Recently we put out a call to help to past brides – were any of them willing to share their advice to those of you who are currently planning your wedding? We were blown away by the response AND the advice that they sent to us to share with you. Brides Swathi, Sucheta, Nita, and Sabrina jumped at the opportunity to help you guys out and we absolutely LOVE them for it! Check out their kernels of wisdom below.
- Look at a wide variety of options – hotels, golf clubs, event spaces, etc. All have their pros and cons and you may come across some features that you didn’t realize were important to you.
- If [you’re] going with the hotel option, ask about ALL aspects to get the best package deal – bridal suits, hotel room block, discount for doing all events at the same place (ceremony + cocktail hour + reception, and any pre-events)
- Don’t assume an open bar is your only option – ask about a consumption-based bar! This worked great for us. Your guests will end up drinking a lot less than you think (and so will you) – they’re too busy dancing, eating, and having fun! Will save you a TON of $$$ and to your guests, it will seem like an open bar.
- Get pricing for internal catering (if available for Indian food) versus having an outside caterer.
- Don’t be afraid to play your venue options against each other, often they will price match to get your business.
On Sweating the Details
While getting caught up in the wedding details seems like everything, remember that these few days will fly by. No one will care about what chairs they are sitting in or what color their dinner napkins were. What they will remember is the look on your face, so enjoy the weekend and make sure your family and friends are a solid barrier between you and any bad news. Remember, after the wedding the real adventure begins – marriage (& that’s the best part!).
So many brides attempt to control every tiny aspect of their wedding events in order to have the “perfect wedding.” Don’t do it! Indian weddings especially, have a lot of moving parts, and delegating tasks to other people in your circle that you trust and who know you really well, can reduce the number of sleepless nights you’ll have during the planning process. For example, I had my mom make judgment calls on several different aspects since I was studying for my medical school board exams while planning. If I had tried to do everything myself, I would have either failed my exam or gone insane! At the end of the day, your wedding is going to be perfect even if little things here and there aren’t exactly that way you envisioned, because it’s the day that you and your partner come together!
See if your venue has existing structures that can be used for the ceremony – ours had a pergola/arbor/trellis on the large back lawn that we ended up using as our mandap. All we needed was a stage from the hotel, but didn’t need any of the larger mandap structural items from the decorator – great money saver.
Flowers are expensive! To minimize these costs, consider other options:
- For the ceremony we used a lot of draped fabric on the trellis and then accompanied with some bouquets in key places
- For the reception stage we didn’t have any florals, just fabric and candles
- For the reception centerpieces, we did a combination of tall vases with candles and manzanita trees with candles – minimal flowers. Candles also help negate the need for the pin/spotlights
On Setting Priorities
You absolutely have to decide where your priorities lie – are you giving the most importance to your family, do you want an amazing experience for your friends, do you want the food to be the highlight if you have a foodie family, do you need to have alcohol at every event? For me, all these little details (that some people say to ignore) are the most important – having that welcome bag in the room with bobby pins and bindis, making sure the Black Label is stocked for the uncle that came from India that can’t do without it, flip flops by the dance floor for when the heels are kicked off, maps to the venues around the hotel, snacks during the ceremony to help the late-night Sangeet-goers stay awake.
- Cake spotlighting is necessary, pin/spotlights for your guest dinner tables for every centerpiece are NOT…you’re not going to be sitting in the dark, guests will still easily see your beautiful centerpieces.
- While air walls may not be pretty, massive design projections will not hide them and will actually distract. Stick with colored uplights matching your theme. Also less is more for uplights, you don’t need them too close together, spaced out works just as well.
- Mobile DJ for the baraat is worth it, makes for a very fun and lively experience for your guests.
- Have background shehnai music for the ceremony but make sure the priest’s mic can speak over it. Have slow Bollywood music for the cocktail hour.
- Ask your DJ if they can help make the mixes for your bridal party sangeet/reception dance performances, as well as your first dance medley – our DJ did it at no extra cost!
If allowing parents/families to contribute towards the wedding, accept the same amount from both sides to avoid potential future conflict. You don’t want one set of parents to feel like they have more “ownership” or stake than the other. We split it about 20% from each set of parents and my husband and I paid for the remaining 60%.
