• Ajay Manaktala

Indian Destination Wedding | Udaipur, Goa, Thailand, Kerala & Sri Lanka Costs

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Destination weddings have increased substantially amongst the Indian wedding industry, growing 30% each year. Thanks to cheap flights, Instagram, Priyanka Chopra and Beyonce/Ambani a lot of middle-class Indian and South Asian families are looking to make their big fat Indian wedding a fun holiday weekend.  So I put this guide together to let you know the costs of various Indian wedding locations.


So how much does an Indian destination wedding cost? A normal destination Indian wedding will cost:


  • Udaipur/Jaipur Place type wedding: $300,000 to $600,000 USD

  • Goa: $150,000 to $350,000

  • Kerala: $105,000 to $200,000

  • Thailand: $150,000 to $400,000

  • Sri Lanka: $105,000 to $220,000


Yes I know not all these locations are India, but this article is about destination weddings that are common for Indian people.


These days it's very common even with flights and travel for weddings in Thailand and Sri Lanka to be cheaper than weddings in India.

They're many considerations that go into the cost of a destination Indian wedding. 


In India, we often see clients paying for hotel rooms (and sometimes flights) of up to 400 guests. 


In America we just assume folks pay and make their way and we handle the festivities.


I’ll explain all of these factors and tips to plan your Indian destination wedding in various locations. 



Welcome poolside Mehendi's are all the rage at destination weddings! A great way to kick off your first day!


Post Outline: 


  1. Overview of Indian destination wedding basics

  2. Major Things to Consider First

  3. Pros/Cons of destination weddings as it relates to Indians and South Asians

  4. Cost for Each City/Country

  5. Pros and Cons of Each City/Country

  6. Which Place is Right For You?

  7. Tips to Reduce your Destination Wedding Expenses

  8. Related Questions 


Indian Destination Wedding Beginner's Guide 


Indians and South Asians are known across the world for having elaborate weddings and as social media and mainstream media have highlighted our elaborate nuptials, we’ve started to yearn for beaches, mountains, palaces and lakes to perform our marriages on. 


As middle-class desi’s get older we usually attend 1-2 weddings a year in our community and there is sadly often a “been-there, done that” mentality. 



Are some guest's checking in early or arriving too early? Organize massages for the 80 who came on the red-eye while their room gets ready! A super nice touch! (pun, get it?!)


I remember after my own wedding that took a year to plan in Tulum, Mexico seeing my friends Facebook feed a month later. He was back in Mexico for another wedding doing it all over again.  WTF Bro! You said I was special!


Regardless, one way to make your wedding truly unique, fun and memorable is to pack it up in a mini vacation.  From the planning side, you reduce your guest list to only those you truly feel would make the effort to take the time and travel.  From the guest’s side, it’s a great reason to take a few days off and explore a place and also celebrate your occasion! 


Given the increasing costs of an Indian weddings these days in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other areas (our company routinely DJs multi-million dollar weddings) destination weddings often just make complete sense. 


If you’re thinking about it, that likely means the ocean or country is calling, and that itch isn’t going to go away any time soon!  


In fact both my brother and I decided to do our respective weddings in Thailand and Mexico because we were there with our partners on holiday and realized ok yeah, this is the place we need to get married!


Major Things to Consider First


Guest list 


Before you even send one email or visit one hotel to do site visits, you need to have your major guest list figured out. 


For example, 

  • your 92 year old grandma can’t handle the heat in Phuket 

  • Your Pakistani best friend won’t be able to fly to India

  • Your 65 year old uncle might botch his US Visa interview for a Hawaii or Mexico wedding


I’ve seen couples put down a $10,000 or $50,000 first payment deposit to a hotel and then have to cancel due to some important guests not being able to come. 


Heat


People see beautiful pictures of a couple against some crystal clear ocean, but they don’t realize that Indian wedding clothes are insanely heavy and insanely warm.  Imagine you or your husband spend $1,000 or $5,000 on your outfits, another $2000 on makeup and hair and $3,000 on photos and now you’re sweating like a fountain. 

