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16 April 2024

Big fat Indian weddings in crosshairs of thrifty MP

Pic: Shutterstock


Extravagant Indian weddings in palaces featuring elephants, foreign dance troupes and seven-course meals could become a thing of the past if one politician fed up with the excess gets her way.

Rankled by the obscene sums splashed out on festivities, Ranjeet Ranjan from the opposition Congress Party has proposed a bill that would cap the entertainment budget and redirect any extras to India's poor.

Life savings are poured into weddings in India, with price tags up to $75,000 not uncommon for affluent urban families hosting sometimes thousands of guests for sumptuous celebrations lasting for days.

The new proposal might force some families to rethink the fireworks and chandeliers, with a requirement that weddings exceeding 500,000 rupees ($7,500) contribute 10 percent of the overall cost to poorer Indians for their own nuptials.

Ranjan - who made headlines herself last year for riding a Harley Davidson to parliament - said growing up with six sisters she was troubled by the pressure on her parents to spend big.

"I have seen people spend two million rupees ($30,000) just on dinner for wedding guests. People boast that we will serve 15 types of sweets brought from four states," she told AFP Thursday.

"These days marriages are more about showing off your wealth. Why should poor families be put under pressure to spend so much?"

Her private members bill has been listed for discussion when parliament convenes on March 9, but such proposals must clear many hurdles to become law.

Opulent weddings attract intrigue and disgust in India, where poor families can bankrupt themselves trying to meet the expectations of relatives and friends.

A mining tycoon lavished $75 million on his daughter's wedding in November even as India was reeling from a painful cash shortage caused by a ban on high-value banknotes.

Guests received their invitations on digital screens with moving images of the couple, who tied the knot in a royal palace knees-up complete with dancers flown in from Brazil.

The ostentatious affair, covered closely in the press, provoked outrage as banks ran out of cash and Indians struggled to pay for their basic needs.