Indian Wedding Planning Checklist25 Comments Advice, cake, centerpieces, colors, decor, DIY Projects, Favors, invitations, Mehndi, overlays, Planning Checklist, Shopping in India, stationary, tips, Trousseau, wedding planning
Congratulations on your engagement! Wondering where to start from? Here is a checklist of items which will walk you through your wedding planning process. According to 2008 Wedding Industry Facts, the average length of engagement is 16 months (Courtesy: Hudson Valley Weddings). For this checklist I am going to assume an eight month engagement and wedding planning period, since Indian engagements are usually shorter. Your first month planning will definitely be the busiest. Even though the list is top heavy, don’t be afraid as the more work you do in the beginning, the less you will have to worry later.
- Pick a Date/Weekend: Give yourself enough time for preparation when picking a date. Also, think about the season you would prefer to get married in.
- Estimate your Wedding Budget: Are you planning on using your own savings for the wedding? Are the parents chipping in? Now is a good time to get to talk to your fiance and both families to get the finances together for the wedding.
- Finalize all the events: There are many events associated with an Indian Wedding Celebration. Do you want to have an engagement party, haldi, mehendi, sangeet in addition to the wedding and reception? Now is a good time to decide.
- Tip: Take your budget into consideration when deciding the number of events and how they will be scheduled on the weekend to accommodate your out of town guests.
- Estimate the number of guests and start a guestlist: Once you have a set budget in mind, you should estimate how big of a wedding you want. This will help you decide the other planning aspects of your wedding.
- Tip: Make a spreadsheet of all the guests. I would suggest using Google Docs and use the following heading items for your spreadsheet, which accounts for all the details related to your guests: Guest Family, Number of people invited, Address, Email Address, Phone Number, Events invited for, Out of Town?, Save-the-Date sent?, Invitation Sent?, Gift received, Thank You Card Sent?
- Hire a Wedding Planner (optional): If you want a planner to assist you find you your venue and other vendors, go ahead and book your wedding planner in the first week itself. This will ensure that you get maximum benefit out of hiring a planner. Make sure you get referrals from family and friends. Yelp and Wedding Wire are great places to start looking as well. A lot of planners have negotiated (discounted) rates with vendors, which can work in your favor. On the flip side, they may steer you towards the vendors with whom they have a relationship.
- Tip: Most planners and even other vendors offer a discount if you pay them the full amount when you sign the contract. Consider doing so only if you are sure about your planner/vendor selection.
- Start researching Venues: Finding venues for all your wedding events, which are open for the dates you picked can be very trying. Get a head start so that you can book the wedding venue of your dreams! Schedule appointments to go visit the selected venues and start shortlisting.
- Tip: Find out the venue requirements and policies for lighting candles, havan rituals/ fire, alcohol, parking, vendor and event insurance, cancellation or postponing the event.
- Choose your bridesmaids and groomsmen (optional): If you choose to do so, select your bridesmaids and groomsmen and invite them to be in your wedding party. It is always nice to send a hand written note to invite your friend/relative to your wedding party, followed by a phone call. Once they confirm, it’s a good idea to get their measurements for their outfits.
- Pick a theme/colors and start collecting ideas: If you choose to do so, pick your colors/theme for your wedding. Regardless of whether you are having a theme of not, start gathering ideas for your wedding. Look through magazines, wedding planning blogs, even talking to your friends and cousins who recently planned their wedding.
- Send out Save-the-Dates: Once the guestlist is finalized, send out your Save-the-Dates. You could go with something which you Do-it-Yourself, or even go to a local paperie/paper store and get them ready to be sent out. Often times, brides go with magnets with a picture of them and their fiance, or even very creative DIY Save-the-Dates according to their theme.
- Plan your Engagement Party (optional): If you decide to do so, start planning your engagement party. You may want to have it at your parent’s house or backyard if the weather is nice, after taking the guestlist into consideration. Think about what kind of party you want: Brunch/ Hors d’oeuvres/Dinner.
- Finalize the Venue: By this time you should have selected your venue. Sign the contract and make the deposits.
- Start your Wedding Registry: Decide the stores or online website where you would like to set up your wedding registry.
- Tip: Most people go with Macy’s, Crate and Barrell, Bed Bath, Target, Beyond and other big department stores. Personally, I recommend online websites like myregistry.com for setting up your wedding registry, as it gives you a lot more flexibility. You can add any product online and place it on your registry. Moreover, if you are a smart shopper, you can shop for the best deal to save your guests money!
