It is never a bad time to get married, they say. But they never said that March 2020 would be. Several couples across the country and the world would have ideally looked forward to starting the year together by tying the knot. But coronavirus had other plans.
Even as the country battles with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, couples are mulling over whether to postpone their big day or get married in closed quarters sans the grandeur. “I really did not want to get married at this time because my expectations and excitement was killed already,” says Ashwitha*, a 23-year-old who got married on Sunday amidst the Janta curfew.
The unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak has pushed couples to resort to plan B after huge gatherings in wedding halls were prohibited as part of lockdown orders. Postponing weddings, getting married on the streets, inside the homes, virtual weddings are some of the used alternatives. On March 19, a couple in Vadodara tied the knot outside the bride’s house on Waghodiya road where 300 attendees along with the couple wore facemasks during the entire ceremony.
For many brides like Ashwitha their wedding day is something they had dreamed of being picture perfect since their childhood. “I can’t imagine having a face mask in all my wedding photos. I could never get married like that. We did not have any facemasks in our wedding for the guests also, because it was a small number,” said Ashwitha who got married at a small wedding hall in a low-key ceremony.
There seem to be several reasons for postponing or even not postponing weddings. Like in Ashwitha’s case advancing the wedding was not an option given that the elders in the family considered it as a bad omen or inauspicious. “My own brother had to watch the wedding on live stream as he couldn’t fly here from the states,” said the newly-wed bride.
Casting aside all conventions of a huge wedding hall, extended guest list and grand decorations and food which are synonymous with Indian weddings, 36-year-old Karki got hitched with his girlfriend of five years at his house in Chennai. “We had a small intimate wedding affair at home and somehow it felt so special, there was an emotional connect with the place and the small number of people who had gathered. Though I never imagined my wedding to happen like this, I would have missed out on this feeling had it been a grand affair,” he said.
Being aware of the health risks of even such a small gathering, friends and family who attended the wedding before the janta curfew began at 7 a.m. were given masks and sanitizers before entering the house said Karki. He also mentioned that he had spent a lot of money in printing the invitations and handing them out to almost 500 guests for the reception which was supposed to take place at a star hotel in Chennai. “We have postponed the reception till this dies down and our advance has been returned,” he added.
The sudden spike of coronavirus cases in India along with the nation-wide lockdown correlating with the auspicious month of Phalguna (Panguni) has taken a huge hit in the wedding industry. “It is the twelfth month in the Hindu calendar which is considered very auspicious to tie the knot. Generally bookings pour in during this month. Last year we were packed at this time, but expectedly or unexpectedly this year we had just one wedding last week in our hall and hardly 50 people attended it,” said the manager of M.K marriage hall in Chennai.
In a domino effect, following the marriage hall owners, the caterers who are the second biggest stakeholders in the wedding forum too are facing tough times. With apprehensions about eating outside food already in place S.Venkatraman, proprietor of SVS catering said business has fallen. “It is not only us, the whole world is facing this nightmare. The conscious thing to do is to accept it. When weddings are getting postponed our orders too get postponed. Thankfully we did not buy any raw materials before. The only problem though is that our employees have no work now,” he said.
Sivasubramaniam, whose daughter was set to get married tomorrow (March 26) in a wedding hall claims that he has not asked for a refund from any of the services he had booked. “We will get her married tomorrow in a small temple in our street. Whenever the reception is destined to happen, I will use the same services,” he said clearly dejected over step-down from the grand wedding he had pictured for his daughter.
Setting an example to officiate small weddings, DMDK party leader Vijayakanth conducted a masked wedding of a functionary’s son along with 10 other people at his residence in Saligramam. This was opposed to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S Yediyurappa’s callousness who attended a grand wedding in Belagavi despite the state government themselves banning gatherings with more than 100 people.
The wedding industry being almost 50 billion dollars in market size in India, has never had a dull moment. Since the concept of marriage is revered as a sacred institution by a majority of the population in our country there is always a sort of compelling need to project this in an extravagant exhibition. A lot of dreams and expectations are built around it. That is predominantly why when an unforeseen pandemic like COVID-19 has sent ripples across the industry, the wedding parties are having a hard time grappling with their quashed dreams of a big day.
*Names of people have been changed to maintain privacy