With many factors at play, planning a wedding today is a daunting process. From the financial implications of what will probably be the most expensive purchase you'll make in your lifetime, to a tight timeline that leaves only a few months (if not weeks) to plan something that will take most people years to pull off, putting together all the details of this once-in-a-lifetime celebration can be overwhelming. Even if you hire an Indian wedding planner, it's helpful to understand the Indian wedding planning process and how to plan an Indian wedding before you dive in. If you're tying the knot soon, we're here to help! In this wedding planning guide, The Desi Bride covers everything about planning a Desi wedding in detail, so you don’t lose your mind while wedding planning. Whether it’s an intimate Hindu ceremony or a big fat Indian wedding, read below for tips on making the wedding planning process easier.
Pick a wedding date
Before you can start diving into Indian wedding planning, you need to pick a date. There are several factors that feed into picking a date:
- Parents want you to get married asap: You’ll often find that it’s the parents who want you to get married tomorrow. South Asian parents typically want their kids to get married as soon as possible. If you have parents who want you to plan a wedding in two months, make sure you understand everything that goes into planning your dream wedding before you commit to the date.
- You want to get married to move in with your significant other and start your life together: With Desi parents, it’s usually marriage before moving in together – we’re not saying this is true for all families or that this is the right thing, but we’re just saying this is the reality a lot of Desi couples have to deal with. A lot of couples want to get married quickly to move in together. While this might be the right decision for you, please note that you can always get court married and still give yourself time to plan a larger, more thought-out wedding a few months or even a year later.
- Muhurat / Auspicious date: In Hindu weddings, the pandit or priest will look at your time of birth and recommend an auspicious date (and sometimes even time). Typically, auspicious wedding dates are between April – June and November – December with a handful of other dates across other months. August – October is often a drier wedding season.
- Weather: Depending on where you are planning to host your wedding, you may want to avoid specific seasons. For example, a July wedding in Texas, especially with outdoor events, may be a no-go unless you account for tents and plenty of fans and water for your guests.
Photo Credit: SMS Photography
Determine your wedding guest count
After you have a couple of wedding dates in mind, the next step for Indian wedding planning is to determine your guest count. You may formalize your guest count before you have a budget or work backward from your budget to determine the max guest count you can have. Some families and couples even pick a venue first to cap their guest count.
Finalizing your guest count, especially for South Asian weddings, can be a challenging and heavily analytical exercise! The easiest way to approach this is to start with an existing guest list from a close family member’s or friend’s wedding if you know there will be overlapping guests.
Alternately, have both sets of parents and the bride / groom come up with a list of family members, close family friends, and friends they want to invite. Before diving into table seating and writing down every single Indian wedding guest, for the initial wedding guest list, we recommend including the family name and number of guests (kids / significant others). From there, you should assign priority groups to each family (1 = closest family and friends you will definitely invite; 2 = invite in round two ; 3 = maybes or last-minute invites if you have headcount). For Indian weddings with multiple events like a mehndi, garba / sangeet, wedding ceremony, and reception, you may actually want to add a column for each event and indicate whether or not you will be inviting the family (or the number of people invited to each even if you don’t want to include children at the wedding reception as an example) to each event.
If you are nervous about a high guest count or planning an intimate wedding ceremony, you may want to lock down a venue first and then determine how many seats you’ll have at the physical wedding. Destination weddings are another way to cut down on the guestlist as usually fewer people are willing to take the time and money required to travel. Even if you start with a guest list, you may need to come back to it after selecting the venue and play around with the guest list a bit to make sure you invite only as many guests as there are seats at the table.
Finally, with the pandemic, we’ve learned that virtual weddings are here to stay. While you may not invite round two and round three priority guests to a physical wedding, if they still have significance in your life (or your parents have the need to invite their friend’s cousin’s colleague), you can always send them an invite for the virtual wedding ceremony or virtual wedding reception.
Photo Credit: SMS Photography
Pick a wedding location before you dive into venues
Before you start searching for your perfect Indian wedding venue in Texas, figure out the location. Are you going for a destination wedding or a local wedding?
There are several benefits to hosting a destination wedding:
- You can cut down on your guest list to create an intimate wedding as fewer guests are able to travel more than 1-2 hours, especially if you are asking them to fly across the world.
- Your wedding becomes a vacation for your guests. Whether it’s Cancun, Italy, or Jaipur, your guests are traveling outside of their home and will be 100% engaged in wedding celebrations and treat their time away as a vacation. Who doesn’t enjoy vacations?
- You can select the setting you’ve always dreamt of for your wedding day. Do you want a whimsical wedding on the beach, a royal wedding in a palace, or a rustic wedding with nature? By picking a destination wedding, you get the privilege of truly picking the destination of your dreams.
