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Planning a wedding? Help's at hand

Last updated on: July 19, 2003 13:06 IST

Is marriage an adventure? It could certainly start out on an adventurous note if you decide to get married on a machan in the middle of Ranthambhore Game Reserve.

Made in heavenHere's the scenario: the bride, groom and priest perch on the machan that's about 20 feet from the ground. While the ceremony takes place, a few chosen guests watch  in regal style, on elephant back.

Don't forget that holy fires aren't really possible in machans, so Hindus will have to make do with artificial alternatives or do without. The cost: Rs 10,000 a person.

If game reserves and climbing trees aren't really your cup of tea, how about beaches, waves and the setting sun in Goa or Kerala? And why not add to the beauty that nature has already created?

There's nothing like a beautiful floral mandap on the beach. What's more, you can also time it in such a way that you have the sunset as the backdrop during the pheraas.

Welcome to the era of destination weddings. Once upon a time it was every blushing bride's dream to hold a lavish reception at the Taj Hotel or the Oberoi.

Then, came the era of farmhouse weddings  -- if you were really adventurous, in those days, the groom rode across the fields on a bullock cart.

Now, well-heeled brides and grooms are looking further afield. Your wedding isn't an event if it hasn't happened at a private beach or in a Rajasthani fort that's been converted into a luxury hotel.

Luckily, India has an extraordinary variety of places -- and palaces -- on offer. The nature-loving bride and groom could exchange vows in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks, or take the saat pheraas cruising along the Ganges or the Arabian Sea.

Or, travel back in time, becoming a part of history with heritage forts and palaces as your residence and getting married like kings and queens. Destination weddings offer all this -- at a price of course.

One group that's working hard to attract young couples is the HRH Group of Hotels in Udaipur, which, amongst others, owns the Shiv Niwas Palace. The HRH Group helps to organise traditional Rajasthani weddings in a style that's fit for kings.

First, the baraat is welcomed in royal style with garlands and tikaas, with shehnai players and dancers who perform the traditional Bhavai with pots balanced on their heads.

To add to it, a traditional Rajasthani barbecue dinner is organised in the palace courtyard where the cutlery used is traditional Mewari silverware.

The groom gets a chance to indulge his fantasies and can arrive on a caparisoned elephant, a magnificently decorated horse carriage or a vintage car in which the maharaja himself once travelled.

This, while men line up the length of the procession route with mashaals. And as if that's not enough, the actual wedding ceremony takes place at Jagmandir -- a 400-year-old monument in the middle of the Pichola lake.

The cost of this royal wedding?

"The cost can be anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per person depending upon the number of guests," says Jai Raj Gupta, CEO, Shaadionline, a wedding planning company which specialises in destination weddings.

The cost includes food and accommodation for all the guests for three days and two nights at the Shiv Niwas Palace.

Besides that, it also includes the floral décor, entertainment, mehendiwalla for the bride, video coverage and still photography, et cetera.

The package also includes sightseeing for all the guests before and after the wedding. However, the cost does not include travel to and from Udaipur.

A wedding at the Shiv Niwas Palace or the Jagmandir is meant for a maximum of 400 guests.

If your guest list is bursting at the seams, and you are determined to combine marriage with making sure everyone has a fun time, Goa is probably the place you should head.

The wedding can take place at any of the beach resorts such as the Fort Aguada, the Taj, etc. Leave it to the wedding planner to create an exotic theme with the sea as the backdrop.

Says Meher Sarid of Sound of Music, a leading wedding planner, "We can create various themes such as a carnival night, the night before the wedding, or a simple floral theme on the wedding day itself."

Some destinations have their restrictions. At Ranthambhore, for instance, holy fires would spell disaster.

And the machan weddings are only for a maximum of 10 to 15 guests. The cost includes a two-night three-day stay at the tiger reserve.

International Travel House, the travel wing of ITC, is also gearing to offer weddings that are fit for kings.

So you can get married at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur or at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur.

Says Shona Adhikari, PR consultant, ITH, "We take care of everything from entertainment to food to floral decor. The complete wedding experience is provided."

The ITH offering is aimed at NRIs and costs $960 per person for a group of 10 people. The cost includes a two-night/three-day stay at either of the venues, the wedding and sightseeing. Travel to the city is not included.

If you are planning to have a destination wedding, keep two things in mind. First, destination weddings are meant for a small number of guests.

Says Gurlein Manchanda, a Mumbai-based wedding planner, "Destination weddings don't really work for people who want to call 1,000-4,000 people for the wedding."

Second, since you are going to a different city, everything must be planned down to the last detail before you leave home. It can be awkward if you suddenly find that the havankund, for instance, is missing.

Also, plenty of notice needs to be given to the hotels where you are conducting the wedding.

Says Gupta, "In order to organise a wedding in Udaipur, we need at least three months' notice." But, if you get it right, it could be an unforgettable experience.

Smita Tripathi and Arti Sharma