Wealthy outsiders looking to celebrate big weddings away from prying eyes in their own countries can count on Swiss discretion.
The upmarket Swiss resort town of St Moritz had seen nothing like it before. The scale and pageantry surrounding the wedding celebrations of a super-rich Indian family in June even made it into the local mediaexternal link. Around 700 guests were flown in and accommodated in five different hotels for a week of festivities. The traditional procession of the groom saw the wedding contingent take over the streets of the ski resort town dancing to the tunes of a brass band from Britain costing £5,000 (CHF6,528) a day.
The festivities continued into the night, illuminated by 25 Swarovski crystal chandeliers brought in from the Netherlands at a cost of €25,000 per day. An indoor tennis court complex was converted into a dance hall to fit all the wedding guests under one roof and celebrity entertainers like Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Indian rapper Badshah were flown in to perform for the crowd. It is estimated that the final bill for the nuptials amounted several million Swiss francs.
Besides the food, drink, entertainment and accommodation the wealthy Indian family organising the event was also paying for privacy. Despite the public nature of some of the festivities, the name of the couple who tied the knot could not be found in the press or even on social media.
Initial investigations into their identities were met with a brick wall of silence.
“I am sorry, but we do not provide names of guests out of respect for their privacy,” Nina Pongracz of the Engadine St Moritz tourism board told swissinfo.ch.
“I cannot share any information as I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement with the client,” said Shilpa Sukumar, a Swiss-based event planner who specialises in Indian weddings.
Hotels hosting the wedding guests had similar responses. Privacy trumped publicity and identifying the Indian family took hours of journalistic detective work.
The big spender turned out to be Rajiv Kumarexternal link, whose Dharampal Satyapal conglomerate (DS Group) is known for its Rajnigandha betel nut and chewing tobacco products in India. He was splashing the cash for his son Rohan Kumar’s wedding bash. With a company turnover of over CHF1 billion in 2015, the elder Kumar is an important corporate figure in India and the Indian press would likely have picked up on the wedding if it had been celebrated in India.
“Privacy is very important for our guests and they usually ask for high confidentiality,” says Silvia Kostner of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina, one of the wedding venues used for the Kumar family wedding.
To minimise any risk of paparazzi intrusion or being outed by a smartphone-wielding onlooker, publicity-shy super-rich guests can also opt for smaller venues.
“As a small hotel of only 57 rooms and suites, we suggest the entire palace as exclusive property to these clients, so that they ‘own’ it during their stay in Switzerland. Privacy is also an important aspect and confidentiality one of the factors for choosing us,” says Tomas Pedroni of Le Grand Bellevue Hotel in Gstaad.
Apart from the confidentiality, wealthy clients appreciate that there are enough things for their guests to do in Switzerland to make it worth the trip.
“Wedding couples often organise an activity package for several days,” says Claudia Jann of the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St Moritz.
The minimum one can expect to spend on such a wedding is a “few hundred thousand francs”, according to Sukumar. The amount of work required to put together a lavish Indian wedding in Switzerland means she can only organise three or four a year. Apart from fulfilling a complicated brief, wedding planners for the super-rich must also be prepared to satisfy spur-of-the-moment requests.
“One of our clients decided in the morning that over a hundred of his guests would like to take a chartered flight for a shopping trip to Milan,” Sukumar recalled. “Unfortunately, instead of a chartered flight they had to compromise and settle for some luxury coaches but they did get to shop in Milan and return for the party in the evening.”