South Asian Wedding Day Surprises Nobody Warns You About
Indian and South Asian weddings are quite the events.
Imagine a wedding reception:
spanning 2 or 3 days,
with 300 people,
food past the horizon and years of planning and travel all leading up to this special day.
Most desi weddings have guests that travel the world to attend and also have budgets of a small business.
As a result, it’s important to understand not only the things everybody tells you but also stuff less common that many don’t.
We asked over 2,000 Indian and Pakistani brides what is something they didn’t realize would happen during the wedding, and they did not disappoint.
Ten Indian Wedding Shaadi Surprises on the Big Day
1. You Will Get Tired of Smiling
If you’re a bride or groom to be, nobody explains that the actual wedding day is like being Oprah or Beyonce for a day. Those celebrities get used to ignoring crowds and cameras, but for most of us it’s a new feeling.
As a result your body will go into “Just smile and don’t act weird” mode.
Eventually however, the hyper awareness you’re so not used to having will catch up with your face muscles, and you will actually start clenching your jaw, rubbing your eyes, and just a be a little uncomfortable.
It’s nothing major, but take sips of water, close your eyes for 5-10 seconds at a time and just recognize it happens to everybody.
While you might think all eyes are on you, they are also on their cell phones, wrapped up in catch up conversations and sometimes (yes it’s normal), guests do fall asleep. Don’t stress, everybody knows you’re overwhelmed with attention and just settle into the poise that works for you.
2. The Lehenga is 50 pounds and Heavy.
I did not realize how heavy a lehenga is. Wow.
The extra weight means:
you will have a hard time moving,
you will sweat a bunch,
you might want to change after your ceremony and you will burn a lot of energy.
If you think you’re gonna jump right onto the dance floor or bar with that extra 60 pounds of garments, jewelry, hair extension and whatever else...ummm, think again.
Of the 100 responses we got for this article, the weight of the lehenga was one of the most popular “Nobody warned me about that” moments.
3. Your Makeup Will Take Too Long
I have a personal gripe with Make Up Artists. They are AMAZING at making South Asian wedding brides look GORGEOUS. But once that’s done, can you not waste her time with 15 minutes of photos for your Instagram reel?
The ballroom and food and bar is costing her family possibly $100 a minute (or usually more), so maybe be as quick as efficient as the quality allows? Or have your assistant snap those photos while you work so it’s all done when you’re done?
Brides - makeup takes HOURS, you should be eating your lunch or breakfast while getting it done, so plan ahead.
Makeup then impacts your photos, your friends selfies and most importantly that “here comes the bride moment.”
Prioritize your makeup but also tell your MUA you don’t want a wasted minute. Make sure they eat/plan/prepare during all your time doing other stuff, so the session is locked down as quickly as possible.
4. Photography Shouldn’t Keep You Away from the Action
On a similar note, it’s a shame that when your entire friends/family are from around the world in one ballroom for 2 hours...you have to vanish for 30 minutes.
This is prime time! 25% of your entire event for fancy photos?
Spend 10 minutes or so doing portraits (or plan 30 minutes, to the minute, before your reception) and then let your photo teams focus on candids and you laughing and enjoying the evening with your friends and family.
Or plan the next day with your photographer teams and hey, you can wear those outfits one more time at least!
I rarely see portraits beyond the first week after a wedding, as most excitement comes from pictures of all of you together.
Don’t vanish from a $100,000 reception.
25% of that time (for example, 45 minutes of a 3 hour reception) taking pictures you may not appreciate as much as the memories!
5. That First Night
Ok I found this hilarious, so I’ll just leave this image here. It speaks for itself but I mean, I can’t really argue with it.
Suhagraat in Indian culture means your first night as man and wife so you get the idea ;)
6. You Will Forget to Eat
Nobody told me about this one, although my brother’s wedding planner (KS Creations in Bangkok) made sure him and his wife did.
