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Behind the numbers: Indian weddings
March 6, 2006 8:57 PM   Subscribe

70 private cars, 50 000 kilos of flowers, 3000 candles, 65 000 yards of fabric. Those are just a few of the figures from the wedding of New York playboy and (wait for it) hotel heir Vikram Chatwal to model Priya Sachdev. Last year, Lakshmi Mittal (the world's third-richest man, according to Forbes) spent over $60 million for his daughter Vanisha's wedding. What kind of wedding does $60 million buy? A song-and-dance by Aishwarya Rai, among other Bollywood luminaries; ceremonies at the Tuileries and Versailles; and top chefs and designers at your beck and call. In 2004, the Sahara Group's Subrata Roy built three mock palaces on the edge of a lake in Uttar Pradesh; his sons' double wedding had 11 000 guests. Mr. Roy's company paid for the weddings of 101 couples (numbers ending in '1' are considered auspicious) who couldn't afford to get married, and also fed 140 000 poor people across the country (all as part of the festivities). All of this sound like idle gossip? The wedding business is huge in India; it's a $10bn business (and growing at 25% annually), and the demand for gold wedding jewelry, according to analysts, "helped lift the metal's price to a 25-year high last month." Appliance retailers offer discounts during weddings season; there are personal loans available for weddings; and there's even an entire mall devoted to weddings. As the Christian Science Monitor notes, the minimum a middle-class Indian family will spend on a wedding is $34 000. (The average American wedding? $26 327.) And who makes up the Indian middle class? "Those making $4,545 to $23,000 a year." More on Indian wedding traditions here.
posted by anjamu (58 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn the absence of my paragraph breaks.
posted by anjamu at 8:59 PM on March 6, 2006


Also: more on India and gold.
posted by anjamu at 9:00 PM on March 6, 2006


Well, other than the possibility of putting the main post text on a slight diet [ I've committed a few long posts myself ], I'd call this a fine submission - especially for the inherent message that the US may no longer be the center of the world's economy.
posted by troutfishing at 9:12 PM on March 6, 2006


70 private cars, 50 000 kilos of flowers, 3000 candles, 65 000 yards of fabric. ..and 11 lines of real-estate at Le Bleu.

Seriously, in Indian cultures, the wedding is one of the chief social currencies, but these royal weddings are too vulgar.
posted by Gyan at 9:19 PM on March 6, 2006


what is it about having a lot of money that makes people wanna spend it stupidly?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:20 PM on March 6, 2006


Wow. The lengths some families will go to to avoid a simple bride burning!
posted by jonson at 9:20 PM on March 6, 2006


70 private cars, 50 000 kilos of flowers, 3000 candles, 65 000 yards of fabric.

See? That right there is why America needs gay marriage! We're losing the War on Weddings!
posted by ColdChef at 9:27 PM on March 6, 2006


I had a friend who got married recently. Went out to Jericho beach with family and close friends, everyone stood in a circle, words got exchanged. Bada bang.

Then again, weddings aren't only for the bride & groom; it's important for the families involved in many/most cultures. What better venue than a wedding to ostentatiously show off wealth/respect?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2006


Crazy.
posted by delmoi at 9:40 PM on March 6, 2006


Interesting post, but way too much use of Wikipedia for my taste.

And I agree that a wedding is a great way to burn some of that extra cash.
posted by stirfry at 9:42 PM on March 6, 2006


So to impress the neighbors or whoever, middle class Indian parents spend more than a year's income on a wedding? Sounds as stupid as American couples going into debt for a wedding that is way out of line with their real lifestyle. Whatever happened to cows and chickens as dowries?
posted by Cranberry at 9:54 PM on March 6, 2006


What better venue than a wedding to ostentatiously show off wealth/respect?

The answer to this and all similar queries has remained unchanged for millennia: hookers and blow, my friend, hookers and blow.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:14 PM on March 6, 2006


Wikipedia is nice and all, but I think I speak for everyone1 when I say this thead is useless without pics of the bride and groom.

We're losing the War on Weddings!

ColdChef gets another quarter in the "cracks me up" jar.

1 Where "everyone" == "at least myself."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:22 PM on March 6, 2006


Dammit, Google Images failed me. That wasn't the bride at all! This is her.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:24 PM on March 6, 2006


The bride's boobs look like they're taking over the world in the pic you posted, Civil_Disobedient.

Here's another one of her.

