Actor Rana Daggubati’s decision to put a ring on his relationship with designer Miheeka Bajaj came only a few days before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown. Despite the many restrictions imposed by social distancing guidelines, the couple proceeded with an intimate engagement (roka) ceremony in May and are reportedly looking forward to an August wedding. And, they aren’t the only ones to not let the pandemic impede their decision to say ‘I do’ to their partners – Telugu actor Nikhil Siddhartha married Dr Pallavi Varma at a farmhouse in Hyderabad on May 13, while the television actor-couple Manish Raisinghan and Sangeita Chauhaan tied the knot at a gurudwara on June 30.
Weddings have traditionally been an important part of Indian culture and are celebrated with months of elaborate planning and much pomp and ceremony. How then does one recreate the magic of the big fat Indian wedding within the confines of much smaller venues, with a highly edited guest-list and stringent sanitization and safety guidelines?
“Starting early is especially important when planning a lockdown wedding,” says Vikram Mehta, founder of Mpire Events. He adds that while most couples are aware of the government-stipulated 50 people-cap for public gatherings, it helps to read the actual guidelines issued for the hospitality and F&B industries. This, he says, will give you a more accurate estimation of what percentage of your wedding party can include actual guests and how many staff members will be allowed. Becoming familiar with other elements of the venue such as the density of cases in that area and curfew is also important. “Additionally, many labourers employed by decorators and other vendors have returned to their hometowns during the pandemic. Giving your vendors enough notice will help them to better manage any contingencies,” he explains.
Many hotels and banquet halls have already secured the necessary permissions from the government to host weddings, which makes the process relatively hassle-free, says Deepali Shah, co-founder of The Crimson Circle. “If you decide to host your wedding on your building’s terrace or your home, you will need to apply for a permit. This is a simple online application and takes roughly 24-48 hours,” she says. In terms of safety, most venues are well-equipped with sanitisation facilities and are taking the necessary precautions. However, you can go a step further and hire an agency to sanitise the venue.
Shah, who recently planned an intimate wedding, says that there has been a marked shift towards making weddings personable, instead of simply focusing on extravagance and luxury. “The bride’s lehenga could not be delivered; she chose to wear another piece from her trousseau. The chadar that was held above her when she entered the mandap was refashioned from her mother’s dupatta. Even in terms of catering, we are advising all our clients to opt for sit-down dinners instead of buffets. In addition to ensuring that fewer people come in contact with the cutlery and the food, sit-down dinners can feel much more special with the help of small details such as personalised place settings,” she says. The beauty of an intimate lockdown wedding is that with a smaller scale and fewer elements, the actual ceremony is less stressful and hence more enjoyable for the couple, she adds.
Make it interactive
Shivanand Lalwani, director of Wedstreamers – an agency that specialises in multiple-format live-streaming for weddings says that recent technological interventions mean that couples are no longer limited to streaming their special day using a smartphone. “You can set up a high-definition feed for your friends and family and let them experience multiple aspects of the proceedings rather than being limited to a static view of the pheras. Agencies such as ours can enable multiple cameras, depending on the scale of the wedding. Even better, we can manage this with a very basic crew with most of the work being done remotely,” he says.
The beauty of live-streaming is that despite the distance, your loved ones can become involved in the ceremony in small but meaningful ways. Shah explains, “Using interactive platforms such as Zoom (instead of YouTube or other social media platforms) can allow your guests to interact with the happy couple on their big day. The bride’s friends and family also created a surprise haldi video, which saw them pass on the haldi box from one screen to the next. We screened this at the venue as well as for our remote attendees. Additionally, we gave all the remote attendees a small bell that they could ring during the ceremony.” To ensure some sense of order, she recommends hiring an MC to lead the functions, interact with the guests and tie everything together.
From quirky e-invites to a virtual pre-wedding bash, there are several ways that couples can showcase their individuality and personality from a distance, says Risha Mehra, founder of Blink Starlets. “In lieu of gifts, ask your guests to share their favourite recipe, memory of the couple or tips for a successful marriage,” she says.
A one-man musician-singer works well for sangeet nights and you can also have your friends and family create small videos in their own homes, which can be showcased at the actual venue. Despite the challenges of ongoing lockdown, many couples are still keen for their festivities to be environmentally-conscious.
Shah says, “Barring floral arrangements that are at eye-level, most couples are opting for artificial flowers which look just as good if not better than the real deal. There are also several tools that can help you to calculate the carbon footprint of the festivities – the money you save by conducting a smaller, more modest affair can be directed towards planting trees to offset your carbon footprint.”