The small, slim Indian wedding: how micro ceremonies are replacing large gatherings

The Big Fat Indian Wedding — famous for its Bollywood-inspired glamour, lavish decor, designer clothes and eye-popping, multi-cuisine buffets — is fast giving way to a novel trend in India: micro weddings.

Intimate, bespoke and mindful, such nuptials are increasingly finding favour with millennials in the new normal characterised by smaller gatherings and scaled-down festivities. And with 3.2 million Indian nuptials weddings to take place in the next couple of months in an industry worth $50 billion, the new fad is increasingly visible across the country of 1.4 billion people, wedding planners say.

“A micro wedding includes everything an Indian is synonymous with — a beautiful venue, a photographer, a choreographer and aesthetic decor,” says Noida-based couple Smita and Saurabh Gupta, who own Wedlock Events & Services, a wedding planning company. “However, everything is done on a much smaller scale, inviting only people who really matter and not the entire clan, extended family, friends and neighbours as was the norm earlier. The festivities’ carbon footprint is also kept in check.”

The couple says a successful Indian wedding is no longer measured by the huge number of guests who attend it or its unrealistically high budget. “These days couples want to celebrate their precious day observing time-honoured traditions, but on a much smaller scale and with meaningful gatherings.”

Customisation and smaller functions have set a new template for weddings during post-pandemic times, but it’s not as though families are compromising on their personal experience of dressing up, eating good food or having fun. “In fact these moments are valued even more today when people are simply grateful for such occasions and the people with whom they can share such joyous moments,” says wedding planner Saroj Awasthi, who lives in New Delhi.

The set-up for a smaller, more intimate wedding in India. Photo: Saurabh and Smita Gupta

According to Awasthi, such weddings also allow creative individuals like her to be flexible and innovative because “there are fewer relatives with competing tastes to please”.

“Depending on the client’s budget, we’re giving them options to rent out cafes, restaurants, parks, galleries, Airbnb villas or any of the other untraditional venues that would never have passed muster in earlier times. And the couples are loving the freshness of these ideas.”

Some Bollywood stars are leading by example. Last year, actor Dia Mirza’s marriage to entrepreneur Vaibhav Rekhi made a splash for its simplicity and mindfulness. The couple put together a completely sustainable wedding, with hand-crafted gift baskets, plants as gifts and recyclable clothes. In their quest for an “earthy wedding, the pair also went for “hyper-local” flowers, further whittling down the carbon footprint of their event. “All the decor elements were natural and locally available,” Mirza said. “A lot of them were recyclable, and were on hire, so obviously, they would get recycled again.”

Supriya and Chirag Reddy, who are based in Bengaluru and turned vegan during the pandemic, believe micro weddings aren’t just great to save on expenses, but also fantastic for the environment. The couple ensured theirs was a local wedding and not an expensive destination one to “avoid guests travelling to and from a wedding venue, burning up fossil fuels to light the venue, or using hundreds of plastic water bottles leading to a surge in pollution”.

“Considering an average Indian wedding generates about 200-300kg of food waste, we were very clear that we’ll opt for an eco-friendly wedding to avoid food waste which is dumped in landfills and emits tonnes of methane, worsening the threat of global warming,” Supriya says.

This thinking, and the attraction of meaningful gatherings where guests can co-mingle with their near and dear ones after the pandemic’s forced isolation, means the popularity of intimate sit-down dinners at weddings has skyrocketed. This is a contrast from the big, impersonal buffets with 1,000 guests. Awasthi says this dining style not only helps guests interact more intimately, but also reduces food waste. “Excess food can be distributed amongst the poor. Water dispensers or water stations further eliminate the need for hundreds of plastic bottles that harm the environment.”

Fashion designers say many millennials are also leaning towards simplicity and subtle aesthetics in their sartorial choices, thanks to their sustainable lifestyles.

“I’ve had many young brides bringing me their mom’s or grandmom’s old heirloom pieces to get them repurposed as their own bridal dresses,” says Delhi designer Pranavi Kapoor. “This was unthinkable earlier, especially given the heavy Bollywood influence on young Indian minds that encourages conspicuous consumption. But now the youth are investing in fashion that tells their story, supports local crafts and has longevity in their wardrobes. It is mindful luxury that is sensitive to the planet without compromising on beauty.”

This perspective is also taking some weight off the brides. “They are no longer under stress to adhere to impossible sartorial standards or choose looks that they aren’t comfortable in while being judged by a huge gathering of guests,” Kapoor says. “Today’s brides want to be real and themselves, which is how it should be, anyway.”

People have realised how weddings can actually be fun occasions without them having to break the bank or ruin the environment, the experts say.

Smita sums it up: “The trend of micro weddings may have been birthed during the pandemic, but it’s a concept that’s here to stay among those who want to make their most important day both mindful and meaningful.”

Updated: December 10, 2022, 11:26 AM

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