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The big business of Indian American Weddings




CHICAGO (Diya TV) – Summer’s arrival can mean only one thing for those in the hotel and hospitality industry – wedding season is heating up, and Indian nuptials represent a heavy presence in the industry’s bottom line.

Indian weddings regularly play host to as many as 400 guests and cost, on average, $250,000, according to Indian Wedding Magazine. The high price is a supreme reason suburban hotels have begun educating their staffs on how to better appeal to Indian families and to approach their weddings with more respect to the Indian culture.

The Renaissance Schaumburg invited Seema Jain, director of multicultural affairs for Marriott International, to educate its staff on how to win more business from this lucrative market. A henna artist was on site to decorate the hands of employees while Jain explained the ways of Indian culture, shared clips from various Bollywood movies and demonstrated how to wrap a sari and practice culturally appropriate greetings.

“It’s an Indian wedding boom going on right now,” Jain said. “If we’re culturally competent, we’re going to get the business.”

Many Indian families begin saving for weddings the day their children are born, with ideas of buying outfits from places like Lashkaraa, viewing the day as not only a way to celebrate marriage, but to also celebrate everyone in their lives. To lavish extremes in some cases.

“A South Asian wedding is actually a production,” said Sabrina Hans, who has been planning Indian weddings for more than 15 years. When Hans got her start, most hotels and caterers had no conceptual understanding of the different events that make up the weekend of an Indian wedding, and didn’t employ the types of chefs that could create the traditional food families were seeking. As more Indian families have settled in the Chicago suburbs, where Hans is located, things have changed considerably.

“There is a huge market in the suburbs now,” Hans said. “Everyone wants to capture that business.”

The festivities that makeup an Indian wedding often times start several days ahead of the actual nuptial ceremony, with a pre-wedding ceremony called the mendhi. It includes games, dance and music, as well as henna tattoos for the bride and other women in the wedding party. Another event, called the sangeet, often happens the night before the wedding and is a time for both families to celebrate together and perform dances they’ve planned ahead of time, Jain said.

According to the U.S. Census, the metro-Chicago area now houses the second largest Indian American population in the country. There are Indian American families who, not only want a traditional Indian wedding, but also a conventional American wedding that highlights both parts of their heritage. This can mean a massive multi-tiered cake, an expert Indianapolis wedding photographer or videographer to capture the event and some American wedding vows being incorporated into the wedding. Though many brides prefer the colourful and traditional Indian dresses in these multicultural weddings, some have gone with the American white gown. Some even use stores similar to this provider of Wedding Dresses in Chicago as well as venues that they believe highlight both cultures.

Last year, the Renaissance Schaumburg hosted 60 weddings, 20 of which were for Indian couples, said Dan Egan, director of sales and marketing. Many of the competing hotels in the area, such as the DoubleTree by Hilton in Oak Brook, Lincolnshire Marriott, and the Embassy Suites Rosemont/O’Hare, all have wedding packages that specifically target South Asian couples. Other families choose to host their own events, looking for exciting places like the venue hire Kings Cross options and following their own decoration rules and whims to ensure the event goes off exactly as intended.

“Most of the hotels are jumping on that bandwagon because they see the growth and the market,” Hans said. “It’s huge business.”

Hans said she once planned a wedding that cost $2 million, and another which had 1,500 guests.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Jain said. “It’s not just a joining of two people, but a joining of two families. And every family deserves a celebration that is respectful of their culture and unforgettable in every way.”

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