Big Indian wedding: Expenses of ₹10 lakh crore, second only to food and groceries

A report states that the Indian wedding industry is estimated to be worth around ₹10 lakh crore ($130 billion), second only to food and grocery, and the average Indian spends twice as much on weddings than on education.

India has 8-10 million weddings per year, compared with 7-8 million in China and 2-2.5 million in the US. “The size of the Indian wedding industry is roughly double that of the US ($70 billion), though smaller than China ($170 billion),” brokerage firm Jefferies said in a report.

Weddings are the second-largest consumption category in India. “If weddings were a category, they would be the second-largest retail category after food and grocery ($681 billion),” the report said.

Weddings in India are lavish and involve a lot of ceremony and expense. The industry drives consumption in categories such as jewellery and apparel and indirectly benefits autos and electronics. Despite political efforts to curb them, lavish weddings in exotic locations continue to showcase Indian opulence.

“With 8 million to 1 million weddings taking place every year, India is the largest wedding destination in the world. According to CAIT, its size is estimated at $130 billion. The wedding industry is almost twice that of the US and contributes significantly to major consumption categories,” Jefferies said.

Indian weddings are multi-day celebrations with many events, ranging from simple to extravagant. Region, religion and economic background play an important role at many levels.

According to the report, the Hindu calendar, which is based on the lunisolar system, adds to the complexity as it allows marriages to take place only on auspicious days of specific months, which change every year.

“In an otherwise price-conscious society, Indians like to spend on weddings, which may be disproportionate to their income or wealth level. And this transcends economic class, as the tendency to overspend is seen across all.

“A wedding costs an average of $15,000, which is a multiple of per capita or household income. Interestingly, an average Indian couple spends twice as much on marriage as they do on education (from pre-primary to graduation), whereas in countries like the US, the expenditure on education is less than half,” the report said.

Exotic domestic and international locations, luxurious accommodations, lavish catering with menus prepared by Michelin star chefs and performances by professional artists and celebrities, these are a must to experience to understand luxury Indian weddings.

“Given the size and scale, weddings are a key driver of growth for multiple categories in India, such as jewellery, apparel, catering, stay and travel, etc. For instance, more than half of the jewellery industry's revenue is led by bridal jewellery, while 10% of total apparel spends is driven by clothing worn for weddings and ceremonies,” it said.

“The wedding industry also indirectly boosts various sectors such as automobiles, consumer electronics, paints, etc. These industries see a surge in demand during the wedding season, and though it is difficult to measure the full impact, industry players carefully track wedding dates to align marketing strategies and inventory management,” Jefferies said, adding that wedding planning typically begins 6-12 months in advance, and the most lavish wedding functions involve over 50,000 guests.

Bridal lehengas in the luxury segment involve heavy intricate work and can weigh as much as 10 kg in some cases. Italian luxury brand Bvlgari (part of the LVMH Group) launched its first India-only jewellery, the mangalsutra, in 2021.

“Decoration is the most underestimated cost in an Indian wedding,” it says.

“The most unique food items include chocolate pani puri, waffle dosa, and pineapple-flavored paneer.”

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