Imagine all the food tastings, all the diet consideration for different type of Indians, all the impressing the family friends...and then you don’t even get one bite of that lobster, dhokla or biryani.
Ask your wedding planner or family to whisk you away from the crowd so you get at least 15-20 minutes uninterrupted to eat during your events. You don’t want to get too drunk from an empty stomach, or tired from exhaustion.
Ask any wedding planner, especially an Indian wedding planner and they’ll 100% agree...the bride and groom forgetting to eat happens all the time and it should be addressed!
7. Try to Be Present as Much As Possible, It will Go In a Flash
The second most popular feedback we got was that we get so caught up in the material aspects of the wedding, we often forget to simply enjoy the moment. Don’t worry all the time about where your parents or siblings are, or if the vendors are doing their job.
Either your wedding planner will or delegate it to your close ones. (What are friends and family for?)
Most modern Desi wedding ceremonies are now limited to about 75-90 minutes, so trust us...it will be over before you know it.
Practice meditating, doing yoga, or just breathing...but make sure you are FULLY present both during the religious ceremony/vows/pheras and also humble/poised during your events like the sangeet and reception.
8. Appetizers Galore, but Biryani And Curry Please
I don’t have a solution for this, because nobody wants to look super cheap on their food variety. But trust us...all those options you ordered...Indian guests (especially in India) like the staple dishes.
But if you avoid the fancy appetizers...the aunties will gossip you skimped out.
If you’re deciding between 5 and 10 appetizers, you can safely go with 5...but if you’re deciding between 0 and 5 because you know people will get main courses….well just go with five.
9. Spending a Ton on Clothes You’ll Wear Once (for 3 hours)
As we talked about in “Is Getting a Sabyasachi Really Worth It?”, make sure that you don’t overspend on a crazy lehenga if you can’t afford it, or are dipping into major savings to afford it.
I have DJ’d over 1,000 Big Fat Indian weddings and I have NEVER heard someone, even in passing say a bride didn’t look good or skimped on her lehenga. And NOBODY can tell the difference.
I’ve also seen brides in $2,000 lehengas carry themselves amazing, and brides in $20,000 lehengas seem stressed.
You should 100% be the best dressed bride or groom at the event, and I have seen many grooms buy a seemingly “fancy” sherwani only to realize they should have spent the extra $200 or just taken their mom up on that go to India and shop trip.
For men, spend between $1000 and $4,000 on your wedding sherwani.
For ladies, try to keep it between $1,000 and $6,000. Just remember, the lower cost the lehenga, it’s usually the higher the margin. Meaning a $500 lehenga is made up of $100 raw materials, where as a $1,000 might be $400, etc…
You’ll only wear these clothes once so if you’re worried about the cost, don’t overdo it. Once all the wedding hoopla is done that item will sit in your closet for years.
10. It’s as Much your Parents Day as It Is Yours
Your parents brought you into this world. They raised you. They probably paid for a lot of your life.
Don’t get worried if they want to take time with makeup, are running late with chatting with friends or insisting on an 8 minute speech. (ideal time is 3 to 5 minutes tops in any crowd of more than 200).
The usual jokes with Indian weddings is that it’s a big show off and political affair...but ulitimately it’s a celebration of your life to be, and your parents life’s work.
The greatest joy is the joy of giving, and to see a bride’s face light up when she sees her mom and/or dad being emotional during the wedding...you never get over it.
Got any thing we missed? Any suggestions based on the latest trends in 2020 or specific to your country? Let us know in the comments.
And for our United States couples about to tie the knot, feel free to reach out to us for DJ/Lighting/Dhol/Entertainment on your big day.
Ajay Manaktala is a Quora recognized expert on Indian weddings, and has personally DJ'd, organized or consulted on over 1,000 Desi Weddings, mainly in the US, Mexico and Hawaii. He writes extensively about the billion dollar Indian wedding industry and still DJs/Produces weddings all the time.