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Economic Slowdown Puts Damper On Lavish Indian Weddings

Indian wedding celebrations are traditionally held on a lavish scale. But the economic slowdown is prompting many to trim the "fat Indian wedding" during this wedding season, which starts in December.

Tens of thousands of homes across the country are making hectic preparations for marriages of their sons and daughters. Some are gearing up for parties, others are winding up shopping for the bride and groom.

In traditional Indian style, the weddings will involve several ceremonies spread over days. But wedding consultant Neeta Raheja has noticed a difference this year.

She says the economic slowdown is making people more cautious about splurging - some people have slashed the number of parties, others have cut down their guest list.

"Now what I am finding more and more for the coming season, people have decided to club the ceremonies - instead of having eight days of celebrations, we have like four days," she said. "Also we have this habit of calling our second cousin and third cousins and everybody else you know, people are doing that less and less. They are perhaps cutting down on their numbers, and calling those that are close friends and family."

The toning down is not restricted to just the parties - but also to shopping for trousseaus. Parents traditionally give the bride or the daughter-in-law gifts of gold jewelry and expensive dresses.

Shubhi Saxena, 26, is getting married in January. She says she has bought ten traditional dresses, known as saris, instead of the customary twenty for her trousseau. And she is getting her bridal make up done from someone who will charge her less than the usual price.

"Each time I go for shopping and I see the millions of saris and jewelry I just don't want to spend that kind of money on these kind of things. Gold is as at is so expensive," she said.

Neeta Raheja says the push to cut back on ostentatious spending on wedding celebrations and shopping is coming not from the parents - but from younger people.

"Today's youngsters are getting more and more sensible," said Raheja. "They perhaps land up spending the same amount, but they would rather do it for a holiday or a home for themselves than have parents spending it on a very large wedding ceremony."

However an economic slowdown can only make the celebrations a bit muted - it cannot take away the spirit of fun and festivity that Indian marriages traditionally generate. After all, a wedding is the most important occasion in an Indian family - an event for which parents set aside money for years, and a social statement. So the party is still on.