• Ajay Manaktala

How To Plan an Indian Wedding in Los Angeles (Ultimate Guide)

Updated: Jun 19

This Ultimate guide will take a bit to read so grab that coffee and get comfy. After reading it you should be well poised to save money and have an awesome wedding.


Thinking about an Indian wedding in Los Angeles, Orange County or other parts of Southern California like San Diego and Riverside? 


That’s awesome!

Greater Los Angeles has roughly 120,000 Indian-American people and every weekend at least six or seven Indian weddings occur throughout the city’s major hotels, resorts, community centers and temples.  


Bride and Grooms who live in the city either grew up here, married someone who did or are working in finance, IT, medicine, media or one of California’s many industries.  As a result, Desi fever runs rampant!


In this post I’ll explain everything you need to know on how to have an awesome Indian or Pakistani wedding in Southern California.  I’ll also give you some tips/hacks you can use to get educated and save some cash!



I have DJ’d, planned or coordinated over 500 Indian weddings in Southern California the last 20 years and have seen it all.  If you have any comments or questions please feel free to drop them below! Our team maintains this blog very actively.


This post is structured in the following way, in case you want to skip ahead to any point:


  • The Very First Step You Must Do for LA Weddings

  • Why Plan your Wedding in Southern California? 

  • Main Cities in Southern California to have a South Asian wedding

  • Venue Primer and Basics

  • Main Hotels in Southern California to host Indian Weddings

  • Factors That Are Unique to Southern California for Weddings

  • How Much Does an Indian Wedding Cost in Southern California?

  • Priorities for your LA Guests

  • Food and Catering Vendors

  • Venue Considerations (Guest’s Point of View)

  • Decorators

  • Photographers

  • Videographers

  • Lighting

  • DJ’s and Entertainment Options (besides us)

  • Pandit and Priest's we Recommend

  • Pros of a Wedding in Los Angeles

  • Cons of a Wedding in Los Angeles

  • Related Questions

  • Conclusions


You ready fam? Let’s Go!


The Very First Step


If you’ve already settled on Los Angeles for your wedding location that’s fine.  But for the Indian and Pakistani folks who have family overseas, please go and finalize your GUEST LIST NOW.


You don’t even need to have the RSVPs sent out, but as we say over and over on this blog, everything in your wedding, including the city and hotel gets determined by WHO you're calling and from WHERE.



And this only happens after you know where the important people are coming from.

If grandma messes up her US visa interview in Mumbai and you already paid the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel a $10,000 deposit..well, let’s not let it get to that! People pick the place!



Why Plan your Indian Wedding in Los Angeles?


The South Asian Communities in Southern California are pretty much all of them, including:

  • Gujarati

  • Punjabi

  • South Indian (Telugu, Kannadiga, Tamil) 

  • North Indian

  • Bengali

  • Sri Lankan

  • Pakistani

  • Bangladeshi

  • Did we miss any?



As a result, the community is strong and you have so many options at your disposal, especially when couples from one community marry another.


LA provides easy access to

  • tons of Indian vendors,

  • easy airport access

  • plenty of sun/sand

  • luxury/budget accommodations.  

  • Decent amount of temples


Weddings in more densely populated Indian populated towns like New Jersey and New York (where I was born!) are also beautiful, but will usually be heavy on ballrooms and indoor venues due to the varied seasons.  


In California, the scenery and year-around climate play a huge part of the appeal so golf courses, oceanside cliffs, beachfront properties and even city weddings with mountain backdrops all have their own charm.


My brother proposed here!

Major Cities in Southern California for Indian Weddings 


As of August, 2019, a simple scan of our latest tagged photos on Instagram can reveal where most Indian weddings occur in Los Angeles and Orange County. 


Since LA is famous for its traffic, folks who have settled here are very mindful of how far their friends and family will need to travel to attend the wedding each day.


The major cities in SoCal that work for marriages these days are:


  • Palos Verdes: Cliffside and oceanside views, close to the heart of LA are part of the appeal. 

  • Cerritos: Inside the city and suburbs, close to downtown LA, and in the heart of Little India make mid-range weddings very appealing (e.g. you can host your mehendi or smaller functions in the restaurants here)

  • Anaheim (massive hotels with massive ballrooms via Disneyland make this a big fat wedding option that won’t destroy the bank)

  • Irvine (beautiful weather in OC, great venues that have excellent Indian wedding expertise are all part of this charm.  A little less crowded/metro that Anaheim). 

