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?

Wedding Vows and the Indian Wedding

Indian wedding ceremonies are incredible. At their core, they are a collection of beautiful, long-held traditions and religious rituals intended to both sanctify the joining of two people in matrimony and to prepare and bless the couple for their future together. However, most modern Indian wedding ceremonies also find ways to showcase unique aspects of a couple’s tastes or relationship. With the right officiant, they can also combine and include elements of almost every faith tradition.

One part of Western/Christian weddings which have always intrigued us are the vows, particularly vows written by the couple. Now, Indian wedding ceremonies do have vows, in a way, but they are typically a standard set of Sanskrit chants that the couple is prompted by the officiant to say. Usually, the couples and their guests have little sense of what these “vows” actually mean. In most cases, the couple isn’t even sure if they are saying the right words!

We think it’s high time that Indian couples start including their own written vows, spoken in English (or any other language of choice), in their wedding ceremonies. After all the rituals and events and dancing, the whole point of a wedding is to commit two people to each other for life. Wouldn’t it be great if couples could make that commitment in their own words, and in a way that their family and friends and understand?

So we say, go for it! Work with your officiant to find an appropriate time and manner for exchanging your own vows. We think you and your guest will find it meaningful and memorable.

Now comes the hard part: writing the vows! Good luck!

What to Wear to a Mehndi: American Clothes

We’ve covered mehndi parties a lot on this blog, but we’ve never looked at them from the perspective of a non-Indian person wanting to attend one and not knowing what to wear. So here you go!

Mehndi parties are a relatively casual event in the grand scheme of an Indian wedding. This is an event where most of the guests will have a colored paste applied to their hands, then wait patiently while the paste dries so they can resume normal activities. This is probably not the time to break out your floor-length BCBG Max Azria knit evening gown, unless the invitation says otherwise.

This is likely a time for a cocktail dress or sundress, and we’d lean more towards sundresses. If it’s winter when you’re attending a mehndi party, a sundress obviously won’t work for you, but you could probably wear a sweater dress or nice tunic with leggings and fit in just fine.

  

   

If you’re considering venturing into Indian clothes territory, this is a good time to discover the kurti, which is an Indian-inspired flowy top that pairs well with jeans or leggings. You can find kurti-adjacent tops by many American designers, like the ones we found below; think tunic tops and embroidery.

   

 

 

What to Wear to a Mehndi: Indian Clothes

Indian weddings are a marathon of joyous occasions, a feast of color, and a whirl of festivities. One of the first events to kick off an Indian wedding is usually a mehndi party. We’ve written before about what to expect at a mehndi party (here) and what kinds of shoes you might want to wear to a mehndi party (here). Now we’re here to talk about what to wear to a mehndi party if you’re planning on rocking Indian clothes.

Mehndi parties tend to be more casual than the other elements of an Indian wedding. It’s not uncommon to see guests — or even brides! — in jeans or shorts for this event. After all, henna can be messy, and you don’t want it to ruin your nicest sari. Take cues from the wedding invitation, check the website for information about attire, or ask the maid of honor what is proper attire for the party. However, when in doubt, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Keep in mind that henna is a greenish paste that is piped onto your hands like frosting. While wet, the henna is staining your palms a deep red in the pattern that your henna artist has chosen. However, if wet henna touches your clothes, or your face, or the carpet, it will stain that, too. Even damp henna will transfer color to other objects. In other words, this is not the day to break out the $500 sari, unless you live the kind of life where a $500 sari is your cheapest sari, in which case we’d like for you to adopt us.

As a rule, we’d suggest something on the more casual end of the Indian clothes spectrum for a mehndi party. We love a salwar kameez or anarkali for the ease of movement and comfort level. Both involve a long top and pants, with an optional dupatta accessory. Examples:

   

Another casual alternative is to mix a kurti with jeans, shorts, a skirt, or leggings. This is the most versatile option, still looks dressy enough for a party, and has an Indian fusion aspect to it, which we love. Examples are below:

  

 

What do you think, readers? Are we right on track? Do you prefer to wear lehengas or saris to mehndi parties instead of more casual options? Or do you think Indian clothes in general aren’t necessary for such an informal event? We want to hear from you!

How To Wear a Sari

Do you want to wear a sari but don’t know where to start? Hooray! We’re here to help.

Step 1: Buy a sari. We recommend something that is lightweight, preferably made of chiffon or georgette material. Lighter saris are easier to wear for beginners, and they’re good for warm weather.

  

Step 2: Buy a petticoat. You will need to wear this underneath your sari. A petticoat is a plain, solid color, cotton skirt that ties with a drawstring.

They are generally one-size-fits-most. If you are particularly tall or short, or particularly thin or heavy, you might need to special-order a petticoat. But in our experience, women ranging in sizes from 4 to 14 can share off-the-rack petticoats. Big relief for those of us who like Girl Scout cookie season a bit too much.

 

Step 3: Buy a blouse. Saris are essentially just really beautiful pieces of fabric, like a toga. However, unlike a toga, you will wear a separate blouse with your sari. The blouse is meant to be seen, at least a little. Most blouses fasten in the front using hook-and-eye closures.

Saris usually come with a “blouse piece,” which is a 1-2 yard piece of fabric that matches the sari and can be sewn to make a blouse. However, it is hard to find a tailor who knows how to make a sari blouse from scratch. Plain sari blouses in standard colors (black, gold, silver, red, etc.) can be purchased online for a reasonable cost and usually track normal American sizing. These are a good option, and can be used with multiple saris!

  

Step 4: Make sure the sari has a “fall” sewn in. This is a 3-inch strip of fabric sewn to the inside bottom of the plain end of the sari to protect the sari from your feet while you walk. Without a fall, the sari could fray or tear easily if you accidentally step on your sari. With the fall, the sari is protected … a bit.

Step 5: Obtain a few large safety pins.

Step 6: Wrap your sari. Put on your blouse, put on your petticoat, and start wrapping yourself in fabric. We like this video by Good Indian Girl for a basic tutorial on how to “fold it.”

There are several options for wrapping your sari, but the most traditional method involves wrapping from right to left so you end up with the decorative sari piece (pallu) draped over your left shoulder. Secure your folds with a safety pin just below your waist, and secure your pallu to the back of your left shoulder with one additional safety pin.

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.