• Ajay Manaktala

How To Plan an Awesome Sangeet (2019)

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

Do you want to know how to plan the best Sangeet from start to finish at your Indian wedding? This guide is for Indian Weddings in America but can also be used pretty much anywhere, especially at any five star (Hilton, Hyatt, Leel, Taj, etc.. type of hotel). Whether guest or groom, this should help you out.


Let's begin.


The best way to have a sangeet is everything below, but as you read remember the priority:


1. People need to memorize their dances, and you have to make it easy for them to. (I'll explain)

2. If you have 300 people, the dances need to not be longer than 40 minutes in total. (I'll explain)



These have become the funnest events at Indian weddings!

1. What is a Sangeet?


In a nutshell, it's a dance party where your friends and family do anywhere between 3 and 10 dances for you as bride and groom. It's also where the bride and groom will dance for everybody else.


It's a rocking party, traditionally at a hotel ballroom or party venue. Imagine a wedding reception, before the wedding where you and your pals dance for your friends in 2 minute turns in front of 200 people!





2. What's the history on Sangeets?


Sangeet's originally started many years ago in Punjab, a part of India (where you see guys who have the turbans) and it was a set of dance performances in celebration of the married couple. Different groups of people from a small town or village would all get together, and dance off much like a modern day talent show.


Groom goes nuts after his friends finish their dance for him

The bride and groom would sit in nice chairs and laugh and clap and feel the heartfelt effort, and then many times they would dance themselves along with their siblings and parents!


3. What Do You Need to Plan a Great Sangeet for Your Big Fat Indian Wedding?


  • A venue, often a hotel ballroom or community center

  • A list of people who are dancing, paired up in groups (e.g. cousins, college mates and colleagues, etc..)

  • Choreographed lessons for each group to get the dance steps down (done virtually via YouTube and Google Drive or WhatsAppthese days)

  • A DJ,

  • A dance floor and/or a large stage

  • a buffet

  • depending on your crowd, a huge bar/alcohol


Now that's a fun Sangeet! Usually the dance floor, dinner and the bar keep rocking from the time dances are over at 10PM until 1AM!

4. How do I figure out Dances for my Sangeet?


First is song selection, and that's easy. Whatever tunes you like from the movies, and we have ideas for you on our blog as well.


But the real questions is..How do I make sure everyone learns their dances?


This is the money question! And we got you covered.


The most efficient, time saving and EFFECTIVE way to figure your sangeet choreography is NOT to call 50 people over and think you're going to choreograph 5 dances in a day. AND DO NOT WASTE VALUABLE TIME AT YOUR WEDDING DOING PRACTICE FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T EVEN KNOW ONE STEP.

These days, your friends have careers, people are spread out across the world and even though we're all faffing on Instagram, PEOPLE SAY THEY'RE BUSY. I personally DJ high end sangeets monthly and you have to remember...what makes a good sangeet?





THAT PEOPLE MEMORIZED THEIR DANCES.


And your big fat wedding at a hotel is costing thousands of dollars per hour, so why are you wasting time before this reception trying to teach someone to dance when you could enjoy you or your friends wedding, or get makeup and hair done, etc..?




Each checkbox is one dance.

So how do you ensure your friends memorize and practice?


  • You make it easy for them.

  • The easiest way to do that, is to find someone in India, pay them $150-$200 per dance, and have them choreograph the entire thing for you by video.

  • Then a month before the wedding, you send out these videos and you tel them if they didn't memorize it you will be hurt. As there will be no practice.


Just google and find some choreographers and negotiate!



People will drop out last minute, people will complain.


But you just made it so easy for them, they have no choice. And they will feel stupid at the last minute when everybody is cheering/dancing and they realized they could have spent 30 minutes on the plane to the wedding watching this video and figuring it out.


5. What are the Latest Trends in America for Sangeets?


These days, Sangeet's have become almost as big as the wedding reception. In fact some of the, including my own brother's was much crazier.


We see sangeets also of the usual hotel fan fare above, plus:

  • a stage

  • live bands after the performances are over,

  • A DJ who goes till 2 or 3 in the morning

  • projector screens (if you have more than 100 people),

  • decoration like flowers and center pieces, although those are not as fancy as the reception

  • casino or a carnival theme or other themes that inspire movement and vibrancy (usually receptions are more classy sit down affairs)





6. What Not to Do at a Sangeet?


- Don't over do it. As we talked about this guide on organizing your Sangeet dances both virtually and how to practice....don't have more than an hour of dances.


If you have more than 400 people I'd even say keep the entire dance portion of the night down to 30 minutes (so group your dances accordingly).

- Don't tell people your dances will start at 7:30 when in reality they'll start around 9PM. Sangeets ALWAYS start late.


- Don't add dances at the last minute! It always happens, it's always stressful, and it's not required. A half hearted dance unless you REALLY want it isn't pleasing anyone!


- Don't get too drunk, you have a religious wedding ceremony tomorrow ok?


- LADIES - DO NOT WEAR HEAVY LEHENGAS!


- Don't use props! Whether a dupatta or umbrella or twirly sticks, most people don't practice and then this stuff just lingers around the dance floor!



7. What TO DO at a Sangeet?


- Keep your buffet open for as long as possible. The oldies want to eat early and go home, the youngsters will likely go for last call as they'll drink and dance it up first.


- Ask your DJ (we do this for our clients) to help with Sangeet mixes to chop up the music. (Most include you to ask them two to three times).


Keep each dance below 3 minutes, (2 is perfect) and remember you will sweat, so a longer dance may make your hair and makeup go for a toss!


8. GET AN EMCEE


No not a family member. Yes a friend or hire one. But friends have risks as stated above in that they may feel they can't enjoy the event now, or they might get drunk and not take it seriously (we see both all the time).


