Earlier this year, a couple recreated a scene from Jodhaa Akbar (2008) at their wedding, where the groom had to find his bride in a sea of similarly dressed women in veils, just like in the movie. The Instagram Reel capturing this moment got 6.1 million views. Another couple tied the knot at the same Lake Como villa as actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh. They too were dressed in Sabyasachi outfits like the celebrity couple, with the groom’s sherwani being identical to the one Singh wore. The nuptials went on to be heavily covered across wedding Instagram pages and media outlets.
Couples today don’t just want to be inspired by their favorite celebrity’s wedding. They want to feel like stars themselves on their big day, with all the brouhaha to match. And making that possible is social media. Cue, the rise of the Big Fat Instagram Wedding, where the ‘happily ever after’ is preferred with a side of a million-plus views, a viral Reel and a magazine feature.
For content creators and influencers tying the knot, a viral wedding is a great opportunity to increase their following overnight. But what’s in it for couples who only use social media recreationally? “Regular people don’t have Filmfare Awards or the Oscars for their red carpet moments. Their wedding is an event they dream of all their lives. So, they want to share it with the world to get their reactions,” says wedding videographer Vishal Punjabi aka The Wedding Filmer, who is behind the wedding films of celebrity couples including Padukone and Singh, Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli, and Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal, among others. The idea is to simply create an instant memory book, says Smriti Agarwal, founder of wedding social media design company Mush Me Too. Her company creates real-time Instagram footage at weddings “as wedding photographers can take months to hand over professional images”. “A lot of the quirky antics are planned to engage guests. Not every couple is doing it to go viral. That’s just a bonus of having this content,” adds Agarwal, who has already booked for weddings in Kolkata, Jaipur, Mumbai, Raipur, Baroda and Udaipur this season.
‘How will the wedding look on Instagram?’ has become a big consideration for many couples in the last two years, confirms wedding planner Neha Wadhawan, co-founder of The Doli Diary. It started as a way for them to share their downsized weddings with loved ones during the pandemic. Now, it’s integral to all decisions. “We are witnessing a case of revenge spending and sharing, especially this ongoing season. Social media is just another way to showcase how grand or cool the wedding was. The previous generation may have spoken about the money they spent. The current generation’s equivalent is their wedding’s Instagram reach,” she weighs in. A survey by the CAIT Research & Trade Development Society estimated that 32 lakh weddings took place in India between 14 November and 14 December 2022, which also explains the mega influx of content around it.
The metrics of virality
While there is no universally accepted benchmark on what’s considered viral, many tech websites deem more than 5 million views over 3 to 7 days as a respectable number. But smaller metrics, when substantially higher than your follower count, can make you eligible for the viral tag too. In some cases, a high number of Likes, Shares and Saves is a qualifier.
At the time of writing this feature, #indianbride had 10.4 million posts and #indianwedding had 23.5 million posts on Instagram, many of these vignettes from real weddings. Is there a formula for posts to be widely shared? Megha Israni Bhatia, founder of Israni Photography, has an online session on this very topic on the educational platform Capturing WOW’s upcoming wedding summit. “There is no science to this, but just about the Internet liking a certain perspective,” she says in the video, touting bridal portraits and entries, beautiful lehengas, make-up, and varmala exchanges as posts with the potential to go viral. She notes that pictures of the bride and her dog are sure winners, while groom-led content rarely does as well.
Photographer Mili Ghosh, known for her editorial-style wedding pictures, feels there is no clear answer on what works. “One day it can be dried flowers, the other day it can be pink flowers!” Ghosh is privy to several brides who are explicit in their desire to go viral. Many, she reveals, are reverse-engineering their weddings—working with certain vendors, locations, designers, décor and aesthetics so that the wedding has a higher chance of getting picked up. While a couple meticulously curating their own wedding outfits is not really news (pictures and videos highlighting personalized embroidery always do well on the ‘Gram), the twist is that many are now even sending guests a detailed presentation with moodboards of what they are expected to wear for each event. All so that the final pictures can have a uniform, editorial aesthetic.