With Indian weddings becoming a bigger part of the US wedding market, we asked Nikki Khan owner of Exquisite Events and one of the United States premier wedding planners specializing in Indian Weddings to give us some insights.
Raj Tents have worked with Nikki for several years now, providing tenting and décor for her lavish and much-admired events. She is uniquely placed having wide ranging connections and a complete understanding of the intricacies of the culturally rich Indian subcontinent.
Raj Tents: Why have Indian Weddings come on the radar so much more in the last few years?
Nikki Khan: Since there are multi-day events and they are large in numbers, Indian Weddings have caught the attention of the hotels and locations in the West tremendously in the last few years. The fact that a lot of money is spent on the celebrations is another reason to have captured the attention of the industry along with colorful costumes, jewelry, rituals and traditions.
Raj Tents: What is the most challenging part of arranging an Indian Wedding?
Nikki Khan: You have to be very knowledgeable in the customs and traditions. It is also extremely important to be very organized since the events go back to back for at least three days and in some cases for seven days. You also have to play the delicate role of being a "friend and listener" to so many family members and deal not just with the couple but parents and siblings from both sides.
Raj Tents: Typically, how far out do most Indian families start to plan ahead?
Nikki Khan: For a large wedding, with a few events, it is usually one year ahead of time. This year however, due to economy, I personally saw a shift where the booking was done some times six to four months prior to the wedding.
Raj Tents: Who is normally the decision maker in an Indian Wedding? Nikki Khan It depends. In my own personal experience, it is usually the father of the bride that is the principal decision maker.
Raj Tents: How do you balance the need to conform with tradition with the desire of the younger generation to have a wedding that is more modern and relevant to the country they live in?
Nikki Khan: I think the parents and children have come to a mutual understanding where the events leading up to the reception are very traditional in most cases and the compromise is made on the reception night which is very main stream and Western in color, vibe, ambiance etc.
Raj Tents: What would you say are the main points that distinguish a traditional Indian Wedding from a western one?
Nikki Khan: Indian Weddings are infused with color. The groom arrives with all pomp and circumstance either on a horse or an elephant. There are at least two big events before the wedding with large number of guests and depending upon the status of the family, the bride's family showers the groom and his family with very expensive gifts and also gives a large dowry to the bride ( homes, cars, furnishings for the entire house along with clothing and jewelry ).
Raj Tents: Can you tell us some examples of extravagance that you might find in at an Indian Wedding?
Nikki Khan: Sometimes the entertainment is flown out from India for each different evening of entertainment, so a female singer accompaniment for the Mehendi, a four person band for the Sangeet, a singer to chant the hymns during the ceremony, a 12 piece band for the reception and a big name DJ for the after party. Indian weddings tend to have premium drinks and elaborate menus. There are also lots of gifts both to the bride and groom and to the groom’s family as well as often very lavish honeymoons. The bride’s trousseau can sometimes be a furnished home and cars.
Raj Tents: Where do you see Indian weddings going in the future?
Nikki Khan: Indian destination weddings are a new trend. Couples are putting their foot down and wanting fewer guests at a premium destination rather than 600 or 700 closer to home. The weddings are still elaborate with around 200 guests, but more of the guests are friends of the couple than more distant relatives. There is still a lot of pomp and circumstance with very elaborate menu and multiple events but they are much more intimate as the majority of the guests are couple's close friends and family.
Nikki has been busy putting together a new book that is due for release in the first week of December - “Art of Celebration in Southern California”, where she puts together her hard earned experience to inspire and enchant. Check Nikki’s web site for information on her book and it’s availability.