Indian wedding at Hotel Irvine with vegetarian catered Indian food.

Cost Saving Lunch Ideas At Indian Weddings

Anyone planning an Indian wedding knows that food is really really really really important. Guests remember the food, comment about it later and it’s a key aspect of your wedding guests experience.

When we talk about serving lunch, what we mean is a full-on sit down buffet lunch, like you see in the photo below. A lot of venues, in California especially, have outdoor spaces where lunch can be served or it can be hosted inside a ballroom.

When I work with couples to help them with their wedding venue, we always have to talk about the schedule for the wedding day. Most South Asian weddings host the wedding and reception on the same day, at the same venue. And there are two basic timelines that most weddings fall into.

I have dubbed them the time-gap day and the back-to-back day. You can see the differences between them in the handy chart below.
Time gap v back to back.001

{Wedding Day Decision: Serve Lunch?}

The biggest difference between the time gap day and the back-to-back day is serving lunch after the ceremony. The lunch has cost and time implications. Lunch is usually between 1.5-2 hours after the ceremony. Cost wise, venues charge the per person outside catering fee, plus any beverages consumed. At pretty much all South Asian wedding lunches, only non-alcoholic beverages are served. The per person lunch fee is typically anywhere between $10-$20 less than the per person dinner fee. (Refer to ShaadiShop for detailed price breakdowns at venues). So the costs can really add up.


Another important thing to think about is parking. At many Indian weddings the parking is hosted – where guests don’t pay for parking. But if you’re having a time gap day, then presumably a lot of guests will leave the venue after the ceremony and return in the evening for cocktail hour and the reception. Does your venue charge for parking? And if so, do they offer what’s called in-and-out privileges so that you won’t pay for parking twice? Most venues offer discounted parking rates for events. Whether or not they will charge double for parking varies because a lot of venues don’t own the parking operation at their property. At a lot of venues the parking structure and employees – that whole operation is owned by someone else.

Venues really try to be reasonable about this and some will only charge once and extend in and out privileges for your event even though they usually don’t. FYI, parking rates vary based on hosted/non-hosted, self vs. valet, overnight vs. day and once you get int metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles a lot of venues have a lot more detailed parking policies.

By the way, you’ll find the parking info on the ShaadiShop website too. 🙂

{Is it ok to Not Serve Lunch on a Time-Gap Day?}

It’s your wedding and you can do whatever you want, but it’s generally considered poor form to not serve anything. The back-to-back days go straight into cocktail hour after the ceremony, so they avoid the lunch event altogether.

If you can, before you start talking to venues, decide on what type of day you plan to have – time gap or back-to-back. And again, you can refer to the ShaadiShop website or contact me for info.

{Creative Cost Savings}

Discount for Kids. Some venues will discount kids meals. I’m currently helping a couple with their venue and they’re having a time-gap day and plan to serve lunch and dinner on their wedding day. They’re expecting to have about 50 kids at each of the meals. So a couple of the venues we talked to discounted the kids fees. (Side note, you might like our guide with creative idea for keeping kids entertained at Indian weddings).

Heavy snacks vs. sit down lunch. Some venues offer a different option vs. serving a full-on sit down lunch. Instead you can serve heavy snacks in the ceremony area, immediately following the ceremony. So it becomes like a cocktail hour. Guests can mingle and the venue will setup a few high tables and maybe a handful of tables if the venue has the space for it, but they won’t setup tables and chairs for everyone. One venue we work with for example sets up tables and chairs for half the guests. There are trade offs to this option, namely:

  1. A proper sit down lunch with tables and chairs is more comfortable.
  2. You save some money because they won’t charge you for occupying a whole different part of the venue for lunch.

So this is where other budget considerations come in, such as do you rent chiavari chairs for the ceremony, which cost $5-$10/per chair or do you allocate those funds towards a lunch? And then you start to think, well what if I selected a venue that already has a gazebo or a structure that I can easily decorate for a mandap/altar instead of making the whole thing. Will that save me some cost? And is that a better use of my budget? (BTW, on ShaadiShop we show you which venues already have a gazebo/structure for this exact reason…see the screen capture from our website below).

The info South Asians need, in 1 place, on

{Balancing Budgets vs. Time}

One of the reasons why couples prefer the Time-Gap day is because it gives them more time. In a back-to-back day the couple and their families have a lot less time to transition from the ceremony to the reception for things like taking photos after the ceremony, the vidai, welcoming the bride, and more practical things like getting ready for the reception and doing a couples photoshoot before the reception starts. Check out our post on how much time to allot for some of these things on your wedding day.

{Take Aways}

Serving lunch on your wedding day has time and cost implication. In general, for the average Indian wedding with 350 guests expect the lunch to cost anywhere from $25 per person at the least expensive venues to $80 per person at the high end venues. This is based on a typical Indian wedding outside catered, buffet lunch with 5-6 items including naan/roti etc. That can add upwards of $10k to your budget so it’s not a small consideration. Learn more about outside catering packages in our guide.

If you want to setup a dosa station or other types of stations those costs will vary and are not included in the range given above.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. If it has, let me know in the comments and you might like to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – whatever your preferred media is, as we frequently publish articles to help making wedding planning just a little bit easier.

Congratulations and cheers!

Samta Varia
Founder & CEO
ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues

 South Asian-friendly Wedding Venues

ShaadiShop is a free service to help couples, planning an Indian or any South Asian wedding, find their wedding venue. We walk you through the whole process from discovery to booking. And, venues extend better pricing and amenities to our clients. Visit our main website or contact me to start your venue search today!

Cover Photo: Global Photography