NO BIG FAT WEDDING: Marriage gardens lose business, owners sleep

BHOPAL: Owners of marriage gardens in the city say that the ban on weddings at public places and the subsequent curbs on the number of guests have ruined their businesses.

Since March last year, their business is almost at a standstill. And given the forecast that a third wave of Covid-19 may hit the country in October, they have no hopes that things would take a turn for the better.

In April this year, the administration had imposed a complete ban on weddings in marriage gardens, parks, hotels and other public places. After the easing of the lockdown restrictions, marriages were allowed but the number of maximum guests was capped at 20. From June 15, the cap has been raised to 50. There are around 150 marriage gardens in the city and about 100 other venues where marriage functions are organised, such as hotels and Shadi Halls.

Owner of Vrindavan Marriage Garden on Hoshangabad Road and President of Bhopal Marriage Gardensí Association, Harish Pastariya says that the marriage season for Hindu families will end on July 15. There are no muhurats from 16 July to 19 November.

The marriages scheduled in June and July are being solemnised but they are ëjust a formalityí. ìWhy would people hold a party for 50 people on a lawn of 1.5 acres? Wonít they prefer a hotel or even their home?î he asks.

The administration has said that the cap on the number of guests will be raised as the situation improves. ìBut how will it help us as there are no marriages after July 15,î he says.

The marriage of my younger sister was solmenised on June 18. The ceremony was held with 50 people in a hotel. Earlier, we had booked a marriage garden. We had even paid an advance of Rs 50,000. But when we found that we could invite only 50 guests, we preferred to shift the venue to a hotel. The advance amount was wasted.
-Sapna Gupta, social activist

Pastariya says that some families may have postponed their marriages to November but for the forecast made by AIIMS, Delhi director Dr Randeep Guleria that a third wave of Covid-19 will hit the country by October. They fear that in that case, they will have to postpone the marriages till 2022.

According to Pastariya, the marriage gardens are getting almost no business but the government is not providing them any relief in property tax and power bills. ìThe Gujarat government has waived property tax on marriage gardens and has ordered that their electricity bills should be based on actual consumption and not on fixed charges as in Madhya Pradesh,î he says.

Pastariya said that besides the government dues, they also have to pay salaries to their permanent staffers. ìIt is a very difficult situation,î he says. .

The president says that marriage gardens are a source of income for band wallahs, godi wallahs, assistants of cooks, shehnai players and others who come from poor economic backgrounds. ìTheir numbers are in the thousands and they have been badly hit,î he says.

He says that the government should raise the upper limit on the number of guests. "We can assure the authorities that we would adhere to corona-protection norms. Moreover, after the havoc wreaked by the second wave, people themselves have also become very cautious," Pastariya says.

Owner of Mahamaya Marriage Garden Manish Soni says that when markets and malls have been reopened and hundreds of people are visiting them, what is the harm in allowing wedding parties with more guests. He says that 90% of the weddings scheduled in his garden have been cancelled and the rest have been postponed. It is a big loss, he says. According to him, he has a fixed monthly expenditure of Rs 4-5 lakhs. ìFrom where will I bring that money when there is no business,îSoni asks.

Owner of Nandan Palace Marriage Garden Paritosh Malaviya also complains of poor bookings. He says that of the marriages scheduled in his garden in April, five have been postponed till November and three till December. "In the last two months alone, we have lost business worth Rs 40 lakh. I am only hoping that there will be more relaxation in July. They should allow at least 250 guests", he says

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