How Wedding Planners are Coping With Surge in Indian American Marriages Amid Lingering Pandemic
From ever-changing Covid protocols to rising costs and vendor shortages, they have become experts in matching their clients' needs to the demands of the current times. Indian weddings are a weekend-long extravaganza with many guests and numerous colorful fun and festivities associated with diverse cultures and religions. This year marked a wave of desi weddings after two years of drought. My family and I have been invited to half a dozen weddings this year.
Impact of Covid on the Wedding Industry - Thirty-year-old Kristen Miller, the founder of Cultural Event Rentals, one-stop-shop service for Indian weddings specializing in exclusive mandaps, sacred rest for the Holy Book required for Sikh weddings, Hawan Kund for the sacred fire, jhulas, haldi bowls, henna accessories, a variety of collection of furniture, backdrops, and specialty decor for ceremonies. Her wedding rickshaw was featured in the August 2021 New York Times article "Hippie Hindu" wedding that brought in the bride to tie her nuptial knots at the wedding at the Holly Farm in Carmel, California.
Miller began her career in the industry even before she graduated high school. She quickly learned about the beauty, complexity, and cultural nuances of a three-day Indian wedding. Starting with a mehndi party on a Thursday, haldi during the day, and sangeet in the evening on Friday; baraat and wedding on Saturday morning on a well-crafted mandap, lunch after the wedding, and reception with dinner and dancing. After successfully planning over 50 Indian weddings for a Bay area event planning company, Miller started her own in 2018.
She says Covid was hard on her business. Besides government compensation for small businesses, she did a few rentals. "Sometimes, people needed a mandap delivered for their private estate or a tent." But the industry hurt as the beauty of Indian weddings lies in the extended family and community coming together.
Miller did a south Indian wedding in September 2021 where the bride’s mother could not come from India. The couple live-streamed it so that everyone in their family in India could see it, and it turned out beautiful. "It was late at night, and the family was partying in India." With Covid, a lot of videographers got into the live streaming business.
This year, Miller finds people are cautious in reading between the lines of the wedding contract and are keen on incorporating the Covid clause. Some clients don’t want to sign a wedding contract to cancel it abruptly without that clause. As a result, she has lost some business.
Another significant change this year is the effect of price increases, a clause she incorporated in her new contract drawn in January. She had initially made all these contracts for the rental company based on last year’s gas prices. "I shot myself in the foot!"
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We also invite you to read this New York Times Article A ‘Hippie Hindu’ Wedding for a Cosmic Match in which our rickshaw was featured.