Indian bride stopping the wedding ceremony with her hand up in a symbol to stop

Indian Wedding Venue Dealbreakers: What Catering Executives Should Know

For venues that are interested in getting into the Indian wedding market or that want to increase the number of Indian weddings they’re hosting each year, there are some venue dealbreakers to know about.

If a venue doesn’t offer all or some alternative solution, to these dealbreakers then those venues are probably not a good fit to host Indian weddings. There are some exceptions which I will go into later in this post.

{The Ceremony Flame}

This is an integral part of all Hindu and Jain wedding ceremonies, which are the majority of weddings that venues host. The fire is a representation of the fire deity and is considered the primary witness of the ceremony. As the couples walk around the fire they are making vows to each other in the presence of the fire deity. So the takeaway for Catering Executives is the fire is important. I’ve heard some venues suggest to couples to skip that part of the ceremony. They can’t. Without it the ceremony is not complete and the couple is not married.

{Ceremony Flame Misperceptions}

I understand. The idea of any type of fire at a venue makes anyone nervous. And that’s why my team and I dedicate so much time and effort to educating Catering Executives about the culture, nuances, and consumer needs. Once Catering Execs understand what really goes into this they start to realize that this is not as scary as they perceived and totally doable. Catering Execs just have to go in with an open mind.

A lot of people have misperceptions about the ceremony flame. It’s NOT a massive, unruly bonfire. It is uncovered but it is contained. And the size of the flame can be kept very  very small as you can see in the photo below. Small enough to not set off your fire alarm. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see a teeny tiny flame…yeah it’s small. Notice this ceremony is indoors and FYI, this is in the ballroom of a Hyatt hotel.

For extra caution, venues may require the couple to acquire a fire permit, the venue can work with the local Fire Marshal to get permission to temporarily put the fire alarm on bypass and some venues require a fire watch. The fire portion of the 1.5-2 hour ceremony is about 10 minutes long. I encourage you to talk to your colleagues and counterparts who have experience with this before writing it off.

So many venues remove themselves from the Indian wedding market due to misperceptions about this.

And for venues that took the time to understand the ceremony flame and still don’t offer it, don’t just stop there. Be thoughtful about alternatives i.e. a candle covered with glass. Venues that don’t allow the flame but also don’t offer alternatives are shooting themselves in the foot, and giving away business to the competition.

{No Inclement Weather Back Up?

Venues that have an outdoor ceremony space, but won’t allow the ceremony flame indoors are going to have problems booking Indian weddings. Consumers seek peace-of-mind when they’re booking their wedding venue and they won’t have any if there’s no back up space. Without back up space, it means that if there’s rain or weather issues the wedding ceremony can’t move forward.

As noted above, the flame is an integral part of the ceremony. So much so that whether or not a venue has back up space is detailed on every single profile on our website, as you can see below.

{Outside Catering}

The vast majority of Indian weddings seek to bring in outside catering. And they will reject a venue based on this. I have seen some venues come up with alternatives to work with the in-house chefs to create Indian meals. This is very very very rare though.

{No Saturday Outside Catering = Fewer Indian Weddings Booked}

As we all know, Saturdays are in higher demand than every other day of the week. Recently I’ve come across a few venues that allow outside catering, just not on Saturday night. And I don’t get it.

Catering Executives can you please shed some light on this? Why is this a policy?

I understand that the per person outside catering fee is less than what venues charge for in-house catering, so yes, RevPAS is lower on Indian weddings, but doesn’t the number of guests at Indian weddings make up for that? And since the venue isn’t buying and preparing food, isn’t the profitability on an outside catered wedding higher? So why would venues remove themselves from the consumer’s consideration, with this policy?

{No Amenities for Outside Catering = Fewer Indian Weddings Booked}

I recently came across a venue that wants to book more Indian weddings but will not supply china, silverware, glassware, linens,  chaffing dishes, and serving utensils for outside catered weddings and events. The problem is, all of their competitors include all of these amenities. Additionally this venue does not allow outside catering on Saturday nights. Furthermore, this venue’s pricing is on par with Indian friendly oceanfront resorts…so why would a couple choose that venue?

{The Baraat aka Groom’s Procession}

The groom’s procession, called a baraat (ba-raat) is a beloved Indian wedding tradition. Back in the day, Indian weddings literally took place at the bride’s home. And the groom, his family and friends would dance and party their way to the bride’s home – after all it’s a celebration! The groom typically rode on a horse or elephant to make him stand out on his special day. And before cars were invented horses and eles were legit means of transportation.

Understandably not every venue allows an elephant on-property. That’s not a dealbreaker. What is a dealbreaker is not allowing a procession at all. Most venues that host Indian weddings, allow a horse and a car on-property. What Catering Executives should know is that consumers use licensed and bonded companies to provide the car, elephant, or car. The mode of transport NEVER enters the venue – the entire baraat takes place outdoors.

{Consumption Bar}

Some venues don’t offer a consumption bar option. Those venues will have difficulty competing in the Indian market. Indians and all South Asians, are in general, religious people. Thus at Hindu, Jain, and Sikh weddings there’s going to be a pretty big group of people who don’t drink alcohol – usually the elderly and some of the parents friends. And we’re not just talking about a handful of people – it’s enough to make buying per person bar packages not worth it.

If venues want to close Indian weddings, they really need to offer a consumption bar option.

Muslim weddings are totally dry weddings, so venues would be wise to get creative about pitching them on in-house catered dessert bars or other things to help them meet the minimum.

{Exceptions to the Rule}

Hindu and Jain weddings are the wedding ceremonies that include a ceremony flame. Muslim, Sikh, and Buddhist weddings do not. BUT the vast majority of Indian weddings are Hindu and Jain. Sikh weddings usually take place in a Sikh place of worship, called a Gurdwara.

Muslim weddings are typically dry events, so the consumption bar is not a consideration but meeting the F&B minimum without a bar with alcohol is difficult. As noted above, Catering Executives that can get creative and make suggestions to help them meet the minimum will win.


{Wedding Types & Their Impact on Venues}

There are many important implications for venues based on the type of Indian wedding:

  • Dry weddings may have a difficult time meeting the F&B minimum
  • Since most Sikh weddings take place in the Sikh place of worship, called a Gurdwara, venues will usually only book the reception – dinner/dance business.
  • The few Sikh wedding ceremonies that a venue does host will have to work with the couple to accommodate, guests sitting on the floor, as is customary.
  • Hindu/Jain weddings are longer and therefore, the venue may/may not be able to sell the space to other parties.
  • Indoor Hindu/Jain weddings have the ceremony flame which may require a fire watch and approval from the local Fire Marshal.

{Take Aways}

There are dealbreakers when it comes to how consumers select a venue for Indian weddings:

  • allow ceremony flame
  • allow outside catering
  • allow baraat (groom’s procession)
  • offer consumption bar option

Rarely venues that don’t allow outside catering but have their chefs make Indian food work. Similarly, if venues provide a viable alternative to the ceremony flame, consumers are generally open to that too.

The ceremony flame is a really important part of all Hindu and Jain wedding ceremonies. Without it the couple isn’t married.

Outside catering is important because food is a very important part of Indian weddings (and all weddings, right?), and really good Indian food is what people want.

The groom’s procession is an age old tradition and on a day when everything is about the bride, the baraat is all about the groom.

Consumption bars are important because a lot of Indians and South Asians in general don’t drink alcohol at all and certainly not enough to make the per person bar packages economical. Consumers still want to serve alcohol and appreciate when venues are flexible about this.

Venues that can accommodate these items are a good fit for Indian weddings.

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

Samta Varia Founder & CEO ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues


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