The ‘big fat Indian weddings’ – a powerful economic engine

Indian weddings are renowned for their glitz and glamour. The US$ 130 billion wedding industry, which ranks as the fourth-largest in the country, significantly boosts economic activity, with families spending substantial amounts on each event. The wedding industry comprises various large and small sectors that collectively shape its dynamics. Recognizing the industry’s potential, the government launched a wedding tourism campaign last year to position India as a premier wedding destination globally.


The Indian wedding industry is a dazzling mosaic of tradition, culture, and modernity, representing one of the most significant sectors in the country’s economy. It is a powerful economic engine driving numerous ancillary industries. 

Rich in traditions and rituals, Indian weddings often span over several days and represent the union of two families rather than just two individuals. These are in fact significant social events. The diversity in India’s cultures results in varied wedding customs across regions and religions, like the distinct differences between Punjabi, Tamil, and Bengali weddings.

Grand venues like palaces, resorts, and luxury hotels are being favored, with growing trend towards both domestic and international destination weddings.  Food is central to Indian weddings, offering multi-cuisine options and elaborate setups.  Bridal attire (including sarees and lehengas), sherwanis, and jewelry, constitutes a significant expense with high demand for designer labels and tailoring. 

Lavish decorations, themed setups, and high-profile entertainers, including Bollywood celebrities, are integral to the festivities. While professional photography and videography, including pre-wedding shoots and cinematic wedding films, are deemed essential. 

Modern trends in the industry include- the use of technology, such as live streaming, drones for photography, and digital invitations, as well as a growing emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly weddings. Personalization is also key nowadays, with couples customizing every aspect of their wedding to reflect their personalities and stories.

The Indian wedding market

With about 8–10 million marriages being celebrated each year, India is the world’s largest wedding destination. Given that 34% of the population is in the marriageable age range of 20 to 39 years and an estimated  280 million people currently unmarried, the Indian wedding market is indeed quite substantial.

The market is  valued at US$ 130 billion (about Rs 10 lakh crore), ranking second only to the food and grocery sector within the overall US$ 681 billion retail market. (The year 2023, saw wedding business of Rs 4.25 lakh crore, up by 13% from 2022.)

According to global brokerage Jefferies, India’s wedding market is nearly double the size of the market in the US (US$ 70 billion), but still smaller than that of China (US$ 170 billion)

Another fascinating finding is that an average Indian couple spends about twice as much on weddings as on education from pre-primary to graduation (typically costing around Rs 6 lakh for 18 years), contrasting sharply with countries like the US, where spending on weddings is less than half of what is spent on education.

(India spends just about 3-3.5% of its GDP on education. Whereas the US spends 5%, Canada, Japan and Germany respectively spend around 5.5%, 3.6% and 4.8% of their GDPs for education.)

In India, wedding expenditures peak during two distinct periods: November to mid-December and mid-January to July, commonly referred to as the ‘Wedding Season.’ These periods coincide with increased economic activity, especially during the first peak period which aligns with the festive season. According to Jefferies, this surge benefits various sectors (catering, retail, hospitality, photography, beauty etc) significantly.

The big fat Indian weddings drive many sectors in the economy

Weddings in India are elaborate, multi-day celebrations influenced by region, religion, and economic background, ranging from simple to ultra-lavish. The reality is- Indian families, whether viewing it as prestigious family event or as an aspirational celebration, will willingly spend lavishly in the “big fat Indian wedding” ceremonies.

Luxury weddings often feature exotic locations, opulent accommodations, gourmet catering by Michelin-star chefs, and performances by professional artists and celebrities, and typically host about 300 to 500 guests or more. The average expenditure for such lavish weddings ranges from Rs 20 million to Rs 30 million (approximately US$ 200,000 to US$ 400,000), with the higher end exceeding these figures considerably.

In spite of India’s value-conscious culture, the weddings here are notable for their grandeur relative to income and wealth. An average Indian spends about US$ 15,000 (Rs 12 lakh) per wedding, which is over three times the average annual household income of US$ 4.5k (Rs 4 lakh) and around five times the per capita GDP of US$ 2,900.

Indian weddings boost spending on jewelry, apparels, catering services, photography and decorations, entertainment, and wedding planning. It also indirectly fuels sectors like automotive and consumer discretionary, with increased purchases of cars, two-wheelers, smart phones, and other consumer electronics, and home appliances. The home improvement sector, including paint manufacturers, also witness heightened demand as families renovate their homes for the grand event.

Segment wise, Jewelry constitutes the largest portion of wedding expenses, about 25% of the total spending, followed by catering at nearly 20% and events at around 15%. (Weddings are a significant driver for the jewelry industry, with 50-55% of the market dedicated to wedding jewelry, compared to 35% for daily wear and 20% for fashion wear.)

Within the US$ 84 billion apparel retail market, approximately 11% of sales are driven by wedding and celebration wear. This includes attire for the bride and groom, as well as their families, friends, and guests.

Another industry gaining traction is match-making, which is primarily exclusive to Asian nations. Wedding planning, which involves intricate coordination of cultural traditions and familial expectations, is also crucial. Wedding planners typically charge 8-10% of the wedding budget as fees.

And not to forget, the photography and decorations, which represent another significant expenditure. The experienced photographers are available to suit all budgets, ranging from Rs 10,000 per day (US$ 120) to Rs 0.5 million per day (US$ 6,000). Decoration costs typically make up 5-10% of the total wedding budget, encompassing floral arrangements, drapes, lights, candles, and other decorative elements.

The 2023-24 wedding industry report by WedMeGood reveals that 21% of surveyed couples had destination weddings, an increase from 18% in 2022. Goa, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Kerala, and Uttarakhand are among the most favored domestic destinations, while international favorites include Thailand, Bali, Italy, and Dubai.

With huge number of guests attending a wedding (many of them being from a distant area), their stay and travel expenses also constitute a significant portion of the overall wedding expenses. The growing popularity of destination weddings has boosted demand for hotels and travel. Leading hotel chains and airlines like IHCL, EIH, Chalet Hotels, Indigo, and SpiceJet benefit significantly. 

However, Jefferies report pointed out that service providers to the wedding industry are largely unorganized and highly fragmented, consisting of many small-scale businesses and individual service providers catering to a wide range of budgets.

Future Outlook

The Indian wedding industry is poised for further expansion, driven by evolving preferences and economic factors. It currently stands as the fourth-largest sector in India, and estimates indicate that 40 crore weddings are likely to be held over a span of next fifteen years. (With a population of 1.4 billion, over 600 million people are yet to marry, and about 11-13 million weddings are celebrated annually, as per a report that compiled data from CAIT, The Knot Worldwide.)

As the neighboring international destinations are actively wooing wealthy Indian families, the domestic tourism industry has also acknowledged weddings as a powerful draw for Indian travelers. Meanwhile, the increasing costs of overseas weddings, driven by taxation changes are also prompting more couples to consider picturesque locales in the country for their wedding ceremonies.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism had launched a wedding tourism campaign last year, aimed at tapping into the vast potential of India’s thriving wedding industry. 

The campaign is aimed at showcasing India as a premier wedding destination globally. The campaign also aims to expand India’s perception beyond regal, ostentatious weddings. Its emphasis spans diverse themes like Beach, Nature, Royal, and Himalayan weddings. It encourages couples to customize their dream celebrations amidst India’s cultural and scenic beauty, aiming to attract a wider range of tourists. The campaign is a strategic endeavor to elevate India as a wedding tourism destination.

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