Let’s face it, the Indian wedding menu is probably one of the most challenging parts of Indian wedding planning. Not because you can’t decide on the food, but because nobody can agree on the food.
You want one type of cuisine, your parents want Gujarati food, and your mother-in-law wants Jain Vegetarian food only. And don’t forget, NO MEAT (or so they think..). The only thing you can agree on is the Naan selection!
Food is one of the most judged factors that can make or break an Indian wedding – or at least it’s one of the first things that Indian uncles use as their basis to judge whether or not a wedding was great (well, so is the case with my dad but I’m guessing it applies to other uncles too!).
They’ll comment and critique on the type of food, the spiciness level, the time the food that’ll be served, and the variety of food.
On top of family opinions and demands, you probably want to cater to your friends too. Even though your non-Indian friends say that they loooove Indian food, that doesn’t mean that they want to eat Indian food for 3+ meals in a row over the weekend. It’s more that their digestive system probably doesn’t want them to have 3+ Indian meals in a row..
Nonetheless, all guests are excited about the food. They’re looking for something different and GOOD.
Making a decision on your Indian wedding menu is one of the trickiest parts of the wedding planning process, but if you plan ahead, and take the right steps, you can create the perfect menu for your Indian wedding. Here’s how to do it:
Find out food options from your venue
During your vendor selection process, find out what food options the venue offers (even if you plan to bring in an outside caterer). Sometimes it’s easier to have the venue cater certain items like non-Indian appetizers (American, Asian, Italian, etc), pastries and desserts.
Venues have access to certain bakeries and caterers that you might not be aware
of, so ask them what options they have. Indian caterers can offer items like pasta or other non-Indian food, but how good is that pasta really going to be compared to the pasta provided by the venue?
How will your events be different
Start by thinking about what type of events you’ll have (including events at home and before the wedding day) and what you want the atmosphere to be. Write out each event, and how you want each event to feel (in terms of atmosphere).
Example: If you’re having a fun, light, welcome night with the venue decorated in bright colors and performances or a singer, you might want a buffet style dinner with stations.
Here’s an example of the list from my wedding:
1) Welcome dinner at bride’s home (for groom’s family) – casual and welcoming, no color palette –
2) Bride’s ceremony (Mandvo) at temple – traditional, reds
3) Groom’s ceremony (Mandvo) in Groom’s hometown – traditional, family oriented
4) Formal Welcome Night – colorful, fun, welcoming, start of an exciting weekend
5) Wedding Ceremony – classy, traditional, modern, whites, reds, golds
6) Reception – elegant, classy fun, cocktail party atmosphere, high energy, coral/navy/gold
If you’re not sure yet – Brainstorm. Write out the type of cuisines you’re considering and match them up to the cuisine for each event. Then, break down the menus for each event by appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks.
It’s nice to keep things different. If you have naan and chole (chickpeas) for one event, try another type of bread for another event. If your sangeet has a lighter atmosphere, try finger foods or more eclectic types of food for your guests to try.
A variety of foods that suits different types of taste buds is usually the way to go since some guests will be more adventurous than others.
Other Considerations When Creating the Perfect Indian Wedding Menu
Appetizers / H’orderves
Appetizers are a good way to satiate your guests’ appetite at the start of a long night of fun. Get creative in how you choose and serve the appetizers.
Type of cuisine plays a role too, so mix and match. Consider a selection of Indo-Chinese appetizers with various “snack-y” Indian foods for dinner (Pau Bhaji, Bhel Puri, etc).
Or, scratch that and do Mexican-themed appetizers. Appetizers are a fun way to mix and match, but when you do, keep your menus creative and stay away from too much mix and matching (which can turn into hodge podge).
Think about your guests for each event – will it be immediate family, will it be friends and family, non-local guests who are traveling that day? The type of guests usually helps indicate the type and style of cuisines. If you don’t want to get overwhelmed, jot down your ideas in a few columns of a notebook, or an excel spreadsheet.
What dietary restrictions should you consider? If your grandfather has a special diet, the caterer might be able to make him his own menu. Think about your guests as a whole. Are there a lot of vegetarians? Meat eaters? People that only eat chicken? People that eat mostly Indian food?
On a side note – if you do choose to have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, clearly label the foods and keep them in different areas so there is no confusion among your guests.