  • Lax Airport Area: Right next to the airport, great ballroom facilities and Indian vendor accessibility 


  • Long Beach: Near the massive Long Beach harbor, your guests can also take a small cruise or you can even host your wedding on the Queen Mary, a massive cruise ship that is parked as a ballroom venue to be rented.  Beautiful city lights from the bay. Very popular. 

  • Laguna Beach: Cliffside and Beachside Sun/Sand and extreme luxury

  • Newport Beach: Basketball stars frequent these golf course/luxurious venues.  



Venue Primer and Tips to Save Early


Hotels in Southern California rely on big business from weddings and conferences.  They’re used to the game and are probably used to you not knowing how to proceed. We have a whole article on how to get more out of your hotel, but before you contact any hotel in California, it helps if you do the following:


  1. Know your EXACT headcount before even getting a first quote.

  2. Know how many events you plan to have (sangeet, garba, mehendi, reception, wedding ceremony).

  3. Know if you have out of town guests who need rooms or family rooms, etc.. 

  4. Ask other people who got married there for their contracts. Yes it's normal and not rude.

  5. Don't fall for the book rooms before they sell out trick. Hotel rooms are rarely full 9 months before, and you don't want to be on the hook for 30 rooms and no guests to fill them (as many out of town guests back out up until weeks before the wedding).

  6. Ask about hidden charges like entertainer power consumption, insurance, outside catering fee, etc… In other countries hotels don’t do this, in Los Angeles due to California laws you could get hit with 10% extra charges you didn’t factor in. 



Best Indian Wedding Hotels in Los Angeles as of 2020


You're really spoilt for choice with so many hotels in Southern California, so we divided it up into places we see Indian weddings happen on the regular.


Luxury Segment


You're looking at weddings with a TOTAL budget between $350,000 and $1,000,000.


1 .Terranea | Palos Verdes | Los Angeles Side | Cliff and Ocean Views



Terranea is currently one of the top luxury wedding venues in Southern California. 


I would say a typical 300 person wedding here has a TOTAL budget of between $400,000 and $800,000.  When you add in all the clothing, food, extra hotel rooms and room service, things get out of hand. But if you can afford it, it is the epitome of luxurious Indian weddings for a reason.  Decoration alone can run you $80,000 or more.  


Pros: Beautiful, scenic, ocean views, luxurious, Indian wedding experts.

Cons: Cost, no beach access (cliff only)


2. The Resort Pelican Hill | Newport Beach | Orange County | Cliff and Ocean Views 



Similar to Terranea, couples who are based in Orange County and want to be a bit further from Los Angeles opt for the Pelican Hill resort, which also features a golf course.  Very expensive property yet the occasional celebrity or Kobe Bryant spotting make this a favorite for guests! 


Pros: Beautiful, scenic, Indian wedding experts, beach access (little bit of a walk)

Cons: Cost, might be far for Los Angeles guests. 


3. Ritz Carlton | Santa Barbara | Beachside



Santa Barbara doesn’t have a massive Indian community, but we’re seeing many couples who are living in the valley (Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, etc..) opting for weddings here.  It’s not exactly a destination wedding, but not exactly a staycation. Many guests will opt to make it a weekend, others might drive home each night! But this beach side property hits all the right notes and it’s not exactly done too many times.  Which is why we love it!


Pros: Beautiful, beachside, best of cliffside and beach side.

Cons: Not exactly LA, vendors will likely need accommodation for multiple day events. Many guests may drive back and you could increase costs by 10 to 20% just on needing rooms.


4. Hyatt |  Huntington Beach | Orange County | Beachside



The Hyatt Huntington Beach is the best of many worlds.  It has beach access (it can get quite hot however), it’s a massive resort, many rooms can view the ocean and it’s an expert at Indian weddings, which hosts the altar right by the sunset.  Set in the bustling community of Huntington Beach it’s a very popular local and tourist destination and surfers are here all the time. 

Pros: Gorgeous property, can accommodate up to 600 guests, experienced in India weddings, scenery and beach access. 

Cons: Busy area, not exactly secluded, can be costly but better value per guest for larger weddings. 



5. Monarch Beach Resort | Orange County | Near Beach | Golf Course



A gorgeous property near Laguna Niguel that has a private golf course and nice ocean views. You can cross the highway towards the beach but it’s a bit of a walk.  But beautiful place for Indian weddings in South Orange county, probably 5 to 10% less than Pelican Hill. 