- Wedding Website (optional): Set up your wedding website with all the details of your wedding. You can purchase a domain and server space from website hosting companies like bluehost.com, godaddy.com, 1and1.com with your and your fiance’s name, for example: nehaandkart.com. Once you have the domain, you can have a friend/cousin/web developer or even yourself create a wedding website with details such as how you met, proposal, photo gallery, wedding venue and details, link to registry, RSVP, guestbook etc. Alternatively, there are many wedding planning websites, like weddingwire.com, which already have templates for wedding websites, and all you have to do is enter the content and the website is automatically created for you. You can choose to forward it to your own domain rather than the one generated by the website company. Email the website link to your friends and relatives.
- Start Researching Caterers: Put a little thought into your wedding menu. Are you thinking live stations, ice sculptures, chocolate fountain, fondue, specialty appetizers and drinks or simple buffet? Browse through directories of local restaurants, which fit your requirements and schedule tastings. Get per person estimates when you go for the tasting. You might also want to talk to your caterer about drink packages. Make sure that the caterer is licensed by your venue.
- Start Researching Event Decorator/ Florists/ Mandap: Based on your theme, ideas and colors, start thinking of decor ideas. Make a list of things you need from a decorator/florist. Are you going to have special lighting for your events? Talk to various florists for centerpieces and flowers for the ceremony and reception. Also start looking for overlays, Indian event decorations, Mandap, stage for Sangeet and Sweetheart table set up etc. Get estimates for everything.
- Start Researching Photographers: Good photographers are often booked months in advance. Get on your game and schedule meetings to book your photographer. You should definitely look at the samples of the different photographers so that you know their style (posed, photojournalistic etc.). You should also try to negotiate a photo package for all your wedding events as you don’t want to miss the special moments. Important occasions for photos include Engagement Portraits, Engagement Party, Mehendi, Sangeet, Getting Ready Pictures, Pictures of just Bride and Groom on the Wedding Day, Pictures with the Bridal Party, Ceremony, and Reception. You might want to ask the photographer for the rates of an assistant, should you need one.
- Start Researching Videographers: Go for a videographer who has shot Indian Weddings before because they will have a good idea about the lineup of events on your wedding day and would not miss shooting your important moments. Also you would want to discuss how the media of the video: HD/ Blue Ray DVD/ Video Tape etc, whether you want raw footage or the edited video or both etc. Decide which events you need the videographer for and whether they need to have assistants or not.
- Start Researching DJs: Do your homework to find a good DJ. Talk to different DJs to get a vibe of what kind of music they play and how often they switch it up. If you need a projector for slideshow, cables to hook up your computer to the projector, special sound system, other tech equipment, you might want to talk to the DJ and negotiate a package for that and all your other events. Also, ask the DJ if he can provide dhol/ entertainment/ music for the Baraat. It is best to select a DJ based on a performance that you have seen.
- Start Researching Event Rentals (depends on the venue): If you are having your wedding at a museum, hall or a special location, most probably you would need to rent out everything needed for your event, from china, glassware, tableware, tablecloths to tables and chairs. This can get pricey depending on your guestlist and you definitely need the correct estimates for the number of each item to be rented with extras to spare. Do your utmost to research the most reasonable event rental company in terms of finding the best choice of rentals, as well as a company which has relaxed policies. Sometimes your caterer can provide some good referrals for the event rental companies.
- Pick out your invitations: Start looking at different Indian Invitations Websites to look for the perfect invitation. Also, read our article on how to select a wedding invitation for some useful tips. Once you have a winner, finalize the invitation text (include your website and registry information on the invitation), and order the invitations as it takes a couple weeks for the order to be processed and shipped. You want the invitations at least 4-5 months before the wedding, so that you have enough time to address them.
- Finalize your Caterer, Event Decorator/ Florist/ Mandap, Photographer, Videographer, DJ, Event Rentals: You should have these vendors finalized and locked in so that you can start planning the wedding details with them. Review the contracts thoroughly before signing. Make sure they provide a reasonable alternative person/company to fill in case they are sick or under circumstances beyond their control.
- Book your Priest/ Pundit: Based on the kind of ceremony you want, book your priest. Its always good if the priest can speak in English and translate the ceremony for the guests. Confirm their dakshina or honorarium and also the date of the wedding.
- Select you Cake Vendor and Cake Design: If your venue or caterer does not provide one, then start looking for a cake vendor. Regardless, you will need to pick a design for your cake.
- Make the Arrangements for Baraat and other transportation: Reserve the horse carriage, get permits if need be for the Baraat and make arrangements for limo/transportation for the day of your wedding. You may also want to book a shuttle to transport your guests to the wedding venue if different from the accommodation.
