BEYOND COVID !!!

The corona virus pandemic might have closed the brick and mortar businesses and directly hit the $50 billion Indian wedding industry, but innovative wedding planners are finding ample room to sustain and have contributed in unique thoughtful ways during these difficult times!



Some of the leading wedding planners from across the country spoke to us and were candid about the impact of the pandemic and how they have been engaged to think beyond COVID -19.
 
Ekta Saiga Lulla  (ESL Events), operating out of Mumbai told us firsthand the frustrations involved with the norms being made prevalent during COVID-19 times. “50 people weddings aren't the ideal scenario with Indian families; there is demand but confusion in the minds of the guests”, they mentioned. Further to add to this, they said, “There is no clarity and support from the Tourism industry and government worldwide has stalled the Big Fat Indian Wedding scene for a while”. To add to these woes, migrants leaving cities of demand and going back to the villages has created a dearth of skilled laborers in the required field making it even more difficult to provide quality and exemplary services. ESL Events strongly feels that weddings need to be revived!
 
When we asked what trends and changes they foresee in the wedding business in the near future, ESL Events pointed out that the Intimate Wedding sector will continue to rise and focus would be on a lot of personalized detailing. “We need to walk the walk together and collaborate in new ways. These are testing times and we need to work together as a community and put collaboration over competition,” they emphasized.
 
Our final query was about the ways they have contributed during this testing time. “In- depth training of the crew keeping in mind the new norms and  safety procedures, imparting knowledge and skills through various platforms to aspiring and new entrants in the event industry are only few of our initiatives.”

Image Courtesy : Google

One of the most celebrated wedding planners in the country Antara Baruah from Katha Weddings describes the harsh realities of the COVID-19 impacted wedding industry. “There is complete loss of business as weddings have been postponed indefinitely. Venues have seized to operate, with no clarity on when they will resume. As such, Katha Weddings is looking at innovative means of conducting weddings on cloud. These are creative virtual weddings & drive-in weddings for couples who can experience ‘almost-real’ ambience as they tie the knot, while being joined by family, friends & relatives from the safe confines of their homes or in case of drive-in weddings, their cars!” Well, we say this is only so much for the tech city of Bangalore.
 
She also predicts that the return to normalcy of the great India weddings could possibly take long. “It would be sometime before business starts to recover. Grand weddings will be limited and with lesser turnout till vaccine is introduced. This disruption will see longer recovery times for destination weddings.”
Antara eagerly narrates steps taken by Katha Weddings during the stringent lockdown period, “In association with Assam Society of Bangalore, we have been working excessively to support the needy people by distributing ration. The team has also volunteered at local train stations to help migrant workers return to their home states. In addition to this, our team has been feeding the stray dogs in specific localities every alternate day so that our furry buddies do not stay hungry.”
From business perspective, Katha Weddings has tried to retain outflows so that financial impact for others is lesser.


Some of the most elaborate & exquisite weddings happen in Delhi and sure enough we did connect with Aastha Jha from Kraftstar Management who mentioned that most weddings are either postponed or cancelled and the few weddings which have a gathering of 50 people are mostly at home with minimal services. This is a huge blow not only to the event planners but also to everyone else associated in making the wedding a success. Because of these cancellations, all the caterers, designers, make-up artists, wedding vendors or planners have been affected to the core. This has resulted in noticeably less revenue this year. However, Aastha is hopeful and believes that the wedding industry will be back with full swing soon!
Aastha has a different point of view on the future change in the wedding space. She says, “People will opt for bigger space so that the social distancing can be maintained or they will opt for home wedding or smaller place for just immediate family members.”
Aastha enthusiastically says, “I am personally associated with an NGO and am trying my best to help the needy people. From purely business perspective, we have done couple of intimate weddings during this pandemic. I have a wedding magazine where I suggest people how to do wedding in this situation through online courses”, when asked of their contribution to the society.
 

The experience from Kolkata is eerily similar. Raj Jaria from Red Kkarpet is outspoken about the destruction caused in the wedding landscape by the tremors of the pandemic. “The biggest and the most obvious one is the limitation on the number of guests. But it gives us an opportunity to work on more bespoke weddings. Although business slowed down during lockdown, a surge of new ideas cropped up to revive business.” Though there are other hurdles like money inflows, travel restrictions, quarantine afterwards etc. Raj is hopeful and believes that we as an industry will overcome them. “The event team has also limited the number of personnel on venue, we are all acclimatizing to the new normal,” he adds nonchalantly.
On seeking his views on the change in the industry in coming years, Raj mentions, “Like I said, it throws open more possibilities in the near future. Customization is the key. Online events have become a part of our rosters. Online fun, playful live shows are an uptrend and will be so for the days to come. We are working more towards involvement in weddings. It's a given that the situation will improve, and destination weddings under a bio-secure bubble model could see an up rise.”
 
They also have a list of activities and contributions for these tough times.
“Safety of vendors and team is as important as that of the guests. We have taken it upon ourselves to arm them with PPE kits, masks, gloves, sanitizers, et al. We have paid attention to smaller details like giving them individual water bottles and food packets. A special focus is on mental health during this difficult time, and we are working towards mental health coaching of all our support staff. Apart from these, we have shared essentials and necessities with COVID-19 remedy camps. Very soon we'll be doing a charity show online and the proceeds will go to the necessary charities.”

Image Courtesy : Google
 
After our detailed conversations with these brilliant and new age wedding planners, we can concede to this mindset: life carries on and so will weddings. The need of the hour is to be considerate and to motivate while also finding meaningful new ways of adapting our businesses. Unpredictability is the theme this season but a few innovative wedding planners will find their own ways to ideate and will continue to contribute creatively!


Madhusmita Borah

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