In Brief

Wedding tourism: couples selling tickets to their special day

New website Join My Wedding allows foreign visitors to pay to attend ‘opulent’ ceremonies in India

Indian couples are using a new website to invite foreign tourists to attend their weddings - for a fee.

Marriage ceremonies in India are usually “grand multiday celebrations with their opulent decor, meaningful traditions, and lively receptions”, says MSN News. That hasn’t escaped the notice of many visitors to the country, resulting in a new “up-and-coming trend in the tourism industry” known as wedding tourism, adds specialist news site TravelPulse.

Now, the process has been streamlined by a start-up called Join My Wedding, which has launched a website through which couples getting hitched can sell admission to their lavish wedding ceremonies.

The site’s customers have included Australian travel bloggers Carly Stevens and Tim Gower, who paid “around $200 for a two-day invitation” to attend the wedding of Surabhi Chauhan, a Delhi-based fund manager, and mingled among the 400-odd other guests.

“The concept was pretty new,” Chauhan told CNBC. “We were also getting to know people from other countries. We were very much excited and open about it, given the fact that it was new.

“We were chatting and coordinating, we had a brief introduction about each of us, what exactly we do, our respective profiles (and) what are the arrangements that will be there, the kind of attire they’re supposed to wear - all those conversations happened.”

Join My Wedding is tapping into an extremely lucrative market. The Indian wedding industry is worth an estimated $40bn and is growing by around 20% a year, according to experts.

Although most of the fee paid by tourists to attend a ceremony is pocketed by the bride and groom, a portion goes to the site.

“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 outfit, the music, basically every cultural element is right there,” Join My Wedding co-founder Orsi Parkanyi told CNBC.

Around 100 foreign travellers had used the service to date, says Parkanyi.

“Experiencing all the cultural elements at once, meaningfully connecting with the locals in India, that’s a huge motivating factor for the travellers,” she added. “It’s a safe experience. You attend an event with hundreds of people, you’re a distinguished guest, people look after you.”

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