When Surabhi Chauhan, a Delhi-based fund manager, got married last November, roughly 400 guests attended her wedding. Two names on the guest list were people she had never met before: Carly Stevens and Tim Gower. The Australian travel bloggers paid around $200 for a two-day invitation to attend Chauhan’s wedding through a start-up called Join My Wedding.
She and her husband were introduced to Stevens and Gower by one of the start-up’s co-founders, Orsi Parkanyi, she said.”We were chatting and coordinating, we had a brief introduction about each of us, what exactly we do, our respective profiles (and) what are the arrangements that will be there, the kind of attire they’re supposed to wear — all those conversations happened,” Chauhan said. Here’s how Join My Wedding works: Indian couples list details about their weddings on the website, and international travelers can buy tickets to the nuptials they want to attend. Most of the contributions from the tickets go to the couples, but the start-up takes a cut. “Experiencing all the cultural elements at once, meaningfully connecting with the locals in India, that’s a huge motivating factor for the travelers,” she said. “It’s a safe experience. You attend an event with hundreds of people, you’re a distinguished guest; people look after you.” Indian weddings are known for their opulence, customs and traditions that are celebrated over several days — millions of couplesget married in the country every year, where there’s a growing population and a rising middle class. Experts consider the Indian wedding industry, which is said to be worth about $40 billion and growing around 20 percent a year, to be recession-proof. Boobna explained that wedding tourism is an up and coming trend in India’s wedding industry, similar to medical tourism in the health care sector. For some Indian couples, the concept of inviting international travelers to attend their wedding is a way to make the ceremony more extravagant and more “show biz,” he said. But others want travelers at their weddings to experience the culture and the rituals. The celebration, with song and dance, and the elaborate, symbolic rituals make Indian weddings very vibrant and that’s what draws in interest from international travelers, according to Sahajanand Sharma, a tour guide based in India.