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  • Writer's pictureAjay Manaktala

Indian Weddings in San Francisco Bay Area | Full Guide

Updated: May 8, 2020

What’s up Bay Area! Are you thinking about planning your big fat South Asian wedding in San Francisco, Sacramento, Silicon Valley or elsewhere in Northern California? 

You’re in the right place! 

How To Plan an Indian Wedding in the Bay Area

San Francisco is the high tech artery that powers the entire modern world.  Given the high density of jobs in STEM (software, technology, engineering and medicine) fields in can be sure there will also be a high density of Indians! 

Indian wedding bay area
Time to sell some of that Amazon stock to pay for this!

Most people who look to do their wedding in the Bay are usually from families that live there, have married into a family that has or are working professionals who have settled in California's most expensive city. 

Since a ton of desis not only live in SF but also work there from India as part of the H1B visa lottery, there is a massive Indian community of both NRI’s and second generation Indian-Americans.  Many of the folks under 40 who are currently engaged were either born in America or moved here as part of school or work, and in many cases got engaged in India but are now doing their wedding in the states. 

The types of Indian communities we see aren’t exactly known, but for this post we’ll discuss “Indian weddings” as they pertain to:

  • South Indians (Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala)

  • North Indians (Delhites)

  • Punjabis

  • Gujaratis 

  • Bengalis

  • Pakistanis

  • Sri Lankans

  • Mixed

  • Bangladeshis

My goal is to take you through the Indian wedding industry in SF and give ideas for folks living in areas like Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale etc…

I’ll also explain costs and hacks for you to save some cash. 

I’ll then wrap it up with some vendors you can look at if you decide to get hitched here!

Since this is a long post, scroll ahead to any of the following sections per the outline below:

  1. The Very First Step You Must Do for SF and Bay Area Weddings

  2. Why Plan your Wedding in the Bay Area?

  3. Main Cities in San Francisco to have a South Asian wedding

  4. Venue Primer and Basics

  5. Main Hotels in SF to host Indian Weddings

  6. Factors That Are Unique to SF for Weddings

  7. How Much Does an Indian Wedding Cost in SF?

  8. Priorities for your SF Guests

  9. Food and Catering Vendors

  10. Venue Considerations (Guest’s Point of View)

  11. Planners, Event Team & Decorators

  12. Photographers

  13. Videographers

  14. Baraat 

  15. Pandit and Priest's we Recommend

  16. Pros of a Wedding in SF

  17. Cons of a Wedding in SF

  18. Conclusions

System.out.println(“Are you ready techies?”);

Ok sorry, tech joke.  Let’s go!!

indian wedding planning san Francisco
As Indian hospitality dictates, you need to know your guest list first!

The Very First Step You Must Do for SF and Bay Area Weddings

You may have already done this step in which case skip ahead.  But if you have not finalized your guest list or at least finalized everybody you’re inviting, please go back and finish that process now. 

With Indian weddings in America, as I say for have to start with your guest list.  

As many people in the Bay Area know, US Visas are not so straightforward or forgiving these days.  

People get rejected all the time regardless of how much money they have or how many times they’ve come to America before.  If your best friend, your mother or you grandma back in Mumbai or Chandigarh or Pakistan aren’t able to come to your wedding for whatever reason...then you’re going to have a hard time getting your $25,000 deposit back from the Fairmont Hotel.  

Take a few days and make a spreadsheet of names and where everybody is coming from.  

ALSO SEE: Is it considered normal to send marriage invites only digitally now?

If San Francisco and California is still a sure shot bet (e.g. if a few people who are distant can’t make it and you’re cool with it) then carry on.  But if it’s still open, don’t risk it with super close relatives until that 10 year US Visa is secure! 

Remember...just like with software, you have to plan and analyze first, then implement and deploy! I repeat over and over...GUEST LIST FIRST!

gujarati wedding cost san francisco
The view, the weather, the VOW. (get it?)

Why Plan your Shaadi in the Bay Area?

Usually with San Francisco, San Jose and Bay area weddings couples do it here because most of the people they know are going to come from around the same area.  Given the high cost of living and high-salary jobs, these same couples could also easily afford a destination wedding if they wanted to. But lucky for everyone, Nor Cal is also simply an awesome place to get married.

With regards to Indian weddings:

  • Convenience: Easy and direct airport access both from India and/or Pakistan, as well as domestically via so many other airports.  Many guests from Los Angeles or Seattle may also opt for scenic drives up and down the coast.    

