100+ Best Indian Wedding Tips!
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Grab some coffee! This is a long one!
We have spent the last 20 years DJ'ing and planning Indian weddings across Los Angeles, Orange County, a good chunk of the USA and even Mexico, Thailand and India.
From small weddings in restaurants when we first started out to a million dollar gala in places like Pelican Hill, we’ve seen it all and then some.
The wedding planning process is stressful enough and the Indian wedding planning process is a whole other level.
So since you might be feeling all over the place, we thought we’d join you and jot down 103 tips about literally ANYTHING Indian wedding related.
Let’s do this!
Indian Wedding Planning
Make your Guest list before you do anything. Your guest list determines who is likely to come and from where. That way you can figure out the best location, and then best hotel, and best vendor, etc…
Finalize your guest list a month after he proposes, and then plan your wedding within a year of that.
If your wedding is above 150 people, yes, hire a wedding planner!
Most wedding planners will charge between $10,000 USD and $20,000 but they will likely save you more money with their connections and ideas.
Ask your planner what they will do, and what they won’t do. Your planner will not help you shop for outfits or talk to tailors in India. They will fight with the hotel if they know they're taking costing liberties.
Make sure your vendors, whether video, photography, planners or makeup are all active on Instagram. Why wouldn’t you want to hire someone who is proud of their work?
If your wedding planner takes longer than a day to call you back, that’s not a deal breaker, but be mindful of that! If he or she also keeps saying “sorry I was with a client” that might be a warning sign.
If when you do meet your wedding planner who never seems to have their phone, and all they’re doing is being on their phone...well, you might want to switch them out.
India is not as cheap as you think anymore, for big fat weddings in Udaipur or Designer outfits. Shaadi business is big business! (Ok sorry, uncle joke!)
Remember major sporting events, holidays, Chinese New Year and Diwali.
WhatsApp Invites are preferred. I suggest you use them, nobody really pays attention to physical invites anymore. If you must, print out 20 for close friends who would kick up a fuss.
Want cash as gifts but don’t know how to say it? Try saying “No gifts, only blessings” in your invite and then have a box for “cards” at your wedding.
Ensure your hashtag is NOT CONFUSING!!! Was it #MeetThePatel or #MeetThePatels (plural) or #MeetPatels2019? I forgot?! Then all your images on social media will be scattered. Finalize it early and plaster it all over the place consistently.
Hotel for your Shaadi
Don’t pick a hotel that is too spread out. You’ll have old people who can’t do an “easy five minute walk” in the heat and don’t want to wait 15 minutes for a hotel buggy to take them back and forth.
Never agree on your hotel’s first contract.
Always ask your hotel for more stuff, like dry cleaning, free breakfasts, late checkouts, extra discounted room for your vendors, etc.. Hotels can always bake more things into your big $50,000 to $200,000 contract but they don’t want to reduce that amount. But they won’t risk if you simply ask them to waive that $200 bottle of wine you got carried away with and ordered during room service.
Remember that sunrise hotel and sunset hotel mean exactly that. You don’t get a nice sunset by your mandap if you have a sunrise hotel facing the east coast!
Ask your hotel if they do Indian catering, and if they, you should do a tasting of at least 10 items. If they do Indian catering, you can cancel any outside Indian catering as you’ll need to use this expense to meet your hotel spend requirements.
Don’t use hotel towels during your henna and mehndi, they will charge you almost $1,000 to replace big luxurious towels or bath robes.
Look into your hotels Instagram location and scroll down until you find pictures of other Indian weddings. Feel free to DM those folks and ask them about what they paid, how the experience was, etc..
If you expect 300 people at your Sangeet, you can do a buffet for 200 and have a few live station counters like a noodle bar, satay bar, teppanyaki, etc.. if your hotel or catering offers that.
Hotels rarely run out of food and you can change all of this a day or two before if you’re really worried about another 100 people.
Try to find hotels that are already heavily decorated so you don’t need to splurge too much!
If you find a ballroom where the ceilings are extremely high, your decoration will look a bit thin, so try to find a ballroom with lower ceilings! The sound will also carry a lot more as well!
Will your hotel allow a horse or elephant or even a BMW in the courtyard to drive up to your wedding area? All things you need to check!
Do you have a Plan B for rain backup venues?
Outfits - Ladies
If you’re traveling to India a few times before your wedding, please get your outfits from there.
