Image: DeviGarh Palace, Udaipur
Preferred Hotels & Resorts
When Vikram Chatwal's epic wedding came to Udaipur, the DeviGarh Palace hosted a party—no surprise. An 18th-century palace with mountain views, the DeviGarh was recently updated with sleek contemporary designs. Some of the suites are gilded with semiprecious stones.The staff is famously attentive, while still allowing plenty of privacy for newlyweds.
updated 8/21/2007 3:19:14 PM ET 2007-08-21T19:19:14

When New York hotelier Vikram Chatwal wed in India last year, he wasn't content to stay put during the festivities. Instead, he hired three Boeing 737s to shuttle the wedding party around the country. Over the course of a week, Chatwal's hundreds of guests, including the Clintons and Prince Nicholas of Greece, traveled to Bombay, Udaipur and New Delhi, three of India's most popular wedding destinations.

Excessive perhaps, but Chatwal's extraordinary affair is emblematic of India's $11 billion wedding industry. Across the country, the market for marriages is growing at 25 percent annually. The typical Indian wedding involves hundreds of guests and costs $34,000, a good deal more than the average American wedding at $26,000.

India's diversity has inspired an equivalent range of wedding themes, from mountaintop marriages in the snowy Himalayas to sandy ceremonies on tropical beaches. While many families decamp to exotic locations for the ceremony, others prefer urban venues for the enormous parties.

Regal weddings are among the most popular themes. Often held in palatial hotels, or even old palaces, such affairs treat the bride and groom like queen and king. A marching band welcomes the couple to the palace while women shower the path with rose petals. Horsemen and torchbearers escort them to the altar. After the ceremony, a DJ plays beneath fireworks in the palace courtyard.

Many of the palaces best suited for regal weddings are in the desert state of Rajasthan, where dozens of kingdoms vied for control before falling to the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. The Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur plays host to celebrity weddings, while Rambagh Palace in Jaipur was once home to the Maharaja.

Image: Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
 Perched on a hilltop and constructed of golden sandstone, the Umaid Bhawan Palace is an art deco marvel. The Maharini Suite features a bathtub carved from a single piece of pink Italian marble, while the Maharaja Suite sports murals of leopards and tigers. The palace reinforced its wedding credentials earlier this year when it hosted nuptials between actress Elizabeth Hurley and Indian businessman Arun Nayar.
The beach is another popular wedding destination. From islands in the Arabian Sea to the sandy tip of the subcontinent, India is graced with hundreds of miles of pristine beachfront property. During the pre-wedding ceremony at these tropical sites, the bride is anointed with scented oils while the groom is massaged. At the altar, floral garlands are exchanged, and a Vedic priest weds the couple. Goa and Kerala are the most popular venues on the mainland. There's less infrastructure on the Andaman and Lakshadweep Islands, but tropical weddings there can benefit from the romance of a remote locale.

In the cities, affluent families tend to head for the establishment's establishments. The Royal Western India Turf Club (Bombay's racetrack) is so exclusive that only club members can plan weddings there.

Finally, for the few who want to escape the city, farmhouse weddings are a popular choice.

But India's wedding boom is testing the limits of the world's second-most populous country. In Delhi, which during the winter has been known to play host to as many as 15,000 weddings in a night, officials have recently cracked down, raiding unlicensed parties and banning weddings in public parks. Sikh leaders recently asked the faithful to tone down their wedding parties and end them earlier, fearing that the festivities were getting out of hand.

Still, with Indian wealth growing as fast as its population, expect more weddings as lavish as Chatwal's—and for those who can afford it--parties touching down in more than one choice venue.

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