Indians Splurge Twice as Much on Weddings as on 18 Years of Education

Skift Take

In India, weddings get the grand stage while education waits in the wings.

Weddings are the second-largest consumption category in India, coming only after food and groceries, according to a report by brokerage firm Jefferies.

One stunning stat from the Jefferies report: The average Indian spends twice as much on a marriage ceremony than on education from pre-primary to postgraduation levels.

“An otherwise value-conscious society, Indians love to spend on weddings, which could be disproportionate to their level of income or wealth. And this is irrespective of the economic classes, as the tendency to overspend is seen across,” the report noted.

In the U.S., families spend less than half on weddings than on education. 

The average wedding spend in India is INR 1.2 million ($14,400), which is over 5 times India’s GDP per capita of $2,730. On average, an Indian household spends three times its annual income of almost INR 400,000 ($4,800) on weddings.

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The Growing Middle Class

An earlier feature by Skift discussed how middle-class Indian couples, influenced by a liberalized economy, are now opting for lavish celebrations, moving away from the simplicity of the past. With around 8 to 10 million weddings held annually, India is the largest wedding destination globally.

The report said the Indian wedding industry is worth approximately INR 10 trillion ($120 billion).

In terms of expenditure, the Indian wedding industry is nearly double the size of the U.S. industry ($70 billion) but smaller than China’s ($170 billion), according to Jefferies.

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Driving Discretionary Spends

Weddings also drive discretionary spending in India, especially in categories like jewelry, apparel, and food and beverage. Weddings account for nearly half of the jewelry industry’s sales and more than 10% of the apparel industry’s revenue, according to the report.

“The wedding industry also indirectly fuels various sectors such as automobile, consumer electronics, paints and more. These industries witness a spike in demand around the wedding season and while difficult to quantify the full impact, industry players meticulously track wedding dates to align marketing strategies and inventory management,” the report noted.

Spends are usually concentrated in the wedding season, which lasts from November to July.

What Really Lavish Weddings Look Like

Some wedding celebrations are incredibly elaborate, with guest lists reaching up to 50,000. Bridal lehengas (dresses) in the luxury segment often feature heavy, intricate work and can weigh over 10 kilograms. Luxury brands are capitalizing on this market; for instance, Italian luxury brand Bvlgari launched its first India-only jewelry piece, the Mangalsutra (a sacred necklace worn by married Indian women), in 2021.

While wedding spending varies significantly across income levels, the relative expenditure remains high across the board. Exotic destinations, luxurious accommodations, menus curated by Michelin-star chefs, and performances by artists like Rihanna, Coldplay, or Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan are common features of luxury Indian weddings. These multi-day, multi-event celebrations range from simple to ultra-lavish, depending on the region, religion, and economic background.

Destination Weddings and Wed in India

A Skift Research survey revealed that this trend has created a thriving market for outbound travel spending, estimated at INR 159.6 billion ($1.9 billion). Most newlyweds who had international destination weddings in the past year skew towards high-budget celebrations, averaging around INR 18 million ($200,000).

In response, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the public to “Wed In India,” promoting domestic destinations over overseas locations, in an effort to boost the local economy.

In May, the first “Wed in India” exposition was also held in Jaipur to promote the country as a popular wedding destination. The tourism ministry said the rapid infrastructure development across the country is aiding destination weddings. 

The tourism ministry said the Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Haryana, Kerala, and Goa are already popular wedding destinations. 

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