For your mehndi, wear something colorful.
For your sangeet, wear something royal. Blues and Gray’s are ok.
For your wedding lehenga, remember any budget is fine and nobody ever told a bride her outfit was too plain or not pretty. You will look gorgeous.
Designer gals who have the budget to burn, remember most girls do Sabyasachi for the wedding itself and will do Manish Malhotra for the reception. Sangeet you can do something custom yourself!
Don’t buy online from India unless you trust the tailor and website and know the fabric quality by hand.
If you want to make something custom for all your bridesmaids, try looking on Amazon as you may get the same effect than asking someone in Cerritos or New Jersey to do it and spending $2000 just on 15 of those outfits.
Bridal Lehengas and headgear are INSANELY heavy, so you will be tired after about 20 minutes. Plan accordingly.
Outfits - Men
Wear a different, stylish Kurta, that would cost around $100 to for your Baraat. A lot of clueless grooms just get a nice sherwani and think they’re sorted. NO NO NO. You’re going to sweat about 4 pounds during your baraat and then you are going to look all kinds of flustered when sitting in the mandap while your wife looks spotless.
Do not just buy a simple black or solid color outfit and think you’re done. It’s your wedding, you can be creative, unique, and get out there! Black is safe and looks great..but this should ideally be the one time in your life you spend more than you ever have on an outfit. I mean if not now, then when? Even if it’s not you, that’s fine. But the last thing you want is your cousin or best friend showing up and it’s hard to tell who the groom is because you’re not even the fanciest dressed one! Trust me I hate dressing up also but you’ll be happy when you’re walking down the aisle and KNOW you’re the best dressed with the threads!
On that note, try to pick a place for your mandap where after your Baraat, you can quickly go change or freshen up into your wedding sherwani!
Yes, I know you’re busy at KPMG or Accenture or Goldman Sachs and you have a big fancy finance or tech job. But trust me, you’re going to overpay for whatever you get in California. If you CAN afford the time to go to India for a week or two six months before your wedding, get a KILLER outfit done with silks/fine garments that will cost probably 70% of what you’d spend in America but be TWICE AS AWESOME.
Ask your wife to help you decide on your outfit. It’s going to be important for her that you both sort of match on each event (sangeet, mehendi, wedding, etc..).
Buy your parents clothes if you can afford it, and if your parents say “I’ll just wear this old thing or that” they’re just being first generation humble and simple. Let your mom feel like a princess to take her to Cerritos or Hicksville or wherever your big India town is. I also know many grooms take their mom to India for wedding shopping and it’s also quite emotional for the mom as it’s a bonding experience with her son. Enjoy it!
If you want to make something custom for all your groomsmen, try looking on Amazon as you may get the same effect than asking someone in Cerritos or New Jersey to do it and spending $2000 just on 15 of those outfits.
Dances and Sangeet
Use a virtual choreographer like Priya or Pooja (above) or just Google or Instagram #bollywodoChoreography who will charge you for a front facing and back facing dance video which you can then just send to your friends. They'll then be practiced and ready to go and you won't waste precious time rehearsing at your wedding!
Keep your Sangeet dances in total below an hour. If your Sangeet is more than 300 people than keep it down to 45 minutes.
Remember that even a 2 minute dance will have a total time of five minutes to set up, hug everybody after their dance, and just enjoy the moment.
Many brides change for their own sangeet dances, you can too if it gives you more flexibility.
If your parents don’t want to dance, at least factor something easy at the end for them to simply join and clap with you at the end!
Don’t add last minute dances! Nobody ever practices on time!
Ask your DJ for song suggestions.
Make sure your emcee or DJ has a sheet a day before that lists:
all the dances,
the order they’re in
How people are related to the bride or groom (e.g. cousins, college friends, etc..)
Food and Catering
Indian food will be needed at your wedding. You can’t get 300 Indian or Desi people together and think mashed potatoes and spaghetti is all it takes. People like their home tastes so if you’re able to, please do it.
I’ve seen million dollar weddings where everything was great but aunties and grandma’s looked so upset to eat an alfredo bland veg pasta.
Use separate counters for vegetarian and meat, always. Or keep the meat at it’s own table. Some kid will mix the spoons and then Praful Bhai from Ahmedabad will chomp on a piece of shrimp and it will kill your whole mood on your special event.
Have Jain counters (2-3 items is enough) if you need to.
