The making of a great wedding

T he last quarter of the year has commenced and minds are already astir as the wedding bells begin to toll en masse. It never gets old— the feasts, the photos, the clothes, and the glee of the atmosphere; we may as well include it as our seventh in the calendar— the Wedding Season!

As wedding guests see the smiling bride and groom on the day of the wedding reception, little thought is spared to the behind -the-scene stories. And why should any be? Everything looks perfect! The people come in droves and every single one to be welcomed by the family members of the bride or the groom, the photographers literally throw themselves on the floor for the perfect shot, the aroma of the food tickles the olfactory senses of the invited guests... Even the post wedding plans and honeymoon destination are on point!

Yet, there has been disharmony right on the day of the wedding, and yes there were times a month back when nothing seemed to work out. Transforming all that to the wedding day is a miracle of its own. From compiling ideas, accommodating to every expansion of the budget to even looking over every minute detail right down to post-wedding formalities — the great wedding needs greater work to make it as such.

Planning and beyond

Nothing great can start without planning. And planning does not just involve the basics of venue selection and what design of gold jewellery to buy, it incorporates critical issues like who to invite as well as contingencies in case something goes astray. Even the most random thought like what colour the tablecloth should be has to have its place in the planning process.

To get on with this, the person in charge of arrangements must keep a record. It can be as old school as writing things down in a notebook. Apps are available on both Android and iOS platforms to tackle this particular planning. Crowd favourites include Wedding Planner by The Knot (for iOS) and Lady Marry Wedding Planner (Android) which can be customised and will provide a visual front of all happenings and expenses.

Money over mind

Every family has some set ideas of what a wedding should be and how it should look like. It may seem outdated from what the soon-to-be couple wants to see, and their ideas may seem too forward to the soon-to-be father and mother-in-law. But money is the only thing that ultimately talks for ideas to materialise.

While a certain percentage are free from constrictions and can go ‘all-out,’ the majority prefer to have the expenses laid out. Family savings aside, personal and matrimonial bank loans are one of the crucial elements in wedding financing. Banks like Mutual Trust Bank, Standard Chartered, BRAC Bank, to name a few, offer personal loans from Tk 50,000 to Tk 20 lakh with specific terms and conditions.

As a wedding requires instant cash payments and advances, loans like these lift the pressure of having a huge cash supply on hand.

Within the first month of the announcement, expenses like at-home guest entertainment or going over to the makeup artist to make a booking may get brushed off. As always, every single expense has to be accounted for right from the first steps of the planning. Otherwise, even conveyance costs can pile up to a hefty six-digit number without any record.

Formalities and events

The official wedding reception is the most common formality that guests attend and is expected to have the highest footfall. There are of course quite a number of events that take place before, after and even along with the wedding reception.

While most start with the engagement and move forward from there, some have a starting point with the matchmaker (ghotok). The likes of Borbodhu or Bibahabd have come a long way in making the best use of their ever-growing candidate database and going forward with websites. Typical membership can cost from Tk 10,000 to Tk 1 lakh depending on membership period and tier. For a successful match, another Tk 50,000 to Tk 5 lakh is expected to be spent.

Coming to engagement and onward, the timeline of events includes Ai Buro Bhat, Gaye Holud, Mehendi (henna) ceremony, Niquah or Aqd (for Muslim weddings) and end with the wedding reception followed by the Boubhaat or Walima. More extravagant options are popping out every season and a substantial part of the initial planning rests on how, which event will be taken care of by which side.

Calling in event planners

Since there are so many events and other happenings, the best way to get through is to call in an event planner specifically suited for weddings.

Event planners these days take care of everything from Gaye Holud to venue selection to arranging vehicles for the bride and groom right down to decorating for the Bashor Ghar. Sygmaz-sketching magical moments, Blitz, Enchanted Events and prints are few of the well-favoured names in wedding event planning.

While the standard charges vary from Tk 35,000 to Tk 5.5 lakh, on average, the total cost will depend on how many events are covered and to what extent are the event managers taking care of things.

Venue booking

Booking the venue has to be done at least a year prior to the actual event in most cases, namely for the wedding reception. While five-star hotels and resorts are able to accommodate such events with a four-month pre-booking, regular venues for large number of guests need to be booked a year earlier.

For a guest range within one thousand or less, the Grand Ballroom of Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden can be considered. Prices will fall in the Tk 2 lakh to Tk 7 lakh range. Other large capacity high end venues like Army Golf Garden, Officer’s Club, Dhaka Club charge between Tk 2 lakh and Tk 5 lakh.

These are only the venue renting prices. Every venue has its specific requirements in décor and catering. It differs from family to family where the rest of the formalities will take place. An open conversation between families as well as the event planners is a must to ensure the beginnings of the great wedding.

Jewellery and wedding wear

Gold jewellery take up a huge chunk of expenses in any wedding. Depending on Bhori (1 Bhori is equal to 11.7g), Karat and design, prices vary widely. Established local jewellers like Amin Jewellers offers necklace and earrings from Tk 2.5 lakh to Tk 6 lakh, with additional accessories of bangles, tiklis and other elements the total can reach Tk 5 lakh to Tk 20 lakh (not including making charge). At the end, the expense depends on how much the families are willing to spend as gold is considered an asset.

Those seeking trendier designs, including diamond and platinum, opt to buy their sets from India, Pakistan or Dubai which can reach over Tk 15 lakh.

Another significant part of the budget is spent on the bride and groom’s clothes, and this is not limited to the wedding day wear only as a whole array of clothes are needed from engagement to Boubhaat.

Saris from Mirpur Benarashi Palli or Jaxlani from Tangail have taken second row in the current times as Indian designer bridal wear is getting more attention. It is the same for men’s wear as grooms are decked with designer sherwanis and churidars as well as suits.

