On May 11th, at roughly 2:30pm, we received information that the Telangana government would be declaring a 10 day lockdown in the state, starting on May 12th at 10am. The information at this point was fairly scant with no exact details about weddings, events, etc. All of that would come later that evening at around 6:30pm, in the form of a detailed government order by the Chief Secretary of the state. But until that G.O. was published, there was panic everywhere. We had a series of events to shoot, starting from May 12th. What would happen to all those now?
The wedding season was already very bleak, with all couples who live abroad having cancelled or postponed their weddings. Even couples who were resident in Hyderabad were cautious about going ahead with their weddings, and few had chosen to downscale their events. Nevertheless, these are definitely wise decisions given that safety is paramount in this situation. However, the economic impact of it would be monumental on the events industry, which was still reeling from the effects of last year’s lockdown. In the end, the government order had clear information that weddings would be allowed to go ahead, albeit with a cap on the number of guests, restricted to 40 people only.
Day One of Lockdown – Mehendi
I was in conversation with the bride till the late hours of May 11th, wondering how to proceed with the already planned Mehendi on 12th evening. She had to coordinate with multiple vendors, from the decor company, the makeup artist, and the Mehendi artists, in order to figure out whether it would be possible to even go ahead with this event. Fortunately, everyone was willing to support in whatever way possible. A decision was made to shift the event from its original evening schedule and move it to the morning instead. I drove to the bride’s house by 10am, when she was getting the final touches to her make up and Mehendi. What was originally supposed to an event from 3pm to 7pm with 30 guests was now from 10am to 1pm with 10 guests. But the family was definitely upbeat that the event was going ahead, and this smaller gathering allowed everyone to be more relaxed. I got much more time to shoot portraits of the bride, and she was also equally enthusiastic that I was present to capture moments of this little celebration. I drove back home at around 2pm, and while there were police checkposts, they didn’t stop my car. I figured that this was probably because it was the first day of the lockdown and they were giving people some leeway before they enforced the rules strictly.
Day Two of Lockdown – Pellikuthuru & Engagement
We had 2 parallel events on Day Two. I would be leading a small team and covering a 40 guest engagement at Avasa Hotel while Suri would be covering the Pellikuthuru event. Both events were scheduled to start at around 6am and all of us had no issues with checkposts on the way to each venue. We noticed a high level of discipline amongst the guests in wearing masks, something that was very lax in weddings last year. They started mostly on time and finished on time. No hiccups were faced during these events. Once again, we had plenty of time for portraits of the couple at both events. However, on the way back from the events, the police at checkposts were randomly stopping people and questioning them. There was a visible bias, in that they were more inclined to stop people on bikes, while allowing cars to pass through. All of my crew were stopped and let go after showing the police a copy of the invitation card and their photographer ID card. The police did tell them to apply for the E Pass for future events.
Day Three of Lockdown – Wedding & Engagement
There were 2 slightly overlapping events on Day Three as well. The muhurtam time of the wedding was 6am, which meant that we had to be at the venue by 3:30am to cover the bride’s makeup. The early morning drive to the wedding venue i.e Park Hyatt was seamless, and it was nice to drive on empty roads after a long time. The lighting team for the decor was slightly delayed due to some issues and they were only able to set it up in the nick of time before the wedding rituals started. We also had a hard time convincing the Reception staff at Park Hyatt that we needed to access the bride’s room to take her getting ready photos. Apparently they had some Covid policy of only letting guests into rooms. But we got sorted it out eventually and the wedding went on smoothly. The main mandap area had less than 10 guests and the other 25 guests chose to sit far away. While this wedding was going on, a parallel team had gone to the other engagement and were already setting up.
Once all the main rituals were done at the wedding, I went to the other engagement while the rest of my crew continued to stay at the wedding for some photos, etc. The engagement was probably one of the smallest events that we had covered with only 8 people in attendance, including the couple. It was held in the front lawns of the bride’s house and we setup a 8ft by 6ft LED Screen opposite to the stage area, to show all their relatives on a Zoom call. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience for all us, but we made the most of it. All the rituals got done by around midday and we spent more time taking couple portraits and family portraits, in all permutations and combinations.
Tips for Photographers
- Carry a Photographer ID Card
- Keep a digital copy of the Wedding Card
- Apply for a E-Pass (if you are traveling outside of the free movement times of 6-10am, you can apply here – https://policeportal.tspolice.gov.in/covidReg_interstate_veh.htm)
- Wear an N95 mask at all times (I personally use this one – https://www.amazon.in/SWASA-PM0-3-Reuseable-White-Without/dp/B09558LB3N/)
- Avoid eating at the event, if possible (or make sure you go to a quiet corner and eat quickly)
Tips for Couples
- Schedule your home events in the morning (people find it easier to travel during the 6am to 10am free movement time)
- Send digital copies of your event invitation card to all guests and vendors
- Minimize external vendors for home events (with a small number of guests, consider cooking at home instead of hiring a caterer)
- Only have essential family members on stage for the wedding ( just parents, priests, photographers – rest can be seated off stage)
- Give face shields to the priests (they often find it hard to chant the mantras with facemasks)
- Keep plenty of N95 facemasks available for guests (some may turn up with cotton masks which have been proven to be ineffective)
Covering these intimate events over the past week made me understand how essential a photographer is to any event. I distinctly recall the bride’s father telling me at the Mehendi, on May 12th, that they would have never gone ahead with the event, if I had any apprehensions to shooting it. Yes, they wanted to hold a Mehendi event, but they put up nice decor, got dressed up, hired a makeup artist, all in the pursuit of good photographs and great memories. As wedding photographers, it is our duty to do justice to these events by capturing them in the best way possible. It would unwise to dismiss these as small events but rather, embrace the opportunity to capture emotions and moments that would have been otherwise lost in a large gathering. My team and I have got a few shoots lined up till the end of the month, but it is a vastly lesser number compared to what we originally were scheduled to shoot. It is a rather difficult and uncertain time to plan a wedding so I am frequently on the phone with my clients, offering them all the help and advice that I can.
For the people who think that all weddings should be cancelled, I would urge you to put yourself in the position of a couple who had planned their wedding months in advance with many events and lots of friends but now scaled down to just essential events and immediate family. There is a certain emotion and sentiment associated with sticking to a particular muhurtam date/time once the lagnapatrika is written. I can sympathize with that emotion so if you are getting married in this month, do proceed with your events keeping in mind adequate distance, masks, and outdoors if possible. And please do support all your vendors in this difficult time with patience, kindness, and on-time payments. Here’s to hoping that the situation improves soon. Stay safe, stay home!