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Indian weddings are a cultural extravaganza. People love watching them on Bollywood screens, and some are happy to spend money to get a real life experience, too.
Wedding tourism appears to be gaining ground in India with people paying close to $200 (AUD) to attend marriages for a unique experience - Indian style.
The Indian wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, where weddings are renowned for their lavish ceremonies.
Now, wedding tourism is connecting hosts with would-be guests - travellers wanting a different holiday experience.
Hungarian-Australian Orsi Parkanyi connects the hosts with potential travellers. She started her business called ‘Join My Wedding’.
“The idea is to enable locals to open up their weddings to foreigners; a life event which does not exist for the travellers, but they are welcomed to be part of it,” says Orsi who moved to Australia from Hungary at the age of 22.
“Two years ago I came back to Hungary to visit my family from Australia. I was talking with some people who were invited to an amazing wedding. It struck me that it will be amazing to attend a wedding. How amazing it would be if I could pay a fee and go,” says Orsi who says she had missed weddings of many of her Hungarian friends.
'The idea is to enable locals to open up their weddings to foreigners; a life event which does not exist for the travellers, but they are welcomed to be part of it,'
At the same time, one of her friends told her about the unique experience of an Indian wedding in Tamil Nadu. The seed of opening up this experience for other foreigners had been planted.
She cites the example of a couple of foreign executives who were in India on a long business trip. They had nothing to do on the weekend and so bought the tickets for an Indian marriage and enjoyed an Indian cultural extravaganza.
Orsi registered her startup in 2016 and has since facilitated the Indian marriage experience for over 100 foreign travellers.
Orsi opines that Indians are the best hosts and they make their guests feel at home. She says that many of her hosts and travellers remain friends long after the weddings.
“The motivations of registering couples are diverse: the majority of them share our vision about the uniqueness of their traditions and love the idea of opening up cultural weddings and get people connected through the experience - they are proud to be Indian and would love to showcase their rich culture,” says Orsi.
The hosts and travellers come from a wide range of backgrounds.
“Some of them work for multinational companies, having daily relationships with people from Europe or the US, but have never met any. Others (hosts) love the idea to gain back some of the wedding expenses, which are huge in India.”
Travellers are advised about the festivities of the marriage. Orsi says she receives various questions from travellers. “They ask if I should bring a gift or what should I wear etc. Most of them have an experience of their lifetime. They get new friends for life as well.”