For the past four months, 27-year-old dentist Tanu Shreya has spent every spare minute planning her upcoming wedding.
From accessories to match a fresh outfit for each of the four days of celebrations, to personalized gifts for hundreds of guests, her family has been out shopping every weekend since the date was finalized in August.
Shreya’s ceremony in Jharkhand is one of the 3.5 million nuptials planned between the end of November and mid-December. The so-called wedding season represents a $51 billion opportunity for Indian businesses, as consumers increase spending on gold jewelry, clothing, wedding planning services, and homeware.
Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive officer of the Retailers Association of India, expects an 8-11 percent growth in sales across industries associated with wedding spending such as jewelry, garments, footwear, and designer clothing from the end of November to January.
Most Indians tie the knot between the end of the Hindu festival of Diwali and the first few months of the new year. Traditional weddings last for several days, featuring elaborate rituals and entertaining guests with music, colorful outfits, food and parties stretching late into the night.
Despite inflation hitting the less well-off particularly hard this year, the season’s first weeks are expected to see good business. Overall sales during November 23 to December 15 will be about 4.25 trillion rupees ($51 billion), the Confederation of All India Traders estimates. Wearing and gifting gold is considered auspicious in this period and households spend a large share of their wedding budget on jewelry.
With an annual demand of around 800 tons, more than half of which is bought for weddings, India is the world’s second-biggest bullion-consuming nation. Retailers such as Titan Co.’s Tanishq, Senco Gold Ltd., Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri Ltd., and Kalyan Jewellers India Ltd. will benefit from the seasonal spending spree the most.
Sales during the October-December period will be better than last year and a run-up in prices due to the Israel-Hamas war may not impact wedding jewelry demand much, said Chirag Sheth, principal consultant at Metals Focus Ltd. “Indians save for months for wedding jewelry, so if prices go up, they may end up buying 2 or 3 percent less,” which is not significant, he said.
The country has one of the fastest-growing numbers of individuals with a net worth of $100 million or more, and that is reflected in its wedding spending. These days, Bollywood celebrity weddings and popular shows like Made in Heaven or Indian Matchmaking are setting the trend for what makes a ceremony Instagram-worthy.
“Budgets increased by 10-20 percent, but it’s not just about spending more,” said wedding planner Neeraj Kumar, founder of Delhi and Jaipur-based Le Magnifique. People buy what’s trending on social media or TV shows, from unique bridal wear to food packages.
Shreya’s wedding and related functions have also been shaped by what she saw on Instagram or X, formerly Twitter. The growing influence of celebrities and social media means that families are spending more on professional planners, boosting an industry already worth $210 billion. For many, a perfect ceremony entails flying families and friends out to glamorous destinations such as the forts of Rajasthan or the beaches of Kerala and Goa, increasing demand for hotels and flights.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the middle and affluent classes that are spending the most, Rajagopalan said. Consumers spend depending on their expectations for the life ahead, and right now "people have a sense that the future will be slightly better for all of them".