If you’ve been recently engaged and are considering working with a South Asian / desi wedding, you’re likely asking yourselves the same common questions wedding planners get from couples. From the right venues, to getting outside caterers to the dreaded B-word (BUDGET), you’re faced with a plethora of decisions to make. Where do you start?
Before meeting with a wedding planner, most couples use a generic wedding planning template guides to frame their questions. But as South Asian brides ourselves, we know those guides rarely cater to the complexities of a desi wedding.
That’s why The Brown Bride team surveyed five wedding planners in the South Asian community (all in our vendor directory!) to find out what advice they would offer for some of the most common questions couples have when planning their desi wedding.
If you like what any of these vendors have to say, make sure to click on the links to their vendor listing and send them a message!
Diwan by Design: The first question to ask is if the venue allows outside catering or not. Also, based on your palette and preferences, see menu options for in house catering as well as outside catering. For budget purposes, pricing can be similar based on the venue that you are working with. Also, remember the venue will have a food and beverage minimum that you must reach!
Erganic Design: Outside catering is a great choice because it gives you the most control over the menu and style of service, and allows you to interview/sample several caterers before choosing which one you’ll hire for your wedding. Outside catering will allow you to customize the menu to your liking. Some venues may have rigid parameters around the menu creation and may not have experience with South Asian food.
Events by Srishti: Catering is a big decision when it comes to weddings – it’s one of the most memorable aspects of any event! Depending on what it is you are looking for, either the in-house or catering option can be suitable. Many clients prefer cuisines the venue may not be able to offer so in that case the best option is outside catering. On the other hand, if your venue provides in-house catering, it may be a good idea to have a food tasting first and see if it meets your needs. I also take into account the dietary requirements of my clients – Muslim couples, for instance, may only want halal meat served at their wedding. In this case, most venues are not suitable for this, which requires you to choose the outside catering option.
XQuisit Events: I’ve found that my South Asian clients tend to opt for the outside catering option. I would recommend in-house if the client likes the taste of their food and if it’s able to save them money in the long run. Keep in mind that sometimes you do not have the option to bring in an external catering vendor, so choose your venue wisely!
Tum Hi Ho: Catering really depends on the circumstances of your situation, preferences, and venue. Some pros of in-house catering: since the venue and caterer are the same, the chefs and staff are already familiar with the kitchen and layout of the venue. They also have their ingredients in house, which means a reduced chance of spoiled food. You can also save some money by working out a package with the venue to get in-house catering.
Some cons include less flexibility – some venues may provide set menus that the client has to work with and may not offer different cuisines and varieties. This brings us to the biggest pro of having outside catering – more flexibility. With outside catering, you have endless options to choose from. However, the cons are that the food and ingredients have to be transported, the chefs and staff are working in a kitchen they’re not used to, and you will likely have to get insurance, permits, etc. to have outside catering.
Diwan by Design: The first thing to do is create a guest list. The biggest cost usually is venue and that is determined by your headcount. Once that is determined, you can then decide what your total budget would be to help narrow down the cost per vendor.
Tum Hi Ho: There really is no straight answer for how much things cost. You can hire a photographer for $500 or $20,000, and the same goes with any other vendor. It really depends on how much you’re willing to spend, and the quality and experience you’re looking for. The best thing to do is spend time researching. Start the process early and reach out to a plethora of vendors to get an average of how much things cost. If you really have no idea where to start, hiring a wedding planner would be in your best interest. Planners can refer you to vendors based on your budget and will work with you to review and negotiate all your contracts.
XQuisit Events: Everyone’s budget is different. Understanding the cost of the main 3 vendor categories are important. Venue will typically take up a good 35-45% of your budget depending on your guest count. Once that is determined, you will be able to determine the next two big vendors; caterer and decorator. Typically we provide our brides with a range of costs depending on which vendor they are looking into so they have a good understanding if they are able to afford them or not.