Oh, and since Aishwarya Rai comes in somewhere, let's throw in a picture of her.
posted by anjamu at 10:28 PM on March 6, 2006


Yes, weddings are big cash burners over here. It's a social status thing. And here in India, it's also a good way to blow wads of unaccounted money.

The insanely rich are especially prone to doing these whacky wedding themes. My restaurant manager used to work at a major luxury hotel chain and has told me stories of how many lavish wedding parties he's been involved in. The sums of money involved were astounding, as was the fastidious nature of the people throwing them.
posted by madman at 10:41 PM on March 6, 2006


Hey, wasn't that guy, the groom, in the documentary "Born Rich"?

*Googles furiously*

No, wait, it was the MTV/VH1 TV show My Coolest Years , which featured him in the episode about Rich Kids.

Also, IMDB says he had a cameo in Zoolander.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:42 PM on March 6, 2006


Wow, these numbers make David Brooks look like a piker. Brooks, you'll recall, is the bulletproof vest mogul whose spiraling WoT sales (of oft-recalled products) allowed him to spring for his daughter's bat mitzvah to the tune of an estimated $10 million. According to this Daily News story, Elizabeth's little shindig at the Rainbow Room included Jumbotrons, 50 Cent, Aerosmith, etc. etc. etc. Stretch Hummers? So last decade. Private jets for the talent, bay-bee!
posted by rob511 at 10:45 PM on March 6, 2006


These wacky wedding themes ...
If there's one thing I don't get, it's themed weddings. I thought the theme was supposed to be "getting married." It's not a prom, for crying out loud. But I'm not married yet, so what do I know?
posted by anjamu at 10:45 PM on March 6, 2006


Jeez, that Aishwarya Rai looks like India's answer to Katie Holmes.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:48 PM on March 6, 2006


In addition to the dowries, don't social expectations for grandiose wedding celebrations worth years of income add to the rate of female infanticide in India?

(Amongst the poorer families, at least)
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:54 PM on March 6, 2006


Note to self: Don't marry anyone from India.
posted by spazzm at 11:02 PM on March 6, 2006


Note to self: Don't marry anyone from India.

Funny you should say that, actually. My grandmother was the one who tipped me off about the TIME article, because my boyfriend of a couple years is Indian.
posted by anjamu at 11:08 PM on March 6, 2006


Jeez, that Aishwarya Rai looks like India's answer to Katie Holmes.

Katie Holmes was a Ms. World too? ;)

Do a Google image search for her. She has more than one look. (I'm not that enchanted with her, but I have lots of friends who are.)

anjamu
If there's one thing I don't get, it's themed weddings. I thought the theme was supposed to be "getting married." It's not a prom, for crying out loud. But I'm not married yet, so what do I know?

Neither am I, and I expect that for my wedding (in the year 2072), I will invite exactly 5 people. I can't stand noise or crowds.

But to answer your question, social status is a big thing over here, and everyone just wants to show off that they're bigger, more influential, and richer than someone else. Amongst the rich, this becomes almost like a competition for how many "who's who" people are invited, how much booze is drunk, how much exotic food is served, how much money is blown, etc. (As gyan said earlier.)

Moreover, if you're from a wealthy business family in India, it doesn't matter that you might want a quiet, peaceful wedding. You are expected by everyone else to throw a lavish wedding party. Our culture places a lot of emphasis on reputation and what other people think about you. It's a lot less individualistic than, say, American culture.

(And I'm a complete cultural misfit here, alas.)
posted by madman at 11:24 PM on March 6, 2006


madman: The question was rhetorical, believe me. Since I started dating an Indian, my idea of what my wedding might look like has changed dramatically. I've decided just to go with the flow; if they want to have a lavish affair, I'm not going to stop them. As long as it's a huge party, everyone's happy, and I'm not sunk in debt for the rest of my life, who am I to care?

... er, not that Aish would be turning up or anything. Not that kind of lavish.
posted by anjamu at 11:35 PM on March 6, 2006


In 2004 the whole student orchestra at my then university was flown out to India to play at a wedding because they wanted an English orchestra.
posted by biffa at 1:21 AM on March 7, 2006


I've decided just to go with the flow; if they want to have a lavish affair, I'm not going to stop them.

Given that you're female, your side of the family will probably be expected to pay for it. ;)
posted by madman at 1:29 AM on March 7, 2006


In addition to the dowries, don't social expectations for grandiose wedding celebrations worth years of income add to the rate of female infanticide in India?

