Indian Destination Wedding | Ultimate Guide | 2020
Updated: Jan 22
Indian destination weddings are awesome. They're like a high school reunion with people you want to see and usually are 3 day affairs complete with sun, sand, photos, food, booze and beautiful clothes.
Planning an Indian destination wedding, on the hand...can be a different kind of fun.
and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't come to mind when you think of a beach!
The Rise of Destination Indian Weddings
2019 has seen the most we've ever seen, along with the amazing Ranveer-Deepika, Priyanka-Jonas and Ambani-Beyonce Bollywood weddings. There's no more exciting time than wedding season for middle-class Indian families across the world and for good measure.
People who once hung out every day get to catch up, there is plenty of food and drink, love and culture are celebrated and even business deals are struck. But of course if there is one thing Indians are known for across the world, it's our obsessive hospitality.
And you'll never see hospitality more evident than the Big Fat Indian wedding.
There's a joke in Indian wedding planning. Oh you thought the wedding was for you two? No no, it's for your families!
As a result of all the beautiful weddings we see daily on Pinterest, it's no secret that these days newlywed's are constantly looking for the perfect indian destination wedding experience.
Destination South Indian Wedding Locations for 2019
Hawaii (Oahu and Maui and Kauai)
Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Other Mexican Cities
Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Chang Mai)
Sri Lanka (Bentota, excellent value for money these days)
India (Udaipur and Jaipur and Goa)
Bahamas and Caribbeans
Italy (Lake Como thanks to Bollywood)
How Much Does a Destination Indian Wedding Cost?
How much does a big fat destination Indian wedding cost? For 300 people, about $220,000 over 3 days with ALL expenses. Yes you'll save on half the guest-list, but you'll spend a lot more on making sure those who made the trek have a fantastic time. We see it all the time, even if people planned to spend just $85,000.
For example, If a Los Angeles City wedding costs $120,000 for 300 people across 3 days, you'll likely spend the same for 150 people in Oahu or Maui, maybe 5 to 10% more.
You'll probably end up spending the same amount had you had it in Los Angeles or Chicago.
Generally when the father of the bride realizes about 40 of his old medical school friends or family from India are coming, he wants to host them a day early, or rent out a restaurant for dinner to catch up, or spend more time going to beaches, etc..
Factors That Affect Destination Wedding Costs
We have a full guide on Indian wedding costs in US cities here. You can read that, but the main extra destination wedding costs end up being:
Family Hotel Rooms and Family Flights (Many family members want to pay for some or all of their relatives rooms).
Two to three reconnaissance trips to Hawaii/Mexico wherever to figure everything out.
Pre and Post wedding day holidays for close family who wants to spend more time together.
Room hampers which include welcome and goodbye gifts for guests.
Wedding vendors like planners, photographers, DJs and caterers. Even in Phuket you will fly a lot of people in from Bangkok, for example.
Transportation within your destination! (e.g. airport shuttles for everybody, venue transportation).
Season and calendar time of year (aka Chinese New Year will be a rip off in Thailand and December is expensive flights and hotels in India).
Your GUESTLIST has To Be First In Destination Shaadi Planning
Only when you know who is coming and where they'll come from can you then figure out the location. If your mom's sister can't travel to a certain country or sea plane isn't happening for a 86 year old, don't go too far off the grid!
5 Major Mistakes Nobody Tells Destination Wedding Couples (Must Read)
You remember all those jokes about Indian Standard time growing up right? (e.g. If you want them there at 9PM, tell them it starts at 7PM). It's hard enough for get 10 people to be on time to dinner.
How do you ensure doing it for 200 is an enjoyable process? Gujarati and Punjabi and Pakistani and South Indian weddings...they all run on Indian Standard Time!
I've DJ'd over 100 destination weddings and planned about 50, so I understand the nuances of Desi culture, Bollywood music and Indian food that is required when traveling for your destination wedding. As you think about the budget and how much a destination wedding costs...all of these factors will influence your decision.
So many couples find the perfect spot but not the perfect surroundings or situation for THEIR UNIQUE FAMILIES.
So if you're planning a destination Indian wedding please read this first don't make these simple mistakes!
1. BEACH EQUALS HEAT
We often think of that beautiful sunset photo of the bride and groom kissing with the magestic ocean in the background. What we don't see is the 200 guests in blazers and dresses sweating and hungry.
When you plan for a beach wedding, make sure to think about:
the weather and season,
shade versus no shade,
sand in dress shoes
backups for rain
A beautiful wedding is nice but so is being comfortable. Alcohol also dehydrates people in the heat.
