Dinner Time

Your wedding involves more than just the ceremony where you stand in front of family, friends, and wedding crashers to assert your love for your life partner. It also includes a fair amount of dancing, drinking, and eating — before and after the ceremony, of course. Unless you’re planning a small courthouse affair, you’re probably planning a dinner to follow your Indian wedding.

Overwhelmed at the thought? No need to be! We’re here to help you weigh your options:

(1) Seated dinner or cocktail hour.

Most Indian weddings involve a seated dinner a few hours after the ceremony. That doesn’t mean you have to do it! Are you short on budget, or do you dread the idea of sitting on a stage for 2 hours while your guests watch you eat? Then you might consider hosting a less-formal “cocktail hour” with heavy snacks, drinks, and only a few tables scattered about your venue in lieu of the usual seated dinner.

With a cocktail hour, you also have some freedom to offer food options that wouldn’t usually be available at a traditional Indian meal — do you and your fiancee love shrimp and grits, or wachos (waffle-nachos)? Create a snack bar in the corner with fun toppings and let your guests go to town. We love the idea of using your meal time to inject some whimsy and personality into a very traditional event.

(2) Buffet or served meal.

Most Indian weddings involve buffet-style service, where guests are released table-by-table to fill their plates with delicious delicacies. If you’d like a more formal approach, opt for a served meal instead. You could take this to the nines by hiring white-gloved waiters for a formal dinner service, or just choose a few standard plated Indian meals to provide to your guests. Just remember to accommodate the vegetarians! Remember, if you go for a buffet, you should have signs at each chafing dish that note what is inside.

(3) Wet or dry.

Indian weddings are big, fun affairs, but they don’t always involve alcohol. We know how to party without the aid of liquid courage, after all. When planning your wedding, consider whether you’ll offer alcohol at each event. For example, you might have a dry sangeet but alcohol at your reception. Or you might offer beer and wine at the sangeet, but a full bar at the reception. Choose whatever is right for you and your budget.

(4) Sangeet dinner or cocktail hour.

Same as #1, but for your sangeet. Also consider your guest list: Do you treat this as a rehearsal dinner and invite only your closest friends, family, and members of the wedding party? Do you invite anyone who came from out of town?

This event could be smaller than your wedding reception or the same size — if you go smaller, it’s a good opportunity to cut costs and spend some more one-on-one time with your guests. But inviting the same guest list as your reception doesn’t mean that you have to spend an arm and a leg — you could treat this as a cocktail hour with heavy snacks and save some dough. Whatever you do, just be clear about what will be available food-wise for your guests — you want people to be able to grab a quick bite to eat beforehand if there isn’t going to be a true dinner available at your sangeet.

(5) Post-wedding lunch or snacks.

There’s nothing like an hour-long Hindu wedding ceremony to make your stomach start growling. Some ceremonies will have snacks and chai in the back of the room, with the understanding that guests can leave their seats mid-ceremony to nosh on some goodies. Other weddings won’t have any snacks at all, even pre- and post-ceremony. We’d recommend offering at least some snacks for your guests, especially if you’re hosting an event near lunchtime — steady blood sugar levels make for happy guests!

(6) Special menu for the kids.

Most venues won’t charge you for food for anyone under the age of 12, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for food for those munchkins. Consider whether you want these kids to eat the daal and roti that you’re serving to everyone else, or if you’d like to order a few pizzas just for the little ones.

(7) Late night munchies.

After a full day (or multiple days) of an Indian wedding, and a ton of drinking and dancing, people appreciate the opportunity to nosh on something salty or sweet before they head home. Late night munchies are a relatively recent wedding trend that we totally embrace. Not only do they help ease day-after hangovers, they can also extend a party that might otherwise have died without the aid of carbohydrates and cheese.

You could go simple with some late night pizza, embrace the Indian theme and offer Haldiram’s, or offer up oodles of noodles if that your munchie of choice. If you’re planning your wedding in a town that has a legendary food truck or two, consider arranging for a late-night visit from your favorite food-on-wheels for your guests. Ask your wedding planner to help ensure that only wedding guests are partaking — a ticketing system works well, in our experience.

Hosting a candy bar as your late-night munchie? Don’t forget scoops for people to serve themselves!

