• Ajay Manaktala

Indian Wedding Decoration Cost and Tips | USA (2019)

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

In this post Ajay Manaktala will:

  • Explain Indian Wedding Decor Components

  • Tell you typical costs across Sanget, Reception and Wedding for USA and Canada Gujarati or Punjabi or Mixed South Asian weddings

  • Throughout the post he has given you hacks that actually work to reduce costs (Like don't take a ballroom that has a high ceiling)




Wedding Decor can Be Complicated and Confusing


The other day I was looking at a super complicated spreadsheet of wedding decor costs and after a while, my eyes got lazy and I was like, ok, $500 here, $2000 here, ok $76 here....wait...


Did I just say "Ok an XBOX here, a macbook here, a fancy dinner here."


WHAT!?!


Indian wedding decor is sone of those things that you get so caught up in the big ticket items, a million little things sneak in and we all of a sudden don't realize how much extra we're spending.


  • Drive across town for $100 bill? Sure, I'm game.

  • Drive across town to buy my Mercedes from this dealer versus another dealer because it's $100 cheaper? Ah screw it, I'm already sitting in this comfy car.

  • It's the same $100!


In this post I'm going to explain the major parts of Indian wedding decoration.


  • MANDAP

  • FLOWERS

  • Center pieces

  • Stage and Dance Floor


Understanding Indian wedding decor can be quite intimidating.


There's a million offerings to see on Etsy, Pinterest wedding decor and decorations are a wormhole.


Images on Instagram all seem to look the same after a while.


Notice how decoration gets it's own circle? Yup.

In this post I'm going to outline a 3-step checklist or guidelines for you to figure out, plan and chose your Indian wedding decorations.


But first, you need to realize something.


Just like with food at a buffet, there is a paradox of choice.


I mean that really is gorgeous anyway you look at it.

After a few hours you might be in bored mood, but we need to lock in on a mood board!!


Ok sorry, bad jokes ahead.


If you're like most brides I meet...you're:

  • busy

  • You want something elegant yet creative and unique,

  • You want to lock it down and continue the planning process.

  • You tell your decorator (if you found one): "Hey, I love your work and everything you've done! But now do something for me you've never done before."


EXCUSE ME BRO!?!


Indian wedding decoration in a wedding we worked in Thailand.


But I understand.



Indian decor and wedding decorations are tricky because they're so many flowers and so many colors. But just like when you see the Met Gala pictures all over your news feed, if something feels off...well like Malcom Gladwell says...you can just sense that it doesn't "connect." (for example, in all 3 of the previous pics, if it was standard hotel conference chairs and not tiffany chairs, you'd feel something might be off.

Speaking of Met Gala - if you need a MUA in America who does Deepika's makeup, contact my friend (not cheap though!).



How Much Does Indian Wedding Decoration Cost?


Decor is usually around 25-30% of your overall wedding budget.


A $200,000 Indian wedding (the normal we see these days in major US metro cities) will likely spend about $40,000 to $65,000 on decorations.


So if your wedding is in Laguna Beach, California and has a per-plate cost of $100 per guest...times, 300 guests, times 3 events (Sangeet, Mehndi, Reception), that's $90,000 to the hotel for food, liquor and venue.


Another $25,000 in sound, stage, dance floor and lighting, another $15,000 to your photographer, another $40,000 to however much for decor.

These are just the usual breakdowns we see in California and New York.


Also See: Ballroom Lighting Guide for Beginners


Can you spot all the decor? (Bar Lights, carnival baloons, hanging drapes, stage backdrop, stage lights, carnival boxes, sofas) This is about $15,000 to $23,000 in decor and lighting in a US city.



What are the major decor components in Indian Weddings?


  • Flowers across all the events ($5,000 to $50,000)

  • Mandap aka the wedding altar ($4,000 to $10,000)

  • Center pieces for tables at all the events ($10,000 to $50,000)

  • Stage design

  • Draping of Ballroom

  • Additional designs (carnival, pops, hanging art installations, etc..)


The most important pieces are your wedding Mandap and floral/centerpieces.



MORE DECOR DOES NOT MEAN BETTER WEDDING


Even though we are mainly a luxury Indian wedding DJ and lighting company, I have seen over 1000 Indian weddings ranging from 100 people to million dollar parties.


I've seen amazing Indian weddings with hardly any flowers, and the most expensive/lavish Indian wedding where someone spent $75K on flowers but everybody was bored from 4 hour of speeches.

You get the idea.


So in order to make your life easier and make sure you're happy, here's a simple 3 step process to finalizing your Indian wedding decorations.


Warning...some of you may not like what I say.


DECOR COST HACKS THAT ACTUALLY WORK



1. UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH INDIAN WEDDING DECOR COSTS FIRST.


During my brother's wedding over 3 days and 350 people, their decor bill was somewhere between $45K USD and $55K USD (He won't tell me but I'm smart enough to peek when his laptop his open).


Once you realize what a $6K USD mandap looks like versus a $1K one, and what you get for $7K in flowers, you start to figure out what's important to you.

There is no point sitting with a decorator spending 10 hours on mood boards, carnival themes, Instagrammable photo areas and $1K per table centerpieces only to get a $120K USD quote for decoration over four events.

