MORE than 10 million weddings are held annually in the nation of 1.3 billion people, with the marriage industry estimated to be worth some $40 - $50 billion, according to advisory firm KPMG.

The sector - like the rest of the economy - is reeling from the impact of the virus, with planners, caterers and decorators among those who have incurred huge losses.

Wedding Blues : The spread of the coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown took place as India's wedding season was in full swing.

In western Rajasthan state alone, some 23,000 weddings meant to coincide with the Hindu Akshaya Tritiya festival on April 26 were called off due to the pandemic.

''We thought, 'Why don't we be the flag bearers and drive weddings online?'' said Adhish Zaveri, marketing director at matrimonial website Shaadi.com which facilitated Dang and Narang's wedding.

''A wedding is probably the most important day of somebody's life and we thought we have to make it as special and close to a real wedding as possible,'' he said.

ONLINE nuptials are among a string of  weddings in India that have gone ahead amid the lockdown, with some unusual variations.

One couple in Uttar Pradesh said ''I do'' inside a police station after more conventional venues like banquet halls, hotels and temples were all ordered closed during the lockdown.

And in Madhya Pradesh, a bride and groom, their faces covered by masks, exchanged garlands - a key ritual in a Hindu wedding - with the help of bamboo sticks in a nocontact ceremony.

Home Nuptials : Zaveri said the significantly cheaper online ceremonies could become an option for couples amid the uncertainty about how long the pandemic is going to last.

Couples are charged less than INR 100,000 [$1,300] for the virtual services, Zaveri said, adding 12  more such weddings are in the pipeline.

To give the online services a professional touch, make-up artists and sari draping experts are hired to help the bride, while a folk singer is engaged to serenade the guests.

All participants are sent logins and passwords that so that strangers can't gatecrash the event.

Kirti Agrawal - who married her beau Avinash Singh Bagri on April 14, on the balcony of their relatives's flat as friends and family watched on a videoconferencing app - said the digital approach appealed to her.

''Their groom's family had planned a list 8,000 to 10,000,'' Agrawal said.

''I didn't say that I am not a fan of big, fat weddings. But when I heard about the wedding - from - home - idea, I was very happy.''  [AFP]


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