Thinking About Getting Into The Indian Wedding Market? Essentials That Venues Must Accommodate To Host Indian Weddings.

Indian weddings are large, elaborate events that take place over multiple days. Actually the celebrations really start the weekend before the actual wedding with activity and buzz throughout the hosts’ homes. Guests – relatives – from afar start arriving early in the week and the traditions and ceremonies carry on as well.

Most of the pre-wedding celebrations are done in the couple’s respective homes. What Catering teams are focused on is the biggest day – the wedding day.

In this article I am going to detail the nuances of Indian weddings. The purpose is to help venues that are interested in hosting Indian weddings or on the cusp and not sure if they should take the plunge.

{Outside Catering}

This is the aspect of Indian weddings that seems to make Catering teams most nervous for a couple reasons: safety and lower RevPAS.

 

Professional Caterers: First of all the caterers that are hired for Indian weddings are professionals. They’re licensed and bonded and they know that they will not have kitchen access. Remember, these couples are spending anywhere from $40,000 to $200K + on their wedding. They’re not messing around; and seek professional vendors working their wedding.

And the fact is, venues require professional caterers (and all vendors) that are licensed, bonded, and provide copies of their health rating and business license.

Satellite Kitchens: So, now that we clarified that let’s talk about the satellite kitchen that outside caterers setup. Most of the food is pre-prepared and brought to the venue where the venue provides hot boxes. Usually the only item the caterers make at the venue is the naan. The satellite kitchen is fully contained. The caterers set it up and clean it up.

Peace-of-mind: For additional peace-of-mind, and frankly we recommend venues to require, that outside caterer do a walk-through with the Catering team and meet with your Executive Chef.

Indian wedding at Hotel Irvine with vegetarian catered Indian food.
Outside catering setup for an Indian wedding. PC: Global Photography

RevPAS: Yes, revenue per available seat on an outside catered wedding is usually less than what venues charge for an in-house catered wedding. BUT (and this is a big BUT) Indian weddings make up for it in volume. The average Indian wedding has 350 guests. According to an article published by Wedding Wire last year, the average number of guests at a Western wedding is 124.

$75++per person * 350guests = $26,250
$100++ per person * 124 guests = $12,400

But we can’t just talk about revenue. The other part to consider is profitability. Certain foods are more profitable than others and that will vary based on the selected menu for in-house catered weddings. Whereas for Indian weddings the majority of that per person fee is profitable because there’s no food and no food preparation labor involved – the cost is the service staff.

{The Groom’s Procession (Baraat)}

The other unique aspect of Indian weddings is the groom’s procession, called the baraat. This is where the groom and his family and friends dance to live music, outside the venue, making their way towards the ceremony site or towards the venue.

At most venues this takes place in the front of the venue in the porte cochére or in the parking lot. Or some venues have separate pathways for the baraat. The groom stands out as he is either:

  • riding a white horse
  • in a horse and carriage
  • riding an elephant – very few venues allow this due to its weight and space required
  • in an exotic car

{Answers to FAQs About the Baraat}

  1. Animals and cars DO NOT go indoors.
  2. Animals are provided by licensed, insured, bonded companies and accompany the animal the ENTIRE time.
  3. The baraat lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
  4. The DJ sets up a mobile station to accompany the baraat.
Neena-Chintan-Indian-wedding-venue-Hotel-Irvine-wedding-ceremony-baraat-bridal-party-sari-bridesmaids
Wedding party in front of the Ferrari for the baraat, before the ceremony starts. PC: Greycard Photography
Neena-Chintan-Indian-wedding-venue-Hotel-Irvine-wedding-ceremony-groom-dancing-baraat-convertible
Indian groom enjoyng his baraat. PC: Greycard Photography
Sipra_Kevin_Sipra_Kevin_Indian-wedding-family-lehenga-sherwani-sera-mandap-Hindu-multicultural-Bengali-Gujarati-white-groom-baraat-horse
Yee-haw!! PC: Wedding Documentary Photo + Cinema
baraat horse and carriage for the groom at his Indian wedding
Instead of riding on a horse, some grooms opt for a horse and carriage for their baraat. PC: Global Photography
The groom in his horse and carriage and the baraatis assembled.  PC: Randery Imagery
18-Anaheim-Embassy-Suites-orange-county-indian-hindu-gujarati-wedding-photographer-family-baraat-dhol-photos
Baraat with live dhol (drummer) in Anaheim, California. PC: Randery Imagery

 

 

Ami and AJ 1
Some venues (believe it or not allow an elephant for the baraat. PC: Lin & Jirsa
Ami and AJ 7
Elephant baraat at an Indian wedding in Orange County, California. PC: Lin & Jirsa
Ami and AJ 3
Elephant dressed for the baraat in Orange County, California. PC: Lin & Jirsa

{Ceremony Flame}

Wedding Ceremonies from the Hindu and Jain faiths include a contained, but uncovered ceremony flame. In this section I am going to address a lot of the misconceptions about this. Let me point out that MAJOR hotel brands such as Marriotts, Hyatts, and Hiltons are successfully hosting Indian weddings indoors and outdoors with the ceremony flame so I encourage all Catering Executives to keep that in mind before jumping to conclusions.

If they’re doing it successfully and safely then clearly it’s possible.

It is NOT a bonfire. I’m surprised by how many people that I come across assume that the ceremony flame is a huge bonfire. It’s not. It’s a small flame and the couples along with their officiant are happy to work with venues to determine the size on the flame to ensure that it doesn’t set off the fire alarm.

