How to Start Indian Wedding Planning (2023-2024)
Updated: Dec 10, 2022
Just got engaged and unsure how to start the Indian wedding planning process? You probably know what you need to do to find a hotel and decorator, but I have a surprise for you.
Did you know the ORDER in which you do a few other seemingly "simpler" things is EXTREMELY important so you don't make any costly mistakes?
Lucky for you, you're in the right place!
In this post I'll first share the checklist with you and then explain all the details and rationale behind it, so you understand the thought process after years of experience. We're the leaders in DJ/Sound/Lighting/Planning in Indian wedding productions and we see bride and grooms and families all the time go through these things. Order of execution for your Indian wedding planning is important.
Even though I'm the DJ and Lighting guy, you need not focus calling on me a year ahead. You have bigger fish to fry FIRST when you plan your Gujarati or Punjabi or South Indian shaadi!
Atul Gawande (checklist manifesto) ain't got nothing on this bro!
As experts in the industry who do 100 Indian weddings in America a year, we're happy to share this checklist you can use to get some semblance of sanity in this seemingly stressful time. These are the FIRST STEPS you have to take after they propose, because most planning checklists are either too granular or not granular enough.
But they're plenty of super exhaustive ones out there.
The 5 REAL First Steps to Planning Your South Asian Shaadi
Planning a wedding is a joyous occasion, but can also be stressful and anxiety inducing. And planning an Indian wedding, especially the typical “Big Fat Indian Wedding” can be chaotic and a lot of wasted effort if you don't prioritize what you need to do 1st, 2nd, 3rd, et..
Everybody talks about the things you need to do, but we want to explain WHY YOU NEED TO DO THEM IN THIS ORDER, so you understand how you can minimize planning stress later.
As professionals who speak to new couples everyday we thought we’d give you THE five tips to think about as you get started on this fun journey. Also, since your non-Indian friends are going to ask you 1000 questions the next six months, preempt the stress by having them read up on modern traditions before hand.
1. Who Are You Inviting To Your Indian wedding?
Most couples think about the hotel and decorator first, then look to finalize everybody in their circle and send out invites and save-the-dates.
Generally, your wedding guestlist of who to invite to your wedding will comprise of people like:
People from work,
high school friends,
grad school friends
family friends they knew years ago but lost touch with
We completely understand this process is tedious, especially as your father or mother are not giving you direct answers on who they might want to call, relationships strain over the years, and people are busy (*cough* lazy *cough*) to give you a reply, until a week before they say "Hey man I can make it!"
BUT YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT YOUR GUESTLIST SO YOU CAN FIGURE OUT THE REST OF YOUR WEDDING! Here's why..
What will you do if your dad's brother or mom's cousin can't travel to America because they fumbled their visa interview? (happens all the time)
Or your Pakistani best friend can't come to India?
Or that boat cruise in Maui is going to be wasted effort if grandma's wheelchair has a tough time on the ocean?
Finalizing your guest list is your top-down approach to Indian wedding planning, where it's almost more about the guest's sometimes than it is about us!
Who are you going to invite, and who are you not going to invite?
What’s the average age going to be?
Where are most of the guest’s going to be from?
India? Pakistan? Sri Lanka? Bangladesh?
America only? NRIS or second generation?
TAKE 2-4 WEEKS TO FIGURE YOUR GUEST LIST. This will determine the first MAJOR decision. (step 4).
All of this matters as a FIRST STEP before you go into thinking about the DJ, the venue, the food, and so on. A lot of couples plan their dream wedding in some remote island, only later to realize it’s a huge problem for senior citizens to be comfortable getting to. Or people from India won't get a visa, or it's 5 extra plane rides and will be an issue for grandma. Or the very people they thought would enjoy a boat wedding aren't coming, or if they are they get sea sick!
So before you do ANYTHING, simply make a spreadsheet with the following columns:
Email (you’ll need it later)
As you carry on the process, you’ll make other columns like “Sent Save the Date?” or “Sent Invite?” or “Room Booked” and so on.
Indian Wedding Planning Timeline Infographic.
2. When Is Your Wedding?
What’s the pros and cons of this decision?
December is expensive for flights,
and Febuary is peak for Chinese New Years (which again, has affects on flights) for Desi weddings in South East Asia.
Let’s not forget Diwali and the fact that in India, there is some festival or the other every 3-4 weeks.
Make sure you cross reference:
major sporting events,
birthdays of key family members,
and in some communities the astrology based on names/birthdays and other data
TAKE 3-4 WEEKS TO FIGURE OUT DATES THAT WORK FOR EVERYONE, THEN LATER YOU CAN PLAN CITY, HOTEL, ETC..
3. Food is Probably More Important than you think.
I’ve seen million dollar weddings go haywire because somebody found a piece of shrimp in their veggie paneer item.
I’m not saying that is what your wedding has to worry about, but ask any South Asian Wedding planner and they’ll agree…if the food isn’t up to the mark, no amount of lights and alcohol and fireworks and helicopters is going to stop that chatter.
Different people come to your weddings for different reasons. Some like to party it up, others pay attention to the speeches, and generally most people over 40 want to wish you well, eat well and carry on with their lives.
Six must-have buffet items at every Indian wedding.