 

It will all go for a toss.  





Now imagine all your family and friends who thought it was a beautiful idea, but now they’re insanely uncomfortable under a canopy and sweating in their suits and fanning themselves with your wedding ceremony printout. 


Once you’ve picked a location you think is ideal…..please please please research the weather around your wedding time and ACTUALLY stay at that hotel for a night. 


Your Cost will be the Same as a City wedding


Given that most Desi people who think about destination weddings already live in major metro cities, their costs will likely be the same as I’ll outline below. 


Yes, your guest list may go down from 500 people in Bangalore to just 230 in Phuket, but once those 230 are there you’re going to want to show them a good time, plan a few other dinners for your old army buddies (or your dad’s army buddies), hire some decent entertainment, etc… 

All of that stuff adds up along with travel, hotel, extra vacations, etc.. 


In fact, there was a recent wedding in Phuket, Thailand in which the host (a Hong Kong businessman) had 1100 people and even paid to renovate the hotel rooms and chartered planes to ferry people 50 at time! 


While I don’t expect most families to do that, they’re so many factors that can let one wedding in the same hotel cost the family $100,000 while another spends $400,000 which I’ll explain. (This guy also hired Akon for half a million I imagine which I don’t expect anybody reading this to do.  Bhangra and Bollywood are way better!) 


Pros and Cons of a Destination Wedding


PROS:

  • Gorgeous Scenery

  • Holiday for your guests

  • Varied Indian and International cuisine (Thailand is one of my favorites for this) 

  • People who Matter

  • Can sometimes be lower cost


CONS:

  • Costs can quickly spiral (oh now you want to add a boat cruise for the 70 who came a day early?)

  • Logistical expenses (your lehenga will need it’s own suitcase for another $60, multiple flights to research, usually 3 trips to finalize the hotel)

  • Vendors may have to fly in (DJ, Photographer, Singers)

  • In the west, it's customary that the client pays all expenses and then they naturally handle all festivities.  They're so many factors, tips and hacks that you can use in each of these locations that I will explain here, having planned or been to destination weddings in all of these locations.


Costs for Major Indian Destination Wedding Locations

Disclaimer: These are references. But it's very easy to do a million dollar wedding in Udaipur yet quite difficult to spend 1M in Sri Lanka or Kerala.

1. Udaipur Palace Wedding, INDIA




Overview:


Hotels here will charge you a rate per guest or per room.  This rate usually includes 3 meals where the lunch and dinner would be the buffet meals at your mehendi or sangeet or reception. 


Then you pay another 50 to 100% of your costs on decor, entertainment, alcohol, travel, etc.. 


Costs: 


300 Person Total Costs for Mehendi/Sangeet/Reception: Between $300,000 and $500,000. 


Approximate rate for room/meals/venue per person per day: $300 (assuming 2 people per soom)


Notes:


India Customs: It’s normal also that folks who are based in India often times pay for the rooms of all their guests *gulp*.  In the south of India however this is less common and in America/Hawaii we don’t see it common at all.  


Many Indians overseas get sticker shock when they see these prices.  But given the insane demand in these places to have a wedding, combined with names like Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra, weddings here can quickly spiral beyond the $500,000 mark . 






PROS of an Udaipur Wedding:

  • Extreme Luxury

  • Gorgeous, you really have to go there to witness it

  • Very cultural

  • Masters at big fat weddings.


CONS of an Udaipur Wedding

  • Extremely expensive

  • Far for some people

  • Extreme weather


2. Goa, India



Most people within India will always RSVP yes for Goa weddings because everybody loves a trip to Goa!



Overview:


I spoke to a few wedding planners as of August 18th, 2019 and in a nutshell, you’re going to pay like 20-25% less for a Goa wedding that a Udaipur wedding.  It’s still quite a bit, but I prefer the beach to the lake anyday so for me it’s way better.  