This is not really a major factor in female infanticide and even infanticide is fairly minor addressing India's missing women. Development theorists tend to look at high rates of girl-child morbidity and mortality in India, as well as the economic motivations of mothers, whose limited ability to work outside the household may give them a preference towards either daughters or sons depending on the economic context. Understanding these issues is seen to be the key to solving these problems.

I'd argue that a Western focus on India's 'crazy' culture, such as that gold article and this post, is hugely problematic. Sen's latest work on India's history of heterogeneous political thought and scientific exploration addresses some of these concerns, but when was the last time we talked about acid attacks or the Gujarat riots here? Ok, so it seems like a year ago for the Ayodhya Again bit, but still, enough with the orientalism.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:17 AM on March 7, 2006


It is good when ungodly rich people give back $60 Million of work to the working masses, I commend that.
posted by elpapacito at 4:12 AM on March 7, 2006


what uttar pradesh!
posted by quonsar at 4:16 AM on March 7, 2006


Ha! @q
posted by asok at 4:44 AM on March 7, 2006


I wonder how much the photographer got paid. Probably a lot. Or did they just hire Steven Spielberg to recreate it?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on March 7, 2006


I was invited to a genuine, traditional Indian wedding (in the US) and it was the most fun I've had in a long time. Both families were incredibly kind to us, strangers the bride happened to work for, not close friends. They stopped by to make sure we were having fun often, they explained what was going on, they tried to teach us to dance, they hinted at appropriate behavior and over-looked anything we didn't get (I suspect, nobody ever said). They were so incredibly warm and friendly and they meant every word of it.

The process takes a week, although they assured us we didn't have to go to all of it. You are expected to have new clothes for each event. With jewelry to match, although they let us slide on most of it. The actual wedding part takes hours, and people eat, talk, and wander around while it's going on, and involves little bits here and there that apparently all have to do with various gods or binding the two famlies together. The guy officiating was a hoot, "We do this in Sanskrit, because the gods don't speak English." "Please hurry people, this is not India, and we have to be out of the room by 5."

Do not eat with the left hand, and if you have a trick stomach, watch the food. My survival strategy was to hunt for things that looked like they contained surprise crunchies, pick them out with a fork, and eat what's left, which usually looks like a mashed potato patty, fried. (Surprise crunchies are usually something like a peanut rolled in curry or hot sauce, and can be embedded in something fairly bland.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:53 AM on March 7, 2006


Shush... we Desis know how to have a good time.
posted by Doorstop at 5:06 AM on March 7, 2006


Damn The simpsons drug is powerful, I distincly remember Homer playing with a Ganesh head.

Out, out daemons !
posted by elpapacito at 5:22 AM on March 7, 2006


Out of curiosity, do Indian weddings also come with the expectation that the guests are going to actually pay for the whole affair by giving the bride and groom gifts worth more than the wedding?
posted by jacquilynne at 5:48 AM on March 7, 2006


Mega-weddings like these aren't for the marrying couple, they're just another opportunity for the parents to show off their dosh, in the same way that funerals aren't for the people who died but for those who still live.
posted by clevershark at 6:00 AM on March 7, 2006


The weddings would have been an even greater success has guests not fed buckets of beer to quonsar's elephant.
posted by furtive at 6:04 AM on March 7, 2006


Lakshmi Mittal owns the steel mill that rains particulate matter onto my car, keeps me awake at night with sulfur fumes and lights up my exit ramp with stack flares. I sure wish he'd use some of his cash to run an environmentally responsible operation.
posted by sciurus at 6:09 AM on March 7, 2006


jacquilynne: No. You can bring the lamest gifts you want as far as I can tell.

Indian weddings are an experience. Punjabi weddings are the best since everyone is also drunk off their asses by the end of things.
posted by chunking express at 6:29 AM on March 7, 2006


American megachurches - Indian megaweddings....anyone seeing the Reeces peanut butter/chocolate potential here?
posted by Smedleyman at 6:30 AM on March 7, 2006


Aishwarya Rai was in Gurinder Chadha's Bride & Prejudice which is sort of about Indian Weddings. Unfortunately, even her beauty couldn't save that movie.

Nice post, anjamu. I rather enjoyed the use of wikipedia.
posted by shoepal at 6:32 AM on March 7, 2006


(semi-related ask.mefi thread)
posted by shoepal at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2006


Jeez, that Aishwarya Rai looks like India's answer to Katie Holmes.

What? Except she's hot.

