Indian Wedding Food Menu by Event | Ultimate Guide (Final Buffet Choices)
Updated: Apr 17
Ajay Manaktala is an Indian Wedding expert who is also quite the foodie. Having attended or worked over 1000 North Indian and South Indian weddings, he knows all about wedding catering, food selection, sample menus and Gujarati/Jain/Punjabi/NRI/Western tastes.
He's also a most viewed writer on Quora about Big Fat South Asian anything. In this post he'll give you FINAL BUFFET MENU SELECTIONS you can use for your Sangeet, Reception, etc...
Finalizing your Big Fat Wedding Menu choices?
It's confusing right!?!
In this post I'm going to tell you the Indian or Pakistani food items you need at every wedding buffet, especially for events in the USA although it applies anywhere!
Whether you're having a vegetarian or super non-veg wedding, or just overwhelmed for choices from your hotel and catering teams, my goal with this post is to educate you about a buffet for about 300 people.
You can then reduce or increase your items accordingly.
JUST TELL ME WHAT I NEED FOR 200 PEOPLE!
Many caterers send you their entire menu, say "Yes madam we can do it all" and then expect you to pick the 29 items you need out of 300.
AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FO DAT!
Show me a menu of how many dals or rice or breads or meats are required and let me adjust!
WE GOT YOU FAM!
Hotels make a killing on over ordering to be safe during wedding season (they'll scare you good on running out of food) and also, food wastage in our celebrations is a massive problem.
So lets get educated to finalize some menus!
WHY FOOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN INDIAN WEDDING
I need to tell you something, and don't take it personally. You and your hubbie are important obviously also...but....
Food is arguably the most important thing at most South Asian and Indian weddings.
Ask any wedding planner, and despite the fireworks and helicopter for your baraat, people will love/hate/remember your wedding based on the food.
Yes they are there for you and they love you, but food is love also right?
And you love your guests don't you?
Indians Love their Home Tastes and your function has to be a celebration of that culture.
My own mother has let me know this many times.
Despite taking her out for a $100 Italian/Sushi/Thai/Mexican dinner, she'll always go home and have yellow dal/rice.
It's frustrating but it's part of the Indian experience.
As such, when you plan your wedding, remember that while it's cool you have all that fusion food ( gelato, sushi, waffles, rolls, etc.), crazy drinks and fancy desserts...some people still need the traditional Indian staples.
But have that waffle and gelato and coconut water bar also, yum!
Considering the very low extra marginal cost at any buffet, try to make sure you include the following items.
Indian Wedding Must Have Food or Catering Items
When selecting your main items, remember...overlap is the enemy.
You wouldn't have a Thai Chicken Red Curry AND a Thai Shrimp Red Curry, because they'll feel too similar with white rice.
Instead, have 1-2 different curry items, two or three different veggie stir fry items, one dal or two, etc.. Whichever dal you didn't use in the Mehendi, use that in the Sangeet, and then something else on the reception, etc.. It's ok to have repeats on the 3rd day, nobody will notice as some dishes are just staple.
Main Courses (Veg then Non Veg)
1. Yellow Dal (Lentils)
It's cheap, it goes with rice and roti and any guest above 35 will be looking for it. It's also not as heavy so they guests can keep drinking/dancing and a safe option always for vegetarians.
YES, YOU NEED IT.
2. Black Dal (More Lentil)
Punjabis love it, it's great during cold weather, it feels a bit more substantial than yellow dal and it packs a punch.
Again, great for vegetarians and people from the homeland. Your white friends will probably shy away from it unless you explain it's kind of like refried beans but not.
3. An Aloo (Potato) Item
We're getting to the chicken, don't worry.
But aloo (potato) is what gives the meal that "fullness" factor and packs a punch in every bite.
If you just had dal you'd get those "they didn't care about us looks."
Potato, Eggplant, Paneer (cheese kind of like a tofu), Okra (bindi) and others are the veggie items that look solid are the ones that really draw the crowds and get the aunties nodding in approval.
That being said, generally one potato item is enough, unless you have one stir fry/dry item, and one with a curry.
PRO TIP: Don't let your caterer try to pull a fast one on you either and make sure no two dishes overlap with gravy/sauces/flavors. (e.g. Chicken Tikka Masala and Fish Tikka Masala..same gravy, just different meat.)
I SAY THIS OVER AND OVER!
4. A Paneer Kadhai (spicy curry) or Paneer Tikka Masala (creamy curry)
Non Vegetarian Items
Vegetarians, feel free to skip below to sample menus.
I've not added pictures because I'm hungry and I don't want to ruin my diet as I write this.
But the standard North Indian wedding food menu list is below:
1. Tandoori Chicken
2. Chicken Tikka Masala
(if your family is cool with Non-Veg, Chicken is always the safest option as pork/beef not everybody will eat and seafood has allergic complications).
This is the one dish your white friends already know, and probably the one dish you can repeat across your Sangeet and Reception (if doing a buffet at the reception).
3. Fish or Prawn Curry (with allergy warnings)
4. Lamb Curry
5. Beef and Pork
Unless you're all Christian or not relgious, I would try to avoid in case somebody eats the wrong thing.
Praful Bhai chomping into a piece of bacon is the worst drama that we see at Indian weddings, as we said in our Gujarati wedding guide.
1. Small Cute Samosas (fried pastry with veggies or meat inside)
2. Chat Counter (older people love it)
3. Chicken and/or Fish Tikka
4. Egg Rolls
1. Garlic Naan, Plain Naan, Roti, Kulcha.
For the Americans, that's like saying Tortilla, Tostada, Soft Taco, Hard Taco, Gordita, etc.. It's just bread with different textures.
2. Rice (White Rice and Jeera Rice)
3. Biryani (not super required at Hindu weddings, big for Muslim weddings).
Plain White Rice or Jeera Rice
At least two Indian desserts, although you should aim for 4-5. (Gulab Jamun)
Yogurt (for the older folks digestion)
Sample Food Menu for the Wedding Ceremony Lunch
Here is a sample menu from a real wedding for which there would be 150 guests before the ceremony. Those lunches are generally 100% vegeterian. As you can see, there is about 5-6 starters, 5-10 main courses and breads/rices, and 3-4 dessert options.
Sample Food Menu for the Sangeet
CONCLUSION AND FINAL THOUGHTS
I know the above might feel complicated, but trust me, with food, it's about thinking of your guests, having variety and not repeating dishes.
For guests in America and foreign guests, have a few western items like Pizza and Pasta in case the stuff is too spicy for them or a lot of them aren't adventurous to try it out.
If you'd like even more exhaustive menus do let us know!
I know it sounds like I'm being unreasonable...nobody does a Beverly Hills Wedding and has dal? We need Sushi and crazy quinoa brown rice salmon risotto right?
You can have all that but in addition...and trust me...just do it with the traditional stuff.
Got questions for the food choices at your Indian wedding? Make sure to hit us up for your free 10-minute ask us anything consultation today!