Indian Wedding Gift Idea: Cookbooks

Most of us first-generation Indian American children of immigrants have fond memories of waking up to the smell of paranthas or dosa cooking in the kitchen, coming home to fresh rajma or sabudana, and finishing off big Indian meals with homemade Indian sweets. We went to school with ICM (Indian Chex Mix) in our lunchboxes instead of Little Debbie cakes. We want kichadi when we’re feeling sick. We know that “salad” can mean chopped cucumbers and tomatoes sprinkled with lime juice and chaat masala.

But guess what: Many of us never learned how to cook the food that our mothers and grandmothers made for us at home. Maybe it was a lack of interest, or lack of skill, or lack of invitation. Or maybe it was all of the above. But now that we’re grown up, living away from our parents, and thinking about raising a family of our own, we want to learn how to make Indian food. And we want to be GOOD at it.

Enter the Indian cookbook. These books are a good introduction to Indian cooking for the beginner Indian chef, or a nice consolidated recipe list for someone who has a range of dishes in their head but sometimes needs a refresher. Plus, the pictures are beautiful, and the sentiment behind the gift is heartfelt. Buy one or all for your Indian bestie getting hitched, or even for someone who isn’t Indian but loves to play around with spices in the kitchen.

Perfect for someone who wants a start-to-finish Indian cookbook, with one place to find all of their favorite recipes.

Indian food is not just a bunch of curries! This is a great option for someone looking to expand their cooking horizons.

Indian food is known for its robust flavor and spices. It takes time to develop those flavors, and that’s why so many of us rely upon slow cookers to make our Indian meals. This cookbook has a slew of recipes just for your slow cooker — perfect for your friend who works 80 hours a week but still wants to channel her inner Padma Lakshmi in the kitchen.

Simple and classic, just like your sorority sister who always has a pristine kitchen despite putting turmeric into basically everything.

Vegan. Need we say more?

Mithai

In Hindi, “mithai” refers to sweet, sugary desserts.

If you have never had Indian sweets before, you’re in for a super sugary treat. Mithai are usually sweeter than most western desserts, so start small. Our favorites include gulab jamun (fried donut holes soaked in sugary syrup), jalebi (fried funnel cakes soaked in sugary syrup), and rasmalai (spongy cakes served in sweet milk).

 

Indian Wedding Registry: Kitchen

It’s time to register for gifts for your upcoming Indian wedding. What kinds of things should you include? We’re so glad you asked. There are a million guides out there for items to include on your wedding registry, but we’re here to provide you with some ideas for things that will be useful to you as a newly wedded Indian couple. Here is a list of items we’d suggest adding to your kitchen.

Spice dabba for keeping all of your Indian spices neat and nearby.

  

Silver cups, bowls, plates for pujas and nostalgic Indian meals at home.

   

Rolling pin for making rotis, chappatis, or just pie.

Roti press, for those of you who (like us) have no talent for rolling round rotis.

Mugs for chai (or coffee), especially for when your parents are in town visiting. You’ll need to have a bunch on hand, because older Indian people like to drink chai at least twice a day.

 

A sturdy tray or two that you can use to carry around all of those chai mugs.

A tea kettle for making chai.

  

Dosa and idli makers for fancy nights at home.

  

Pressure cooker, slow cooker, or Instant Pot.

  

Acrylic canisters to sort your daals and different flours (besan, atta, all-purpose, gluten-free, cake, cornmeal, the list goes on…).

  

 

What did we miss? Do you have any favorite Indian kitchen items we should add to the list? Let us know!

Indian Wedding Movies

If you’re anything like us, when you’re anticipating a big event, it’s all you can think about, and it’s all you want to think about. So when you’re planning a beach vacation, you watch those Friends episodes where they’re in Montauk and the Sex and the City episodes in the Hamptons. When you’re gearing up for a bachelorette party, you watch Bridesmaids on repeat. So when you’re planning your Indian wedding, you probably need some movies to watch. Never fear, we’ve got you covered: Behold the DEFINITIVE list of Indian wedding movies for the modern Indian bride.

