Deciding to do an Indoor vs. Outdoor Indian Wedding in Southern California: A Guide

Regardless of what type of Indian wedding ceremony you plan to have – Hindu, Jain, or Sikh, when you’re thinking about an indoor vs. outdoor ceremony, there are special considerations to think about for your wedding venue. In this article we will talk about:

  • planning an indoor ceremony
  • an outdoor ceremony
  • contingencies for when an outdoor ceremony has to be moved indoors last minute.

We didn’t mention Muslim weddings because Muslim weddings don’t have the nuances associated with the other types of wedding ceremonies – no fire, no floor seating, no 1.5-2 hour long ceremonies. Setting up or moving a Muslim wedding is relatively easier for venues, than the other ceremony types that have some more considerations.


First, let’s break down the nuances for different wedding ceremonies.

{Hindu and Jain Wedding Ceremonies}

The thing that adds the most complication at the venue in Hindu and Jain wedding ceremonies is the open flame. While some venues in Southern California have done this before, it still makes them a little nervous every time. So we’ve put together this short, but thorough, guide to help you get your dream ceremony at your dream venue.

For outdoor Hindu and Jain ceremonies there are fewer restrictions because you don’t have to worry about a fire alarm going off. Outdoor ceremonies aren’t really a concern at most venues. Especially in Southern California, most people prefer outdoor ceremonies so they can take advantage of the gorgeous weather – it’s the indoor ceremonies where things can get a little sticky. Let’s talk about that in-depth.

{Indoor Hindu and Jain Wedding Ceremonies}

You’d be surprised how many misconceptions there are about Indian wedding ceremonies. In my work, helping couples book their wedding venue and working with catering staff at venues, I find that sometimes, Catering Managers think that the fire is a massive, unruly bonfire that’s going to set off huge plumes of smoke. Obviously that’s not the case. Not only that but the portion of the ceremony with the flame ignited, is about 10 minutes out of the average 1.5 hour ceremony! But still, some precautions are required at venues for indoor ceremonies. Below are some of the things you might need if you decide to have a Hindu or Jain ceremony indoors.

Fire permit – some venues require you to get a fire permit from the city where the ceremony will take place. You’ll find a link to this on ShaadiShop, go to the “Indian Wedding Friendly” tab and you’ll see the “permit” section. For each venue that requires a permit, you’ll find that info on ShaadiShop’s main website. Every city has different requirements and fees to get the permit.  Apply for permits ASAP. You never know how long it will take to get it. If the venue requires a fire permit for indoor ceremonies, we recommend getting it even if you’re planning to do an outdoor ceremony. Every city’s permit fee varies but it’s usually around $50.

It’s better to be overly prepared – just in case – your ceremony has to be moved indoors, last minute.


When you visit any venue profile venue on ShaadiShop, you’ll see a tab called “Indian Wedding Friendly”, as shown below.


Scroll down from there, and you’ll see “Ceremony & Baraat Info” and then “Permits”, as you can see in the photo below.


Let’s continue talking about additional venue fire policies.

Fire watch – all this means is that someone from the venue will oversee the ceremony and have a fire extinguisher at the ready just in case something happens (don’t worry they’ll sit in the back – inconspicuous). This is a precaution. We’ve never heard of anyone ever having an issue. Venues do charge for this though, since it’s additional labor to have a member of their staff at the ceremony. Expect to pay anywhere from $100-$500 for this. Even though the flame portion of the ceremony is only about 10 minutes, because of labor laws, they can’t ask someone to come in for just 10 minutes. They have to compensate that person according to California, or other state laws.

Size restrictions – some venues impose restrictions on how big the flame can be i.e. it can’t exceed the top of the container it’s in. Officiants are accustomed to this and happy to work with you and your venue on an appropriate size flame so that it doesn’t set off the smoke detectors.

Other policies – Some venues simply don’t allow a typical Hindu wedding ceremony flame indoors. They might say you can use candles only. (Side note: I heard a venue tell a couple to use the venue’s terrace fire pit once!).


{Advice or Everyone}

For anyone planning a Hindu or Jain wedding whether you plan to get married indoors or outdoors, it’s really important to know the venue’s fire policies. The last thing you want is to plan everything outdoors, but have to move indoors last minute at a venue that requires a fire permit.

