Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The business of Shaadiwood

Published in Nov-Dec 2016
Wedding videos are no longer the home spun productions of yesteryear.
Photo: Lollipop and Laddu's Facebook page.
Photo: Lollipop and Laddu's Facebook page.

When the Bollywood film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun! hit Pakistani small screens in 1994, it changed the concept of wedding celebrations, especially mehndis, forever. Over the next two decades they evolved from aunts and cousins belting out folk songs to the thump of a drum, a tambourine (and for some inexplicable reason, a spoon), to glamorous exhibitions of choreographed dances.

Wedding videos have undergone a similar evolution. Until the mid-noughties, wedding videography was pretty simple: point, shoot (close-up of khaloo enjoying the biryani was a must), jazz it up in the editing suite with some swirl effects and toss in a soundtrack composed of the latest Hindi film songs. These days, however, with the proliferation of filmmaking degrees and editing software that runs on personal computers, the wedding video has transformed from a mere documentation of the event into a polished film of near-theatrical finesse.

Syed Paiman Hussain, Founder and Director, Lollipop and Laddu, believes the relative affordability of the DSLR camera with its greater portability and superior picture quality has played a big role in changing the look of the wedding video. “In the earlier days, even if people wanted to add flair, they were restricted by the size and quality of their equipment.” Cameramen were hindered by the bulky machines, the light-wielding assistants, and the numerous extensions cords required to power everything. Because moving around was problematic, angles remained stationary for the most part and “the only thing they could really play with was the zoom lens.”

The most striking aspect of modern wedding videos is their cosy intimacy – softly lit shots of the bride adjusting her teeka, the groom smoothing his hair in the mirror one final time. Spontaneity on the dance floor and candid embraces replace awkward, unnatural posing. Achieving this, however, is a lengthy process.

For their narrative package ‘Aik thi lollipop, aik tha laddu’, Hussain strongly recommends beginning at least six months in advance. “For this video, we create a story built around the bridal couple with a voiceover by a beloved family member, usually the grandmother. We insist on personal meetings so we can have a sense of their personalities, and then we craft a script. This is followed by approvals and changes – and someone might go abroad, get caught up with something else, so it is very important to allow plenty of time.”

The cofounders of The Videographers explain their process starts with a Journey Form. “This is a brief for us. We follow up with one-on-one meetings where they tell us about themselves, their likes and dislikes, and we try to bring that individuality into the video.” This also includes providing fun props to play around with during the shoot.

Another trick up their sleeve is that “we always dress for the occasion.” For a reception they will arrive in crisp suits and for a dholki a shalwar kameez. By blending into the environment, they are able to keep guests from the ‘dreaded deer-caught-in-the-headlights’ stiffness that shows up in so many of the older videos.

Sometimes, though, the familiarity goes a little too far. “Seventy percent of the time clients are refined and respectful, and then we get these ridiculously rich families who call out, ‘Idhar aao, photographer!’”

Because of a few unsavoury incidents where The Videographers’ team (all university-educated urbane youngsters) was poorly treated, they no longer take bookings on the phone. It is now mandatory to have a meeting with the family – not just the bride and groom – before any contracts are signed.

On the pricing front, it is safe to say these videos don’t come cheap. Billing Rs 100,000 for coverage of one event is fairly standard, and well-heeled clients are prepared to shell out upwards of Rs 500,000 for a celebration lasting three or more days. Clients like to incorporate all sorts of elements to personalise their footage, with some requesting that the camera start rolling from the moment they land at the airport. Sometimes the more daring couples (“because it’s a cultural taboo,” say The Videographers, “usually they don’t want to disclose how they met.”) have asked to include a re-enactment of their first meeting. This means the camera team doesn’t just show up at the venue, record for a few hours, and leave; shots and angles must be planned in a proper pre-production process.

Billing Rs 100,000 for coverage of one event is fairly standard, and well-heeled clients are prepared to shell out upwards of Rs 500,000 for a celebration lasting three or more days.

