By Therese Cole-Hubbs
The good news is Indian brides and grooms are much more Americanized than they were even 10 years ago. With that being said it is easier than ever to break into this exciting wedding market. A big trend that I see is couples stick with the traditional Indian wedding ceremony to please their parents and go all out with a mix of American and Indian customs for their receptions. Many brides are moving to more contemporary designs through a wedding cake, having bridesmaids and non-traditional décor. From floating mandaps, interesting seating arrangements and for the modern bride, aisle ways that are uniquely designed are a favorite American touch.
To help you capture this new market rely on what you know, give examples of how you display hospitality in your events. How do you make things easier on the guests and make them feel welcomed? Many of the same principles apply. Hospitality is of the utmost importance to the Indian culture and community. It is imperative that a high level of hospitality is shown to their guests. It begins with greeting them with beverages upon arrival, offering food at every turn, and ending with lavishing them with gifts for their attendance.
If you are serious about getting into planning, designing or photographing Indian weddings, here are some tips.
1. Listen – Sounds simple however, this particular culture loves to feel like they have been heard and that you genuinely care about their event as much as they do. Listen not only to the requests of the couple but be sensitive to family wishes and customs (you should be familiar with basic customs before your meeting).
2. Have an open mind — These high-end clients will come up with some over the top and amazing concepts that you may not be used to. Once they make their requests known, do the research and see exactly what it will take to execute these requests before you say it isn’t possible or under bid yourself.
3. Ask a lot of questions about their culture. Be sincere, really take the time to get to know them in your initial consult and be very hospitable.
4. You must let them know that you are the professional and they should rely on your expertise to get them through this planning process. If you don’t know the answer to something let them know you will get back to them as soon as possible and research it. They have to trust your knowledge and experience. Even if you don’t have Indian wedding experience sell them on your service experience.
5. When you are first starting out be prepared to discount your prices just a bit to make them feel they are getting a good value. Perhaps suggest taking away some of the service offerings or adding them to help offset your fees. You will need the photos to build your portfolio and eventually not have to give discounts. I have done more than 600 weddings and I still have to adjust my services and my attitude at times. We never stop learning and tweaking our systems. That is how we remain fresh in this market.
Brace yourself. Be prepared for long days and even longer sleepless nights. Starting with pooja’s (prayer ceremonies) to over-the-top receptions, you can plan on three to five days of activities and events. There are no small events in the entire process, each one has to be treated with the same level of importance. It is crucial that each day have a different look, feel and experience for the guest. Usually the grand finale is the reception. Indian receptions must include a strict program to incorporate family dances, cirque acts, and professional entertainment.
The average size of an Indian wedding is 500-800 people. This is a special occasion that the parent’s wait for their whole lives to host. So they often go with over the top designs and décor to show their successes to their friends and family. They really try to out-do their friends wedding. Once you get one Indian wedding it is easier to build on the experience especially when doing multiple weddings in the same family.