Love in the time of COVID-19 sparks off new trend: ‘Lockdown weddings’

Several Chennai based couples tied the knot even during the COVID-19 lockdown. How did they pull it off?

It is always heartbreaking to cancel weddings. The pandemic imposed lockdown has forced hundreds of would-be couples to postpone their big event to some time later next year. At the same time, a significant new trend has also emerged during the crisis — that of lockdown weddings. Given the uncertainty over when things will be back to normal, many refused to suspend their plans indefinitely and went ahead and took the plunge, although with a downsized wedding that was practically possible and that satisfied social distancing requirements and other norms of the times. 

Jagan G and Gowri Gnanasambanthan fell in love two years ago. It was not easy for the duo to convince their parents, as Gowri is a single mother and is older to Jagan. Finally, when both families were convinced and a date was fixed, the couple didn’t want the lockdown to ruin it. “I did not want to give my parents any time to rethink the decision,” says Jagan, who tied the knot with Gowri on April 26th. 

Traditions were tweaked, but not altered. Only the physical presence of friends and relatives was minimised, as hundreds connected over a Zoom call. Decorated with coconut and plantain leaves, Jagan’s home became the venue for the important event. “Everyone except the two of us wore masks. And when we sought elders’ blessings, we did not touch their feet,” says Gowri. 

The venue

Chennai has seen a few weddings during the period that the city observed a strict lockdown. M Sree Ganesh and T Sovia got married on May 11th on the ‘Motta Maadi’ or terrace of the bride. Three months ago, no one would have predicted that their terrace, with apt decor, could be turned into a wedding venue until this couple showed the path.

There were compromises, of course: barely 20 people attended the wedding, the rituals had to be completed before the summer heat spoiled the celebration and food had to be cooked at home to be safe from the virus. 

They got married in the early morning on the terrace of the bride’s apartment, while the high rise buildings around shielded them from the sun. “We had initially planned for our wedding to be held in a temple, since we are anyway believers in small, intimate weddings. But as temples were shut due to the lockdown, we chose the terrace as the venuewedding,” says Ganesh. “It gave us a feel of a destination or outdoor wedding,” he adds. 

Guide to a wedding with social distancing

  • Choose an appropriate space. It could be your terrace or the backyard filled with greenery
  • Thinner the crowd, less the risk. Not just your guest list, also reduce the count of people working on decorations, food etc. 
  • Check weather forecasts to ensure it doesn’t rain on the big day
  • Keep a tent handy to escape from the rain
  • Arrange passes for relatives who must attend the wedding
  • Makeup, decor, photography and catering are the most important arrangements. Decorate the background with easily available resources such as flowers, coconut leaves etc
  • Scale down the count of photographers. We can do wonders with just two people behind the camera
  • Ensure you take all the nice shots before the sun is up and sizzling 
  • Cooking at home should be the first priority

(Based on the inputs from Divya Jennifer, Founder of Red Thread events. Divya has organised Ganesh and Sovia’s wedding)

The challenges

Fancy though it may sound, weddings in the time of COVID-19 have challenges of their own. “It was embarrassing situation to announce the wedding before relatives and then tell them not to come. Secondly, no stores were open for us to buy new clothes. We could get it only a few days prior to the event through a friend, who had some at home,” explained Jagan. The toughest part is that his own brother who stays in Hyderabad could not make it to the wedding. 

At Ganesh and Sovia’s wedding, the challenge was to source the decorative material. “Flowers are an important part of the background decor and as Koyambedu market was shut, we had to transport it from other parts of the state,” says Divya. 

Can the wedding industry recover? 

These weddings have brought a ray of hope to the multi-crore wedding industry, that is currently in disarray due to the pandemic. The months from mid-May to August bring a lot of business to the wedding planners.  Not this year. “I used to have at least 15 events (weddings, engagements and birthdays) in April. This year, it was zero,” says Divya.

To cope with the losses, wedding planners have sent their workers home. “I will manage by hiring workers when I get an event contract. The business doesn’t look good till July,” Divya says.

Wedding planners however feel that the trend of smaller celebrations may sustain beyond the pandemic. “Often it was social pressure that led people towards lavish celebrations. A lot of couples conducted glitzy weddings by taking out loans, for which they would pay for years after marriage. COVID-19 has given couples a reason to opt for small ceremonies and they may wish to keep it that way — at least the engagement, if not the wedding. After all, it is easy to blame it on the pandemic,” said Mani N, a wedding planner. 

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