- Book your trip to India (optional): If you are doing your wedding trousseau shopping in India, then book your plane tickets and make appropriate arrangements to take time off of work etc.
- Select a vendor for your Mehendi, Hair, Make up and Arranging your Dupatta or Sari: Make sure you have make up and hair trials, before you select the vendor. Interview them to make sure that they can arrange transportation to come to where you are. Also, you might want to bring pictures and discuss with them the way you want your mehendi, make up, hair, and dupatta arranged.
- Select Wedding Outfits for the entire bridal party and Jewelry Sets for yourself: If not going to India, find a local store or travel to a city with huge Indian diaspora in the US to purchase jewelry sets for yourself and traditional outfits for yourself, your fiance and your entire bridal party. Also start looking into suits and tuxedos for the groom and groomsmen.
- Travel to India to purchase your Wedding Trousseau (optional): Read our article on how to shop for your wedding in India for special tips.
- Block Hotel Rooms for out of town guests: Get a block of rooms for a discounted rate for all of your out of town guests. Update your website to include the hotel information and the code to get the discount.
- Honeymoon Suite: Book accommodations for your wedding night.
- Purchase your Accessories: If not going to India, then start looking for matching purse, bindis, bangles, and footwear.
- Start planning and book your honeymoon: Decide on a destination, and book your travel, and hotel for the honeymoon. If you are traveling internationally, make sure you have valid passports and appropriate visas/ other travel papers, vaccinations etc.
- Finalize your Menu and Service details with your caterer
- Finalize your Decor Arrangements
- Get your invitations ready and Mail them: Address all your invitations and put stamps. This process can take a good week, especially if you are still in process of compiling addresses and have a huge guestlist. Use vellum or metallic labels to print addresses. You might also want to consider calligraphy.
- Order your wedding rings/bands
- Start looking for favors: Read our article on suggestions for special wedding favors.
- Childcare for your Ceremony and Reception (optional): If you have many guests with babies and small children, you might consider making arrangements for them.
- Alcohol and Bar Arrangements: Order liquor/alcohol for your event if you are not getting it from the caterer or venue. You might have to get a permit to serve your own alcohol at your venue and hire bartender as well.
- Prepare Ceremony Programs and Other Stationary: Design the proof of concept for your ceremony programs. If you are designing any other stationary, scrapbooks for display etc., you should consider doing it now.
- Research Marriage License Requiremnts: Also schedule a blood test appointment, if required by your state.
- Song for First Dance: Select the song for your First Dance. Consider taking dance lessons or choreographing it yourself.
- Purchase your Guestbook, Pen and Pen Holder
- Purchase gifts for your bridal party and close family members
- Contact close family and friends for Sangeet Performances (optional)
- Get all the sari and lehenga blouses stitched: You should do this for yourself and your bridesmaids.
- Make sure that all your outfits fit properly: You still have some time to get the outfits tailored to fit you in case there have been a size change.
Month of the Wedding!
4 Weeks Before
- Have Sangeet Performers submit their music to you
- Send a Song List to the DJ: Make a list of your must-play songs and do-not-play song list and send it to your DJ. You should also send all the sangeet songs and the song for your First Dance to make sure the DJ has all of your music.
3 Weeks Before
- Call guests who have not yet RSVP’d and get the final head count
- Determine the order of your receiving line, if you are having one
- Prepare a timeline for all your wedding events
- Prepare a list of assignments for your bridal party and family members
2 Weeks Before
- Give the final head count to all your vendors
- Give the timeline of wedding events to all the vendors, members of your bridal party and family members helping
- Create your seating chart and make the place cards: Give your seating chart to the vendors in charge of directing guests to their tables, arranging the chairs, tables, table numbers and place cards.
- Prepare your toasts and thanks to family and friends
- Confirm all your final payments and have them ready to be mailed out or handed over to the vendor
Week of the Wedding!
- Hand over all the favors, guestbook, placecards, programs etc. to the event planner or the person in charge of arranging them
- Put together an emergency kit: This should contain Aspirin, Hairspray, Make up, Safety Pins, Mints etc.
- Pack your suitcase for the honeymoon
- Get pampered at a Spa
- Enjoy your Wedding Celebrations!
After you come back from your honeymoon
- Ensure all your vendors have been fully paid: As a courtesy you may review them on wedding planning websites.
- Arrange for your outfits to be cleaned and preserved
- Write all your Thank You Notes: Traditional etiquette gives you an 8 week grace period.
- If you choose to do so: Do all the paperwork to change your name, and arranging to combine finances, insurance policies etc.
I hope this checklist is comprehensive enough and will be useful for you in planning your wedding. As usual, please comment on this entry with your suggestions or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.