- You get more bang for your buck if you plan a destination wedding somewhere like India where the dollar goes further. While your budget may be the same as an Indian wedding in Texas, you’ll be able to have a much more luxurious wedding in Goa, Jaipur, or Udaipur.
- You can have a lower budget wedding given the fewer guests, and if you plan a destination wedding in Cancun or Cabo, often the guests will pay for their own rooms, and the hotel has budget-friendly Desi wedding packages.
After you’ve figured out destination versus local wedding, go a level deeper. For local weddings, how far do you want to be from an airport, if you have guests traveling in? For destination weddings, how important is connectivity and travel time for guests? It’s helpful to narrow down to a city for destination weddings and a suburb for local weddings (e.g., wedding venues in Plano or wedding venues in Sugarland).
Photo Credit: Amrit Photography
Figure out a rough Indian wedding budget
Desi weddings cost less than $50,000, and they can also easily cost over $250,000. The average Indian wedding in Texas costs $125,000 to $175,000. While most families and couples spend above their budget and often don’t know what their budget is, it’s helpful to understand what works for you – a scrappy budget-friendly wedding; a reasonable but beautiful wedding; or a lavish affair with no expenses spared. Understanding your comfortable budget range will help you make decisions on high expense vendors like venue, catering, and décor. If you need help with figuring out what your budget should be for your Indian wedding, visit The Desi Bride’s Wedding Calculator.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ivy Photography
Know your priorities, your partners’ priorities, and your parents’ priorities for everyone's dream wedding
Wedding planning can feel stressful and all-encompassing. Before truly getting into wedding planning, we recommend writing down and talking about priorities for key stakeholders (bride, groom, parents). We’ve outlined some common priorities below, but you may have other priorities like getting beautiful pictures or having a sports-themed cocktail night. We've also written an article around how to eliminate [some] stress and drama by openly discussing priorities.
- The couple enjoys (has fun at) the wedding
- The parents enjoy (have fun at) the wedding
- Using time wisely and making decisions quickly
- Managing relationships with family and in-laws
- Staying under budget
- Impressing the guests with a unique experience
- Keeping the guests entertained
- Great food that everyone enjoys
- Celebrating traditions and adhering to religious rituals
- Making logistics as convenient as possible (e.g. transportation, schedule etc)
- Getting the wedding over with, so we can get on with our lives
Knowing your priorities will not only make decisions easier (e.g., should I invest a lot in décor if it’s at the bottom of my priority list) but will also help keep everyone focused through the wedding planning process. It’s close to impossible to make all of the key stakeholders happy through the process, but discussing priorities can really make the wedding planning process just a little easier and more transparent, to say the least.
Photo Credit: Shaadi Destinations
How long does it take to plan an Indian wedding?
The average South Asian wedding takes 10-12 months to plan. We’re not saying that you can’t plan an Indian wedding in Dallas in less than 10 months, but trying to plan a Desi wedding in less than 6 months will be challenging. Planning an Indian wedding means lots of decisions and details. If you try to cram the decisions and details into a shorter timeline, a couple of things might happen: 1) you may not be able to book the wedding vendors you want; 2) you won’t get time to spend on details; 3) you won’t enjoy the wedding planning process. We highly recommend giving yourself the luxury of time so you can spend a couple of hours every week instead of working day and night to plan your Desi wedding.
With that said, let’s go into high-level timeline of Desi wedding planning. Indian Wedding Toolkit has a great graphic to describe the decision-making process.
We also provided a timeline for Indian weddings below.
- 12 months out - You just got engaged: As soon as you get engaged, we recommend celebrating for a couple of weeks before you dive into wedding planning. Desi wedding planning can be a bit consuming, and once you start, there’s no looking back! First steps include:
- Finding potential wedding date(s)
- Anchoring on a budget and who will pay for what. Families may decide to pay for different wedding events, or the bride and groom may decide to pay for certain events. It’s important to have this wedding budget conversation early.
- Determining your guestlist
- Deciding the key events (sangeet / garba, wedding ceremony, reception) and secondary events (grah shanti, mehndi, haldi / pithi) you’d like to host
- Figuring out a location (local vs destination wedding)
- 10-12 months out - Venue: Before you can start conversations with other vendors, you really should lock in a venue, as your dates may change up until your venue is locked in.
- Determine your venue requirements
- Number of venues: Will you need separate venues for your wedding ceremony and sangeet as an example?
- Venue Type: Do you want an open terrace / patio, water-facing wedding venue, rustic farmhouse, or a banquet hall?
- Outside Catering: If you want to order Desi wedding food from an Indian or Pakistani restaurant in Houston, does the venue allow outside catering? What will be the per person charges?
- Special Requirements: For Indian weddings or Hindu weddings, does the venue allow a baraat outside and a ceremonial fire at the mandap for the pheras? If you have grandparents or elderly attending, you may want to keep in mind accessibility requirements – don’t have too many stairs, or don’t have a outdoor wedding in Houston in July.
