Post ceremony lunch at an Indian wedding

Should You Serve Lunch at the Venue After Your Indian Wedding Ceremony, Or Not?

When you start planning your Indian wedding this is a question that will inevitably arise: should we serve lunch after the ceremony or not? Of course, it’s nice to offer your guests lunch after the wedding ceremony…but it can also get pricey.  Serving lunch means more catering costs as well as more venue costs. You’ll have to weigh how and where you want to allocate your wedding budget.

And in addition to the cost factor there are other things to consider  – pros and cons – if you’re serving lunch.

Serving lunch means you’re going with what we at ShaadiShop refer to as the Indian Wedding Time Gap Day. You know those weddings where there’s a long break in-between the ceremony and cocktail hour. Where everyone basically leaves the venue after lunch, changes into a new outfit, and comes back to the venue in the evening for cocktail hour and the reception.

The Indian Wedding Time Gap Day has a bunch of associated implications:

  1. Early Wake Up For the Bride. The bride may have to wake up really early to start hair and makeup to be ready in time for a pre-ceremony photoshoot.
  2. More Time After the Ceremony. On the flip side, the couple will have more time to change and get ready as well as for a photoshoot in-between the ceremony and reception.
  3. It’s A Long Day. It’s a long day for you and all of your guests – morning ceremony > lunch > break + change > cocktail hour > reception.
  4. Venue parking fees. If you’re hosting parking, you’ll want to negotiate a rate that allows for guests to leave the property and return without paying twice for parking.
  5. Where Will Everyone Go During the Break? Think about where everyone will go in-between the wedding and reception. Not everyone will have a hotel room i.e. local long distance people = people who live within driving distance but too far for them to go back home and come back in the evening for the reception. You aren’t necessarily responsible for their arrangements but thinking it through is a good idea because if there’s a lot of people in 1 category you may want to setup something for them.
  6. Lunch Cost. And last but not least, as stated above the cost of the lunch is to be factored in.

The other type of Indian wedding is what we’ve dubbed the Back-To-Back Indian Wedding Day, where the ceremony starts in the late afternoon, like somewhere between 2pm-3pm and as soon as the ceremony ends, cocktail hour starts. This Indian wedding day schedule has a lot of appeal for many couples because you’re not spending money on the lunch meal. Also your guests don’t leave and come back. Some guests like that as well as they don’t have to change for the reception.

The downsides of the Back-to-Back Indian Wedding Day Are:

  • a lot less time for the bride to get ready for the reception
  • a lot less time for the couple for a pre-reception photoshoot

How much less time to get ready and for photoshoots? A lot less time because you have the length of cocktail hour to post-ceremony photos, change and get ready and do a photoshoot. Thankfully, these days most brides aren’t draping a huge dupatta for the reception so getting dressed takes way less time than it used to.

So save thousands of dollars vs. less time on the wedding day. Those are the trade offs.

{The Type Of Venue Impacts The Type of Wedding Day}

The venue you choose will also factor in here. There are some venues where having a time gap day just isn’t practical for example if the wedding venue is far from where the guests are staying or if it’s a venue where it’s just not setup for a time gap day. Examples would be wineries, ranches, and museums. On the other hand, hotels and resorts are a lot more conducive to the time gap day.

{Taking Care of Relatives on
A Back-to-Back Day Schedule}

As we know in our Indian culture family is very important. We feel a sense of obligation as well as a desire to make our weddings very welcoming and hospitable ESPECIALLY to family. And let’s keep it real, family often has expectations too. And these expectations come in the form of being taken care of. Which means all arrangements are made for family, besides maybe getting to and from the airport for the wedding weekend.

Indian families often host all of the meals and accommodation for the relatives coming from out of town to attend the wedding. If the wedding is taking place at a hotel or resort arrange breakfast there or whichever hotel the relatives are staying at.

Again let’s be real, sometimes it’s unrealistic to host family at the wedding hotel/resort because the rooms are $$$$. It’s totally ok to host them at a nearby, more budget-friendly property. And ideally one that includes breakfast in the room rate.

For lunch the day of the wedding, host the relatives at a restaurant. Some relatives will rent cars or use Uber or Lyft and it’s easy for everyone to meet at a restaurant.

This makes for a fun family reunion and they will appreciate how well you took care of them.

{2 Ways To Serve Food Without Serving a
Whole Meal at an Indian Wedding}

Snack Pouches. One thing most venues will allow you to do it to put a pouch of nuts and candy on each chair. I went to a back-to-back Indian wedding where by the time we were getting seated for the ceremony (and I had danced my brains out in the baraat) started I was starving. I was so thankful for the little nut pouch on my chair and it was a pretty good size – as in it dissolved my hunger.

Photo: Geeta Randery 

Grab N’ Go Snack On the Way To The Ceremony. Another thing you can do is offer a grab n’ go snack for guests to pick up as they make their way to get seated for the ceremony. Remember, these guests aren’t coming directly from a parking lot to the ceremony. They’ve spent the last 45 minutes to an hour in your baraat.

Have tables setup with samosas and chutney, pre-placed in little bowls or maybe pakoras and chutney or even chutney sandwiches – something that’s easy for guests to grab-go-and eat in their seats. You can get creative with this. One hot summer, outdoor wedding to the delight of everyone, served Baskin Robbins.

Note: the caterer will charge you for this and the venue may as well. But it won’t be nearly as much as a full blown lunch; and your guests will really appreciate it.

Indian wedding snacks served at the ceremony: Baskin Robbins, yum!                                         Photo: Braja Mandala Wedding Photography

{Summary and Conclusion}

The question of whether or not to serve lunch after the ceremony on your wedding day really comes down to how you think about and make tradeoffs between cost vs. time.

There are two types of Indian wedding day:

  1. Time Gap with lunch after the ceremony
  2. Back-to-Back, no lunch after the ceremony

In short, the time gap day means more cost because you’ll be serving lunch, but also more time for the couple to get ready and do photoshoots.

The back-to-back-day implies lower costs as there’s no lunch meal served, but also less time for the couple to get ready and do photoshoots. How much less time? A lot less because you don’t have several hours in-between lunch and cocktail hour. You have more like 1 hour or less, as after the ceremony while all the guests are off at cocktail hour, you and your relatives are busy taking photos. After that you have whatever time is left of cocktail hour to get changed, redo or touch up some makeup and take photos.

I presented ideas for how to take care of relatives coming from out of town for your wedding if you decided to go with a back-to-back wedding day. We also shared a couple of ways to avoid serving a full meal and serve snacks instead.

I hope this information is useful to you as you start to plan your wedding. Don’t forget to check out our other Indian wedding planning guides. Just type “guide” into the search bar on the blog and you’ll see everything we’ve published from what happens if it rains on your wedding day, to how to think about decor and how to do reception seating arrangements.

All the best with wedding planning!

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