However, despite the increasing willingness of people to open their wallets even wider, Hussain feels videography is still to be given the importance it deserves. According to him, people budget for weddings in the following order: dress, food, makeup, video. He says, “clients bring us Indian examples and ask for something similarly dramatic, but those videos are very time consuming to produce, and even though the wedding video will be kept forever, shown to other people and to future generations, people will invest much more effort in meeting the dress designer than the videographer.”

It is heartening to hear from both The Videographers and Hussain that (barring the occasional incident) the downmarket perception of the video waala is disappearing. “In the beginning,” say The Videographers, “we had trouble hiring people because kids who graduated from film school didn’t want to be associated with this. Initially even one of our co-founders’ father couldn’t believe it. He said, “I’m paying for you to go to film school to make wedding videos?”

Hisham Masood, filmmaker and Lecturer Film and Video, Indus Valley School of Arts, says that although it is challenging to shoot a wedding video – “From the drone operator to the steadicam operator, everyone has to be quick in capturing emotions; if the moment slips away, there is no retake,” – many student filmmakers still see it as a quick way to make easy money. “Others, however, have begun treating it as a serious professional choice.”

And the serious professionals are receiving some seriously fun benefits. At one wedding covered by The Videographers, “three brothers – a business guy, an engineer, and a mathematician who is developing his own app – couldn’t get over how cool our job was.” Even cooler is their upcoming assignment for which they will jet off to Spain.

“We are going to Barcelona to shoot a wedding,” say The Videographers.

“How many bankers get to do that?”

Sarwat Yasmeen Azeem is a DAWN staffer.


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Comments (37) Closed

Faraz Mar 02, 2017 12:57pm

Seems a little criminal to waste this much money on something that has very little utility.

jA-australia Mar 02, 2017 01:11pm

Yet more evidence of the widening abyss between those who live a pampered lifestyle exceeding even Western norms, and those who have to sell their 10 year old kids into bonded labor.

imran Mar 02, 2017 01:24pm

some people got more money then sence. others like me not enough to spend but we barrow money to spend laveshly on weddings and then repay it back which might take several years. but hey we had a good wedding.

khan Mar 02, 2017 01:51pm

If one can afford, I don't see anything wrong in it!

miss syed Mar 02, 2017 02:30pm

Such a shame. When more attention is paid on the wedding than the actual marriage. I have seen far more beautiful weddings than rewarding and fulfilling companionship between married couples. fake pretense.

Qaiser Mar 02, 2017 03:14pm

Seen it happen in my family, utter waste of time and money. It's so artificial and choreographed that essence of spontaneous celebration and natural flavour has just vanished. It's like having the whole event for it bieng filmed rather then enjoying the event. On top of that why to share it on social media, making people feel belittled, those who can't afford it.

kerala Mar 02, 2017 03:40pm

So basically copying from Indian photoshoots, wedding videos, &dancing with our hindi songs. Good luck

asif Mar 02, 2017 04:12pm

Expected is that the groom would take position to stay in the norms & ethics and be a real MAN. But the male are now thin and smart more than females, so any MANHOOD can not be expected to stand at some values.

z Mar 02, 2017 04:18pm

And people say there is poverty in the world.

Princess_of_DHUMP Mar 02, 2017 04:22pm

@Faraz criminal? Its the people's money. They can do whatever they want with it. Who are you to judge?

Ehs Mar 02, 2017 04:29pm

It is a complete waste of money. Better not to spend this much and instead take a trip and give a good amount of sadka/charity something that actually makes a difference in the lives of others.

Einstein babar Mar 02, 2017 04:42pm

7 billion humans marry for continuity of human race, wedding is not something very special now, ladies

Khaled Mar 02, 2017 05:03pm

Where are the tax authorities?

Umair Saeed Khan Mar 02, 2017 05:16pm

@jA-australia Couldn't agree more!

ali Mar 02, 2017 05:48pm

damn, wheres the simplicity

Sarkar Mar 02, 2017 07:38pm

The glamour has no place in our society - money well spend on charity and to poor/needy will be secured in our account which we all be needing

Hassan Mar 02, 2017 08:21pm

To all boys and girls planning to get married!

Please plan simple wedding! Here is my reason:

For few functions, both families spend almost their entire saving and at time people take loans. Boys especially burn out their balance and struggle to meet the common day to expenses.... Things change after marriage...