Sabyasachi, Manyavar, Manish Malhotra are some of the names out of the many designers that are now the top choices in the wedding season. Majority of these are bought directly or semi-stitched pieces are brought in to tailor them. Depending on design, fabric, number of items and exclusivity, standard prices can range from Tk 1 lakh to Tk 6 lakh for the brides and Tk 70,000 to Tk 4 lakh for the grooms.

Local designers too are taking up the challenge. Farhana Zahedi, Sarah Karim, Rina Latif, Sahar Rahman, Rukhsana Esrar are few of the prime names in local designer bridal couture. Specialising in customised bridal wears, prices range from Tk 65,000 to Tk 2 lakh. Zurhem, Dapper Bespoke are some of the custom-built menswear brands that provide grooms with stylish modern wears with price tags from TK 35,000 to Tk 80,000. There are also countless local small stores which provide spectacular services catered to individual needs, and most can be contacted via Facebook pages.

All that is catering

Wedding food is the central attraction of the event. Traditional wedding fare including biriyani, kalia, roast, tikia, salad and jorda can range from Tk 450 per person to Tk 1000 per person. Special wedding food for the bride and groom and their families are arranged separately and can cost between Tk 20,000 to Tk 50,000. Fakhruddin, Salam, Iqbal catering, etc. are well known names and recommended by the popular venues.

For upscale hotels like Radisson and Sonargaon, the per person food cost can start at Tk 2,500. Guests can be treated to traditional food or any other available cuisine of choice.

Setting up the newlyweds’ abode

Furnishing the newlyweds abode is another high expense segment. From basic essentials like beds and cabinets to lavish leather sofa sets for the living room, the choices are limitless. Hi Fashion Gallery, Regal Furniture, Koncept Furniture as well as Otobi, Hatil etc. are well known for their array of ready-made furnishings. Basic essentials for the bedroom can be priced from Tk 2 lakh to Tk 18 lakh. This of course is not directly related to the wedding event, but preparations need to be made as early as possible.

Invitation with flair

To announce the great wedding, invitation cards are now getting grand and grander. From multi-tier boxes of sweets accompanying the card to Mughal Era-esque scrolls or intricate laser cut designs on high quality paper- the invitation cards vary in many many ways.

While Ideal and Azad are the most well-known wedding card designers, the event planners too can arrange for custom designed wedding invites. Standard wedding cards can range from Tk 250 to Tk 1500 while exclusive designs can start from Tk 800.

Wedding day makeovers

Makeover salons like Persona or Farzana Shakil’s Makeover Salon are crowd favourites for weddings year around. Makeup artists like Navin Ahmed, Amana Rahman take special care in making the brides look their best in their unique way with the best possible cosmetics. Full makeovers can cost from Tk 20,000 to Tk 50,000. Makeup artists can also include pre-wedding skin care packages customised for the bride.

The grooms too are down with makeovers now to look their best. Total Care, Mr Cutts, Persona Menz offer full packages including haircuts, facials as well as nail care and spa treatments with massages. Packages can start from Tk 8,000 moving up to Tk 40,000.

Often photographers and makeup artists collaborate to get the best shot possible while making use of the right shade of makeup.

Keeping the memories

Wedding photography and videography is reaching momentum in terms of production and output. The photo and video/cinematography are no longer constricted into a one-day affair of glaring lights and tripping the guests over miles of wires. As package prices range from Tk 30,000 to Tk 5 lakh (and beyond), wedding photographers are coming up with more and more innovative ways to making the whole event the best memory for newlyweds.

Established photographers like Preto Reza, KN Nafis, Sami Irani of FotoArt, to name a few, have taken wedding photography into a story telling setup. Wedding photo and videographers can be contacted separately or they can work with the event planners. The great wedding has to incorporate ideas and visuals; the best way to get that through is to genuinely talk to the photographers on their capacities and be open to their ideas as well. All photographers are open to customise their package as long as a beautiful story is portrayed.

The making of the great wedding industry?

Weddings in Bangladesh are getting bigger and glamorous every year, that’s the common perception. While solid statistics are hard to come by on how much revenue is actually generated and what the potential figures are, weddings are big business at heart — that much anyone can agree on. From venue selection to catering to photography and overall event management with all in-between activities like parlour expenses and decorating the designated car- every action and monetary exchange converge on any and all things related to wedding.

Before weddings are marked as part of an industry, the enterprises and small businesses that make it up need to be clearly defined in terms of their economic activities, not to mention the manpower and capital involved along with their backward and forward linkages. Since many of these operate on a called-in basis and even work as favours, the industry foundation becomes unclear. Furthermore, a significant chunk of the expenditure, particularly on wedding wear and gold jewellery, is often undertaken outside of Bangladesh. At the same time, as many establishments are now piggy backing on social networking for their online presence and revenue, the lack of e-commerce policies make taxation unclear for these cases.

The likes of the US and the UK have the ease of gathering information like number of weddings from public registries or well documented sales figures from stores nationally, but we are yet to reach that level of collectedness. ‘Wedding Industry’ is a very common umbrella term to contain the entire set of activities involved, but it is formally not an industry, yet.

A wedding is made up of so many variables that something is bound to go wrong — the pessimist at heart will prepare for that. But a great wedding will have things going wrong, and that’s the beauty of chaos and disharmony. In our heart or hearts, the greatest wedding is still the one that ties two families to begin a new one and brings together the well-wishers without making anyone bankrupt. After all, marriages are made in heaven, but the wedding has to take place on this mortal plane!

--This article is written by Iris Farina and was published in The Daily Star on November 21, 2017.