Never take no for an answer – there is always a way to find what you need within the budget you desire. It is easy to just say “yes” to packages, vendors with contacts/contracts for other services (i.e. printing companies, stationary companies, sound/lighting), but asking previous brides, your wedding planners, and doing some of your own ground work to simply get to know the wedding space better (average prices etc.) for comparisons are key. ALWAYS over budget and ALWAYS expect hidden fees to arise as the event nears – same-day oversized parking spaces for decor vendors, vendor meals for the extra workers needed for your mandap to come to life, umbrellas if rain magically heads into your forecast for your partially outdoor wedding, water jugs scattered around for guests during a sweaty baraat – you never know what curveballs will come your way and if prepared, how you can still knock them out of the park.
On Bridal Parties
Keep in mind where everyone is traveling from when picking a bachelor/bachelorette party location as well as when choosing what to pay for and what to ask them to pay.
- For the bachelorette, I paid for my own flight and Airbnb share. Most of the bridesmaids were from the East Coast and the wedding was in California, so we had the bachelorette in Austin.
- We bought the saris and petticoats for the bridesmaids, as well as the blouse material; their only expense was the lining and stitching of the blouse
- We bought kurta sets for the groomsmen, their only expense was alterations, if needed
- For the reception, everyone could wear anything of their choosing – suits for the guys (any color) and Indian outfits for the girls – we only asked them to stay from royal blue, as that was what my husband and I were wearing
- Most packages include an engagement shoot – ask about this. Ask about length and their flexibility to allow wardrobe changes. We did three outfits:
- Indian formal: Sari for me, suit for him
- American formal: Summery dress for me, shirt and tie for him (different color than with suit/sari)
- American casual: Jeans for both, long sleeve blouse for me, plaid collared shirt for him.
- Come ready with ideas for the shoot – scenes, props, etc. Your photographer will have ideas – and let them provide them, that’s why you’re paying them – but have some creative stuff that is unique to you both.
- If they’re not willing to give a discount for being recommended by a friend, maybe they will throw something in – we got a 2’ x 3’ canvas of one of our engagement shoot pics that we were able to get in time to display at our cocktail hour.
- Many people have success choosing a different photographer and videographer, but we chose to make sure the company offered both services so that there was greater coordination – ask how many people they will bring total.
- Do make sure they will give you a highlights reel. A same-day edit isn’t necessary though – while it looks cool, no one will miss it and it will save you a lot of money.
- We didn’t use a drone but have attended weddings where they did and have seen the results – very cool if your budget allows!
On Working with Vendors
Take copious notes when meeting with vendors and get everything in writing whenever possible at every stage. Our DJ made a typo at one point, and grossly understated a price of a line item, but honored it since it was his mistake!
Vendors become your family. When looking for vendors, it is easy to become inundated with choices and overwhelmed by prices. In person meetings are absolutely key – you want to hire vendors who understand your non negotiables, your style, your expectations and most importantly your personality. Personally, the most important vendors you absolutely cannot cut corners with are your planners and your photography/videography – these are the people who do the ground work so that you can actually absorb and enjoy your special weekend and the people that help make those very memories that last forever.
It is comfortable to use familiar vendors in your area/vendors familiar with your family/vendors who have helped with weddings you have attended, but ensure your vendors capture the essence of the weekend YOU are striving to create and it never hurts to take a chance on some hidden gems that may not be as well-known! It is an absolute blessing to still have vendors that you constantly keep in touch with years after your wedding, people that you can call family – they are the only group of people that experienced every detail of your weekend so intimately by your side, it’s such a beautiful relationship to cherish.
On Hair and Makeup
- DO a makeup trial! Hair is not as crucial, but have a good idea of what you want (pictures)
- With the crazy early time of Indian weddings, offering hair and makeup for my bridesmaids wasn’t practical, only got it professionally done for my mom and sister (my mother-in-law opted out)
- Less is more for makeup. I preferred a more natural look, red lipstick – if you’re not sure, do a trial!
- Order jasmine flowers for ceremony hair – they small amazing and look beautiful
- Get fake lashes!
A HUGE thank you goes out to the lovely ladies who took the time out to pass along their advice! For any of you other brides out there with thoughts to share on all things wedding, we want to hear from you and feature you on our blog! If you’re interested, reach out to us at [email protected]
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Founder & Chief Visionary, proud fur mom of 2, amateur artist, Netflix binger, wino, and chocolate addict.