A professional emcee during your Indian wedding is extremely important during sangeet.


Here's why:


  1. Your friends have spent time practicing their dances. They should feel recognized and names should be announced properly. Your cousin may now know them all or realize it's significant.

  2. The crowd has to be hyped and coordinated with the DJ during the announcements and after the person's dances are over

  3. Surprise father/mother dances need to be planned ahead.

  4. You'll need someone to explain who these people are, what side of the aisle they're from, and are they all your med school friends, college friends, etc..


9. HAVE BOLLYWOOD MUSIC.


Indian weddings in America are unique because we all grew up in the states, so we like hip hop and edm culture. In fact when our non-Indian friends would come over we'd likely tell mom to put away the samosa's or simply turn off the Indian channel. As a result what happens is sometimes at wedding, folks born after 1986 say things like:


"Oh we don't want Bollywood music."

"we're more hip hip"

"play some EDM yeah? Or his cool indie track from (insert college band of the year)"



American people want Indian food, music and experiences at Indian weddings! Trust us!

That's fine that all your friends are from Texas. I understand you wan't them to have fun too. But you're also compromising what your mom/dad/uncles/aunties will enjoy.


And your friends from Texas? They want to hear Bollywood music, just like they want to wear Indian clothes!They don't care that much about Bruno Mars. Trust us.


It's an Indian event, and even they want to experience Indian culture and turn it up Bhangra or Bollywood style.


Why a Dhol player at your Indian wedding weekend?


10. Remember that You Will Sweat


  • Both in a 5 minute dance and throughout the night.

  • Plan accordingly! Some brides change for their dance, but then vanish again for 30 minutes to change back. I'm not a fan of that!

  • Have your makeup artist on stand by after your dance to give you a touch up.

  • Wear deodorant and dab again (nobody is going to tell the bride or groom they a little stank but don't let it get to that!)


11. What do you Wear to a Sangeet?


This question is very interesting, because white people who come to a Sangeet naturally then get confused when they see Indian uncles in suits.


So what to wear to a Sangeet? If you're dancing as part of the program wear Indian clothes. If you're not, Indian clothes or a suit are fine.


Men, you can wear an outfit called a Kurta and Bandi (long shirt with a vest) or a Jodhpuri (Indian blazer).


Ladies, you can wear a Lehenga or a cocktail dress.



Click for the full guide.





12. How Much Does a Sangeet Cost?


Another reason brides can feel stressed during the sangeet is that after years of attending weddings, they don't realize wow, this party is as big, if not bigger than the reception.



If you have a big fat Indian wedding at a five star hotel in a place like Los Angeles, you can expect a 300 person ballroom Sangeet to cost roughly $40,000 or more when you factor in catering, venue, DJ, decoration, sound, lights, alcohol and more. We have a full breakdown of Indian wedding costs also here.



13. Can't I just do my Sangeet at my House or Gated Community Center?


Here's the thing about Sangeets. The more money you spend, just like with weddings, doesn't mean better event. But we have seen people try to pack 300 people into a small hall with paper cups and take out or home mood food and it's just......eh.


You can definitely pull of smaller sangeet if your budget is limiting you from an elaborate hotel setup. The main ways to do plan a great sangeet with a lower budget is:


  • Focus on an hour (tops) of excellent dances

  • Try to get a photo booth to keep the crowd occupied

  • Ensure you put some of that hotel savings into stellar food and drinks.

  • Ask your DJ to play for an hour longer (although you will likely have the same vibe again at your reception)

  • If you have a Gujarati also being married, bust out into some Garba!


14. Do I need to have a Sangeet?


Many South Indian weddings don't have a sangeet and that's completely fine. Or if you just have a guest list of 100-150 or don't want a big lavish 2-3 day affair, we totally get it. In many of the weddings we DJ, we either get called for the whole thing, or just the reception, and sometimes JUST the sangeet.


If you can afford it and are on the fence about doing it, do it.

If you have a small group and see it as more of a burden and don't feel like the formality, then you can skip it. They're no hard and fast rules!


My own cousin did a 3 day wedding in Goa and although he skipped the Sangeet, they had a cocktail party instead which more or less became a Sangeet! So even if you do skip it...GET READY TO DANCE!



Mehndi's happen before the Sangeets. Enjoy your mehendi and don't vanish from it to go practice your Sangeet dances.

15. How do I get my friends to practice Sangeet Dances?


It can be frustrating.


You don't want to look like a bridezilla, but you want to make sure your gang is nailing it. We find the following works well:


  • If some of you are in LA, and the rest are in Chicago, get the LA gang together to start practicing. Share that on Instagram, let them see it, and it's light little nudge that hey, we're on it!

  • One email a week or a whatsApp message a week is good.

  • Send them the videos of dance practices a month before so they have adequate time

  • To avoid people backing out, make sure you keep telling them how excited you are, etc..



CONCLUSION


Your Sangeet often serves as the kick off party night of your big fat Indian wedding, and the majority of Sangets would happen on a Friday night, and then the wedding would be the Saturday afternoon. People get rest, have some bonding from the day before and end up already making inside jokes and forming bonds throughout your wedding.


As stated at the start of this post, make sure your friends all practice and nail their dances (without being too obsessive about it, once a week reminder emails are fine!) and the rest of your Sangeet will EASILY fall into place.


If you have any questions don't hesitate to comment them below!


Ajay Manaktala is an Indian wedding expert who has personally DJ'd and planned over 500 Sangeets across Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco and beyond. He knows that a bunch of dances or money don't define a Sangeet, but using all of that effectively to give you and your guests a great time is how it all comes together! Please do check out his over 100K wedding viewers on Quora or drop him a note on social media!