Do you have a friend who’s recently engaged and embarking on the emotional roller coaster that they call “wedding planning?” Schedule a girls’ night to watch one (or more) of these classics, or buy a few DVDs to include in her “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT AHHHHH!!!!” care package.

And don’t forget the popcorn.

   

Drinks

How much alcohol do you really need for an Indian wedding? Well, it kind of depends.
If your big Punjabi family loves to throw back the Johnny Walker, you’re going to want to have a lot of scotch on hand. If your conservative Gujarati family frowns upon anything fermented, you might not need any at all. If you grew up on the Jersey Shore and your life is Jaegerbombs, or if your entire extended family only drinks gin and tonics because they’re always warding off malaria, your alcohol selection and quantity will be different from others. Below are some tips to help you calculate the number of drinks you’ll need for your Indian wedding.
First, what’s your audience? Mostly heavy drinkers? Mostly aunties who wag their fingers at even a sip of champagne? Lots of non-Indians? Mostly Quakers? (Hey, I don’t know your life. Maybe you hang with lots of Quakers. Trying to be accommodating here.)
Second, at how many events do you plan on serving alcohol? Some people will stick to non-alcohol drinks at the mehndi but plan to serve alcohol at the sangeet and reception. It is very rare — and possibly unheard of — to serve alcohol before an Indian wedding ceremony. Are you going to have a cocktail hour before the sangeet or reception? Will you have post-wedding brunch with mimosas? Consider all of the options before you buy.
Third, what type of alcohol will you serve? You can choose to offer a full bar, with wine, liquor, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks, or you can limit the selection. Some couples choose to offer only wine and beer to cut costs, or prepare a signature cocktail as the liquor drink of the night, so they only have to buy one or two types of liquor. When choosing wine and beer, do you want to stick with grocery store classics or upgrade to craft beers and wines from local vineyards?
Fourth, how many bars will you have? Even if you negotiate with your location vendor to allow you to bring in your own alcohol, you’ll probably have to provide full bottles at each event for them to use, because most state regulations prevent bartenders from serving from a previously opened bottle unless it’s at a house bar. If you are having a large reception with four bar areas, you might need to have more bottles of alcohol on hand just to cater to each of your bars.
Fifth, count the hours. How long will you be serving alcohol at each event? How many drinks do you think each person will need?
Sixth, don’t forget the champagne toast!
Lastly, consider your non-alcoholic drinks. You’ll need to allocate sodas for mixers, but also remember that you’ll have guests who won’t drink alcohol at all. If your vendor provides the mixers, double check whether they will also provide non-alcoholic sodas to guests who aren’t imbibing. And if you’re having a champagne toast, do you want the kids and non-drinkers to feel included? If so, grab a few bottles of sparkling cider to add to the mix.
Once you’ve thought these things through, we usually recommend turning to Evite’s handy dandy drink calculator. Even if the numbers aren’t exact, it’ll give you a good idea of where to get started.
And remember: if possible, negotiate to provide your own alcohol (it’s usually cheaper that way!), and buy from a place that will allow you to return the excess! Any open bottles leftover after the shenanigans are perfect for your own stock-the-bar party as newlyweds!

Mind the Guests

Indian weddings are typically multi-day affairs with many events and gatherings. This means a lot of fun for guests, but can also be quite exhausting. Getting from one event to another, wearing the right outfits, late nights—it can all add up to very tired guests! Make sure you plan your event with your guests in mind to make sure they are happy, well-fed, and well-informed at all times. One of the worst wedding experiences we’ve ever had was finding ourselves (and the rest of the invited guests) between events with no clue as to what was to come next, no food or drink to keep our energy up, and no one from the host families in sight. People got mad! Here are some suggestions for ensuring that your guests have a great time throughout your wedding weekend:

  1. Assign 5 – 6 family or wedding party members to fan out before and after each event to inform guests about where they need to be and at what time.
  2. Have snacks and drinks available during and after every event, and let your guests know where they can find them.
  3. Send out email updates during the wedding with reminders and helpful information.
  4. Try to plan events so that there is sufficient time in between for guests to rest or change clothes.
  5. Try not to require early morning attendance at any events—even if there is nothing official scheduled the night before, you can count on guests (especially younger guests) staying out late!
  6. Don’t forget the vegetarians!