Indian Pandit for your Big Fat Indian Wedding | Advice and Choices
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
In this post I'm going to explain how to pick the perfect pandit for your Indian wedding and also how to find the best priest in the USA and North America. Then, I'll give you insights into the awkward topic of how much a Hindu wedding priest costs. Lastly, I'll recommend Indian Pandits across the world.
Welcome to the Big Fat Indian Wedding planning experience!
As you continue your shaadi planning journey, once you figure out big items like the hotel, the decorator, the dj, the food...you'll often start to think about the pandit, or priest for your wedding ceremony.
Ironic isn't it? We are all here for the wedding ceremony itself, but everything surrounding that takes up most of our time!
Well, it's time to change that, and make sure your ACTUAL WEDDING ceremony is the best it can be. And a lot of that has to do with Pandit Ji.
This blog post will also be relevant to people looking for a pandit in Australia, America, Canada or wherever you are outside of India. (If within India I'll assume you have a million options).
Even though we might have pandit family members in our circle, sometimes you want someone different for various reasons.
What is a Pandit?
When you have a traditional Indian or Hindu wedding often times you will need a good hindu priest, also known simply as wedding pandit, or amongst Hindu's simply as "pandit." These days the term wedding officiant is also used.
The pandit is the person who takes you through the ancient Hindu traditions. Most of us who grew up in the states or the west probably got busy with our careers and are a bit rusty on our temple traditions, but your pandit is an expert on doing a proper marriage ceremony.
If you don't know of any pandits, temples get calls and emails all the time asking for a marriage priest so don't be shy, and we also have some references at the bottom of this post.
Pro Tip: Most pandits now also have a short funny wedding ceremony script they offer as Hindu weddings in New Jersey or Los Angeles or Melbourne are increasingly secular and interracial weddings. Try to get one who is a bit cheeky and you will have a great time and so will your guests!
How do I choose a pandit for my wedding?
Hindu priests can be funny, traditional, informative and can make or break your wedding ceremony.
You want someone who knows their stuff (traditional), is professional (courteous and professional) and also someone who will constantly balance the Indians who are bored of their 100th wedding and the non-Indians who are genuinely curious about the customs and paying attention.
A good Indian wedding priest does South Asian weddings monthly and knows how to balance your big day with the customs that are so important to you and your family.
He or she also should also have experience in Gujarati Weddings, Punjabi weddings and/or South Indian weddings, as there is a good likelihood both your families will be from different areas in India (or the world).
Don't compromise on a good pandit! (Yes they do exist).
PRO TIP: Some pandits are a bit "busy" or too formal, and they don't realize that people have varying degrees of interest. They don't need to a professional emcee or comedian, but they should be able to officiate your wedding while also making it interesting for your guests via eye contact, announcements, talking to the crowd and so forth.
Don't want to read and just need to book a Pandit? We have personal relationships with the best Pandits across California, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Australia, Thailand and more.
Finding the Best Pandit in the USA in 2020 Onwards
Indian priests can do it all, and ironically some non-Indian pandits know more than Indian pandit after studying in Himachal or Rajasthan or wherever.
Growing up whenever I attended Hindu weddings I always dreaded the wedding ceremony and hearing 2 hours of chants, also known as the Pheras. You'll also hear the term saat fere which means seven fires, which is when the bride and groom walk around the fire.
It seemed boring, I couldn't understand a word and it always dragged on forever.
I'm happy to report now that just like every other facet of modern society, Desi pandit's have upped their game and are more awesome than ever.
And traditional Hindu wedding priests are now accepting that they should keep your wedding down to about an hour.
Questions and Factors to Find Your Wedding Pandit
1. What languages do they speak?
Sanskrit is generally what the rituals are performed in.
However most pandits will translate this into Hindi and also English. (or often times just English if everybody speaks it).
Make sure your pandit is comfortable in both. Or Gujarati. Or Punjabi. Or Kannada.
You can also printout translations for your guests as well. A good pandit mixes both to keep guests engaged.
