What’s The Deal With The Indian Wedding Buffet?

Various bowls of Indian food with a side of naan

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Modern South Asian weddings are FULL of surprises these days. From unique Baraat entrances to the ceremonies themselves, couples have no shortage of ways to switch things up. But if there is one constant that prevails in most South Asian weddings, it’s this: the buffet. Now, there’s NOTHING wrong with having a buffet at your wedding (hey, we had ‘em at mine!). But compared to all of the other ways that our weddings have evolved, why is this a mainstay? What’s up with the lack of creativity and options that are given to South Asian couples when it comes to food? After thinking about this issue ad nauseam, we decided to ask vendors and find out exactly what the deal is with wedding buffets.

1. It’s Cost-Effective

Most of us can’t afford to have Beyonce or Maroon 5 at our Sangeets (ahem, I’m lookin’ at YOU Ambani family), so when it comes to our wedding we really have to sit and prioritize what is important to us. Outfits these days? PRICEY. Then there’s the jewelry, the little things we need for religious events, all of the vendors we need for a week of wedding festivities, plus modern additions like wedding welcome bags, wedding programs, and more. It adds up, y’all! So while it sounds nice to skip the buffet and do something with a little more pizzazz, the reality is that I’d rather have an open bar than a white-glove service reception dinner.

2. Our Food Is Messy

Years ago I went to a realll fancy shmancy wedding where the reception dinner was catered by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (drooling thinking about it). It was so nice just sitting at our table, getting served with our meal, and being done with it. Imagine someone doing that with Indian food. How would that work exactly? Have your food served on a thali? Whereas Western food can be plated neatly and easily, it’s a little more of a challenge for South Asian food – especially when your caterer isn’t equipped with the tableware to make that possible.

3. Where Are All Of The Caterers?

All righty folks, now we’re getting to the meat of the issue (pun intended). I’m not sure how it is in other states, but in North Carolina we don’t have full-service catering companies for South Asian weddings – we have restaurants that cater. What’s the difference? Well, a full-service catering company ONLY caters food for special events. They have tons of staff who handle every aspect of your catering needs – infused waters during the ceremony, coffee and tea, food for all of your events, linens, tableware, tons of staff who prepare food on site (so it’s super fresh!) and who are equipped to serve that food. And what else do you get from a professional full-service catering company? Options for how your food is served – from the buffet to live stations, family style to white glove service, and even passed hors d’oeuvres. What do we get? A buffet of food that is cooked in advance, maybe two employees of said restaurant, and if we’re REALLY lucky, they’ll be *somewhat* on time. This is ALSO the reason reputable venues do not allow outside catering beyond a list of pre-approved caterers. It’s not because they’re racist a**holes (which is what I liked to think when I was planning my wedding). It’s because Indian caterers are doing us DIRTY by chauffeuring their restaurant’s Sunday buffet to our weddings instead of attempting to cater the right way. A lack of professional staff members from these restaurants means we don’t even have the option for them to serve food outside of a buffet. Why? Because venues have strict contracts, which means their staff cannot touch food from an outside source or vendor – not even to help carry it inside. Not because they’re not helpful, but because it is expected that a professional catering company have staff on-hand to get it done themselves.

So What’s A Couple To Do?

Thankfully, other full-service catering companies are recognizing this gap in the industry and they are working HARD to fill it. For you NC couples, I’m specifically referring to Rocky Top Catering. I had the pleasure of meeting their staff at a bridal event in January and asked them whether they served South Asian food – and was ecstatic to hear them say yes! Their chef has worked super hard to learn the ins and outs of South Asian food and they’ve even catered some of their first South Asian weddings this past year. BONUS: No matter what part of NC you’re based in, they’ll do their best to accommodate your event. P.S. And if there are any budding entrepreneurs out there with an interest in food, you’ll make a KILLING if you solve this problem for our community.

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Raj Desai

Founder & Chief Visionary, proud fur mom of 2, amateur artist, Netflix binger, wino, and chocolate addict.

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