Traditional Indian weddings are world-renowned because they are truly festive occasions, and in most cases are celebrated with extensive decorations, music, dance, costumes and rituals. If you're visiting India and would love to experience a wedding for yourself, an Australian start-up company called Join My Wedding is giving travellers the chance to be on the guest list of a genuine cultural celebration.
The idea came about when a founder living away from home missed her friends' weddings and felt foreigners would enjoy the experience of a high-end, traditional Indian wedding. She felt the traditional elements of the ceremony would appeal to them, down to the beautiful saris, accessories, generous hospitality, colourful lights, exotic, spicy flavours, ambience, smell and decorations.
That was the idea behind Join My Wedding, which offers travellers the opportunity to be on the guest list and be an active participant of a traditional Indian wedding. The site makes it easy for travellers to find traditional weddings that fit in with their travel plans, and lets them connect with the host couple before the day so they can get to know them and ask them any questions they may have.
According to Join My Wedding, India celebrates around 11 million weddings per year and there are more than 300 different types, around 80% of which are Hindu ceremonies. Weddings vary regionally, and the religion and personal preferences of the bride and groom also play a role.
Many weddings take place over several days. Aside from the wedding itself, some of the ceremonies that travellers can attend include the Sangeet ceremony, which is exclusively for women and is full of dance, music and laughter. Then there's the Mehndi, where artists paint the bride and relatives with henna designs.
For couples sharing their day, the motivation for many is that they love the idea of opening up their wedding to showcase their rich culture. Some work for multinational companies and have daily relationships with people from Europe or the US, but have never met any in person. Others like the idea of gaining back some of the wedding expenses they've incurred.
Speaking to Lonely Planet, Join My Wedding says that people who have used the service have loved the experience. "They often say that it was best experience they had during their Asia trip," says co-founder Orsi Parkanyi. "Travellers can choose to attend one day for $150 (€129) or two or more days for $250 (€216)."
For further information on Join My Wedding, see here.