NOTHING COMES FREE

Want to attend a big, fat Indian wedding? Buy a ticket

Quartz india
Quartz india

Always wanted to play dress up for an Indian wedding, wear henna and dance to some Bollywood music? Now you don’t even need to have Indian friends to join the fun.

Joinmywedding.com, a month-old startup based in Brisbane, Australia, will let you buy a ticket to an Indian wedding for $300 or roughly Rs20,000 per person. Airfare isn’t included.

Joinmywedding.com was co-founded by Hungarian strategy consultant Márti Matécsa, who says she got the idea after attending a wedding in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Enamored by the ceremonies, saris, and food, she discussed opening up Indian weddings to foreigners with friend and Australian entrepreneur Orsi Parkanyi. Parkanyi, too, shared Matécsa’s fascination with Indian weddings but had no acquaintances in the country who could invite her to one.

“For cultural experiences, nothing equals a wedding, more so in India,” Parkanyi, a serial entrepreneur based in Brisbane, who also runs women’s networking website womenforentrepenuers.com, told Hindustan Times.

So, the duo teamed up with Pallavi Savant, a Mumbai-based marketing consultant, to build a platform that would help cash-strapped couples sell tickets to their nuptials, and allow “customers” to sample weddings around the world. Today, their website offers 10 weddings, including in the Indian cities of Udaipur, Mumbai, and Indore. It currently also offers bookings for weddings in Russia, Hungary, and Turkey.

Joinmywedding.com keeps a 15% commission as a fee on the sale of each ticket.

Weddings for sale

Selling weddings as ticketed experiences, in a country where marriages are steeped in tradition, is an indication of how new-age business models are intersecting with more conventional and private events. “The concept of shared economy is gaining momentum and companies like Uber and Airbnb give us great hope that people are getting more and more open to share their goods and even their personal experiences,” Parkanyi told Businessworld magazine in an interview earlier this year.

Apart from selling tickets to foreigners, the website also lets couples “crowdfund” their wedding. Couples can register online and ask family and friends to chip in for the big day, as a way of financing their wedding.

The team has so far bootstrapped and built the startup without outside investments. It intends to generate revenue through commission on the sale of tickets and a flat crowdfunding fee. In India, it is working with travel agents to host more weddings on its website.

Big fat Indian wedding

A typical Indian family saves for years to afford a big marriage bash, with weddings costing upwards of Rs50.4 lakh ($75,000). The lavish spending is often also seen as a reflection of one’s social standing.

While opening up the occasion to strangers might dilute the ceremony’s sanctity, it should also help some couples lighten the financial burden. India reportedly sees 10 million weddings each year, which means there’s a sizeable market for such start-ups like Joinmywedding.com even if a small percentage of couple are open to having paid guests at their nuptials.

Then, there’s also the fact that adding foreigners to the guest-list can be seen as desirable by some, thanks to the country’s obsession with Westerners. Others seem open to the idea of crowd-funding their wedding purely for the novelty.

“We aren’t looking at this as a way to contribute to our wedding expenses,” 26-year-old Urvi Ambavat, whose three-day December wedding is listed online, told the Hindustan Times. “We’re doing this because my fiancé and I both work at a startup and we love to encourage new business ideas.”

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