  • Accessible: People can Uber, drive, walk or take public transport like the Bart to get around. It’s also very handicap friendly despite all the hills. 

  • Gorgeous Scenery: You really have to see the Golden Gate bridge to take it in.  Pictures do not do it justice. And the SF skyline for city weddings, or across the bay via Berkeley and Oakland are also simply breathtaking. Yacht cruises, city tours, winery tasting in Sonoma also offers a great experience for the working professional. 

  • Little India: Food? Fashion? Pandit? Dandia?  You’ll get it all in the bay and you will be spoiled for choice.  They’re so many Indian communities, temples, Gurdwaras, and desi societies for any group, any age, any person that you’ll feel like you’re in India.  Aside from maybe the latest fashion styles you see in Mumbai or Delhi, you’ll pretty much get anything you’d get in India in a place like SF. And also New Jersey I imagine. 

Main Cities in San Francisco to have a South Asian wedding

San Francisco itself is like Manhattan, a small densely populated insanely expensive city. 

But the term San Francisco is used interchangeably with the entire region Northern California when most of us talk about it for weddings. 

So for our Indian wedding planning purposes we’ll look at the following areas:

  • San Francisco: City lights, breathtaking views, expensive, and world class anything.  Great for big budget big fat Indian weddings. 

  • Fremont, Sunnyvale, San Mateo, Cupertino San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View: The Silicon Valley Suburbs. A ton of Indians live here and support the major tech companies.  Great for big fat Indian weddings that don’t want to break the bank or life savings.  The San Mateo Marriott is also Indian wedding central!

  • Sacramento/Oakland: Less expensive areas further out, But many fancy weddings do occur here as Sacramento has a large Indina community aso. 

best indian wedding hotels bay area

Indian Wedding Venues in Northern California

Hotels, city hall and community centers are no stranger to Indian wedding receptions and they're a massive business for them.  As a result a lot of them will have straightforward pricing and not be too aggressive in pushing you too close the deal, because well, their business is doing just fine. 

For those new to the wedding and banquet business, you normally pay the hotel for food and alcohol, and then the venue comes for free as part of that with basic table, seating and staff. 

The good news is that many hotels will have relationships or in-house Indian catering, so you can avoid going out for Indian food and instead use whatever you promised in your contract to spend on Indian food and keep the guests happy.  They are also dedicated Hindu wedding venues, temples and community centers which can help with fire codes, unique customs, cultural nuances, fabrics, spices, animals and more.

Also anytime you book a hotel ballroom for a wedding, you will usually get 2-3 rooms and suites included as part of a $150,000 to $300,000 contract. 

These can be negotiated as much as you can stretch it, and you should!  

You should also ask your hotel for a discounted with breakfast rate for out of town guests, although that may not be much cheaper than wholesale rates you see on Kayak because of various factors. 

HOTELS IN SF ARE ABOUT $300 during low season and can go up to $600 during peak period.  The last thing you want are a few of your guests telling you they can’t find anything, but they really want to come, etc…

Many Hotels in SF are now charging resort or “urban” fees.  For example the Fairmont hotel lists a $239 rate on their website, but after taxes and fees, your bill will be closer to $310.  

Indian community centers such as the one in Sunnyvale and SF City Hall which is insanely popular also have fees to book the hall and then a host of other charges that can almost double the fee itself.  You then pay for catering and decor and everything else separately! 


Best Indian Wedding Venues in the Bay Area

San Francisco

Ritz Carlton SF 

A ballroom capacity of 500 people, gorgeous city views and the impeccable Ritz makes this a top choice for folks who can afford it.  The terrace tent or courtyard is also nice for your wedding although you won’t have much of a backdrop the way you would for a beach or destination wedding behind the mandap. 

Fairmont Hotel San Francisco

The Fairmont Hotel is one of the most popular weddings in San Francisco for Indian weddings and by good measure.  It has a unique vintage architecture, fantastic views from the room and event spaces on top of Nob Hill that can overlook the bay area can.  It can accommodate a fairly large volume of guests at around 300 for Indian weddings, which it also experienced at doing. 

SF City Hall

If you can book it early, you have one of the best values for money places in the city.  As a government facility the rates aren’t exorbitant and can be viewed here. You’ll still spend a bunch on decoration and the usual wedding vendors, but to be honest it’s such a unique and gorgeous space for a wedding GRANTED you book it well in advance.  The only slight downside is the waiting period as well as the fact that you need to play your last song by midnight, which as we all know is difficult considering all Indian events start late and go late! 

Westin ST Francis, Union Square