How a Venue Lost a $40k Indian Wedding in One Phone Call

While planning her wedding, (pre-ShaadiShop), a bride did what all brides do – called venues one-by-one to find out if they could accommodate a South Asian wedding.

Photo: NST Pictures

One particular bride was on the phone with a Catering Sales Manager at a hotel with a world-recognized brand, located in a major U.S. city and asked the manager about the hotel’s open flame policy – as an open flame is needed for many South Asian weddings.

It was clear from the Catering Manager’s reaction, “you want to have a fire at your wedding?” that she had no knowledge of South Asian weddings – and that’s actually ok. This bride expected that she might have to educate some venues about the cultural customs.

However this Catering Manager’s tone was sarcastic and loaded. The bride answered the sarcastic question, “yes” and quickly followed up with “the fire is a tradition as part of the wedding ceremony.” The Catering Manager didn’t ask any follow up questions and came across closed-minded to the idea – she said they usually don’t allow open fires and that she’d have to talk to her manager about it.

 

A better approach would have been to say:

  • Can you tell me more about the fire?
  • I’m not familiar with the traditions, do you mind educating me?
  • I’d love to see how we can make our venue work for you.
  • Anything to signal: interest, a ‘can-do’ attitude, and that the client and their business is important.

What’s more intriguing about the story is that this was an inbound lead. The venue spent no direct, marketing dollars to acquire this prospective client. When competition is swarming close by, and one wedding worth $40k literally falls into your lap, you’d think the sales team would up their game.

The average budget of a South Asian wedding is $100k. And approx. 35% goes to the venue. Compare that to the average budget for a Western wedding which is about $33k – the total budget is about the same amount as just the venue portion for a South Asian wedding.

Three {business} days later when the bride hadn’t heard back, she called again and later that day received this voicemail from that same Catering Manager, in an unpleasant and loaded tone, “I spoke to our Catering Director, who’s done hundreds of Indian weddings, and she said that you can just skip the fire part of the ceremony. We don’t allow any open flames at this property and that part of the ceremony isn’t really necessary anyway so most couples just skip it”. 

Jaw drop. Seriously? First, the fire is a requirement of a Hindu ceremony, which are by far the majority of South Asian weddings taking place in the US, so the Director is mistaken and the manager didn’t look it up. Secondly, that catering manager could have done her own homework – Google, “Hindu wedding”, ask the bride a few questions, call one of her Indian friends. Information is at our finger tips, it’s just a matter of having the right mindset to go grab it.  A growth mindset would have meant, doing due diligence, asking questions, and questioning assumptions.

Needless to say this bride went elsewhere as she knew there was no shortage of beautiful venues, that are experienced and would be open to hosting her wedding.


Samta Varia is the Founder of ShaadiShop, a marketplace website where venues directly market to the South Asian community and consumers get personalized help throughout their venue booking process. They have closed over $2MM for venues in 2 years.

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cover image: Lin and Jirsa

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