You wasted their time and yours, and then worst of all you lowered your expectations.


Instead...SET the expectations from the start.


You understand rough decorator pricing and budgets for America now right? (That's me!!)

Top Down, not bottom up. Here's a budget I'm comfortable with..now how can I hack my way into getting it done.


Make sure you get ball park figures for Mandap, Floral, Stage (including DJ/Sound/Lighting) and then prioritize.


Even decorating your Bar (Yes, you're BAR! To look like a Tikki Bar or a James Bond theme) will set you back $2-$5K.


Plan ahead because everybody will offer you the world!



Side Note: Decoration is one of the hardest jobs in this business so let them make their profit. I'm not even in that business but nothing more disheartening to see a bride spend $25K on flowers then try to cut $1000 on the decorator's expenses because a pillar got scratched in the hotel lobby because the couple didn't want to buy a one day insurance plan from the hotel.

2. PRIORITIZE YOUR BIG TICKET ITEMS


Usually the biggest decoration item is the Mandap, the Sangeet (a wow factor to kick off your wedding weekend) and the reception.


Many also like to decorate the sitting area in the ceremony for guests but for a one-hour ceremony it's important you focus on you know...YOU.


PRIORITY WE USUALLY SEE WITH BUDGET:


1. RECEPTION (30%)
2. WEDDING (30%)
3. SANGEET (25%)
4. MEHNDI (15%)


3. HOW TO REDUCE YOUR WEDDING DECOR EXPENSES?


PRO TIP HACK 1: If a destination Indian wedding or taking place in a five star hotel, see how your decoration can fit into the hotel's decoration seamlessly to make less seem like a lot more! (e.g. if the hotel already has a gorgeous fountain during your hotel negotiation ask them to let you decorate it for 2 hours).


Floral Mandaps are GORGEOUS but not cheap.

Or if you're debating between two hotels for your wedding, look at a hotel that has built in paintings and decoration in the venue space.


Then make sure your decorator doesn't try to still use drapes if the wall is already gorgeous as is!


4. HIRE A DECORATOR, VISIT THE SITE TWICE and DON'T BELIEVE INSTAGRAM


Ok I lied, here are 4 items.


Indian wedding decorators have amazing Instagram photos, because all you have to do is frame the shot for the camera.


What about everything behind the mandap, or in front of it, or is there a big empty parking lot next to the crowd we can't see? You get the idea.


Visit your venue with your decorator once.


DON'T BE FOOLED BY AN IG PHOTO! ZOOM THAT CAMERA OUT TO SEE WHE WHOLE SPACE.


Ensure they take photos of the space, and video.


Once they've sent you their options for decoration, visit it again and ensure the space feels "full."


PRO TIP HACK 2: Many decorators should spell it out for you if they're going to line item everything, or if they can easily add another 50 flowers to some area that seems thin! (Also ask your decorator if they use fake or real flowers or in what mixture).


Even the bar needs some light pretty decor bro!

CONCLUSION


To recap:


1. Figure out ballpark costs FIRST.


2. Figure out budget for Mandap, Stage, Floral, Lighting, etc.. (we can help with last one in America)


3. Visit site TWICE with your decorator. Yes you need a decorator. But if they know you spend even 4 hours doing your homework on prices and terminology, you're in good shape!


FINAL HONEST WORDS


Everybody has their own styles. But of the 1000 Indian weddings I've done including 100 destination weddings...a few final words from the heart:


1. Yes you need flowers


2. No a massive stage or mandap isn't AS important if you only have 100-200 people. Sometimes minimal also looks cleaner but TRUST your decorator to use the space effectively (that's what they're thinking about..not about crowding the ballroom with expensive stuff that gets in the way)


3. Fairy lights are great but be mindful of mosquitos and insects out doors.


PRO Tip Hack 3: IF you go for high ceilings, you will need to spend more. If you can pick a low ceiling ballroom, your decoration will look more "full"

4. Whatever your decorator does (based on their past experience which you saw)...trust that it will be great. Often times decorators are too nice to tell you "Umm that's cliche or done to death or won't look good." So don't take it personally. You wan't a decorator relationship to be candid and honest so you know they're ready to argue with you to make your event the best art they can pull off. It's a good thing!



5. Lastly - have you ever been to an Indian wedding and thought the brides dress was hideous or the decoration was disgusting? Chances are probably not. Sure people have certain tastes...but generally the entire spectacle comes together beautifully in any variation and no two weddings are identical - so TRUST THE process because I guarantee you, you will miss it when it's over.


Are you ready to have the best Indian wedding? We do DJ/Sound/Lighting and have deals with the most sought after decorator's in the Industry. If you're wedding is more than 5-6 months away check with us on availability now!




And for a list of decorator's in California we like comment below!


Ajay Manaktala is a wedding expert in the USA who understands the nuances of choosing a decorator and trying to understand the various expenses. He also hopes you don't get carried away with another $500 here and another $2000 here and then end up with $85,000 decorator bill when your budget was $25,000. He's also a most viewed writer on Quora for Indian weddings with nearly 100,000 viewers.