When it comes to elaborate wedding dresses, few can compete with the marriages of India's hyper-rich.
The recent months have seen a series of high-profile ceremonies, from a rare Bollywood-Hollywood association (Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas) to what could be one of the most expensive weddings in history (when Isha Ambani, the daughter of the richest Asian man married Anand Piramal, son of a billionaire industrialist).
The sums of drinking water money were spent on bridal haberdashery, food from the top chefs of the world and the luxurious palace buildings. Ambani and Piramal even sent a private show from Beyoncé.
But it is not just the elite of India. In a country where up to 12 million weddings take place each year, developing middle classes are increasingly putting rituals to emphasize their status.
While marriages can be costly assumptions in any country, India is particularly important as power and status symbols, according to sociologist Parul Bhandari, a visiting scientist at St. George's College. Edmund's College of Cambridge University, which researches wedding cultures, sex and social class.
Deepika Padukone married competing actor Ranveer Singh in 2018. Credit: errikosandreouphoto / Instagram
"For many societies, especially for India, weddings are more than a mere union of two people," she said in a telephone interview. "A marriage marks the meeting of two families, births and, at times, larger groups such as whole villages or communities … Marriage is an important emblem that means an individual and the status of his family – economic, social, political, royal.
"Promoting financial limits to a marriage can of course be seen as an effort to achieve a higher social status and respect for the wider community.
"The Piramal-Ambani marriage is, in any way, the epitome of an" Indian Big Tongue Wedding, "she added, referring to a term commonly used to describe marriages of great publicity in the social media." (This) was indeed a show power and money, as well as rituals and traditions. "
According to Bhandari, the rise of overwhelming rituals is linked to a "growing trend for consumerism (and) the influence of Bollywood."
For those who can afford to host a spectacular palace, the Indian state of Rajasthan, known for its royal heritage, has proven a marriage-on-demand destination, according to Bhavnesh Sawhney, director Wedniksha Wedding Designer in Mumbai. His popularity may continue to rise after the Ambani-Piramal and Chopra-Jonas marriages, which took place in the northwestern state.
The royal wedding of the 27th Wodeyar dynasty chief, 24 year old Yaduveer Chamraja Krishnadatta Wodeyar, and Trishika Kumari, of the Rajasthan Dungarpur dynasty. The ceremony was held at the Amba Vilas Palace. Credit: STR / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
"Rajasthan is known to support many ancient traditions," Sawini said. "And the greatness of the basilica of the forts and palaces not only serves as a beautiful setting, but also gives an authentic cultural touch to a ceremony."
"People are now going for quality instead of quantity," said Priyanka Gupta, head of wedding planning at My Shaadi Wale Wedding, a wedding planning company based in Bangalore.
"Earlier, you may have up to 1,000 visitors, now people cut from 200 to 250 of their closest (friends and family) and hold destination marriages (instead of)".
Gupta puts the average amount that spends a family of higher order at $ 400 per visitor per day. She estimated that weddings Chopra-Jonas and Ambani-Piramal could cost up to $ 2,000 per visitor per day.
The Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, where Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas tied the knot. Credit: Getty Images AsiaPac / Getty Images
Irrespective of a couple's social situation, Indian weddings often spread over several days, according to Sawhney. It is India's "cultural pride that creates complex planning," he said.
"These rich and great Indian weddings are never a matter of a day," he added. "Most weddings start from a few days to a ten-day celebration."
This is partly due to the different customs. While the passers-by this year's marriages made headlines for their luxury, they were all full of Hindu tradition. (For Ambani-Piramal suitors, the Bollywood myth Amitabh Bachchan assumed the role of emcee, explaining the numerous customs to foreign visitors).
An Indian couple Bharwad (shepherd) takes part in a wedding ceremony in Ahmedabad. Credit: SAM PANTHAKY / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
For example, pre-marriage celebrations usually include a "mehndi" (henna) ceremony held the day before the wedding, during which the bride's arms and legs are decorated with intricate designs. And even if you can not stand the Beyoncé, a "sangeet" (one evening of music and dance) is now a rule among Indian couples.
In the morning of marriage, the bride and groom apply the "haldi" (the turmeric that mixes milk with a paste) to their hands and face to avoid evil spirits. The wedding ceremony itself is often made under a "mandap", a booth decorated with rich curtains and ornaments. This is where the bride and groom bind their vows (known as "feta sat", or seven circles) around "agni", a sacred fire is considered a witness to the ceremony.
A Rajasthani woman participates in a mass wedding ceremony during the "Akshaya Tritiya" celebrations in Ahmedabad. Credit: SAM PANTHAKY / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
The ritual sees the couple walking around the fire seven times recite the commitments of the Hindu marriage to power, prosperity, wisdom, health, offspring and friendship, after which marriage becomes binding.
At the end of the ritual, the groom applies sindoor along the bridal hair division of her bride and connects a "mangalsutra" around her neck to indicate she is married.
Hindus usually choose a sneaker embroidered with intricate patterns or a "lehenga" (a long skirt type) combined with a matching blouse and "dupatta" (a long shawl scarf that is glued over the head and shoulders ).
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Generally, red is one of the favorites for brides – especially for Hindu rituals. The color symbolizes fertility and well-being and represents Mars, the planet of marriage in Hindu astrology (although a significant number of brides now wear cream, a color commonly used by Western brides, reflecting a growing modern trend for lighter pastel shades ).
The schedule of the ceremonies also reflects trends at national level: The winter wedding season, which usually lasts from November to February, is considered to be an auspicious period in the Hindu calendar. Pairs often turn to their stars and their zodiac signs to choose a date that will ensure a long and happy marriage.
All of India's recent grand marriages – including Deepika Padukone's high-profile marriage to competing actor Ranveer Singh – sparked waves of reaction to social media from India and beyond.
"(Ambani-Piramal marriage) has placed India on the world map as a place of luxury, luxury and grandeur," said Bhandari for the wider interest in the December event. "She seemed to be doing the long forgotten tendencies of the royal wedding festivities, and in that way it could be considered a little misplaced and" above the top "."
A Hindu groom Jain helps his bride as "Mangal Sutra" – "Awake Awful String". Credit: SAM PANTHAKY / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
Through public charm, the ceremonies have also attracted criticism because they are overly flamboyant. Such excess shows stand in stark contrast to poverty and poor living conditions in places throughout India.
A spokesman for Abani told CNN that the family created a bazaar to present the work of local craftsmen. They claim they have donated enough food to feed over 5,000 local people three meals a day for four days.
"Surprisingly, today's elites seem more intense to show their strength through an intransigent embrace of their privilege and status," said Bhandari.
This, in turn, causes simulation, he said: "Some sections of society see the tendencies that the elites pose as the" authentic "and" real "ways of being Indians, or believe that by practicing these outrageous celebrations they can also to claim an elite. "