Kirti Agrawal and Avinash Singh Bagri, both 31, had their ‘roka’ or pre-engagement ceremony in January 2019, but somehow, their wedding was delayed till the next year. Once they locked a date in April 2020, there was no way they were going to put it off further, says Gurgaon-based Bagri.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the couple had their virtual wedding on April 14, with their parents and a few friends in attendance, via video conferencing app Zoom and facilitated by Shaadi.com’s Wedding from Home initiative. “We lived a kilometre away from each other in Gurgaon. We got married at my sister and brother-in-law’s place in Ghaziabad, and on call were both of our parents, the panditji and friends,” recalled Bagri. He admitted that considering the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, a grand celebration was out of the question, but “postponing the wedding never crossed my mind”.
With no time for shopping and preparations, while Bagri wore his engagement kurta pyjama, Agrawal was able to fashion a wedding lehenga from a skirt with help from Bagri’s sister. “My wedding trousseau and jewellery was at my home in Bareilly. So I mixed and matched a five-year-old skirt with a blouse from another set and a chunni and that became my wedding attire. The jewellery was handcrafted by my sister-in-law. From dreaming of becoming a Sabyasachi bride, I became a Sarojini (Nagar; famous street market in Delhi) bride,” chuckled Agrawal, who works as a technical program manager.
While Bagri had his sibling in attendance, did Agrawal miss having anyone’s physical presence from her own family? “Fortunately, I am on very good terms with everyone in his family. Initially, we did have our reservations, but it turned out to be a fun, chilled out wedding. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way as we just wished to be together,” she said.
Thanks to the Navratri festival that preceded their marriage, they managed to procure all the havan samagri (items for the wedding ritual) needed for the North-Indian style wedding that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
Instead of a photographer, all the photos were captured on mobile phones and on a point-and-shoot camera.
So are people opening up to such virtual weddings in these unprecedented times of a pandemic? “For people around the world and more so in India, their wedding date is of immense importance. With Weddings From Home, couples can get married on that exact date regardless of the lockdown, just that it’ll be done virtually. We have already done two weddings, one on April 14 and the other on April 19, and there are about 9-10 others in discussion,” said Adhish Zaveri, director, marketing, Shaadi.com.
Agreed Thiruvananthapuram-based journalist T Sasi Mohan, whose daughter Mathangi took her wedding vows at home on April 16, 2020. They had printed invitations for the wedding, but the lockdown came as a dampener. “In 2011, when our son got married, many of our friends and relatives could not be accommodated as the wedding hall was small. This time, we were hoping for a grand wedding, but it was not meant to be. So, we looked at alternatives which included a small hall nearby or a temple (which were all subsequently closed) or just opting for a simple ring exchange instead of a wedding. But then our astrologer advised that we shouldn’t postpone it any further and, therefore, we decided to get our daughter married at home,” said Mohan and his wife G Vinodini.
With only five people in attendance, from the bride and groom’s families and including a beautician and two photographers, the typical Kerala-style two-hour wedding was conducted right in their living room. From the sarees to the decorations and Kerala-style sadhya for the wedding feast, everything was done with help from locals, said the proud parents. “The only disappointment was that our son, who works in Bengaluru, couldn’t be by her side. He, along with his wife, blessed the couple via a video call, which was a moment to cherish,” mentioned Vinodini.
As per the social distancing guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, it was underscored to “keep already planned weddings to a limited gathering, postpone all non-essential social and cultural gatherings”. Under the circumstances, most couples and their families have either decided to wait indefinitely for the situation to “normalise” or downsize the event by “90 per cent in terms of capacity, preparations, food, photography and people”, said Pranesh Padmanabhan, CEO, Studio31_Weddings, which operates in southern states.
While he said that the photography business has taken a hit, much like other sectors with “more than 65 per cent revenue loss”, creativity has bloomed. “Minimalism is beautiful and as photographers, we love it. We are getting creative, with less people to disturb us,” joked Padmanabhan, while mentioning how couples themselves tend to be at ease with not too many prying eyes around them, as is the case during big fat Indian weddings.
His company has been promoting small-scale weddings at homes and in marriage halls, with not over 30 people in attendance, including helpers. Padmanabhan believes people are opening up to the idea that less is more.
Avantika Raghavan, 29, a dermatologist, who tied the knot in the presence of 30 people at a small wedding hall in Chennai’s West Mambalam on March 30, with due police permission, says her original guest list “hovered around 1,500 as it was a much-anticipated wedding on both sides”. “Within a matter of 10 days,” she shares, “we had to find a small wedding hall near our place, cancel the bigger one, changed to a local caterer, with only few invitations printed and rest e-invites.”
She told indianexpress.com, “We had waited so long to start our life together. My husband always wanted a small intimate wedding with only close family and friends, so the lockdown kind of made his wish come true. Also, there were no auspicious dates after March 30.”
“The hall was cleaned with hospital-grade floor cleaners, surface disinfectants; hand sanitisers were kept at multiple places; masks were handed out at the entrance to those who didn’t wear one and only seven to eight were allowed to dine at a time,” said Raghavan, whose wedding was live-streamed to family and friends so they could be a part of it virtually.
*Only steel tumblers, no paper cups.
*No single-use plastics were used.
*Decor was minimalistic, with natural flowers only.
*Excess food was packaged and given away, not thrown.
*No packaged gifts, only blessings in kind.
*Thamboolam bags (wedding return gift bags) were made from upcycled/recycled cloth. An NGO called HelpHer made the bags from thrown curtain cloths, sofa covers, etc.
*Only few invitations were printed, rest were all e-invites.
Innovation is definitely the key, when it comes to couples making their wedding dreams come true during the pandemic.