{Should You Get Married Indoors or Outdoors?}

I’ve worked with couples that got married in peak summer or winter and chose to have their ceremony indoors because of the peace of mind, knowing that they and their guests would be protected from the elements. They didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty of planning to be outdoors and potentially moving indoors last minute in case of inclement weather. That makes sense and every couple/family can make that decision for themselves and what makes them comfortable. The advantages of that are the peace of mind and less uncertainty when working with your vendors.

Remember your DJ, decorator, photo and cinema team all have setup. Not to mention the venue that will be setting up the stage and chairs for the ceremony. At the same time I will say that in the rare cases where a ceremony had to be moved indoors, last minute, the vendors were all ready to rally. They knew exactly what to do and it wasn’t a problem.

The only time I have seen it be a problem that caused delays is when the couple takes too long to make a decision to move indoors. Understandably, every couple wants their wedding to play out as they’ve envisioned it. And it’s hard to make such a major change so quickly when you’re already so overwhelmed. The few times I’ve personally attended weddings in this situation, every time the delay was caused by the couple that wanted to hold out in case the weather changed.

Similarly I’ve worked with couples that really want to get married outdoors, especially in areas like Southern California and other outdoor-friendly regions; and they have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. This decision is completely yours. It’s totally subjective. And below, in this guide, I will give you the framework of what you need to know to make a decision.

We’ve already covered the things you need to know about having ab open flame. Now let’s move on to other details:

  1. Different ceremony chairs. Like most homes, venues have indoor furniture and outdoor furniture. If you’re going to use the venue’s chairs vs. renting your own, for your ceremony, they will vary depending on whether the ceremony is indoors or outdoors. Most venues give you those nice, white garden chairs (below) for outdoor ceremonies, but these are for outdoor use only. For indoor ceremonies or a ceremony that has to be moved indoors, the venue is going to setup their standard banquet chairs, like you see below. Every venue has their own standard banquet chair. Think back to the conferences, events, and weddings you’ve been to (though I don’t expect you to have taken mental note of the chair), but in case you did, you’ll remember that you only sat on white garden chairs outdoors. And most venues don’t allow use of their outdoor ceremony chairs for indoor events.
  2. Reha-Vijay-Newport-Beach-Marriott-South-Asian-wedding-Indian_wedding-Hindu-Jain-North_Indian-head-table-ballroom-Aaron-Eye-Photography-Rose-Garden
    The wedding package comes with the setup of these folding, white, garden chairs. Photo: Aaron Eye Photography

16-Hotel-Maya-Indian-wedding-South-Asian-ceremony-Hindu-Mandap-baraat-Salon-de-Reyes-theater-setup-134

Side note: A lot of couples rent chiavari chairs for the ceremony. Undoubtedly they look beautiful and elegant. But at the risk of sounding like an up-tight, old, Aunty, I have to say that after 1.5-2 hours they are kinda uncomfortable. Those grooves on the chairs rods, drive into your back. And if you’re a woman wearing a fanc-ified lehenga, gown, or salwar with some baller, fashionable back design, those rods can really get uncomfortable — just sayin’. (#FirstWorldIndianWomanProblems).

See the photo below. I know I know, the whole setup is stunning, but you can totally see those grooves I’m talking about, on the chairs. And after a while they drive into your back.

Indian wedding ceremony at Hotel Irvine. The pink program match the pink mandap.
Chiavari chairs setup for an Indian wedding ceremony. PC: Global Photography – Yogi Patel.

2. No pre-existing gazebo or pergola for a mandap/altar. Another thing to note when you’re deciding between an indoor or outdoor ceremony, is that if you get married indoors, in a ballroom for example, ballrooms don’t have an existing structure where you can make a mandap or altar. Your decorator will have to build it. Some people are particular about this. Reputable decorators are totally accustomed to this and can handle building a mandap vs. decorating a structure, but still, something for you to know and consider. Does one cost more than the other? You’re not going to like my answer – it depends. It depends on how you’re decorating the structure. Will be saturated with fresh flowers? drapes? statues? chandeliers? The greater portion of the cost is how you plan to decorate the mandap/altar vs. building it.

An advantage of going structure-less is that you have free reign to decide on the style and look of the mandap or altar. With a pre-existing gazebo or pergola you have to work with that structure. Below, we’ve added some examples. The captions will tell you whether they’re from a pre-existing structure or not.

