearing mini-skirts, looking like they belonged on a plane rather than at a traditional South Indian wedding, ushered us to our seats. The women guests wore diamond jewellery that paled in comparison to their zari-laden sarees. Everything was big, bright and blingy!” This, from a friend who recently returned from a high-profile wedding in small-town South India.
The mellow modest-budgeted South Indian wedding is now firmly a thing of the past. Say hello to the big fat South Indian wedding with all the glitz of a Bollywood production!
Parents want nothing but the best for their children, and wedding budgets are indeed going through the roof. But a 'sky's the limit' budget doesn't necessarily make the wedding planner's job any easier.
Saraswathi Krishnakumar, who runs a wedding planning company called Event Art with her sister Lakshmi Ravichander says, “What ends up happening is that the client expects the moon but cannot believe it comes at the price it does. If the client has some idea of a budget - any budget - it is a great start point to create an interesting theme.”
But does a big budget necessarily translate to a more interesting wedding? Though admittedly it does cost more to create a theme wedding, Saraswathi says, “Given a budget, any wedding can be made more interesting. The only thing that changes is the scale at which the idea gets translated and the components used. For instance, the budget will determine the flowers that go into the floral decorations as well as the musician invited to perform at the reception. It will not take away from the core idea, though.”
Saraswathi spoke fondly of one 'Nischayathartham' (engagement) as part of a wedding she had organised. “The entire function was a statement of the family's eco-consciousness. We created a Ganesha out of leaves at the entrance to the venue and the backdrop for the ceremony was also made entirely of leaves. We had lightbulbs inside 'kuruttu' leaf lanterns. We avoided disposable plastic plates and cups, and served typical Tamil food on plantain leaves and coffee in 'tumbler-davara' sets. The return gifts were terracotta items. This also enables us to do our bit for society by sourcing some products from NGOs.”
Krithika was to marry Venkat, she decided to play planner for her own wedding and added a dash of symbolism to the wedding arrangements. “We used the theme of Meenakshi Kalyanam to denote the merger of our two traditions, Iyer and Iyengar. The two symbols we used were green parrot (Meenakshi's symbol) and red lotus (being her brother, Vishnu's symbol).” The invitation was green with a parrot motif. Krithika's wedding saree blouse had parrots embroidered on the sleeve and the immediate family was dressed in greens and reds. The 'thambulam' bags had a Tanjore painting-esque rendering of Meenakshi Kalyanam on them, with Tulsi saplings as return gifts. As for decorations, the florist created a 'thoranam' making extensive use of fresh lotuses suspended from toy parrots. As luck would have it, the wedding venue also had a ready backdrop of Meenakshi Kalyanam!
Geeta Vasudevan was clear that when it came to her son's wedding, a claustrophobic wedding hall or star hotel simply wouldn't do. She picked the very ethnic Dakshina Chitra. She says, “I organised everything for Prashant's wedding. Since the bride was Punjabi, we had a Baraat complete with band and horse. It was an al fresco evening reception and a night wedding. Our 800 guests from across India enjoyed a flute and veena concert at the reception where we hosted a buffet with a mix of North and South Indian cuisine. We were surprised that 250 of our guests decided to stay on and be part of the Arya Samaj wedding at 10 p.m. During the actual wedding ceremony, thanks to the serene ambience, the 'mantras' were clearly audible.”
“The venue lends itself so well to the heritage ambience I wanted to create, that we used only twinkling serial lights and floral 'thoranams' to decorate the 'mandapam'.” says Geeta. “We could have easily gone overboard on the decorations, but that would have robbed the place of its beauty.”
Saraswathi spoke to us of one wedding she organised where the typical Punjabi concept of a Sangeet function was given a new spin. “The clients wanted a pre-wedding party, but the Sangeet concept doesn't really exist in Tiruppur. Instead, we took the spirit of the Sangeet function and customised it.”
“The couple was escorted from the temple to the mandap by traditional Nadaswaram musicians and then by traditional folk dancers. We created a performance with professional 'therukoothu' actors, taking inspiration from a folk song from the old Tamil movie, Navarathri. We kept the tune intact, but used fresh voices and customised the lyrics to incorporate the names of the groom and bride and details of their families.”says Saraswathi.
Just goes to prove that to have a unique and memorable wedding, one need not be limited by budget or convention!
An edited version appeared in TAXI's March 2011 Issue