No big fat Indian wedding is complete without lots of gold

Story highlights

  • Indian weddings feature huge amount of gold
  • Tradition affects price of gold around the world

'The Silk Road: Past, Present, Future' travels east to west along this ancient trade route, exploring how traditional culture, arts, and trade have developed in the 21st century. This month we explore India.

(CNN)You know a wedding's big when it doesn't just break the bank -- it sways global markets.

There are up to 20 million weddings a year in India, and while no two relationships are the same, all will have one thing in common.
    Gold -- and lots of it. So much of the precious metal in fact, that it can influence the price of gold around the world.
    "No wedding in India is complete without gold," explains Vithika Agarwal, co-founder of Divya Vithika Wedding Planners, in Bangalore.
    "It doesn't matter how rich or poor you are -- you will still own gold according to your status. And because this is a day when you're showing off your prosperity, wealth, and material goods, the amount of gold you're wearing really matters."

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    Indian brides take jewelery to an extravagant new level, dripping in spectacular hair accessories, nose rings, earrings, necklaces and amulets -- "sometimes to the point where you'll see more gold than their face," says Somasundaram PR, managing director of the World Gold Council in India.
    And this tradition is driving the country's huge appetite for gold -- which now accounts for a quarter of global demand.

    India's love affair with gold

    India is the second-biggest consumer of gold in the world (slightly behind China), buying anywhere between 800 and 1,000 tons of the luminous metal every year, according to the World Gold Council.
    "India has a huge impact on the global gold price," says PR.
    "The country's demand is largely in the form of jewelery -- of that, between 50% and 60% is bridal."

    Written in the stars?

    Whether or not you believe love is written in the stars, they still have a huge impact on the number of weddings in India.
    And with the Hindu calendar showing a drop in the number of auspicious dates for weddings this year, there could be consequences for gold markets around the world.

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    "During 2015, one estimates that the number of auspicious dates are 20% fewer than last year -- due to various astrological things," explained PR.
    "These kinds of things do affect prices, because the world expects India to have around 20 million weddings and to buy a minimum of 800 tons of gold. So everything that affects particular trends does have an impact on the gold price -- to that extent, the households that conduct marriages have a huge impact on the global price."

    'No gold, no wedding'

    Indeed, Indian weddings are often so large, that families sometimes start saving decades in advance.
    It's not uncommon to see between 3,000 and 6,000 guests in celebrations lasting at least three days, says Agarwal.
    Her company specialises in upper middle class weddings where families "might spend upwards of $200,000." That could include over $3,000 for a bridal sari featuring real gold thread.
    "Indian families save up all their lives for a wedding," added her business partner and also a former beauty queen, Divya Vithika. "They start investing in gold from a very young age of their daughters -- it's so that she has enough gold to wear, to take with her, to always have as security."
    "As they say: 'No gold, no wedding.'"

    Gold is a girl's best friend

    The golden tradition dates back to a time when property laws favored the groom, explains PR.
    "Land, buildings, they always went to the son," he said. "So when people had to give something to the daughter, they would always share their wealth in the form of gold.
    "Now everyone has equal rights, but the tradition still continues."
    Much like the luster of gold itself, it's a tradition that doesn't appear to be fading anytime soon.