For destination weddings, always bring about 200 masala chai tea bags for people who might not like hotel tea or coffee in Hawaii or Mexico. These are LIFE savers and steal the show, and cost a few bucks.
Yes we like it spicy, but remember the white people and try to keep some neutral flavors. Anyways, the kids might want pizza or spaghetti as well so you’ll kill two birds with one stone here.
Remember not to eat something if it risk spoiling your white dress or white shirt. This happens at weddings all the time and it’s so sad! Even a spill of ice cold whiskey can be a bummer on a $400 white dress shirt.
If you’re not having alcohol, let it be known on the invite as soft drinks and refreshments and tell your rager friends beforehand.
Try not to drink during your baraat, you’re about to enter a religious ceremony even if your friends try to make you guzzle a few sips.
Remember, sometimes unlimited alcohol is actually not a good decision, say for example at welcome Mehendi. It’s hot, it’s a brunch time affair...you should turn the bar off by 4PM so people have enough time to chill out and rest up before the 8-9PM sangeet (and are also sober again to do their dances!)
Bar placement is HUGE. If you have a massive ballroom and can do it, please keep the bar inside the ballroom. Otherwise you keep losing your crowd to the outside bar area from the dance floor, and lose them again to people who want to be on the balcony smoking or mingling. And then your dance floor and all your pictures look empty!
Don’t buy the cheapest bar package but don’t buy the most expensive. Black Label and mid-shelf is fine, I’ve never EVER seen anyone complain there was no Gold Label or Blue Label at the bar. Although one bottle in your private bride/groom suite aint bad!
Your decor is going to be your biggest expense after your hotel and catering.
Try to find a decorator who has worked at the venue you selected beforehand and ask them for pictures and quotes.
Decorators use mood boards, so feel free to ask them to send you some as a proposal. Many decorators however will not put together mood boards for fear that you’ll just take their work and ideas and then send that to someone new or cheaper. So give a little, take a little, and deposits are normal practice.
If you’re unsure and are all over the place, like…”I want Taj Mahal meets the Avengers” and have no idea anymore, let your decorator offer their suggestions and trust the process.
A good decorator will push back and tell if you an idea is bad. So if you say you want 500 roses and then black wedding dress ideally your decorator should show their apprehension. So test them to make sure they are honest.
A bad decorator will tell you their sending the mood board on Friday and then still haven't or even replied to your email by the following Friday. Yes we know the wedding is like 5 months away but they should communicate since you’re going to pay them a bit more than a luxury vehicle.
Some people spend $1200 to decorate one table of ten people with crazy chandelier centerpieces and more. All of this is nice but if you’re low on budget you can always reduce decor over food. There are marginal gains beyond a point for luxury decor.
A few grooms do a helicopter baraat once in a while but please, if you do, don’t do it near the decor because all of that stuff will get blown away and you’ll be out $10,000 more.
Find a photographer who takes pride in their Instagram and social media.
Go for somebody who has covered Indian events. If you take a Hawaii hotel wedding photographer that person will have no clue what the Baraat is or to focus on the groom’s mother-in-law when the baraat arrives.
A 300 person wedding will need about 2 photographers just for the families and another 2 for all the crowd. Those people want their photos too!
Most photography companies who are good at what they do will charge about $5,000 to $8,000 per day. Some charge more.
You’re event is costing your family around $20,000 per hour. DO NOT DISAPPEAR FROM YOUR RECEPTION FOR ONE WHOLE HOUR TO DO PORTRAITS! It’s better you do this the next day and get to wear your one-time outfits again anyways. Or just do it for five minutes.
Ask your photographer for images the same day or next day. If you’re keeping them at your hotel all 3 days they should be able to do this. So you can at least post a few on the same day.
Portraits are great, but as someone who has been to multiple weddings and super close to many more, I guarantee you the real joy is seeing all 3000 pictures of your friends and close friends having an awesome time WITH YOU!
Photographers take between 3 to 6 months to turn around the photos. Make sure you get a clear answer from your photographer so your expectations are set early!
Try to bundle pre-wedding and post wedding shoots with your photo team!
Your part time photography friend who is also invited to your wedding? Unless you only want photos of close family, I would let him/her enjoy the wedding. Otherwise you will likely only get 100 photos from the whole weekend considering all the other expenses, you’ll regret that you didn’t get great shots of all your friends.
