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Proposed marriage bill: Goodbye big fat Indian weddings?

By Sowmya Raghavan
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Congress Member of Parliament Ranjeet Ranjan and wife of Jan Adhikar Party chief Pappu Yadav recently proposed a private members bill in Parliament that seeks to put a limit on the number of guests that can be invited to a wedding. The bill also proposes a limit on dishes served in order to keep check on the 'opulence and show of wealth'. According to the proposed bill, if a family spends above Rs 500,000 on a wedding, it has to contribute 10 per cent of the amount towards a fund on marriages of girls from poor families, according to the proposed bill.

Now Ranjan's may have good intentions, the bill itself is absolutely baseless. And here are the top logical reasons why a bill like this must not be passed:

Massive chain of unimaginable employment

Massive chain of unimaginable employment

Having worked very closely and in proximity with the industry, let me break down the chain of employment at every level of a two-day middle-class wedding with a guest list of 500-600 people working in shifts:

  1. Unskilled labours, such as cleaners and waste pickers: 15-20 people, earning Rs 600 - Rs 800 per shift
  2. Skilled and unskilled floral labour: 30-35 people earning Rs 850 - Rs 950 per shift
  3. Parking, security: 8-10 people earning Rs 600 - Rs 700 per shift
  4. Valet and drivers: 8-10 people earning Rs 600 - Rs 700 per shift
  5. Truck drivers: 3-4 people earning Rs 600 - Rs 700 per shift
  6. Labour for tables, tents, chairs and other infrastructure: 15-20 people earning Rs 850 - Rs 950 per shift
  7. Catering team staff -- servers and cooks: 25-30 people earning Rs 900 - Rs 1,000 per shift
  8. Technical staff for installation on lights and sound: 6-7 people earning Rs 850 - Rs 950 per shift
  9. Ground support manpower: 4-5 people earning Rs 1,500 - Rs 1,800 per shift -- consisting of college students trying to earn money to support their families and education and acquiring a new skill in managing events
  10. Ritual-based service providers such as pandits, men for dhol, nadaswaram, etc: around Rs 1,500 - Rs 2,500 per person
  11. A chain of employment for women -- Mehndi artists, rangoli artists, packing of trays and sweets, etc.

Photograph: A florist at work.

A segment that has been struggling to rise economically

A segment that has been struggling to rise economically

Just with the list above, I would assess the employment on a simple two-day wedding of 500-600 invitees would be a total of 120-150 people earning a total of Rs 300,000 to Rs 370,000, with a monthly income of anywhere between Rs 6,000 to Rs 25,000 per person.

Most of the people mentioned above belong to a segment that has been struggling to rise economically.

This is a very small portion of the chain of employment the wedding industry gives rise to. If I were to include studio photo teams, women who make floral pieces for hair, tailor, dhobi etc - the list would be much, much longer.

Photograph: Elder musicians earn by playing at baraat bands.

India’s love for flowers and the floral industry

India’s love for flowers and the floral industry

Take a walk around the local flower markets, especially during a wedding season, and you will be shocked with the massive amounts of people who make a living on these beautiful gifts of nature. Even today, with my long association with the floral market, it pleasantly surprises me to see the unending chain of employment.

Just to give you a surface-level idea of this chain, it consists of floriculture farmers, flower sellers in the market, people who make floral garlands and the labour for carrying the inventory of flowers, drivers, etc -- the list is long here too.

The floral industry for weddings also employees lakhs of women who work on creative and intricate flower work, flowers for hair, floral jewellery etc -- I can write an entire article on this alone.

Photograph: A florist at work at a wedding.

Urban career choice

Urban career choice

Over the last decade or so, the wedding industry has given rise to a whole gamut of urban career choices such as candid photographers, make-up artists, wedding planners, set designers and so on. The wedding industry has allowed passions such as photography and ikebana designing to become a career.

You can pick and choose from this wide range of service providers based on your budget preferences and spending capabilities for your wedding. You may choose to spend from Rs 500,000 to Rs 5,000,000 on the wedding, but be assured that you can hire a photographer, make-up artist or even a wedding planner to suit your budgets.

Photograph: A wedding pandal being decorated with flowers.

Simple math

Simple math

This is my realistic math for most simple weddings with 200 invitees:

  1. Cost of venue: Rs 200,000
  2. Cost of food: Rs 120,000
  3. Cost of clothes: Rs 80,000
  4. Cost of studio photography and videography: Rs 45,000
  5. Basic decor: Rs 85,000
  6. Cost of priest and other ritual based service providers: Rs 50,000
  7. Hiring few mini buses: Rs 35,000
  8. Cost on invitations: Rs 15,000
  9. Other service providers such as make-up artist, people for mehndi, etc: Rs 35,000
  10. Furniture on rent: Rs 60,000
  11. Basic lights, sound, generator: Rs 35,000

I may have missed out on many items, but a simple town or city wedding is impossible in Rs 500,000.

If you want to pass a bill on the wedding industry, here are my top picks. These are valid, rational and actually stand to make a difference:

  1. Standardise earnings for the employment chain at weddings and make regulations to support the poorer strata of people working at such functions.
  2. Make mandatory thoughtful waste segregation at weddings.
  3. A ban on plastic.
  4. Food wastage - hygienic storage and distribution of leftover food to the poor
  5. Employment of transgenders
  6. Stringent watch on tax evasion in weddings.

About the Author:

Sowmya Raghavan - Co-founded 3Productions, a wedding planning & consultancy firm. She has spearheaded her business that made her company unique in its officering of in-house crafter decor and across the board planning services for events. 3Production strives to spread employment to large amounts of people by working with skilled labour like carpenters, fabricators, etc.

Photograph: A floral team after a day's work.

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