Zirakpur: Till about two decades ago, Zirakpur was just a cluster of villages in Punjab on the outskirts of state capital Chandigarh. Today, it has become the unofficial `wedding capital of Punjab` with nearly 55 wedding venues where hundreds of lavish marriages, including of non-resident Indians (NRIs), are held.
With the Punjabi weddings getting bigger and fatter by the day, the wedding resorts of Zirakpur town, which shares its boundary with Chandigarh and suburban town Panchkula in Haryana, are coming in handy for people to organise marriages depending on their financial and social status.
For the count, there are now nearly 55 wedding resorts, the re-christened version of `marriage palaces`, as they were earlier called, in and around Zirakpur town, around 15 km from Chandigarh. Between 800 and 900 weddings take place annually in these wedding resorts.
Spread in areas ranging from four to 10 acres, the wedding resorts offer ample space to accommodate marriages where the guest lists range from 1,000 to 15,000.
At least 10 more wedding resorts are likely to be readied by the end of 2011.
"Yes, Zirakpur has developed as a perfect and the biggest wedding destination in Punjab. Be the rich and the famous of Chandigarh and Punjab or the NRIs, Zirakpur`s wedding resorts are the first choice of most big weddings in Punjab," Dharminder Sharma, director of a real estate development company and owner of the Sharma farmhouse and wedding resort, told IANS here.
Sharma`s own wedding, in 2008, saw a turnout of nearly 15,000 people at the AKM Resorts, one of the biggest wedding venues here. After initially sending invitation cards, the wedding invitation was extended to entire Zirakpur town through a public announcement made from a moving jeep.
The town, over the years, seems to have benefited from the fact that Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, does not have the facility of any big banquet hall in any of the hotels in the city. At best, Chandigarh`s hotels can accommodate up to 1,000 people, making them unviable for bigger Punjabi weddings.
"Chandigarh does not have a proper banquet hall to accommodate bigger weddings, especially those with large-scale themes. The planners have not even kept any space for a big venue to hold weddings. The wedding resorts at Zirakpur are the best alternative," Chandigarh hotelier Vikram Wadhwa told IANS.
The wedding resorts not only offer hall or space for the weddings but also a host of other facilities like landscaped greens, scope for theme events, rooms and other things. Booking space at the wedding resorts for a single day can mean anything from Rs.50,000 to Rs.300,000.
Nearly six big hotel chains are setting up their properties in Zirakpur town to cash in on the rush of weddings here. Most of these hotels will be ready this year. Till now, families hosting weddings had to rely on hotels in Chandigarh to accommodate guests as Zirakpur did not have adequate, good hotels.
Though the wedding resorts have brought unmatched prosperity to this town, not everyone is happy.
"Every wedding here, especially along the Chandigarh-Ambala and the Chandigarh-Patiala highways, leads to traffic chaos and jams. Since weddings keep taking place all the time, crossing Zirakpur is a nightmare, especially during full wedding season when several marriages take place on the same days," banker S.C.Dhall said.
Affluent people and NRIs, especially those from the United States, Canada, European countries and Britain, prefer to have grandiose weddings at these resorts based on themes.
"The themes can range from Egyptian to Roman settings. We offer services depending on the kind of budget one has for the wedding theme. Since most wedding resorts in Zirakpur are big enough, there is ample scope to plan theme weddings at the venues," leading theme wedding planner Karan Wahi told reporters.
Weddings sets can cost from Rs.20 lakh to over Rs.1 crore.