Sunthar’s an alum of Stanford’s Raagapella and serenaded Preeth during the reception with his ‘Raag’ friends doing backup vocals and playing live instrument.
What were your venue selection criteria?
- outdoor ceremony
- accommodate up to 400 people
- available in the early part of the year
- some experience with South Asian weddings
In Arizona there’s a small window to have a wedding outdoors because it gets hot. So there’s a definite wedding season which means venues and vendors get booked pretty quickly. So making decisions efficiently was pretty important.
What made you finalize the Doubletree by Hilton, Gilbert?
- A lot of places don’t allow outside food or the flame for the ceremony, but they did.
- They recently renovated so the place looked very modern and nice.
- Their pricing was within what we wanted to spend.
We flew out there and booked the venue pretty quickly after seeing it.
How did you combine your families respective traditions in the ceremony?
I’m Sri Lankan and Preeth is Kannadiga. We had a Kannadiga priest and except for a few things that were important to my family we did a Kannada style wedding. The differences in our respective wedding ceremonies are mostly in the order of steps of the ceremony and who is involved in each. So incorporating the two cultures wasn’t difficult.
I recommend doing a run through of the ceremony with the priest. In the moment, it can be a little awkward when the priest tells you to do something that you’re not prepared for.
Share any tips for planning remotely.
1. Someone local. If you have someone at the location who’s willing to help you out, there’s nothing better. In our case, Preeth’s sister and mom did a lot – visited venues, caterers, bakers, decorators etc.
2. Get on the same page. One thing that helped was that Preeth and I were on the same page. That helped us make decisions when the other person wasn’t around. For instance she went to India to shop and it was hard to send photos and texts back and forth. But we had clarified what we wanted beforehand, so it was fine.
Build room for error. We liked a caterer who was leaving that restaurant to join a new one – so we finalized him at his new location. Two weeks before our wedding, he called and said his new job wasn’t working out and that he’s leaving that place. Luckily, we found another caterer in time but build room for error by starting early. That late into it, everything was pretty much done, so we were able to focus on solving that one problem.
Don’t over-rely on one vendor. The caterer included china, silverware and glassware in their package which was great because our costs with the hotel were reduced. However, the caterer arrived late on our wedding day. And because we relied on him for so many items his lateness impacted both the cocktail hour and the reception.
Do your homework. Like mostly newly engaged couples, we didn’t know what wedding related costs to expect and how to set a realistic initial budget. Before we spent too much time reinventing the wheel, we talked to our friends who had gotten married recently and asked for their advice on how we should go about setting a budget and find vendors that meet the budget.
Find young companies with experience. I was pretty particular about photography/videography. Some of the more seasoned companies, understandably charge more. I found a guy who had been shooting weddings and events for 10 years and recently started his own company. It was the perfect blend of experience + reasonable pricing + flexibility. Other companies were quoting for 8 hours. He gave us 10 hours and was flexible in how we utilized the hours.
Spend more on the items you really want. We needed 14 mics, lighting, and live instrument setups. Because our needs were complex and large we spent more on a DJ who knew what he was doing. He was more expensive than what we originally budgeted, but it was worth spending more to ensure everything was setup correctly.
Provide thorough instructions and info to stakeholders.
a. We gave each vendor a very detailed document with their respective instructions for the wedding weekend
b. We had 3 different centerpiece designs. I work on product and design at a tech startup, so it was easy for me to mock up the room layout for the reception to indicate which centerpiece design goes on each table.
c. We transported some of the components to the venue, ourselves. Additionally our friends and family helped us setup the centerpieces that day. Our goal was, one table should take no more than 1 minute to setup. We practiced and timed it. All bags, boxes, containers etc. were clearly labeled and color coded with instructions.
Focus on a few unique novelties. Trying to make everything very unique will backfire. It’s a lot to manage and chances are it won’t go smoothly. For our wedding the novelties were the entertainment and the photo booth.
We emphasized live entertainment. It wasn’t easy coordinating practices, teaching the dance, and working with everyone’s schedules. We paid attention to the details. The day of the wedding we did sound checks with all the singers and musicians and rehearsal for the dancers. Simple things like the time it takes to go from the entrance to the stage – make a difference – and it was important to us to ensure everything was seamless. If we had had to split our time to focus on a lot of other things for the wedding, the entertainment wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did.
Decide whether you need a planner. Since we planned remotely, I debated about whether or not we should hire a planner. We are organized, decisive decision makers and ultimately didn’t feel the need for a planner. We got vendor recommendations from the Doubletree and our rep at the hotel helped with anything that pertained to them.
Budget Buffer. If possible build a buffer into your budget. There are unknown expenses such as the bar, since a lot of desis do open bar. If you have a buffer it helps absorb those unknown costs.
What advice do you have for grooms?
- Grooms can be helpful in breaking tie votes during wedding planning. If there’s disagreement over something the groom can weigh in.
- Manage parents. I had my parents share what they felt was important for our wedding and Preeth did the same with hers. I communicated with both sets of parents – being mindful of everyone’s wishes.
- In general, guys tend to be decisive so that helps to keep things moving.
- Know what items to stay out of. Some things are super important to the bride (and not that important to the groom) and she has a vision for what she wants – so best for the most part to stay out of those things.
Cake: Robert’s Catering
Many of our friends who had gotten married in the Phoenix area (including Preeth’s sister) had gotten their wedding cake from Robert’s Catering and loved it.
Decorator: Us to U Rentals
Mandap, chiavari chairs, centerpieces. She was hard to get a hold of at first but she has really good stuff
DJ: Hyper Production DJ’s
There aren’t many Indian DJs in Arizona. Isaac is well known as the really good DJ. He was more pricey than what we wanted to spend but because we needed 14 mics and live music, we needed someone who really knew what they were doing.
Lunch after the Ceremony: Woodlands
South Indian vegetarian food. It’s a reputed restaurant so we didn’t need to do a tasting.
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