A beautiful wedding complete with palatial accommodations, mouth-watering cuisines, wedding ceremonies fit for kings, exotic locations, and horse-drawn chariots, where the handsome groom arrives to whisk his bride-to-be into their very own happily ever after – that’s the stuff dreams are made of. The interest in India as a wedding destination has greatly grown in recent years. Not only do foreigners want to get married in spectacular venues all across the country, Indians do as well! And this is a trend that professionals can customize to the minutest details. According to Mitali Kakar, Director, Happily Ever After, “A wedding is, in any case, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and getting married underwater, in the air, in the backwaters or in a forest is something we offer at Happily Ever After. Our USP is being able to customize the wedding to your taste and your budget and yet keep it elegant, aesthetic and joyous – it could be underwater in Andamans, in the air, middle of the ocean…of course keeping traditional values in mind.” The destination wedding is a trend that is here to stay.
To help you choose the destination of your choice, here are some popular as well as unusual wedding destinations that span the length and breadth of India.
Jammu & Kashmir
Our very own Himalayas ooze romance and beauty. Srinagar literally means the city of wealth and abundance and has the best location for a dream wedding – scenic lakes, snow-clad mountains, and well-manicured flower gardens – give it the reputation of being paradise on Earth. Encircled by the Himalayan ranges and overlooking picturesque Dal Lake, The Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar is the former palace residence of the Maharajas and has been carefully and meticulously restored. Designed and built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910, the hotel stands witness to key events in India’s history. Previous guests include Lord Mountbatten, and the Palace courtyard’s Chinar Tree was once the site of a meeting between Gandhiji and the Maharaja Hari Singh.
The Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar is located just minutes away from the international airport and features 113 palace rooms & suites including 10 luxurious cottages, four restaurants & bar, state-of-the-art banquet & conference facilities, a shopping arcade and Rejuve-The Spa along with a salon, gymnasium, health club and all-weather swimming pool – thus making it an ideal wedding venue. Mayank Aggarwal, who got married here last year perhaps opened the doors to destination weddings in the valley. “We had a great time because we did something different. People shy away from Srinagar thinking it would be unsafe. But we had about a thousand guests and they all had a great time,” says Aggarwal. And just imagine the visuals. The scenic Dal Lake against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas will make you fall in love all over again. The valleys sprawled out languidly will make you feel relaxed. While lakes and mountains are a beautiful sight no doubt, the exquisite flower gardens are another marvel. Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh and Chasm-e-shahi, all part of the ancient Mughal Gardens are fine examples of the Mughal style architecture and design. Vibrant flowerbeds, terraced lawns and cascading fountains delight every visitor to the city. If you want to spice up the romance a little, sprinkle in some fair dose of adventure with water surfing, kayaking, canoeing, angling and the likes.
If a princely wedding is what you fancy, nothing like the land of rajahs – Rajasthan to commemorate your nuptials. And when in Rajasthan, choose one of India’s finest luxury palace hotels as well as the current residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace. Set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens, the Palace is a veritable ocean of beauty in a desert. Named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, grandfather of the present Maharaja of Jodhpur, this golden-yellow sandstone monument was conceived on the grandest possible scale, in the fashionable Art Deco style of that time. After 15 years in construction, the 347-room palace was finally completed in 1943 – and has served as the principal residence of the Jodhpur royal family since. It took nearly 3000 people working round the clock, a period of 15 years to complete. It was actually an employment project for the maharajah’s subjects during a period of famine. Designed by English architect Henry Lancaster, it is full of Art Deco opulence – including a private museum devoted to vintage cars and a squash court made from marble. Its most famous suites are the Maharajah and Maharani suite with its incredible art deco bathroom. Famous guests include Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Diana Ross, Sarah Ferguson, Bob Geldof and Eva Herzigova.
“Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of those venues that will turn your wedding into an event that generations ahead will talk about. From the moment you enter the premises amidst the resounding thunder of the nagaadas, you are in a different epoch,” exclaims Gursimran Singh of The Wedding Film Company, who has shot some weddings in Umaid Bhawan. After the stately welcome, you will walk through the imposing lobby, decorated with a sweeping marble staircase (that incidentally leads you into the Maharaja’s regal apartments and private suites). Inside the tall circular vestibule, gleaming gold & sparkling marble bedazzles. Beyond that lies a huge immaculate lawn whose centrepiece is a baradari of pristine white marble. It is here that Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar celebrated their wedding. Amidst grounds of chilli & turmeric-coloured rose bushes, striking indigo peacocks roam liberally, wanting to gatecrash a mehndi or haldiceremony in the pristinely manicured lawns. Talking of pre-bridal indulgence, pampering awaits at the signature Jiva Spa. Dimly lit, air infused with heady incense aromas & contemporary yet intimately-styled, stepping into the tropical freeform pool feels an occasion. It’s a fabled oasis in the depths of the Palace. Most planners organise the entire wedding from the ceremony to the celebrations and they offer packages as well. However, customisation is the latest buzzword and they will get you a royal elephant if you wish one at your wedding! “A Maharaja wedding needs a lot of detailing and if it becomes a truly royal affair, the cost could stretch to some crores,” says a leading wedding planner.
With a wide range of options right from beaches to quaint churches, picture perfect beaches and majestic forts serving as a backdrop for couples to live their dream wedding, the wedding tourism market in Goa is definitely on an upward swing. With a wedding in Goa, you can never go wrong. Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, who has witnessed and been a part of several weddings in Goa, remarked, “Organizing your dream wedding takes a certain amount of time and it is heartening to note that you can get all that you want under one roof in Goa. According to me, this along with the state’s natural beauty and varied landscapes makes it a dream wedding destination.” The private beach setting and the traditional pandals are all as per order and numerous packages make it all seem so simple.
The attraction of Kerala as wedding destination is just being discovered. It holds much appeal for those who want a quiet and picturesque wedding in a tropical setting, along the banks of a lake or palm fringed canal, with food served on banana leaves. There are a number of resorts that cater to such weddings. Popularly known as ‘God’s own country’, Kerala is a popular destination for weddings. For those who want a picturesque beach themed wedding, the tranquil backwaters of the Arabian Sea offer just the ideal backdrop. From the luxurious Zuri Kumarakom near Alleppey to The Leela and The Varkala, Kerala sure is the right place to wed and seek God’s blessings. Within Kerala also, Alleppey and Kovalam are preferred destinations. Take the vows on a beach or amidst the trumpets of sacred elephants – all that and a lot more is possible in The Leela Kovalam. Jignesh Shah, Vice President, Horizon WIE, says, “Being in the wedding planning and organising industry for over a decade, Horizon W.I.E. has in the recent past observed the growing trend of couples wanting to opt for undiscovered & virgin locations. Kovalam is a location which we have explored and has multiple attractions.”
Most of these resorts are not just luxurious and flamboyant with wedding arrangements but offer spectacular views of tropical settings along the banks of a lake or a pool, fringed with coconut palms. After the wedding, head off on a honeymoon along the Kerala backwaters in a traditional style houseboat. So amazing are the colours of the sky that for a moment you sincerely wish that the fireworks won’t mar the appeal.
While you drive into the sunset, give your guests the chance to soak in the beauty of some of the best locations comparable to the finest destinations in the world – right here in India.
BY- Aarti Kapur Singh