The Golden temple, Wagha border, the pink city tour, and Bollywood are all major stops on the agenda for travelling to India.
But have you ever thought about adding a wedding to this list? Now you can. For a small fee, tourists can experience a big, fat Indian wedding. A new website gives you the chance, and for some, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
JoinMyWedding.com is a two-sided online global marketplace where couples (“hosts”) can register their weddings as events, and travellers (“guests”) can book their place to attend these traditional, authentic weddings, as a cultural experience while traveling.
The cost is roughly around £120 for attending only one day, and £200 for two or three days of the wedding. This includes entry to the marriage, all food, and drinks, mendhi also, a dedicated person (“ceremony guide”) nominated by the couple who welcomes the guests, and explains the customs, traditions and what is happening. Transport, accommodation and costume hire are not included in the price.
“Our business model is that travellers pay a contribution before the wedding, we hold on to this money, and release it to the couple after the wedding is over. This is how we ensure there’s no misuse of the site by anyone. We take a cut from all transactions that happen through our website,” says Orsi Parkanyi, the CEO of the company. It’s a new trend which is picking up via social media and word of mouth and is becoming a very popular experience with tourists.
“If you think about it, at a wedding, which is a happy occasion and a joyful event, you get to experience all the different cultural elements in one go: meet with local people, taste the local cuisine, dress in Indian attire, music, ambiance, entertainment, learn about the local customs, even architecture depending on the venue. Our tagline ‘You have not been to India until you have been to an Indian wedding’ captures this greatly. ‘Become an Indian for a day’, or a few days in the case of the big fat Indian shaadi (wedding),” says Parkanyi.
Tina was born and brought up in Hungary, but lived in Australia for most of her adult life. Three years ago, whilst she was visiting her family in Hungary and she got a chance to talk with a girl who told her all about the amazing weddings she was about to attend that summer. She also told us that, a few years ago, she attended a traditional Indian wedding in India and that it was the most amazing experience of her life. That’s when the idea was conceived: what if there was a way for people to join authentic weddings around the world?By opening up their wedding celebrations, couples are forming new, meaningful and lasting connections with people from different cultures, sharing this special day with people who are super keen to be involved, and saving a little on the wedding costs by also giving others the chance to make their dreams of attending an Indian wedding come true. Being proud of their culture, couples are sharing and showcasing their love with others.
Couples willing to participate in such an exchange are usually found via word-of-mouth or even seek the company themselves through social media platforms. Dan and Laura went to a wedding in Rajasthan: “It was the best and the most memorable experience I had in India. We learnt so much about the Indian culture, we were not treated like guests, we were treated like family. We would recommend anyone going to India to do this.”
Some argue that this type of experience tarnishes everything a wedding stands for: “I feel conceptions like this ruin the intimacy of what a wedding should be, it is turning the wedding into some form of a concert, selling tour wedding away,” says Aruna Sohal, a wedding planner based in London.
We asked Parkanyi if she feels joinmywedding.com takes something away the personal emotions of a wedding, she argues: “I do not think JoinMyWedding is for everyone. I do not believe it ruins intimacy; I do think that it brings people and cultures closer. A wedding is an experience. It is a fact, it is the ultimate cultural experience, and JoinMyWedding is not about making money, it would not even be enough.”
“It is a small contribution people are willing to pay, that ensures it runs smoothly, and people have a good experience, and also that couples at least do not lose money; their costs associated with additional people are covered,”Parkanyi concludes.
Featured image courtesy of Tina Murton.