The Indian city of Udaipur is not alone in calling itself the Venice of the east. Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Kampong Ayer, Alleppey, Suzhou, Osaka and even Basra in Iraq have all laid claim to the likeness and the label, which has become about as weary as a gondolier in July. In Udaipur, however, the comparison seems credible. With two lakes lapping at its stepped ghats, grand palaces fringing the shores and a room of Venetian stained-glass windows in the City Palace, there are physical comparisons to Venice here but, mostly, there is the love. Udaipur is drenched in romance and is known as India's wedding capital. The internet is awash with travel agencies offering Udaipur-based nuptials. 'There are 200 to 300 weddings in town at the moment,' the owner of my hotel says; it's the start of the marriage season. In the evenings it sounds as though at least half of them are taking place outside my room window as a soundtrack of fireworks, music, song and car horns plays in the streets. One marriage is overshadowing them all this weekend, dominating the wedding gossip in this Rajasthani city. A Mumbai arms dealer is to be wed in Lake Palace, the island palace-turned-hotel that is Udaipur's most romantic location, and members of the Russian mafia are alleged to be among those in town to celebrate. Even at Delhi airport, 600km away, the largest welcome signs hadn't been for luxury hotels but for guests at this wedding. Usually, the quixotic Lake Palace Hotel, which carries much of the responsibility for Udaipur's renown, serves up high-priced (3,000 rupees; HK$580) lunches and dinners to a booked-out crowd of tourists, but today the city is forced to watch it from afar. The place with the best view of proceedings is the City Palace, a colossal structure that makes the Lake Palace look like a toy in the bath that is Lake Pichola. Almost 250 metres long and rising to 30 metres from its position at the cliff edge, the City Palace is Rajasthan's largest. Home to one of the longest royal lineages in the world - the current maharana, or king, is the 76th ruler in the family line - it is at once royal residence, hotel and museum. Its two hotels draw in Udaipur's well-heeled visitors (room rates begin at about US$400) while its labyrinthine corridors and royal chambers are open to visitors who come to admire its many miniature artworks, the exquisite mosaics of the Peacock Courtyard, the Venetian stained glass and the views down onto the Lake Palace, where little appears to be stirring. If there's one person who can out-razzle-dazzle a Mumbai arms dealer, it's a maharana. The royal family continues to live in a private section of the palace and keeps a stable of about 60 horses, nine hotels and a private airport with a couple of charter planes. There's a vintage car collection open to the public and, most demonstrably, there's the Crystal Gallery, inside the Fateh Prakash Palace section of the City Palace. This remarkable collection, housed in what is said to be the finest durbar hall in Rajasthan, owes its presence to Sajjan Singhji, Udaipur's maharana between 1874 and 1884. Infatuated by crystal, he ordered it in bulk from Birmingham, in Britain, to furnish numerous buildings in the planning. Items include a crystal four-poster bed, a lounge suite, a hookah, a foot-rest and coloured fly whisks. Singhji died aged 25, before the arrival of the shipment, which sat unopened for nearly a century. Rediscovered by the current maharana, today all of the items are grouped around the durbar hall's crystal chandeliers, which weigh about 1,000kg each, and a carpet and throne embedded with every type of precious stone found in India. This monument to opulence is also the best place for a Raj-style high tea, which is served daily in the cafe overlooking the Lake Palace. It offers arguably the best view in town - and there is still no movement from the island. Out in the streets and lanes, Udaipur's extravagances fade away into the realities of a functioning city. Beyond the palace gates, Lal Ghat is an area in which shops and shrines jostle for space. It's pleasant just to wander through without real purpose, accepting or rejecting store owners' invitations to view jewellery, miniatures or clothing. Hotel notices recall Udaipur's most famous cinematic moment by advertising nightly screenings of the James Bond flick Octopussy, which was filmed here. By Indian standards it's a low-pressure, laid-back environment. Down at the water's edge at the ghat, dhobis (washerwomen) thump at wet clothes like drummers, surrounded by the largest crowd of pigeons this side of Piazza San Marco. As the sun sets and the full moon rises, Hindu worshippers float lit candles out into the lake, their flames adding to the illuminations from the City Palace. The crackle of fireworks begins early, announcing that another night of wedding celebrations is about to begin. On the street, a bridegroom sits stern-faced on a decorated horse, wedding guests dancing around him, blocking one of Udaipur's main roads. An autorickshaw trails behind the wedding party, carrying a generator to power the chandeliers that are carried by hand to light the procession. For those not in Udaipur to witness a marriage, the whiff of romance remains. Rooftop restaurants are the norm in the city, with eateries trading on the dreamy views over the still quiet Lake Palace. For all the vantage points, however, the restaurant with the finest outlook is at ground level. Near the tip of Hanuman Ghat, opposite the City Palace and Lal Ghat, Ambrai has tables at the water's edge, staring back at the city's lights and across Lake Pichola. It is one of the finest dining positions in India, a place that could induce a proposal even if you didn't intend one. As dinner draws to an end, a fireworks show begins above the Lake Palace. It isn't the first of the night but it is bigger than all the others combined. Dozens of tracers shoot simultaneously into the sky, exploding into bright dandelions of light, illuminating the entire city before blanketing it in cloud. The arms dealer's wedding has finally begun. Getting there: Cathay Pacific ( www.cathaypacific.com ) flies from Hong Kong to Delhi, with Jet Airways ( www.jetairways.com ) flying between Delhi and Udaipur.