Also, make sure your perfect photo is not being photobombed by an oil tanker offshore, other tourists in the sand, and of course spending extra to have shade/mist fans for your guests.
PRO TIP: If your hotel price seems to good to be true, remember a Sunrise hotel won't have a Sunset by your mandap (it's probably on the wrong coast of the island).
If grandma can easily walk from her room to the wedding area easily you're good to go. Which leads me too...
2. Hotel is Too Large or Spread Out
Beautiful hotel resorts are each like their own cities. Do you really want your guests to call a golf cart from the lobby, or walk 18 minutes to the ballroom, at night, while getting bit by mosquitos or getting lost while drunk?
When you pick one of these resorts, imagine being a guest who is constantly moving from their room to the wedding functions. Some hotels are beautifully laid out and some aren't.
Think about which 40 guests will be in this wing, which 50 in the other hotel wing, etc..
The last thing you want is paying a huge rate for a gorgeous property but people just feeling exhausted by the time they get comfortable, or annoyed they have to trek back to their room for 19 minutes just because they forgot their suntan lotion.
3. Giving your Guests Breathing Room to Relax and Socialize Properly
What's the point of bringing everyone to this beautiful serene place if all they feel is stressed out? Make sure in between all the festivities you have some open time for:
guests to relax,
recover from a hangover,
hang out by the pool,
explore the city on their own,
CATCH UP WITH EACH OTHER, etc..
Many times we want to cover so much we forget to SPACE IT OUT. Think about your favorite weddings and why you had such a good time, and you'll realize the host was not worried about you being bored. Yes you should have something going on at all times but it's ok to put "Relaxation time" in your itinerary and letting guests know that. THEY WILL LOVE YOU FOR IT!
And get some discount massages for them via your hotel!
PRO TIP: If doing an Indian wedding in a place like Mexico, Thailand, Sri Lanka or India, getting free 20 minute massages for guests upon arrival or at your Mehendi is an amazing gesture that is cheap and goes a long way! If you're not thinking about doing it because it's an extra $1200, please, do it and cut that money out from elsewhere! GUESTS LOVE THESE!!!!
4. Not Visiting the Hotel/City Enough Beforehand
If you're having a destination wedding, you should go to the hotel at least twice or thrice before your wedding. AND STAY IN THE HOTEL for 1 to 2 NIGHTS!
Once to scope it out,
the second to see all your function spaces,
meet your planners and decorators and other vendors,
and then lastly to do your final checks and make sure all is on order.
Then if your wedding is Friday-Sunday, you should get there Wednesday to simply plan it all up. I can't stress this point enough.
If you're having a 100 or 200 people join you, you need to be in control and know every inch of what's going on. You'll find cute ideas (like where to keep chicken wings and beer for the post 2AM crowd) and ensure a stress free time for all.
You also need to make sure the hotel is prepped for Indian weddings, they know you might ruin the towels with all that Haldi, the other guests are aware of the noise from the pandit and the baraat, and so on.
My own wedding some of the guests didn't have hot water in their room and what a nightmare that was to deal with before getting into the altar.
PRO TIP: if you're going to Oahu the second time to lock down the hotel and just carrying a small carry-on bag, why not take some of your clothes there a month early so the hotel has it ready for you, and you can save some luggage space for next time? That way you don't pay for extra luggage when you go for the actual wedding with 3 extra suitcases.
5. Indian Food in Mexico or Hawaii aka Home Comforts for the Home Crowd
Translation: Can you easily buy Indian stuff there? Chai? Food? Dandyas?
At my own wedding, one of the Indian aunties brought a whole suitcase of Indian tea and spices because she knew the Cancun Hotel in Mexico wouldn't have that on hand.
And guess what...while the rest of us were in a friends room at 4AM downing shots, the aunties were in another room at 4PM passing around Indian tea like it was illegal.
Another great wedding I saw had the groom, who used to party in Chicago, bring his favorite 2AM Street Hot Dog guy from the bars in Chicago to his wedding in Texas.
Talk about style! Everybody went nuts.
Desi destination weddings are here to say, and I'll be honest, I love them. But I also have seem some very dull and bland ones in small hotels where a young couple tries to book a cheap wedding package and then realize why a 30 minute photo shoot means nothing.
PRO TIP: NEVER TRUST DESTINATION WEDDING PACKAGES! Those are just sales tactics to get you in the door!
Follow the advice layed out in this post and I guarantee you that you'll likely catch at least one mistake you didn't think about which will save some time and money and stress.
Comments or questions? Do drop them below!