The coronavirus crisis has felled many; the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ is surely one among them. Across India and around the world, thousands gather for dazzling multi-day weddings, which are fun, lavish, and drive a massive industry. Unfortunately, in our coronavirus-affected world, these weddings now present themselves as ominous super-spreader events, to be shunned by all.
So, what happens for the next two years while we wait for everyone to get a coronavirus vaccine? How will Indian weddings be adapted to fit the new normal? Many couples have taken the easy way out and postponed their weddings hoping for better days. Some weddings will be conducted as spartan affairs with just the couple and their immediate families. Meanwhile, some imaginative wedding planners are thinking of using technology in innovative ways to rekindle the magic of a big fat Indian wedding.
Virtual wedding industry
Over one crore weddings are held every year driving vast apparel, jewellery, hospitality, flowers, transportation, and catering spending. Lakhs of labourers and workers make most of their income during the relatively short wedding season. Major tourism destinations such as the Greek islands, Indonesia’s Bali, and Italy’s Florence are now benefiting from the many Indian ‘destination weddings’. Several major artistes generate handsome earnings by performing at top weddings.
But the coronavirus put a brake on all of that. The problem that Indian couples are facing now is that a safe, coronavirus-proof wedding is probably at least 18-24 months away. Vaccines will not only have to be proven safe in human trials, even their production must be scaled up to cater to India’s more than 1.3 billion population, most of whom will have to be vaccinated.
But it’s not practical or advisable to defer a wedding for two years. Long engagements are difficult for couples. Parents might fall sick or elderly relatives might pass away.
One option is to have a simple, spartan wedding. The couple, their parents, a few relatives, and some close friends in attendance. It might be possible to do a simple wedding with just 50 or so people as per the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines. At such a spartan wedding, all guests could be tested or else wear masks and gloves. Social distancing could be maintained at all times, and food could be served carefully to prevent any congestion at the tables. All the usual gifts can be still given — either at the wedding or via courier services.
SuperCloud — the saviour
Meanwhile, some couples have already begun to experiment with online wedding celebrations. There are many ways in which technology can be used today for online weddings. Dance performances can be recorded and played during the sangeet ceremony. The wedding can be broadcast on Facebook Live or Zoom. Guests can dress up in finery and participate through video calls from their drawing rooms. And when the time comes for the feast, delivery services can deliver the exact same menu to each of the invited guests.
However, this is just the start. India’s SuperCloud can rescue the big fat Indian wedding by applying some of the latest technology streaming out of startups and labs. Augmented and virtual reality can transform the wedding experience and make an online wedding truly immersive.
Imagine having a small wedding in a truly blissful location with a few people in attendance and then hundreds of others participating through 3D virtual reality goggles. Drones can deliver amazing camera angles and swoop around the beautiful landscape. Flowers, food, scents — all the other wedding accoutrements can be brought to those participating remotely through a wedding planning service. The money saved on travel, hospitality, and transportation can be utilised to ensure a truly memorable in-home wedding experience.
A full virtual reality wedding would go even further. The couple and their families could be sitting at home while immersed in a dream location. A couple in Hazaribagh could have the wedding set in a charming piazza in Venice; those in Muzaffarnagar can imagine they are on a sublime lake-side villa in Lake Como; and a couple in Madurai could marry next to a virtual waterfall in verdant Hawaii. Guests would be sharing that same immersive reality during the wedding. And, when the time comes for dancing and festivities, all the guests could be transported into a shimmering discotheque, experiencing it through the virtual reality goggles.
The coronavirus has accelerated many changes that were already in the offing. Immersive, technology-driven experiences are taking over our lives. Shopping is fast migrating from the mall to the screen. Family dinners are becoming video calls with everyone cooking the same dishes. Working from home has become the norm, not the exception. Now, it may be time to make the big fat Indian wedding into the small virtual Indian wedding.
Jayant Sinha is the chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament and a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Views are personal.