Costs:


300 Person Total Costs:  $150K USD to $350K USD


Approximate rate for room/meals/venue per person per day: $200 (assuming 2 people per soom)


Rooms will cost you around $200 to $350 per room per night depending on how nice of a hotel you have selected.   Travel costs for vendors coming from Bombay or Bangalore or Delhi will also be extra.  


Notes


Goa is cheaper than Udaipur and also has cheaper flights all across India.  So guests who fly from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi etc.. will likely pay around $100 for a round trip ticket to Goa, which is nice.  However transport is challenging there due to taxi unions and airport pickups and drop offs are very expensive. 






Pros of a Goa Wedding

  • Very pretty

  • Beach

  • Something for everyone

  • Value compared to other destinations

  • Cheap alcohol

Cons: 

  • Costs can quickly get out of hand

  • Can be very hot or rainy during low season

  • Hotels are massive


3. Kerala






Overview


Kerala isn’t as well known for beach weddings as it is known for lakes, backwaters and river weddings.  The appeal of a luxury resort is nice so if you’re fine doing your wedding in the entire resort property then this is a great value choice. 


If you’re also from here then I would totally recommend it because your family will have contacts here and why would you uproot your gang to Goa when you’re already a coastal crew?  


Increasing airport connectivity and seafood lovers will love this town, although Alappuzha has become very crowded and probably not the wedding/seclusion you would want to be in the middle of. 


If you look at the Taj Kovalam (overlooks the beach from a distance), Leela Kovalam (their private beach isn’t so private btw) and Zuri (gorgeous but expensive on secluded backwaters) these are all fantastic properties. 


Definitely cheaper than Udaipur and Goa, with watery vibes as well is Kerala.  Many guests also decide to do a houseboat tour or go onwards to Varkala or Goa for those hippie beach scenes.  


Costs: 


Cost for 300 people across 2.5 to 3 days can cost: Around $150,000 on average. If you have Navy contacts then it might make sense to see if you can get those facilities on discount.  I've seen amazing Kerala weddings done for about $60,000 also.


Approximate rate for room/meals/venue per person per day: $150 (assuming 2 people per soom)


Pros of a Kerala Wedding:

  • Very pretty

  • Different as it’s not exactly beach, not exactly lake (you can’t go into the waves really unless you’re at the Leela or elsewhere)

  • Value for Money

  • Luxury amenities

  • The right hotels know the right backwaters

Cons: 


  • Can get hot and humid

  • Certain areas like Alappuzha are very crowded and to be honest not at all honeymoon/peaceful vibes these days. 

  • Many people don’t realize there is no beach. 


4. Thailand


Gorgeous Bangkok River Wedding

Overview


Thailand has been lobbying hard for Indian business, and given the increasing big fat wedding costs we see as evident from this post, I personally love Thailand for weddings.  Spicy food lovers will find world class Indian food, Thaifood, beaches, luxury city hotels and pretty much anything they could want.


The costs will also work out to roughly the same as India thanks to cheap flights and visa fees that often get waved every few years.  It also has a visa on arrival for Indians and fantastic connectivity to Europe, North America and Australia. 


Plus everybody who flies into Phuket or Bangkok or wherever for your wedding will most likely do a trip before or after to go island or jungle hopping.  My own brother got married here and a bunch of us went to Phi Phi right after!  


Major areas in Thailand for Indian weddings happen:

  • Phuket (Island)

  • Bangkok (City)

  • Hua Hin (Coastal, andthe Sheraton here is nicknamed the Indian wedding Factory but it’s gorgeous)

  • Chiang Mai (Jungle)

  • Krabi (Island)

  • Pattaya (coastal/seaside)


Costs


300 Person Total Costs:  $150K USD to $400K USD

Approximate rate for room/meals/venue per person per day: $150 (assuming 2 people per room) means $300 per room. 


On average, room rates will be about $200 USD per room with 2 breakfasts, and then each meal ends up being around $50 USD per head, per meal. 