Pros: Gorgeous property, can accommodate up to large groups, experienced in India weddings, scenery

Cons: You’ll likely be too busy to enjoy the beach, costly,



Hotel Chain Segment


You're looking at weddings with a TOTAL budget between $100,000 and $300,000.


1. Hotel Irvine


Beautiful suburb wedding in Irvine.

In the last four years you can see a lot of weddings happen at the Hotel Irvine. 


Decent prices, great facilities and accessible zoning and space for baraat processions make this a safe bet!


Pros: Expert at Indian weddings, wonderful location

Cons: No ocean views, used quite often. 


2. Long Beach Hyatt


I’ve been DJing weddings here for the last 20 years, and this place really stands the test of time!


Pros: Fantastic for larger weddings (above 600 people), nice location, things to do around (guests can get rooms for less than $200 and explore long beach sights)

Cons: Been done many times, hotel needs a light upgrade 


3. Hilton | Anaheim | Next to Disneyland

A city favorite in Anaheim, next to Disneyland, in Orange County.  Great for mid-range weddings also. 


Pros: Great for large groups, disneyland is around the corner for families, 

Cons: Bustling area, very busy with tourists, similar to any city’s major hotel weddings


4. Westin Mission Hills | Ventura County | Golf Course | "The Valley"



Lovely option set in the greenery, for some gorgeous photos. Many guests use this option as a staycation set in California’s valley. 


Pros: Great mid-range option with sweeping hills and greenery

Cons: Valley is far for some. 



Value for Money Segment


Great choices for weddings with smaller groups or less than $100,000 budget.


1. Seven Degrees (beachside access and just a great deal for what you get)


Very artsy and chic.

Pros: Great for younger couples and smaller groups, very chic and modern

Cons: Can’t accommodate much more than 150 people. Sit down seating. 


2. Venue By Three Petals


Pros: Great budget place in the city in South Orange county.  Experienced in Indian weddings.  Lots of built in amenities so you can save.

Cons: Not really a hotel experience, capacity says 450 but for Indian events likely 300, limited customization.


3. Edwards Mansion


A cute vintage place in Redlands, for couples who like antique decor and don’t want to go overboard on extra decoration. 


Pros: Reasonable price, easy transportation access, great value for money.

Cons: Only event space, limited preparation facilities. The antique look is not for everyone.


4. Sheraton Cerritos


Well versed in India venues.

Pros: Great access to Cerritos Indian vendors and community, experienced in India culture and weddings, modular ballroom to scale easily, great value and one of our favorites just because it's a wedding factory!


Cons: Not much scenery as hotel is in a residential area. Guests will come for function and leave back home.



Factors that Affect Indian Weddings Specific to Southern California


  • You will suffer from the paradox of choice with Indian restaurants and decorators and yes, even DJs such as us.  This can get confusing. In a place like Austin or Las Vegas you might have fewer options but I think this honestly makes it easier to just enjoy as everybody does a great job.   You very rarely see the Number 3 Yelp reviewed decorator or catering do drastically different than the number one, but we get it, and we pride ourselves on the same.

  • Even though Southern California has fantastic weather, between November and February it can get fairly cold.  Although that shouldn’t affect your overall wedding plans too much, you should be mindful of a few things specific to So-Cal:

  • Most massive hotels have a booming ballroom business.  For example Anaheim hosts many conventions and their hotels often reflect that in their pricing and availability. You also don't want your wedding in the middle of Comic-con or some other raging convention that is also creating a lot of noise.



  • PRO TIP: Ask your hotel what else is going on that week.

  • Beverly Hills hotels are quite heavily priced for an Indian wedding of just 100 people, and aren’t massive enough to cater to most Indian wedding sizes.  It’s better to move away from Hollywood unless your heart is set on doing something there. 

  • California has very strict labor laws, so your vendors will likely include insurance and surcharges for their staffing requirements (e.g You will have to buy insurance from hotel in case your decorator accidentally drilled into the ceiling or spills on the carpet, all standard banquet stuff).

  • You need to factor parking and transportation or lodging for people who drink, or organize a bunch of Ubers because everybody drives in LA and this can be tricky, both from a safety as well as a liability stand point.

  • Baraat and usage of animals have to happen per property.


How Much Does an Indian Wedding in Los Angeles Cost?


California is not as cheap as doing a wedding in Texas or Florida, but you will also spend a lot more trying to save 20% doing it somewhere else in travel/logistics.  