31-1--Hotel-Maya-Indian-wedding-South-Asian-ceremony-Hindu-Mandap-baraat-Vista del Mar-134
Pre-existing structure at Hotel Maya, Long Beach, California; Photo: Lin & Jirsa
12 POLE ROUND MANDAP WITH FLORAL SPRAY copy
Pre-existing gazebo
Chandni and Krunal: Randery Imagery
Indoor ceremony; no pre-existing structure; notice they had a “ghosted” aka transparent mandap; Photo: Randery Imagery

3. Lighting. Indoor ceremonies are usually held in a ballroom. For indoor wedding ceremonies, you may want to consider adding lighting as well as pipe and drape the walls. If it’s a last minute change, already have a contingency plan in place with your wedding coordinator, decorator, and whomever is providing the lighting for you (usually your DJ).

KajRohWed-400
Indoor mandap; no pre-existing structure; added lighting; Photo: Randery Imagery
MauVisWed-0850
Indoor OPEN mandap; no pre-existing structure; added lighting; Photo: Randery Imagery

{Take Aways}

These are the main things to consider when you’re deciding on whether to have indoor or outdoor Hindu or Jain wedding ceremony:

  • venue’s fire policies
  • ceremony chairs
  • mandap/altar style and design
  • lighting

Now let’s talk about Sikh weddings. Most Sikh weddings take place in a Gurdwara. However, some couples are opting to have their Anand Karaj at a different venue. I’ve seen Sikh weddings on the beach, open fields and on hotel terraces. Below we talk about considerations for an indoor vs. outdoor Sikh wedding.

{Sikh Weddings}

Sikh wedding ceremony that has to be moved Indoors. For Sikh weddings, if an outdoor wedding had to be moved indoors, the transition is a bit easier compared to Hindu and Jain weddings, because the venue won’t setup chairs, as everyone will sit on the floor per Sikh traditions. Additionally, Sikh weddings do not include a fire.

For outdoor Sikh weddings, we recommend that you invest in good, sturdy and comfortable flooring to cover the ground at your venue. This is how one couple did it and it worked out really well for them.

In the photo below, you can see that they arranged gaddas (cushioned mattresses) on the grass behind beach. Think back to your last trip to India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka — the gaddas below are like the one’s you see the store employees sitting on when you go buy clothing or fabric shopping. Below that, at another Sikh wedding, they arranged plywood flooring covered with sheets.

And there is always a scattering of chairs for the elderly who might not be able to sit on the floor.

{Advice or Everyone}

Regardless of whether you’re having a Sikh wedding ceremony indoors or outdoors, we recommend that you arrange a designated area like shoe racks for guests to place their shoes. You don’t want random shoes creeping into your wedding photos.

Guys wearing rumaal during Sikh Punjabi, Anand Karaj, Indian wedding in Phuket, Thailand.
Beachfront Sikh wedding; the guests are sitting on gaddas (thin mattresses)
Outdoor-Sikh-wedding-ceremony-at-resort-venue
Plywood flooring, covered with sheets for an outdoor Sikh wedding

 

{Canopies}

For all outdoor weddings, we recommend that you invest in canopies over the guest seating. Your guests will be a lot more comfortable and they add so much to the overall look of the decor too!

Canopy over guest chairs at an Indian wedding in Irvine, California. PC: Global Photography – Yogi Patel
Indian weding outdoor ceremony with a pink canopy.
Aerial view of the canopy over guest chairs at an Indian wedding in Irvine, California. PC: Global Photography – Yogi Patel

{Take Aways}

The decision to have an indoor or outdoor wedding ceremony is entirely up to you. There’s no right or wrong. The great thing is venues are understanding our many and varying traditions more and more. My team and I work closely with them to bride gaps in understanding as well, so that they can serve our community better everyday.

 Hindu/Jain ceremonies think about:

  • the venue’s fire policies
  • ceremony chairs
  • mandap/altar style and design
  • lighting

Sikh weddings think about:

  • making guests comfortable sitting on the floor

We didn’t address Muslim weddings in the article because Muslim weddings don’t have any of these nuances associated with them – no fire, no floor seating, the ceremony is usually 30-40 minutes. Moving a Muslim wedding indoors last minute is relatively easy.


Did this guide help you? Let me know in the comments. And follow ShaadiShop on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram so you can see our latest guides and tips.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! 🙂

samta-founder-signature
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 image: Gloria Gonzalez Fotografia

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