Hotels in Thailand like the Anantara, the Slate, JW Marriott (any city) will give you a contract or quote that has room and breakfast rates, then a catering rate which includes the venue that has a silver, gold and platinum menu options (e.g. 3 appetizers and 5 main courses versus 8 appetizers and 15 main courses). 



Your average Thai beach isn't too shabby for post/pre/during wedding time.


Bangkok will be the cheapest, Phuket will be higher, and then the further you venture from Phuket for places like the Ritz Carlton in Krabi you’ll spend a lot more on shuttles, rooms, food, flying in vendors from Bangkok and more.   I personally find Bangkok is great if guests want to do their own vacations after, or Phuket is beautiful because it’s big and has something for everyone. 


Pros of Indian Wedding in Thailand


  • Gorgeous.

  • Indian availability of Anything

  • Fantastic connectivity to India, Australia, Europe and North America

  • Visa on Arrival for Indians and sometimes they waive the visa fee (check the news once a year). 

  • Value for Money


Cons of Indian Wedding in Thailand


  • Massive hotel resorts can be hard for grandparents

  • Heat

  • Costs can quickly get out of hand if you’re paying for flights and extra activities (like a boat cruise for your Sangeet)

  • Crowded: I would only get a hotel where you can be guaranteed some privacy from all the European dudes in speedos who want to join your party. 


5. SRI LANKA


Overview


I LOVE Sri Lanka for weddings, even though I personally find Columbo a fairly quiet city.  You get gorgeous sweeping sunset views, insane deals on luxury villas and hotel rooms and easy access for Indians. 


It’s honestly the best value for money I feel at the moment since for some reason a lot of people just don’t associate it with Big Fat Indian weddings.  But I guarantee you every year this will continue to grow until the costs become prohibitive. 




Favorite Hotel: Heritance, Ahungalla. Probably best value of any Indian wedding hotel I know (but only if you pick Sri Lanka)

I came here for my best buddies wedding in December of 2015 and it was just so perfect for an Indian wedding, because it has:


  • Various pools for adults and kids,

  • balconies that go into the swimming pool but also have privacy,

  • a massive clean gorgeous beach that connects the hotel to sunset views,

  • and great facilities for Indian weddings made this a winner that I’m writing about it here without any commission or affiliation. 


Costs:


300 Person Total Costs:  $120K USD to $200K USD

Approximate rate for room and breakfast for two people is about $150 per day. 


You’ll likely spend another $100 per guest on lunch/dinner/wedding expenses.  Most weddings here are 3 nights, 2 days. 


PROS of an Indian Wedding in Sri Lanka

  • Costs work out heavily in your favor

  • Very close to India and flights are always getting cheaper

  • Connectivity to South East Asia and Europe

  • Indian vendors for pretty much anything

  • Some of the nicest beaches

  • Hidden treasures and extreme value for money


CONS of an Indian Wedding in Sri Lanka


  • Heat can get out of hand

  • Food will be mainly Sri Lankan, Indian and Western.  

  • Hotels can be quite large for grandparents

  • You won't be alone as most big hotels will have other guests in them.


Which place is right for you?


All of the locations above are winners for Indian weddings, but sometimes simply the stress of selecting one is the main problem.  So to make it simple, I’ll let you know my picks and why (in no particular order):


  • Awesome Value for Money and Experience: Sri Lanka: $$$

  • Extreme Luxury, Scenery, World Class 7 Star Vibe: Udaipur: $$$$$

  • Food and Fun and Sand and Bang for Your Buck: Thailand : $$$$

  • Coastal family Vibes that won’t break the bank: Kerala : $$$

  • Beach party luxury vibes but stay in India: Goa: $$$$


Related Questions 


1. Do I need a wedding planner for destination weddings?


Unless your wedding is less than 100 people, I would 100% spend the $5,000 to $20,000 that a big fat Indian wedding planner costs.  Whatever you spend you’ll save on their partner rates and also save yourself a ton of time and efficiency. (e.g. do you want some uncle bugging you about his flight being 2 hours late while you’re getting your bridal henna done?)