The average Big Fat Indian wedding in Southern California can cost between $150,000 and $500,000.  The range we see for 80% of clients is between $220,000 and $300,000. This assumes 300 people and Sangeet/Garba, Mehendi, Ceremony and Reception. 

We have a massive article on Indian Wedding Costs in the USA which explains how these costs are calculated, but in a nutshell, you will pay around $100 per guest for buffet/alcohol/venue and then another $40-75 per guest for entertainment/decorations, etc.. 


I have seen weddings for 75 people cost $100,000 and I’ve seen weddings for 400 people cost $150,000.  It just depends on what's important to you, but if you try to do a 400 person wedding at $50 a head you will be limited in what you can do.


PRO TIP: Never agree to your hotel's first contract, and even after the wedding is over, you can still ask for freebies to save money (e.g late checkout for 10 rooms, waive the room service bill on the bride when she was hungry and couldn't get to the buffet, etc..). Hotels never reduce revenue but can easily waive charges on large contracts if you ask!

A Note on Priorities for Guests in Southern California:


Most Indian and Pakistani families who grew up in LA area probably attend a wedding at least once or twice a year.  They’ve probably been to your venue before or you’ve been to theirs. 


So although yes, we agree, you don’t need to spend money just to keep up with the Patel’s, I do suggest you know what makes for a memorable and unique wedding.  


Usually the order of what’s important for your guests is:

  • Food,

  • Venue,

  • Decoration

  • Entertainment,

  • Photography (guests don’t care as much although it’s important for you two)

  • Video. 


So let’s offer you some LA suggestions you won’t hear on Yelp!


Food and Catering


I mean, duh. Do you even Indian wedding bro?


Depending on your last name you either love this or waiting for your CTM. (think...something something masala)

Depending on your crowd, guests will appreciate how varied the food options are and knowing all sentiments were thought about.  


  • If your entire gang is vegetarian, please stick with your customs.  

  • If you do order non veg, please don’t limit it to one bland chicken steak.

  • Similarly, if your entire gang loves their steaks please have more than enough options for veggies.   

  • Even if you have the most lavish million dollar Ambani or Beyonce wedding ever, I guarantee you at least one auntie will complain about something. It's ok though, just expect it!


You can always reduce budget on decorator or fashion, but the food is probably the biggest criteria for enjoyable weddings since it’s one thing every single guest will experience. 


Vendors


The top wedding caterer (who’s not cheap) in Los Angeles is Manohar (Delhi Palace) but you can find many others. 


1. Delhi Palace (Catering Only)


(We’ll update as we get better feedback on the new ones)


Venue Tips (from a Guest’s Point of View)


  • Parking is easy? (everybody drives in So-Cal)

  • Has it been done before? 

  • It’s fine if you do a hotel ballroom or less crazy venue to save money, but make sure you spend the time to decorate it and give it some your own charm.  

  • Look at getting a photobooth, or printing out photos of you and each guest to decorate the halls, or just giving a little extra love and care to spice up an otherwise conference room ballroom. 

  • If you have a venue that is already breaking the bank, try to find a place or areas in the venue that leverage the built in statues and architecture to serve as built in decor.

  • Photo-booths, live station dessert and/or waffle bars and clowns for kids are a great way to fill in an otherwise stale space.  They also keep guests busy!


Decoration 


Decor usually includes: 

  • Floral

  • Mandap (the wedding altar)

  • Chairs and Seating for Close Family

  • Stage design

  • Drapes

  • Tables and Dining

You don’t need to go overboard with $1200 per table decoration, but make the ballroom look chic and you’re good!. 



Decor is one of the most debated parts of Indian wedding planning.  Families get sticker shock when they realize how much flowers cost, and then some of those same families spend $40,000 on flowers. 


No I didn’t make a typo, yes, $40,000. 


The average big fat Indian wedding decorator bill can easily cross six figures. 



Indian Wedding Decorator Options in Los Angeles:




Wedding Photography and Video


This is mainly for you and your family as your guests will not likely notice DURING the wedding. Also most So-cal crowds are heavy on social media so they'll be busy with their own phones and IG stories. But here are some we love.


Your overall photographer budget would likely be about $10,000 to $15,000 for a professional, and video would run between $4,000 and $6,000.

We've all seen portraits by now of the couple posting like they're in Vogue. But you also want pictures of candids, like your sister staring at you or mom happy cheering.

PRO TIP: Ask your photographer to send you 50-60 images after each day's events so you can at least share some quick touched up photos with your wedding hashtag and WhatsApp groups!