On the other hand, that amount of money can be put in bride and grooms account as a positive cash...

Their life will be better ... imagine the difference... starting your married life with zero and negative balance (loan) or positive balance (few hundred thousand in your bank)

KhwarIzmi Mar 02, 2017 10:19pm

Wedding is expansive, relations outside marriage is cheap. This is not the way of our Prophet (PBUH).

Rohail Mar 02, 2017 10:29pm

I even heard from a proud lady that someone paid 1,900,000 rupees for whole marriage ceremony functions in Karachi. Shame on people and it should be discouraged.

Jehanzeb Idrees Mar 03, 2017 12:28am

@khan: and YOU are so wrong.

hussain Mar 03, 2017 12:44am

A shame unseen or scented by mullah and govt of the day. Simply because for govt chief executive of the country to beaurocrates money have no problem, bribes, commissions, squeezing the needed is a way of life in so called Islamic republic of Pakistan. In truth a country going under curse of God.

Shahid Mar 03, 2017 01:07am

Let the rich spend money like this. It creates jobs for the poor.

XoF Mar 03, 2017 02:42am


Its our regret instead of luck. Same curse of your society even. Nothing to take pride. Bolly is as always rubbish and annoying.

Faisal Mar 03, 2017 06:23am

Social norms. In every society people spend money on useless things but its a bit strange seeing it in Pakistan where all that money can be given to poor.

Quresh Mar 03, 2017 07:33am

Pakistani(Islamic Country) society took very wrong exit. They are not following Islamic rules. Only they are very active during month of Ramadan. Why religious people do not say anything? Morally Bankrupt.

Rajesh Mar 03, 2017 07:58am

I support lavish weddings. Wealth from wealthy people is distributed to the workers who work for it. It provides job opportunities. Because of the demand professional videographers grow up. Demand for the cooks increases. It forms another industry supporting many families. Let the rich people spend. Not so financially sound people can have simple weddings.

Khan Mar 03, 2017 09:06am

When there is money then there are a million ways to spend it !

asad Mar 03, 2017 09:44am

and i am 200% sure and have seen people who criticize these extravagance but they spend more than mentioned examples their lives. In practical no one can ignore these necessaries. hypocrite nation.

Faisal Mar 03, 2017 10:24am

Why waste so much money when the majority in the country are living below poverty line? Deviation from the religious values and the circulation of black money are the major reasons. Race is not how much you can spend but what can the people provide, since money can easily be arranged through corruption or tax evasion. The only people left behind are the salary class individuals.

Asif Mar 03, 2017 11:53am

What a waste.

OvaIS Mar 03, 2017 02:54pm

These so called "videographers" covered the wedding of my nephew for over 1 Million rupees and returned back photographs after delaying it for 1 year after much threats ,persuasion, debate and real bad taste. Justification debate apart , these recently mushroomed photographers are completely unprofessional towards handling of customers. The work they do.. is really not worth the amount they charge.

Tariq, Lahore Mar 04, 2017 03:59pm

Modest, celebrations should be the key and even those who can afford those ostentatious weddings should resist the temptations.!

parveez Mar 04, 2017 10:46pm

Attended a wedding in Pakistan, could not believe 7 cameramen, 2 daroon cameras. One of the body cameras,one director.

I could not believe all the fuss.

The cost over 10 lakah

Nasiroski Mar 04, 2017 11:02pm

Absolute waste of money, no different from literally flushing money down the toilet.

kerala Mar 05, 2017 07:45pm

@XoF We are also not proud of sharing our film industry ,water etc with you guys too.

A. Khan Mar 06, 2017 05:44am

A complete waste of money. Hardly anyone watches all the old shaadi videos once the food has been digested. Unfortunately, people have a lot of money to burn and rather than donate it for a worthy cause, spend it on making videos of people eating, dancing or just sitting around doing f-all has become the fashion. Oh yes, did I mention the more it costs, the more your status is enhanced among your coffee circle.


Gharib khan Mar 06, 2017 09:53am

Just the video costs could get 10 poor girls married just shows the extremes in our society sad but true.