New Delhi : They could be Swarovski studded, they could match the bride's trousseau, they could come in multiple folds and, yes, they might just cost Rs.100,000 (about $2,000) each. Welcome to the world of the big fat Indian wedding card!
The country's wedding market is said to be worth about Rs.1,500 billion (about $30 billion) - and growing at about 10-15 percent every year; so little surprise that marriage invites are getting to be a glitzy and exclusive affair.
NRIs, especially, are a major constituent of this market. The wedding in 2004 of Britain-based Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal's daughter was said to have been a 30-million pound sterling affair.
"It's been studied that NRIs based in the US, Britain, Canada, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand want their marriages to be complete Indian affairs and this desire propels them to visit India for the selection of cards, jewelleries and venues," Gourav Rakshit, the business head of shaadi.com, told IANS.
The latest fad is exotic invitation cards.
Kapco Press Pvt Ltd CEO Neeraj Kapoor, who has been in the business for 26 years, told IANS that "people from around the globe are splurging on wedding cards like never before".
"This has added to the growth of designers, manufacturers and paper importers. Since cost and variety have gone up, there is no end to innovation," he said.
"People no longer want simple designs. More designers are entering. Prices have skyrocketed. Everyone, including the NRI, asks for the fanciest and most exclusive design even if it's not worth the amount spent. Some even say Indian designs are simply outstanding and can't be found anywhere else," he said.
Triveni Bakshi, a Canada-based NRI, is completely in awe of Indian designs.
"Yes! It's true that Indian wedding cards have no match. I personally like a lot of bling, something which has to do with fabrics or metal. Indian designs have so much variety - scroll with silk fabric and traditional Indian fonts or silver plated wedding card with embossed content," Bakshi had told IANS while she was here to attend the Celebrating Vivaha exhibition.
There are other designs too - from an oversized envelope with Lord Ganesha's picture drawn over with details about the wedding to an exquisitely worded invitation. The invites sent out are designed to wow guests.
"Innovation is the key and keeping this in mind ethnic designs have made a comeback. Also, personalised and handmade cards are a big trend nowadays as many people feel these add an emotional touch to the entire occasion," said wedding card designer Raj Kapoor.
Known for his brand Kaypee, Kapoor said, "There are people who ask for multi-folded cards which can be made to order, while others ask for scrolled out cards with matter printed on it."
Prices have also gone up.
"The price of wedding invitation cards depends on the materials used. A simple wedding card starts at Rs.30 per piece and it goes into lakhs for the Swarovski embellished multi-folded cards with box attached to it," said Shalini Punj, who runs wedding card company Vivaahsutra.
When it comes to the most sought after designs, striped, bejewelled motifs, bold colours, and vintage patterns matching the design of the bride's wedding trousseau are on the priority list.
"Vertical, horizontal and multicoloured stripes are termed as one of the most sought after trends this season. Also, embellishing the invitation with small rhinestones, pearl-toned beads or Swarovski crystals makes a low-key invitation style fashionable. The list is endless," said card-designer Piyali Rana.
"What is also gaining popularity are motif patterns. Brides ask to create a pattern on wedding cards inspired by her lehengas or saris. For instance, a ring of rosettes, a square of lace applique, or bead work."
Fancy boxes made of cardboard, hard plastic or even pure silver are also sent out as invitation cards.
"There are some cards which are given in fancy boxes made up of cardboard or hard plastic. They are decorated in such an elegant manner that after marriage it can be used as a jewellery or make-up box. So cards today are not restricted to only paper with details about wedding, but they have taken a different mould altogether," she added.