2. Are they professional?
I know it sounds kind of silly but you are still paying for a service. Some pandit's are straight uncle/word-of-mouth style and to the point, while others have business cards.
I'll never forget DJ'ing a wedding when I was 18 and the pandit came up to me and said "Hey pass me some gigs bro."His card actually had his website www.desiPandit.com and wouldn't you know it...it's still going. LOL.
Make sure your pandit likes his or her job and asks you questions about how you met, what you both do, has a smile on their face and is generally interested in making this more than just a formal occasion.
Yes you can interview your Pandit if you want to, it is still a business! If it's an extended family member however tread accordingly and maybe your parents can handle it better.
3. Do they have a sense of humor?
People will be laughing, cameras will be everywhere, you might be hungover...one thing that really livens up a Hindu wedding ceremony is a pandit who knows how to keep the atmosphere fun.
Some pandits crack jokes about how you have to take care of her forever...yes FOREVER.
It's not required but it definitely helps. Get a funny pundit! (get it? Pun-Dit). OK BYE.
4. Do they remember to use the mic?
A lot of pandit's forget that beyond the 5 people in the mandap, 200 other people are watching, trying to follow the proceedings and not fall asleep.
Make sure your pandit remembers to engage with the sound system and perhaps even use it to his/her advantage in setting the mood and sharing all the fun parts about Indian culture.
5. Do they offer various services? (Long versus Short programs?)
Indian ceremonies used to last six hours, but now with modern weddings they can be done in under 60 minutes. Make sure your pandit can adapt to these offerings, so that your program doesn't go behind schedule yet all the proper rituals are done. Discuss this with them, have a plan, and have a wonderful life together!
BONUS TIP: As some ceremonies require the use of fire, make sure your hotel is prepared to handle this inline with fire marshal codes!!!
6. How Much Does a Pandit Cost in America?
For a 1-2 hour Hindu wedding ceremony, whether in California or New Jersey, most pandit's will charge between $1000 USD and $3000 USD.
If you're having destination wedding you'll have to add on travel and accommodation.
If your're family friends with the pandit or they're part of your local temple or community, you might simply be asked to "make a donation" similar to the amounts above.
Also, if you're having additional puja's or religious ceremonies as part of your family, you work out a simple package with them.
Chances are however your parents will understand a lot of this and figure it out in "old-school Indian fashion."
7. What Gear do they Bring?
This sounds silly, but your pandit will need all the stuff for the ceremony and ideally not expect you to have it all. This could include:
Religious idols like Ganesh statues and such
Wood to burn for the holy fire
Rice, flowers ,incence
Milk, Ghee, Oils to assist in the process
Turmeric, spices and powders to use during the ceremony, etc.. (red poweder/tikka on the forehead)
Coconuts of a specific kind
8. What if my Pandit is kind of a Family Friend but not close enough to be Invited?
Yeah, I know this is a weird one but we see it all the time. You have this big wedding, maybe even a destination wedding and there is somebody you know, who you want to use as a pandit for the ceremony but you also don't want to host them in a big hotel for 3 days and have them around for the whole thing.
It's actually a very Seinfeld sort of situation.
If you know somebody and are having a local wedding, go ahead and invite/offer them some token amount ($500) since they're also a guest.
If you know somebody not well, but you want them to come officiate your ceremony, if you can afford it, you'll have to invite them for the whole thing. But you can ask them "what days do you want to come and leave?" This also makes it awkward then when you pay for their trip and might have to still pay something. If they're asking for a fee outright however, then it makes sense to fly them in and out just for the service.
If you are still confused what to do, your best bet is to try and find a pandit you don't know and make it simply transactional. The last thing you want is awkwardness during your wedding ceremony!
9. Pandits We Recommend in 2019
We know about 10 pandits we trust/work with across the world who get the crowd involve, so here is just a sample below.
Ping us for a detailed list of good ones as of August 8th, 2019.
Best Wedding Pandits in California
2. Mahesh Bhatt Wedding Officiant
Mail him at awgp24 (Gmail).