(Actualy, IMO Katie Holmes a pretty average looking girl)
posted by delmoi at 6:54 AM on March 7, 2006


(Actualy, IMO Katie Holmes a pretty average looking girl) - delmoi

Most Hollywood star are actually perty average, they just have professionals doing their hair/makeup, and dressing them (tailoring their clothes, etc). If we all had a team to make us look good a lot more of us would be considered hot.
posted by raedyn at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2006


perty = pretty, of course.
posted by raedyn at 7:18 AM on March 7, 2006


Neither am I, and I expect that for my wedding (in the year 2072), I will invite exactly 5 people. I can't stand noise or crowds.

If you don't count the drunk tank guy (he wasn't exactly invited) we had 4 people at our wedding.

One of the most lavish weddings I have ever attended was a Japanese wedding. The bride and groom changed clothes (and wigs!) several times including both Western and Traditional style wedding outfits. The banquet was supurb with 16 courses, but I took a pass on the carp-- they looked too much like goldfish.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2006


She looks like Kirstie Alley in some of the pictures linked via google images.
posted by stavrogin at 9:10 AM on March 7, 2006


Fun Fearless Female


/me would marry her for her fortune
posted by sourbrew at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2006


eek. Someone on MeFi just quoted Cosmo. *shudder* Please tell me it was ironically.
posted by raedyn at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2006


Isn't Lakshmi a girl's name? Is Lakshmi Mittal the equivalent of an Evelyn Waugh?
posted by forrest at 10:41 AM on March 7, 2006


The first wedding I ever attended was a Hindu wedding in Nairobi, when I was 13. My family and a couple others grouped up for a three-week safari vacation which culminated in the week-long wedding. Highlights included my convincing the bride's family that I was from Bristol with a really terrible English accent and getting completely smashed for the first time (and still being drunk during the road trip with my parents the next day - whee!). I became convinced then that my own wedding would take a week to do or it wouldn't be worth doing.

When my father got remarried this past September to a white American, the wedding ceremony was a blend of Christian and Hindu services (clocking in at a pitiful 45 minutes), followed by some seriously Desi celebrating. There's nothing like teaching a gaggle of hot, unattached bridesmaids how to swing around dandiya sticks like a pro or rock out to bhangra. I highly recommend it.

These weddings are still the only time I get to see my whole family, so on that basis alone they're priceless. While the examples in the FPP are obviously over the top, for my family at least these are celebrations worth doing correctly, because the moments don't come again. Besides, you can't take it with you.
posted by Errant at 11:40 AM on March 7, 2006


Sounds like a fun, but hugely tacky wedding. They had a banner welcoming Bill!? I'd like to think that this is not representative of all Indian weddings, but more of the Mittal-esque new style of non-resident Indians who have made a lot of money recently and want to show everyone how much wealth they have. Reminiscent of the Russian oligarchs.

I think it rather sad that Bill Gates has been more charitable to the Indian poor than Mittal and Chatwal combined.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2006


Enough with the orientalism.

Maybe I have the wrong idea here, but you want to hear more about rioting, religious clashes, and violence against women, but you don't want to hear other things about India? Isn't that more of an Orientalist attitude? That Indian culture is perpetually entrenched in Third World Chaos?

"Orientalism" is a strong word to throw around just because a non-Indian discussed an aspect of Indian culture that is, as Rushdie would have it, "colorful."
posted by anjamu at 1:00 PM on March 7, 2006


Isn't Lakshmi a girl's name? Is Lakshmi Mittal the equivalent of an Evelyn Waugh?

I am pretty sure it is a girls name. But then the dude is rich as sin, so I'm sure he doesn't care that much.
posted by chunking express at 1:03 PM on March 7, 2006


More bride pictures (the ones linked before didn't work for me). It notes that she's 34-24-36 -- those are hips.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2006


Isn't Lakshmi a girl's name? Is Lakshmi Mittal the equivalent of an Evelyn Waugh?

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Normally the name is given to girls, but I suspect that it is a truncated version of a name such as Lakshminarayan (which is roughly 'Vishnu -who's consort is Lakshmi') which would make it a male name.
posted by dhruva at 3:19 PM on March 7, 2006


dhruva is right. His name is L N Mittal, short for Lakshmi Narayan. :)

My first name is "Madhu", which in North India is a girl's name, but in South India (where I'm from), is a guy's name most of the time. Growing up in Delhi, however, I got teased a lot as a kid.
posted by madman at 9:48 PM on March 7, 2006


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