ood things come in small packages. Or Exclusive Packages. Or Premium Packages. Or Confidential Packages. It all depends, really — the fatness of your wallet and how much you're willing to part with play a crucial role. Matchmaking agencies and portals have been assaulting our airwaves with advertising for years, but those cater to people from all walks of society, with exclusivity absent. Rich people need to get hitched too, and somewhere on the fringes lie certain elite services, catering only to the needs of the high-income upper-middle class sections of society. Respected companies of the ilk of AtoZ Matchmaking, Sycorian, Elite Matrimony and Ultra Rich Match (they're not mucking around with that name, are they?) are some of the more prominent agencies that wealthy people can approach when they want to get their sons and daughters married off. There are enterprising pandits too, running their own marriage bureaus for the elite, but we'll get to that in due time.
"They place themselves as elite and exclusive," says Sunny Thapar (name changed), a 29-year-old working towards expanding his family business in New Delhi who has recruited one such agency, and is looking for a prospective bride. They have a whole bunch of different packages, starting from Rs 50,000 and going up till Rs 10 lakh. The cheapest package entails paying Rs 25,000 upfront, and the initial amount needs to matched once the pre-engagement ceremony, the roka, takes place. The most elite of the elite packages, priced at Rs 5 lakh upfront and five more after the roka, gives you confidentiality and a whole host of other benefits — "A famous industrialist's daughter is on the same database. But I can't view her profile because of the package she's on," mock-rues Thapar. "She is not available in the system. Her details are only visible to the select few that she picks." Thapar himself is on one of the higher-end packages, wherein other people can view his profile but they cannot contact him unless he approves of them first. There are more perks, of course, but in a nutshell, the more you pay, the more you get. It varies from agency to agency, but many of them have no real time limit during which the hitching has to happen, although interest (from both sides) naturally wanes as time passes.
Emails with all the relevant details about the potential future-brides/grooms — including (brace yourselves) name, date of birth, age, religion, sub-sect, sub-caste, height, weight, complexion, disability (if any), disease (if any), eyesight, characteristics, hobbies, drinking habits, eating habits, education, sect, caste, gotra, blood group, place of birth, astrological details, personal income, Visa type, nationality, monthly income, marital status, family details, family income per annum, references, contact details, and more — are sent to prospective matches. And the all-important photo, of course. Sunny approved one particular match that he was presented with, and a meeting needed to be set up. "Our preference is that the girl and the guy should meet alone. But every family has their own comfort zone. I met one girl along with her entire family. The agency sets it up, they organise everything."
Thapar himself is on the one lakh (plus one lakh) package, wherein other people can view his profile but they cannot contact him unless he approves of them first. There are more perks, of course, but in a nutshell, the more you pay, the more you get.
Thapar, along with his parents, met the girl for lunch at a restaurant in a prominent five-star hotel, with her entire family present there too." In many cases, depending on the package, a person from the agency also accompanies the families at such meetings, to introduce them and assess the meeting, and step in in case of awkwardness or a lack of a connection. "I was sitting there awkwardly at first — not a clue what I was doing there — when my dad suggested that the girl and I get a separate table and order our own food while the families sat and talked." If things go well, the agency should be informed of any future meetings, "as a courtesy, not an obligation".
Till date, Thapar has met a handful of girls, out of which one was through the agency. His father is fairly keen on him getting married, and is looking to get another agency on board. Additionally, he has enlisted the services of a couple of high-profile Pandits, who've developed a healthy network among the well-to-do through years of conducting wedding ceremonies, and are now also running their own marriage bureaus. One of the bureaus' website showcases the name of the pandit followed by the title: Astrologer (M.D.). Their databases are even known to feature prominent personalities, including known actresses.
He met one girl at another hotel. The meeting was preceded by the girl's mother meeting with Sunny first to check him out and confirm that the details he had submitted were, in fact, correct. Another meeting took place, without any familial intervention, at a popular coffee shop chain — "It's supposed to be a formal thing; getting a drink in the first few meetings is considered inappropriate." — while a third one had the parents of the girl meeting with Thapar's parents first, following which a meeting between the two was arranged, again, at an expensive hotel. The pandits don't officially charge anything, serving as matchmakers for different families, but it is protocol to gift them (a lot of) money — from Rs 6,000 to Rs 11,000 or more — every single time they visit your home for a "mooh dikhai", as "shagun".
And then there are the financial requirements. While Thapar's filters for prospective matches given to the agencies is restricted to the appearance and education/professional qualifications of the girl, and the overall nature of the family, a lot of clients that approach these elite matchmakers place financial standing as a high-priority requirement. The technical term these days is a "3 Crore Wedding" or a "10 Crore Wedding", which helps gauge the financial situation and status of the other family, and whether they can afford to spend that much on the wedding of their daughter/son. This figure may or may not include any "traditional gifting" from the girl's family to the guy's. Ultimately, though, the rich are getting richer not because of capitalism or policy or corruption or anything of the sort — it's simply because they're marrying each other.