At a time when the wedding season has kick-started in Kashmir, apart from local marriages, a few financially well-off families from outside are visiting the valley to conduct weddings of their near and dear ones.
Many hotels in the summer capital are turning into venues for these 'destination weddings' for which the entire space of a hotel is often booked by the host family.
"Destination wedding is an evolving trend which involves family members and hundreds of guests along with bridegroom and groom travelling to a tourist resorts anywhere to the world to perform a marriage ceremony. With a number of starred hotels in Kashmir having comeup during last few years, destination wedding business is growing as well," said Asif Burza, director of Ahad Group of Hotels.
Burza said there is huge enthusiasm for the destination weddings now. Recently his entire hotel was booked by a family from Nepal to perform a complete wedding ceremony. "The buzz around the wedding was a completely unique experience for our team," said Burza.
The wedding performed at Burza's Hotel Fortune Resort Heevan, Srinagar last week involving a family from Nepal had functions taking place for four days. "The family was a high-profile business clan and had decided to make the occasion of wedding of their daughter a memorable experience. There were some interesting local Nepali rituals that they performed including mehendi ceremony," he said.
Burza said the hype around this wedding was to an extent that it got covered by a NDTV team. "The NDTV show 'Band Baaja Baraat' showcasing "big fat weddings" covered this wedding at our hotel. The presence of the musical troupe of Nizami brothers enthralled the guests. The challenge for our team was to serve quality pure-vegetarian food especially Kashmiri varieties. "Based on the success of this wedding we are in touch with a few more leading wedding planners from various metro cities and we may host a few more destination weddings," Burza said.
Despite fragile prevailing situation in Kashmir and low influx of tourists, starred hotels located in the Valley are receiving booking inquires for destination weddings.
A senior executive of a 5-star hotel said their property already has two such weddings lined up for this year. He said one of the weddings is being hosted by a family from Bengaluru and the other by a New Delhi family. "This New Delhi family had initially planned the wedding in Thailand but now they are opting for Kashmir. The cost factor is in our favour as hosting hundreds of people here is much cheaper than what it would cost them in South East Asia," the executive said. The executive said although people from outside the valley perform the weddings as per their customs but "all these weddings have some sort of a Kashmiri flavour added to them". "A mix of wazwan and continental food served during such high-profile weddings is what often suits the taste of the guests," the executive said.
Basharat Rashid, director sales, Vivanta By Taj, Srinagar says a wedding involving a Dubai-based family and a local family last month turned out to be a "gala affair". "Wedding is a very personal affair and for someone hosting the wedding away from their hometown is a decision we value. The different aspect about these weddings is that one has to make the guests feel at home," Rashid said. Rashid said Taj has been receiving more inquries from families outside the state who are keen to perform weddings in the valley.
Akeel Hassan, an event management professional said managing a destination wedding is an altogether new experience. "We offered services for a high-profile wedding of a Non-resident Indian family from Canada in 2016. They even took their guests around the Valley for sightseeing. We got a chance to work in tandem with professional wedding planners from outside. There is a lot of scope for Kashmir to become a wedding destination for high-end weddings," Hassan said.