However, in our industry we rely on their photos so many thanks to these folks for a lot of images on these sites! And these photos come out months later and really increase the memories!


Indian Wedding Photographer Los Angeles Options:



Indian Wedding Los Angeles Video Options



Lighting



  • Uplighting, pinspot lighting and intelligent lighting are all things you can quickly understand from the images above. 

  • Market lights and others are also available for outdoor and terrace functions.

  • Gobos are also very common for all white dance floors. 


Most DJ companies offer these services with DJ'ing, and I’ll refer to them next. 


Entertainment Options | Best DJ Company’s 



Most Indian DJs in southern California, as evident from all of our websites, focus on DJ, Emcee, Sound (speakers, stage, dance floor) and Lighting.  Weddings are the majority of business for California and New York Indian DJs, with corporate events, private parties and club gigs taking up the rest.  


You’ll find Indian wedding DJs in all price brackets but on average, for a 300 person Mehndi, Sangeet, Ceremony and Reception expect to pay between $15,000 (lower end) to $30,000 (higher end) for an Indian wedding DJ in Los Angeles or Orange County.


What do DJ’s include in standard Wedding Packages?

  • DJ Services

  • Mobile Baraat System 

  • Ballroom Lighting (uplights for walls and dance floor lighting)

  • Emcee Services


What do DJ’s charge extra for?

  • Dhol Players

  • LED Screens or Projector Screens

  • Pinspot Lighting

  • Dance Floor Rentals

  • Stage Design

  • Wireless Lavalier Mic's (for pandit, if he/she wants)

  • Fuel (beyond 40 miles)


Indian Wedding DJ and Lighting Companies in Los Angeles (2020)

  • Special Occasions DJ & Lighting.  That’s us.

  • Soundnation LA.  

  • 3D Soundz.  

  • DJ Rehil


Dance Troupes

  • B Funk Dance

  • Nakul Dance

  • Any more you guys know?


Pandits and Hindu Priests


We have a full post on Pandit's and Indian wedding priests in Los Angeles for your Indian Wedding, including two great ones in Los Angeles.


The average wedding pandit will charge between $1,000 and $3,000 to do a 90 minute ceremony and end-to-end four/five hour coverage of your wedding traditions and customs.


Pros of a Southern California Indian Wedding


To recap, all of the below should make a lot more sense now:


  • Beautiful weather options

  • Beautiful scenery (beaches, mountains, city lights)

  • Tons of Indian wedding vendors

  • Little India in Cerritos for last minute items 

  • Top class entertainment all based in California

  • International Airport connectivity

  • Great destinations for guests to go after (mexico, hawaii, las Vegas, San Francisco)

  • Expert venues at Indian Weddings


Cons of a Southern California Wedding


  • Costs can quickly get out of hand

  • Traffic and distances (e.g. From Simi Valley to Irvine might be hard for some guests to go 4 hours round trip every day)

  • Last minute India relatives may have issues traveling to California



Related Questions


1. What are some alternatives to a Los Angeles wedding? You can look at San Diego, Riverside, Ontario, Diamond Bar, Yorba Linda (Richard Nixon Library)


2. What about mixed weddings? Many bride and grooms these days are mixed couples that do a few ceremonies each. We rarely see a ceremony being skipped but added instead. But you can skip the Sangeet if it's a smaller guest list and you don't feel the need to.


3. Where should I get married? Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, San Diego or where? Most luxury Indian weddings will cost the most in SF, then LA/OC, and then SD. But naturally if you move out further from the city center you get lower cost. (Except in luxury OC communities). So it really just boils down to convenience.


CONCLUSION


Alright, we did it!  


By now you should have an understanding of:

  • the different venues for Indian weddings across the Los Angeles area,

  • have some idea on pricing

  • and know some ways you can save money (e.g. pick a hotel with less decor requirements, get freebies like late checkouts).  

  • You should also check each vendor’s Instagram over their Yelp reviews as well to ensure they’re active and taking pride in their work!

Question and comments do let us know!  And if you need a DJ, Sound, Lighting or even destination wedding help from our team, please do contact us ASAP!



Have an amazing wedding!


Ajay Manaktala is the founder of Special Occasions DJ & Lighting, one of the leaders in Indian weddings and South Asian entertainment in the United States. He is also a most viewed writer on Quora with over 100K answer views, has been featured on NBC's The Office and plans/helps/DJs big fat Asian weddings almost every month. Him and his team can be reached out to by commenting here or messaging on any social media handles!