Erganic Design: Budgets can vary vastly. We suggest asking your wedding planner to create a budget outline based on the number of days and events you would like to have, how many guests you plan to invite to each event, and the vendors needed for each event. The outline should include price ranges, taking into consideration the average costs of certain vendors as well as the high end of a particular category. For example, a photography range could be $5,500 – $12,500. While this is a wide range it will be helpful once you have all vendor category ranges, so you’ll have a budget minimum and maximum.
Events by Srishti: We get this question quite often. Our team can guide you in the right direction but when it comes to deciding the budget, the final decision is yours. We try to show our clients the services that can be included for them with an average wedding budget (depending on their guest count and venue) which helps set a nice starting point for the couple. We’ve seen that costs are quite dependent on the length of the wedding – some South Asian weddings might only be a day long while in other cultures the festivities range from 4-5 days.
One recommendation would be to decide what is most important for you, as the wedding couple. For some couples, photography and cinematography is very important so they might be willing to take a more expensive package with that vendor vs someone who would rather splurge on decor. I find that it is easier for clients to set a budget per vendor rather than have an overall budget; this helps streamline the planning process in the long run.
Events by Srishti: An experienced wedding planner keeps her vendors together and timeline. Timeline is a must and you cannot expect your guests to come on time. So we need to plan ahead. If your invite says 7pm, you can’t have entrances until around 7:45-8. Nobody will be there. It’s just a South Asian norm. This is where couples don’t want to agree and it creates problems the day of.
Our Event Management team ensures that we build in enough buffer time from each portion of your event(s) to the next. We always over allocate time for pictures, entrances, and dinner. This way, if everything finished earlier than planned, the clients end up with more time for the dance floor (who doesn’t love that)!
XQuisit Events: Setting up a detailed timeline ahead of time will allow us to stay on track day of. We make sure we allocate enough buffer time between different parts of a wedding so if we are running behind, we are able to catch up appropriately without rushing. Enjoying the moment is really important to us so we plan ahead for any last minute changes and provide enough time in the timeline.
Diwan by Design: Hire a planner! If your budget does not allow a full time planner, invest in hiring a Day-Of Coordinator. They will help you maintain your timeline, keep you sane and ensure you and your loved ones will enjoy one of the most important days of your life! The planner will worry about the set up, payments, and do all the running around while you focus on enjoying your wedding and being in the moment!
Erganic Design: Schedules should have buffer time built into it, so that you aren’t feeling rushed and so as not to get behind.Add 45min-60min of time to the schedule for getting ready. This includes hair, makeup, getting dressed, adding jewelry and time to make adjustments. If you need to be photo ready by 2:00pm, build the schedule to be photo ready by 1:00 pm. This extra time is very helpful to keep you on schedule, and to allow for any unforeseen things that may come up. Invitation time should be 30-45min prior to the actual time you want to walk down the aisle. If you are having a baraat, invite guests to gather 30min before the start of the procession so everyone is present when it begins.
For the dinner reception, have an order and flow for the programming (ie entrances, special dances, speeches/toasts, etc), but dont schedule to the minute. Have blocks of time (on the half hour), and focus on the order of the programming. It’s ok if some things go a little over because some things will be completed quicker than anticipated. Be in sync with musicians and MC to highlight the most important aspects of your reception (eg wanting long dance sets, keeping speeches short, etc).
Tum Hi Ho: Hire a wedding planner or coordinator! You do not want to leave any responsibilities to your family or friends on a day that you should all be enjoying. You’re spending thousands of dollars on a dream wedding, countless hours planning, and will have hundreds of guests to attend to, why not spend a little more and ensure it all goes perfectly? A planner will work with you months in advance to iron out every detail and organize a minute by minute itinerary to ensure things will go smoothly. Indian weddings especially have so many moving parts. Having a professional work with your vendors, bridal party, and guests to have everyone in the right place at the right time is essential! Take it from a wedding planner, you won’t regret hiring one, but you will regret it if you don’t!