The fire alarm? Yes. Lots of hotels and resorts host Hindu and Jain weddings indoors and it’s no problem.

The officiant immediately extinguishes the flame with rice.

The fire portion of the ceremony is about 10 minutes long, out of 1.5-2 hour ceremony.

A mandap setup for an Indian, Hindu wedding ceremony
PC: Aaron Eye Photography

{Safety Measures Venues Can Take For Indoor Ceremonies}

Venues can take additional safety measures:

Fire Watch – in addition to the fire permit, some venues may require a fire watch at the wedding ceremony. All this means is that someone from the venue or the local Fire Marshal will oversee the ceremony and have a fire extinguisher at the ready…just in case. This is a precaution – I’ve never heard of anyone ever having an issue. Since there is labor involved venues can charge for this. Most charge between $200-$400 for this.

Temporary Bypass – with the permission of your local Fire Marshal you can have the smoke alarm put on temporary bypass.

Flame Size Restrictions – some venues impose restrictions on how big the flame can be i.e. it can’t exceed the top of the container.

Fire Permit – require couples to get a fire permit from the city where the event is being held.


Remember:

  • the fire is very small
  • it’s only needed for about 10 minutes
  • the officiant immediately extinguishes the flame
Having a Hindu/Jain wedding flame indoors is fine and safe. PC: Randery Imagery 

{Consumption Bar}

Pretty much all of your Indian clients (except Muslim weddings) are going to want a hosted consumption bar and opt out of bar packages. Why? Because at Indian weddings there’s always between 20-35% of the guests who don’t drink alcohol. And the guests that do drink VERY VERY VERY rarely ever drink enough to make up for those that didn’t.

Download ShaadiShop’s Indian Wedding Types Cheat Sheet for Catering Managers.

{Take Aways}

This article was written to help venues that are interested in getting into the Indian market but uncertain of whether it’s a good fit, understand the essential aspects of Indian weddings. In other words, venues that don’t accommodate these basics are no-go venues for Indian weddings.

  • Outside catering
  • Groom’s procession
  • Ceremony flame
  • Consumption bar

These four qualities are usually deal breakers when it comes to venue selection.

Indian weddings are very lucrative and it’s unfortunate to see venues miss the opportunity to capture this business because they don’t fully understand the nuances. For example I’ve talked to Directors of Catering and Catering Sales Managers who thought the ceremony flame was a huge bonfire and thought “wild animals” run around the property.


I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have comments, questions or stories you’d like to share, feel free to post them in the comments below. Follow ShaadiShop on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest – whatever your preferred media is, as we frequently publish articles for venue sales and catering teams.


{Advertise With ShaadiShop}

Contact us to schedule a site demo and learn about advertising our packages for venues and how we can drive qualified Indian wedding leads directly to you.

ShaadiShop is the only website completely dedicated to driving qualified Indian wedding leads to venues.

We offer a variety of packages for venues at various stages of involvement in the Indian wedding market. From those that are just starting out to venues that host several Indian weddings every year. Contact us for more info and to schedule a 10-minute demo.

See testimonials from venues and consumers below.


samta-founder-signature
Samta Varia Founder & CEO ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues

 

Contact us for more info.


{ShaadiShop Testimonials}

“We just booked a full Indian wedding through ShaadiShop at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. In addition to the business, we appreciate the exposure ShaadiShop creates about our venue, as the couple didn’t know about our resort until ShaadiShop told them about us. Additionally, we appreciate the pre-qualification work that ShaadiShop does to match couples and venues that are a good fit for each other. We had all the info needed to conduct the initial meeting. What a great service for venues to market to the South Asian community!” Angie Florence, Catering Manager at The Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach, CA


“We’re so glad we joined ShaadiShop to market this hotel to the South Asian community in the Orange County area. Every wedding we close from their leads returns more than 3x our investment. Moreover, they pre-qualify leads and educate consumers creating a much better sales cycle for our catering team. Venues looking to reach this market, join ShaadiShop!” – Ryan Hurd, Catering Sales Manager, Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove


“Shaadishop helped me not only find venues but also understand how they work, the fees, and tips that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Definitely a need service in the desi community. “ Hinna S., Bride


“Cannot say enough good things about the service from Samta and ShaadiShop who helped us research venues for our wedding this year. We wanted a non-hotel venue, and to get married within 6 months. ShaadiShop immediately found us venues, contacted them and educated us about all the things we needed to think about while selecting a venue. They put all the info together in a fabulous, super impressive, spreadsheet that helped us compare venues – seriously amazing and such a great help. Working with them made the whole stressful process MUCH easier and I can’t believe it was all free! ShaadiShop’s website is fantastic and such a great service for South Asians – so glad I found them!” Anjli S., Bride


“We’re so glad we used ShaadiShop to book our venue. The info on the website is amazing and then they gave us such personalized attention! They were such a valuable resource for selecting venues, helping us understand policies and logistics. Their suggestions saved us a lot money too! They really understood us, what we wanted and helped us get it. AND it’s free! So glad there’s a service like this for South Asians. Awesome that there’s something like this for South Asians!” Janki K., Bride


“I worked with ShaadiShop to find a venue for my daughter’s wedding. The website is easy to use and has so much useful information. ShaadiShop made everything easy for me – getting quotes, suggesting venues, explaining fees and policies. Most importantly, my daughter and son-in-law are happy with the venue. ShaadiShop is a great and service for our community. I’m so glad I found them!” Charu S. Bride’s Mother

 

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