Friends, Kids & Elders
I have a lot of friends who don’t mind Indian food, but I know they would probably enjoy a diverse unique menu over only having Indian food the entire weekend.
Think about elders, young kids, and babies too. Will you have food that caters to them? (Consider a separate kids room and have food served to them in that room). Check out my post on how to plan for kids at an Indian wedding to get more ideas.
Another option to cater to different groups is to create special stations for both adults and kids – like a dessert station that includes a candy bar.
Think about your guests, and go from there. If you have lots of infants attending, then a candy bar might not make sense. If you have a lot of school age children, a candy bar might be fun!
Spicy Food… or lack of Spicy Food
A note about spicy food. DO NOT make your food extra spicy. I repeat, DO NOT make your food extra spicy.
I cannot emphasize this enough. It doesn’t matter if you and your immediate family enjoy spicy food, or your mom’s friends love spicy food, the majority of your guests won’t like the food extra spicy.
It’s always better to have the option to add hot sauces or spices onto the food rather than have people skip meals because the food is too spicy. You’ll also need to make this clear with your caterers.
If you have Indian caterers, you’ll probably have to mention it at least 3-5 times (yes, I wrote that correctly) so that they understand exactly what you mean and that you actually want the food milder than usual.
Emphasizing a scale between 1-10 of spiciness level will hopefully help them get the picture of the events’ spiciness tolerance.
If you’re going with a seasonal theme, incorporate some seasonal bites or entrees. Think fruits, veggies, soups, salads – these foods tend to be most seasonal and versatile as bases for different appetizers and sides.
Ask your caterer for suggestions – they’re the experts and should be able to provide you with options. But don’t hesitate to propose options.
You’d be surprised – many caterers (and venue-led caterers) are open to suggestions and having their chefs custom make items for you. When if doubt, ask!
If you’re hosting guests at a hotel, consider hosting breakfast at the hotel for your guests. It could be something that’s catered into the hotel, a buffet that the hotel offers, or even a voucher for the hotel restaurant.
Talk to parents
Although it’s tempting to create your own menus for all of your wedding events, talk to each set of parents about their preferences before you begin the process of selecting a menu.
I’ve learned the hard way that it’s easier to create a “proposal” and then discuss selections after versus going in with an open canvas. Parents will have an opinion on the food either way.
If there’s anything parents will have an opinion on, it’s the food. For me, the food was the most challenging part in terms of coming to a compromise with the families. But you’ll figure it out and it’ll be fabulous!
Don’t forget dessert
I know you won’t forget dessert entirely, but I do think that some people don’t put enough emphasis on the value that dessert brings to each event.
Dessert is the best place to create some variety. The opportunities are endless! Pastries, cookies, cakes, bite size goodies, traditional Indian sweets, fondue fountains, the list goes on… You can even have a really pretty dessert bar (my personal favorite) to make your event even more exciting!
Drinks often get overlooked as an afterthought. Whether you want to create a signature cocktail menu or a mango lassi station & and open bar to call it a day – drinks matter. Take a minute to plan how your drinks will fit into the bigger picture of your Indian wedding menus. You’ll be surprised about how much it can impact your menu decisions.
Providing numbers for catering gets a bit tricky. For example, you definitely don’t need two spring rolls per person as a cocktail hour appetizer. It’s almost guaranteed that many people won’t take even one, so estimate appropriately.
Estimating is really important when it comes to desserts too. Average out the numbers – assume some might take more and some might not take any dessert at all. Plus, consider elders and young kids since they’re usually lumped into the count for desserts.
Your caterers will usually come with food labels, but they’ll include their own branding/logo on the labels. You can easily make your own labels in Word or Powerpoint if you don’t want that.
It’s a good way to ensure the food is correctly labeled and allows you to describe the foods for any guests that are unfamiliar with Indian or other cuisines. Label anything that guests could be allergic to, like nuts.
The reality is that you won’t be able to please every single guest at your wedding, but the goal is to please the majority. You want your guests to have a full stomach at the end of each night and be happy about the food they just had.
If you liked this post, please feel free to share it from below.
Get my free guide: 50+ Tips & Tricks (you don’t already know!) HERE.
Join our Free Facebook Group to start the conversation with fellow brides planning Indian/South Asian or Fusion weddings!