2. What if I people want to come a few days earlier or stay later?


This is very common with destination weddings. 


  • Most of your guests will hopefully say they’ll just make their own way to the hotel on the day your wedding check in starts. 

  • Some will ask for pickups from whichever hotel they’re at from your travel or planning team.

  • Others might hint that they want to come a day earlier or stay a day later and make it awkward that you should pay for these rooms too (yes it happens). 


If you want to pick it up on your tab then do it (hotels will keep a master account of all the rooms you pay for) otherwise tell them politely it will get added to their individual card which was given for room service and incidentals. 


3. What if we want to pay for some hotel rooms, but not the others?


(e.g. You all want to pay for relatives room’s, but not college friends, colleagues, etc.. or one side and not the other if an Indian marries an NRI, etc..) 


Most hotels have a master account and a guest account to handle weddings and conferences   Your master account is your or your parent’s bill that will handle all the buffets, hotel rooms (that you’re paying for), alcohol, etc…   


Normally when Indians pay for all of their guest’s rooms all the basic room rates go on the master account.  


However with college and high school friends it’s custom to also ask the hotel to give a guest link, so that those who are paying for their own rooms can pre-book online and just have it never touch your master account. 


Regardless, usually each guest who checks in, whether the family is paying for their room or not will have to leave a card as a deposit for room service, insurance, etc.. 


4. What goes wrong at destination weddings?


  • People miss flights,

  • overstay their checkout time,

  • cancel at the last minute due to emergencies,

  • airports close due to weather or political unrest, etc..  

  • Almost every wedding goes over budget about 5 to 20%.


These are all normal and the first few will happen for sure.  Your best bet is to just expect it so it doesn't ruin your mood! 

For example, if you did all the math and your entire wedding is coming out to $250,000...before your wedding starts just assume it’s going to be $260,000. 


At my own wedding my wife’s mehendi team ruined the hotel beach towels and my brother had to spend $600 to keep the hotel staff (and me) calm and not try to cancel our baraat unless we paid! 

It’s usual and just get over it and it won’t make a difference in the long run!


ALSO See: Bollywood Bridal Makeup Artists for Your Indian Wedding



Conclusion and Recommendations


Can you do a 300 person wedding in Goa for less than $100,000? Of course.  


And can it still be awesome? For sure! 


In fact for many couples who are under 25 and get married...this always works because many people of their friends share rooms and the stuff you care about at 25 isn’t what you care about at 35 with kids.  In fact those people will hardly be in their rooms anyways so no point getting a luxury hotel.  


I’ve seen gorgeous, million dollars expensive weddings in Udaipur that had no character and no memories, and cheap weddings in Sri Lanka that I’ll never forget.  



As we always say throughout this site, you need to pick the place that works for you and your gang!


It’s not about how much money you spend but how you use it to give you and your guests the most time to socialize, relax, hang out, gossip, chit chat and more. 

Hopefully by now you should realize that the people make the place, not the other way around. 


Once you pick a destination just focus on being warm, loving, spending 5 minutes with each guest telling them how much you appreciate them coming and I guarantee you that your wedding will be talked about for years. 


It’s going to be the best and have a wonderful Shaadi!




Read Next: The Single Free Trick that Makes Your Wedding Stand Out


Questions or Comments? Need help with destination wedding planning, wedding consulting or even an Indian/Bollywood DJ in North America or Mexico? 


Reach out to us today! We offer a 5% discount for anybody who mails us by saying “I read this blog in” in the subject line. 


Ajay Manaktala is one of the best Indian Wedding DJs in America who has personally DJ'd and produced over 1000 Indian weddings in his 20+ years of being in the sound and lighting business. Him and his company blog extensively on South Asian events on this blog as well as on Quora.

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