By Nadeem Badshah
MORE British Asians are not letting the coronavirus lockdown ruin their love lives as dating and marriage services have seen a boom in people signing up.
The “love lockdown” is over in some households, as websites and mobile apps have registered an increase in people turning to video calls to meet potential partners.
Website Shaadi.com has seen a 35 per cent to 40 per cent surge in customers and unveiled a video calling feature for premium members, while the MuzMatch app for Muslim singletons had more than 4.5 million minutes of video calls since introducing the feature and passed three million users in July.
Suman Marriage Bureau, which has been running for nearly 48 years, said it has also seen a rise in website traffic and people registering since June.
Parag Bhargava, who runs the bureau in Southall, west London, told Eastern Eye: “There has been positive momentum. With the Rule of 6, one to one meetings can happen at our office or at a Starbucks.
“We are planning to arrange meetings at hotels once the rules are relaxed; we are changing our strategy a bit.
“We have a mobile for clients to make video or WhatsApp video calls. We sent out a few introductions for video calls, it’s still not the best way when compared to face to face (meetings), but you also don’t want to miss opportunities and shut down altogether. Nobody is getting any younger. Weddings and marriages are taking place, six-people-a-side which means couples are forking out less money.”
Recent figures showed dating app Tinder overtook TikTok as the number one non-gaming service for consumer spending globally.
In the UK, Tinder was just second behind streaming service Disney+ for in-app user purchases while dating firm Bumble was ninth.
Chaya Malhotra, from the Matched4Love website, told Eastern Eye: “It has been a tough and frustrating journey for those that are single as many are stuck at home not being able to get out and date.
“So, the dating industry has had to think smart about how we can help those that are single to go on virtual dates.
“When lockdown was strict at the beginning there was the introduction of video dates online and people were having ‘virtual dates’ with a drink or two in their hands, so you can have an evening in the comfort of their own home and get to know that person.”
Malhotra added: “There was also the more larger Zoom speed dating events where you have ‘break out rooms’ and you can meet a number of people from the opposite sex during one evening.
“Then, one step further were the more themed online events. Once lockdown was lifted slightly, singletons were being more inventive, with country walks and picnics in the park.
“All are successful in their own right and some people could argue they were able to get to know each other slowly at their own pace in the comfort of their own homes.”
One wedding trend has been drive-in ceremonies to abide by Covid-19 rules.
Roma Popat and Vinal Patel, both aged 30, let 200 guests attend and watch their four-hour ceremony from their cars in Essex in October.
The pair had a Hindu ceremony in front of a small family gathering at Braxted Park, a 500-acre estate, while friends and relatives watched on big screens from more than 100 cars parked outside. Another 300 guests tuned in via video link from around the world.
Meanwhile, some brides are buying two wedding dresses as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing them to have smaller nuptials and a bigger celebration next year.
The Rock My Wedding firm said the limit of 15 guests for ceremonies resulted in 65 per cent of brides choosing a smaller event now, with a larger celebration planned for 2021.
Bhavna Barratt, an award-winning wedding photographer, said she has seen more creativity among people tying the knot.
She said: “Asian weddings can be large and lavish, and with such big numbers we are having to think out of the box. As you have recently seen the drive-in wedding planned by Saheli Events, which went viral, couples are now looking for lots of ideas where they can include their guests at their special day.
“Many of my couples have resorted to Zoom, and live streaming their wedding day across the globe so that family and friends can be part of the day with them.
“I think the reason such creative wedding day ideas are so popular now is that because you can’t physically have 400 guests at your wedding anymore, why not invite them to join you virtually. And, by doing so, cut the costs at the same time.”
Preea Hayre, head of matrimonial at the Central Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha in London, believes the pandemic has forced some couples to reflect on their reasons for wanting to get hitched.
Hayre said: “Weddings had become all about the pre- and post parties, shoots, and consumerism.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has refocused couples who have married during the restrictions to the essence of their commitment to one another.
“The weddings I have facilitated have been a very special experience because they are marrying because they love each other and have a more intimate gathering.
“There is no need to wait, people want to live the moment.”