Most Indian wedding DJs come with lighting packages. Prices range from $15,000 for a Mehendi/Sangeet/Wedding/Reception package to more realistic ranges of $25,000 to $50,000 depending on your requirements.
If you have a live band you’ll likely need another $5,000 to $10,000 in equipment rentals.
DJ’s need to be insured with the venue otherwise a speaker that blows a circuit at the hotel is going to be on you. However they will line item the day’s insurance with you.
DJ’s company now have crews of 5 to 10 people and full on cargo trucks, so meal,fuel, etc.. is all as per expense.
When in doubt, garba.
Ensure your DJ offers an emcee service, and don’t rely on your friend to MC as he/she may get too drunk or simply want to enjoy catching up with his college friends also and disappear for a smoke and now your grand entrance is delayed 5 minutes while we go chase him down.
Ensure your DJ company is active on social media so you can see how much passion and creativity they have for the job.
As with a wedding planner or decorator, your DJ should challenge you if you want him/her to play techno when all the folks from Gujarat or Calcutta are on the dance floor enjoying the Bollywood and rocking out.
Bollywood unites everybody, please only skip it if it’s really bothering you or your nobody is dancing. By the way, your non-Indian friends from work or school love Bollywood, they hear everything else at all the other weddings they've been to. Don't believe us? See what happens when your Dhol player starts playing in the middle of a song on the dance floor. There smiles will light up!
Remember, your whole wedding year culminates on that dance floor. Enjoy it and don’t get too drunk.
Please please please use a Dhol player. It’s the X factor these days to make sure all your friends have a good time, and first time Indian wedding goers go mad for it.
Professional Bollywood singers for your Indian wedding, from India, will charge around $25,000 to $50,000 to play at your event in the US. Plus expenses, visas, etc.. Many also don’t get visas and then you might be out a deposit so tread carefully.
Ask your DJ for a mobile baraat system and also if they have any custom baraat mixes.
Videographers are great but many of us don’t do this full time so it’s hard to be creative on camera. That’s fine.
A good videographer will ask you questions and warm you up. “So, how’d you meet your fiance?” or “How does it feel, everybody is here for you?” Think of it as light therapy and go with it.
Video guys charge like $5,000 for an event or wedding plus editing.
Your video person should ask you questions before they agree to take on your event, so they have a storyline in mind.
A good litmus test for a video person is that if you can watch any of their prior work, of complete strangers you don’t know, and still tear up or feel heart felt emotion they know how to weave a decent story together and will likely do the same for you!
Your video person should also know about things like the haldi ceremony, the mandap, the grand entrances, the saat fere (seven fires), and more Indian or Hindu wedding customs so they can capture all these moments as they’re happening.
Make sure your video person doesn’t use copyrighted music (e.g. Usher, Drake, Bollywood) otherwise you’re not going to be able to put that on YouTube, it will get taken down!
Video takes 4 to 6 months also to get post your wedding, and ask your video person for a same day edit so you can at least play that during your reception. You want a 2-3 minute cut, a 9 minute cut for online distribution for your friends and a 20 to 45 minute cut for your own private viewing.
MUA’s rely on Instagram and YouTube to market themselves, so if your person doesn’t have a strong presence here, then no.
Typically the bride will hire the main makeup artist and that person may work out a package to do the brides sister and mother.
Then another make up artist is hired to do the other ladies in the extended family!
The Final Tip
Wow, we did it! After 20 years in the business, this is a LOT of our core expertise with Indian weddings listed out here for your. Print it, read it, listen to it dictated while you’re working it, let us know if we made any typos, but do what you gotta do!!
This list should save you a lot of headaches and money down the road if you apply it properly!
But there is one final tip I have to tell you.
All the planning, all the luxury, all the money and expenses and photography won't matter unless you do one thing....be present.
I see so many luxury weddings where everything is top notch but the bride and groom just feel stressed about the next thing or the next 20 people they have to meet.
Meditate, breathe, do yoga months before your wedding...whatever you gotta do...just be present when it's showtime and your presence will be the X factor in an amazing wedding for you and your loved ones!
Please do let us know if this post helped, we spent a week putting it together and arguing amongst ourselves on what to include and what might have just seemed obvious! We would love your comments/tweets below or on social media!
For folks in California and neighboring states, if you need expert Indian Wedding DJ and Lighting, please do give us a buzz!
Have a wonderful big fat wedding!