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Road To recovery: Trends That Will Drive the Wedding Industry In 2021 The adversity, or the pandemic, has created an opportunity to streamline the industry and bring efficiency so that the road to recovery is risk proof and long term

By Sandeep Lodha

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The Indian wedding industry, long considered recession-proof, found itself in peril due to the pandemic. With the vaccination drives picking pace and all social activities slowly resuming to pre-COVID state, the Indian wedding is all set to make a comeback, sooner than later. Furthermore, the rapid adoption of online platforms for work, study and entertainment accelerated the trend of "digitization' of events. There was an increased emphasis on the early adoption of technology and an affable combination of physical and virtual experiences, like no other. The adversity has created an opportunity to streamline the industry and bring efficiency so that the road to recovery is risk proof and long term.

Formalization of the sector

The need for formalization has been one of the longest-standing demands of the wedding industry as it is one of the major contributors to the travel and hospitality industry. More significantly, it includes a number of ancillary services such as decor, photography, caterers, florists, tailoring services and more, mostly supported by small businesses. While bigger players, such as hotels, follow the formal route of contracts and agreements, the wedding industry is largely run on verbal commitments from small businesses. Reports of some vendors backing out at the last moment or failing to deliver the expected product/service are not unheard of and often result in chaos.

Given the scale of the industry and its overall impact, the lack of formalization makes it difficult to impose a standard of quality in both products and services. It also creates uncertainty for the end consumer, that is, the family or the betrothed couple. While wedding aggregators and organizers have introduced some formalization in the sector, it is still inadequate in scale. Formalization will improve quality, provide a framework for redressal, attract investment, and generate more revenues.

The return of large scale weddings

One of the most significant impacts of the pandemic was the scaling down of the grand Indian wedding due to the restriction on gatherings. Once held over days, at lavish locations and extensive guest lists, the Indian wedding had to be trimmed down. However, with the commencement of the vaccination drive, as the country is slowly returning to normalcy, weddings will witness a gradual uptake in the guest list. Intimate weddings will continue to prevail as individual choice but basis the progress of the vaccine by the end of 2021, the industry we see gravitation towards larger gatherings and bounce back of ancillary events such as haldi and mehendi, among others. Therefore, organizers must shift their focus on repackaging their services according to the couples' preferences.

Going digital

In a world going digital rapidly, the pandemic enhanced a quick revolution, imposing the need to connect digitally as couples were unable to physically travel due to restrictions enforced by the government. New-age couples who are short on time with their daily routine but want to be equally involved in their wedding planning process are largely benefiting from one-stop-shop wedding planning apps that rely heavily on technology and digital offerings. This will embark as an important trend for couples considering that the entire wedding planning process can be finalized at the click of a button from the comfort of their homes. Interestingly, we are now seeing a wider acceptance of such apps across generations; by parents and other family members who are also involved in booking wedding services.

Additionally, other digital services that have proliferated since the lockdown, include live-streaming of events and online gift registries. Vendors in smaller markets such as make-up artists, mehendi artists have also upped their game more than ever with the boost of online mediums and social media. Some of these measures, such as online RSVPs, live streaming, hygiene and sanitization and intimate weddings may outlast the pandemic-imposed restrictions as couples realize its necessity. Similar digitalization of services can help the beleaguered industry till normalcy returns fully.

Tie-ups and cross-promotional services

Collaborations are not new in the wedding industry which depends on different vendors and businesses coming together for one grand event. Wedding organizers often have tie-ups with their preferred caterers, make-up artists, and other service providers. During the COVID-19 crisis, these collaborations proved to be critical in the recovery of more than one sector. One of the biggest beneficiaries was the hospitality sector with a recent report by JLL suggesting that weddings helped revive the hotel industry in the October-December period in 2020. It was a reciprocal arrangement as hotels also provided wedding planners quick access to professional services with hygiene requirements already in place. With a cap on the number of guests, hotels have also emerged as viable alternatives for otherwise large wedding parties. For the new-age couple, social media influencers such as a celebrity couple unveiling their wedding details like their destination, venue, designer, photographer and more is likely to draw interest and play an important role in their wedding decisions.

For most Indians, a wedding is of immense importance with deep cultural and social significance. Given its significance, one can assume that the recovery of the wedding industry is only a matter of time. However, there is still an urgent need for course correction, particularly in formalizing the sector and in adopting modernization through technology. Measures such as digitalization, collaborations, and scaling down of the weddings can, in the meanwhile, will surely help prop up the industry on its road to recovery.

Sandeep Lodha


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