Thai-ing the Knot in Hua Hin – Cornering the Big Indian Wedding Market

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Thai-ing the Knot in Hua Hin - Cornering the Big Indian Wedding Market
Thai-ing the Knot in Hua Hin - Cornering the Big Indian Wedding Market

The Greek’s can say what they like – nobody does the big fat wedding the way Indians do. The Indian nuptials’ long parade of rituals and feasts lasts several days, always involving at least a hundred guests in the most colorful, elaborate and lavish party you can image.

Once upon a time, Indians married at home and perhaps put some money aside for what was perceived as a splurge on a honeymoon abroad. But as India enters the mainstream of globalisation, the big fat Indian wedding has increasingly looked east for lower prices and more exotic pictures for the wedding album.

Thailand, as the world’s favorite destination for foreign weddings, is only a four-hour flight from Delhi and Mumbai. While India is a major market, only 50% of the Indian weddings that come to Thailand are actually from India itself. The rest are Indian nationals typically from Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the US, Europe and South Africa. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reports that the average spend for an Indian wedding in Thailand is 10 million baht.

The average duration of each wedding is three to five nights, with approximately 600 rooms booked. It still costs two to three times more to host a wedding in India than in Thailand, says Satish Sehgal, a former President of the ThaiIndian Business Association. “What makes Thailand unique for weddings is the warm hospitality, proximity to India, world-class hotels, choice of cuisines, value for money and a ‘Can Do’ mind set. Thailand has a wide range of destinations to offer for the entire wedding party, although we have noticed there is a distinct preference for the beach resorts,” said Runjuan Tongrut, a recent Director the TAT New Delhi.

So What Is An Indian Wedding In Hua Hin Really Like?

To experience first-hand an Indian wedding in Hua Hin, Hua Hin Today sought the assistance of Kwan Kongprueksahati, the Marketing Communications Manager of the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa. We sincerely thank her for introducing us to an Indian family who, some 12 months ago, booked their big fat Indian wedding with 200 guests at the Sheraton. Lavnya Tuli (the bride) and Shaan Dewan (the groom) and their respective families graciously welcomed us as their guests with our assurances to respect their wedding as a very special family occasion. Our sincere thanks for their amazing acceptance and hospitality.

The couple chose Thailand as their wedding destination because Shaan was eager for the wedding to be a ‘destination wedding’ and, based on his experiences visiting the Sheraton as a guest at a friend’s wedding and with Lavnya’s love of the ocean and the beach, the Sheraton’s open beach frontage presented the best option. Shaan’s family have been Dubai residents for around 40 years, so local knowledge would have allowed the costs to be managed, but a decision was made for a ‘destination wedding’ and Thailand was the best option. Choosing India itself also had the potential for a blowout in guest numbers.

The Sheraton had recommended the wedding planners from Bangkok (Nipunika of eventsbynipunika.com) and independently Nipunika had recommended the Sheraton – decision made! It’s not practical for just any Resort to host an Indian wedding with a flexible mindset needed to accept a variety of outside providers, including food and beverages. A majority of the guests came from Dubai, India, Canada and England with a few coming from America and Australia. Lavnya and Shaan are both based in Dubai but with a Punjabi heritage, their wedding followed the traditions of this Northern Region of India.

Some Observations

It’s very apparent that ‘family’ is a revered institution in India and in other countries where Indians have settled. Indian families successfully maintain relationships between distant continents over many years.

During the wedding we met one lady from Bombay who was being frequently texted by absent family members from different countries wanting an update. A pairing of the couple by the family, with the first meeting being on the wedding day, is no longer in vogue. However it was apparent that members of these families had been active match-makers in the early stages of Shaan and Lavyna’s courtship.

The compatibility of the two families remains an important factor for the success of the marriage. ‘Indian time’ (much more expansive than ‘Thai time’) means that no one expects the schedule to be kept and being over an hour late is no big deal. Yet somehow guests figure out when to be where; that’s a skill in itself. Ceremonial and decorative components of the wedding are complicated and intricate. Adherence to traditional Hindu practices needs lots of advice and support by experienced ‘aunties’ as well as the religious leaders present. Late night parties really mean early morning with the daylight hours greeting many party goers. Sunglasses are an essential accessory of the wedding attire.

Indian Wedding ceremonial days vary depending upon the traditions of different regions and are likely
to be carried out over at least three days. These wedding days followed Punjabi traditions.

Day 1 Mehendi

Mehendi or henna is a paste made into designs as a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered on the idea of “awakening the inner light”. Traditional Indian designs are representations of the sun on the palms. This is a day for the ladies to be ‘decorated’.

Day 2 Sangeet

The term Sangeet, when translated into English literally means ‘sung together’. The Sangeet is a time for celebrating, singing, dancing and joking. It includes some good-natured ribbing of the couple’s soon-to-be in-laws and a perfect time for wedding guests to meet and get to know each other.

Day 3 Many Ceremonial Requirements Before Really Thai-ing the Knot!

This is perhaps the Hindu ‘coming of age’, based on religious practices. It includes the groom being daubed with a yellow yoghurt based paste. In Shaan’s case, he had already undertaken the more formal version with an older brother, so this was less formal than usual; a ‘messy’ and according to Shaan a very cold confirmation of his ‘adult’ status.

Churra

A Churra is a set of bangles that are traditionally made of ivory, with inlay work, though now made with plastic they are worn by an Indian bride on her wedding day as a tradition originating in Punjab, North India. It is a favoured tradition in Hindu families,

Sehra Bandi

After the groom has dressed up in his wedding clothes (after a quick post-Jenoa swim), a puja, a prayer ritual performed to host, honour and spiritually celebrate an event is performed. To complete the Sehrabandi ceremony, all attending, were also ‘turbaned’ in readiness for the wedding procession.

Bharat

The groom traditionally arrived at the ceremony on a decorated white horse. This is not always a practical option and in Shaan’s case both the arrival at the ceremony and later the couple’s departure was by Tuk Tuk. To quote Shaan he was ready to “Tuk Tuk her away.” Guests danced around him to the beat of the dhol, an Indian drum. After that, the bride and her family greet the groom, and the couple exchanges floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolise their acceptance of each other.

Wedding Ceremony & Reception

The couple takes the saptapadi, or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Finally, the groom applies a red powder to the centre of the bride’s forehead and ties a black beaded necklace around her neck, symbolising that she’s now a married woman. Performances of the Bhangra, a frenzied Punjab folk dance, takes centre stage at the wedding reception. No encouragement needed to join in or any particular dancing skills, the rhythm is very infectious for the old and young, just go crazy! When it’s all over some guests took an extra day or so for some sightseeing around Hua him. The bride and groom headed away for a romantic honeymoon booked for the cherry blossom season in Japan.

Acknowledgements

Kwan Kongprueksahati, Marketing Communications Manager and Pimsiri Boonpayon, the Senior Events Manager of the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa and Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas. www.sheratonhuahin.com

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