The Big Fat Kerala Wedding: Time To Cap The Expenses?

Posted: June 15, 2015

With Indian marriage expenses becoming astronomical, the Kerala women’s commission suggests that its time to set a cap on expenses. Agree/Disagree?

The members of the women’s commission in Kerala recently proposed to the Government that it introduce a cap on the amount spent during weddings. The Kerala Government swiftly rejected the proposal citing that the commission should instead focus on spreading awareness on the issue of people spending huge amounts of money on weddings.

The commission had proposed that a limit of 80 grams of gold and limits on other expenses be set for weddings such as a cap of Rs. 10,000 for the bride’s dress and Rs 5000 for the groom’s dress.

The popular joke about a wedding in Kerala is that if you blink you might miss the entire ritual…

Kerala weddings might be the simplest weddings in terms of rituals and functions as compared to the rest of India. The popular joke about a wedding in Kerala is that if you blink you might miss the entire ritual, save for two aspects which is the copious amounts of gold that a bride might wear in Kerala and the number of guests at the wedding, which is upwards of 1000 people.

According to Reuters, Kerala uses up 400 grams of gold per wedding which is almost half a kilo – not too much of an issue if we were talking about potatoes.

The rest of India is not behind in terms of wedding expenses. Some sources peg the average amount spent per wedding in India at Rs.19 lakhs and the upper middle class and the rich spend anything upwards of Rs 5.5 Crores. The average numbers in India are harder to predict owing to the different states, classes and religions in India.

Weddings seem to be the biggest party for the rest of the world too with the US spending an average of $29,000 (Rs 18.5 lakhs) according and Indian Americans spending anywhere upwards of $65,000 (Rs 41.5 lakhs) for a wedding in the US according to The UK seems to be spending slightly lesser with an average of 18,000 pounds (Rs 17.9 lakhs) according to the telegraph. Almost everywhere, people feel that wedding expenses have spiraled out of control.

Families seem to take loans, mortgage houses and some even go bankrupt in trying to pay off loans taken for the wedding and this seems to be the trend in most parts of the world. In India, there is the added menace of dowry leaving the groom’s side richer and in effect making daughters seem like liabilities. Would setting a cap on expenses allowed for a wedding be a welcome change or can this change come into effect only by awareness and changing mind-sets? If such a cap is set for weddings it would mean a big loss for businesses such as caterers, bands, DJs, and photographers that thrive on the wedding business, out of which gold is the biggest player in Kerala.

The wedding industry is an estimated $4-$5 billion business and is growing at a healthy 25-30%.

While individuals are willing to pay through their nose for a wedding, the wedding industry in India is booming – it is an estimated $4-$5 billion business and is growing at a healthy 25-30%. That is natural, with weddings becoming larger and more ridiculous by the day with each person trying to beat his neighbour in showing off their wealth and at times debt.

Everyone loves a party and weddings are great for family and friends to come and celebrate a couple but when the celebrations start costing as much as someone’s house or honour, that’s when problems arise. Reality shows like Band Baja Baraat even suggest plastic surgery and procedure like lip enhancement for the bride without batting an eyelid. We have seen it all from grooms arriving on horses to helicopters and brides wearing everything except the kitchen sink in gold.

Indian Wedding Image via Shutterstock

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  1. Hi Anju, thanks for the well explained article, which highlights the scourge (not an exaggeration) of our economy. Several times, I had wondered, who is benefitting from the exorbitant amount spent in weddings. As we can see from several of our own close ones’ financial woes, the grooms’ side becomes the GUEST and treated with utmost respect. But they do not spend much on the wedding, apart from some return gifts to the girls’ family and to their relatives. But by all means the spent rests squarely on the girls’ family.
    My question is….sorry, are:

    –isn’t the boys’ family happy that the boy is getting married and don’t they need to shell out an equal portion?
    — if we say that, since it is the man who is going to earn and spend for the wife and ‘her'(?!!!) kids, then is the wife (take it for granted that she is stay at home) just going to sit in the man’s house, relax, watch tv and enjoy his income? If so, who prepares the four-square meals (mind you, now with the doctors asking the family to have frequent small meals,the three square meals have become four square meals), puts the clothes in the washing machine, hangs it, irons it, arranges things in the house in an orderly fashion, takes the kids to the sundry odd hobby classes, goes to parents teachers meet, ok….my head spins….
    ok. I realise who did those….the girl’s family had given her the lamp (tradition says so), and luckily it turned out to be a magic lamp, from which a genie came and did all the work free of cost……

    —– fine, if the woman is working and earning, will that amount be sent to the girls’ parents, as the parents had paid for her marriage assuming that she would not earn and the husband had to FEED HER.

    — Will that amount be paid by the husband to her parents, if the woman had to stay back from pursuing her career because of child birth.

    All these questions may sound cheap and mercenary, if a girl asks these….but this is what marriage is….it has got only the following criteria – is the boy earning well, (his values or character do not matter, he may be abusing alcohol or drugs, but that can be compensated by his income), does he own a house, has bus, helicopter, ship, cruise and all the other forms of transport so that the daughter would live a COMFORTABLE life. Is the girl good-looking (read – fair, beautiful, homely, an embodiment of indian culture), bringing lot of wealth, has brothers who can shower her with gifts throughout her life. Only daughter, so that all the family wealth comes to her.

    My God…where do you think love and bonding would crop (be it arranged or love marriage, as parents demand more, just to accept the couple, if the choice is made by the couple) in such marriages.

    The lucky ones are those who eat their fill in the wedding feast, marriage hall owners, decorators , photographers, caterers,etc. But at the cost of whom? Is a lavish wedding, an assurance of the marital stability and is it directly proportional to the happiness and comfort of the girl through out her life……? Parents of girls, please put your foot down and insist on a simple wedding, replete with whatever rituals you want to follow, But keep the amount in a fixed deposit for you and the girl, or invest in real estate, so that it would fetch monthly returns and remain with you and the girl forever, instead of getting spent on a single day.
    Also, we will then understand that the surplus amount can be spent for a good cause….

  2. I feel spreading awareness is more important than any limits being said by the govt. Any limits set will only be “creatively” overcome by the population. Example’s like that of Rima Kallingal should be made known more widely.

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