- Included Services: What all will the venue include in the total cost? Sometimes the venue include a day of coordinator, sound & lighting, projectors, etc.
- Booking Time: How long can you book the venue for? Indian weddings may take 8-10 hours of prep / décor time, so it’s important to understand when you or the vendor team can get access to the venue. Some venues also have a quiet time after which no music or loud noise is allowed. If you’re planning for a late-night Punjabi wedding reception, make sure you factor in the hours needed and whether the venue is able to meet your needs.
- Special Packages: Does the venue offer special packages for multiple events or with additional services, like wedding décor and catering?
- Book your wedding venue(s)
- Send a save-the-date to your wedding guests to lock in the date, especially if you are planning a peak season wedding or a holiday weekend wedding
- Create your website with more details
- 7-10 months out - Primary Vendors: Once you have the high-level details and a wedding venue in Texas booked, you can start looking at your primary wedding vendors. For each vendor category, we have included detailed FAQ about budget, interview questions to ask and more. Just click on the links and scroll to the bottom of each vendor category page.
- Décor / Florist
- Vision for each event (including any home-based events)
- Color palette
- Budget for décor as wedding décor can get expensive quickly
- Hotel Rooms
- Where will guests stay?
- Make sure you plan for a hotel room block in advance and communicate the details to your guests
- Type of cuisine by event
- Special requirements like Jain wedding food for the priest or vegan food for specific guests
- Novelty food like a chaat station, chai cart, food trucks or paan station
- Photographer / Videographer
- Hours you will need the photographer and videographer for
- A summary of what moments you want recorded (e.g., the entire wedding weekend or just the wedding ceremony and sangeet)
- A understanding of deliverables, especially for video. Do you want a full length film or a highlights reel?
- Wedding Outfits
- Color palette for each event. Do you want a traditional red lehenga or a pastel pink like Anusha Sharma?
- Not only can wedding shopping take a few trips, especially if you are having an outfit custom designed, the process from designing to stitching and shipping can easily take 4-6 months. Plan in advance, so you get your dream wedding outfits and have a final alteration closer to the wedding events.
- Bridal Party Outfits
- Color palette for the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Do you want their bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen outfits to match your wedding outfits or contrast in color?
- It’s best to connect the bridesmaids and groomsmen with the designer, so that the designer can get accurate measurements for the lehenga / saree blouses or the kurtas.
- Hair & Makeup: You will remember your wedding hair & makeup as you look back at pictures. Make sure you book your artist early.
- DJ: While you might think a Spotify playlist is great, guests remember how good the food was and how much fun they had at a wedding. It’s important to find a DJ that will keep the aunties and uncles and all your friends on the dance floor – find a DJ who can switch between a Dhol, Punjabi jams, and top 40 hits to make sure your Desi wedding guests have a memorable time. You may choose to hire a separate Dholi or other instrumentalists like a Violist, Flutist or Band.
- Indian Wedding Planner: There are multiple types of South Asian wedding planners: day of to coordinate logistics day of the wedding events; partial planners to coordinate logistics and other tasks like vendor communication or confirmation ahead of the wedding; and full wedding planners to take wedding planning off your plate. We recommend finding a wedding planner to fit your needs and booking them early. The bride and groom should not be trying to find their caterer or photographer the day of their wedding.
- Wedding Priest or Officiant: Finally, without a pandit or officiant, your wedding cannot take place! Make sure you find the right officiant for you and your family and confirm them early on.
- Baraat: Do you want to come in a horse, a luxury car, or even an elephant?
- 4-7 months out - Secondary Vendors
- <4 months out - Details
- Jai Mala / Garlands
- Specialty Drinks / Beverages: Mukhwas, Paan, Chai etc
- Entrance Details: Fireworks, color bombs etc
- Dance Choreography for your first dance and bridal party / family dances
- Wedding favors and mehndi / event favors
- Table seating and place cards if required for the reception
- Wedding signage like welcome signs and directions
- Reminder email to guests with the web site link and all of the important details
- DIY décor and any handmade, personalized touches
- Other details to consider:
- Planning your honeymoon
- Asking your bridesmaids or groomsmen
- Throwing a bachelorette party / bachelor party / bridal shower
- Timeline your final deliverables (wedding photos and highlight reel)
- Arranging for a marriage license / court marriage
- Writing thank you notes to your guests
- Changing your last name if required
While this Indian wedding planning guide is not a comprehensive checklist, we encourage you to use it as a way to organize your wedding planning and make sure you have all of the important activities taken care of. We hope this article is helpful and that you are able to use The Desi Bride as a one stop shop to find the best Desi wedding vendors in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Congratulations, and happy wedding planning!
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Cover Image Credit: Lin and Jirsa Photography