If you know anything about Indian weddings, you’ll know that the grand multi-day celebrations—with their opulent decor, meaningful traditions, and lively receptions—are seriously FOMO-inducing. And it seems this is not lost on the country’s soon-to-be newlyweds, who have figured out a way to capitalize on this FOMO (and maybe offset a little of their next-level nuptials’s cost). A recent story from CNBC reports that some couples in India are selling admission to their weddings to eager tourists willing to pay to play.
Two Australian travel bloggers, Carly Stevens and Tim Gower, apparently paid about $200 for two-day tickets to attend the wedding of Surabhi Chauhan, a Delhi-based fund manager who married last November.
How the heck does this even work? A start-up called Join My Wedding (pretty on the nose, right?) allows Indian couples to add their ceremony details to the JMW website, and then interested parties who are visiting the area can purchase admission. The company takes a cut, but most of the money goes in the couple’s pockets.
Admittedly, the concept is a little odd, but, “if you think about it, there’s nothing more cultural than a wedding because you have every cultural element present: the local people, local food, customs, the outfits, the music…,” says Orsi Parkanyi, one of Join My Wedding’s cofounders. “Experiencing all the cultural elements at once, meaningfully connecting with the locals in India—that’s a huge motivating factor for the travelers,” she said. (If you’re still feeling on the fence about the whole thing, check out JoinMyWedding.com’s FAQ page for answers to your questions.)
Parkanyi actually got the idea for her business from her own FOMO experience when she had to miss a few of her friends’ weddings. She zeroed in on Indian weddings because of their “world-famous” appeal and the fact that invitations are hard to come by for non-Indians who don’t have any close South Asian connections.
So, are people into this idea of wedding tourism? As of the CNBC article’s publication, Parkanyi reported that tourists have attended more than 100 weddings through Join My Wedding, and the number is anticipated to continue rising as travel agencies and tour operators include this “attraction” as part of their custom tour packages.
The last question to ask: why are Indian couples more than okay with complete strangers crashing their weddings for nothing more than a couple hundred bucks? Ashish Boobna, a director of weddings and events at wedding planning company Ferns N Petals who works with many affluent South Asians, told CNBC the idea of inviting international travelers ups the ceremony’s extravagance and “show biz” factor.
Sahajanand Sharma, a tour guide for India, added to CNBC that, “Things in Western weddings are pretty—the Church rituals you do…you probably do an after party. But everything is very structured, whereas here, there’s always … someone would start dancing, there’s endless colors, there’s endless food, there are endless rituals.”
Breathtakingly beautiful ambiance in a foreign country? Non-stop partying in a safe space? Limitless free food? If you’re looking to fall in love with a new place and culture, a wedding—where love abounds!—seems like a very good starting point. But let’s be clear: we are not handing you a free pass to show up at anyone’s wedding just because you want an authentic local experience. Weddings are as up close and personal as they come, so you have no right to repurpose one for your own tourism agenda without the couple’s consent. Even if it was was paid for, make sure you have a sincere invitation before inserting yourself into one of the most important days in someone else’s life.