What Does It Take to Plan an Indian Wedding for 600 People?

Planning the wedding of the decade

Christoph & Sonia

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Epic celebration of love incorporating our German and Indian cultures.

Planned Budget: $50,000

Actual Budget: $75,000 (not including pre-wedding festivities)

Number of Guests: DISCLAIMER: Indian weddings are usually pretty big because of large families, and lots of family friends. We honestly don’t know exactly how many guests came because we had quite a few guests come that didn’t RSVP. However, we know we had over six hundred total. We know, it sounds crazy, but we loved it.

Where we allocated the most funds

The reception. When we first starting looking at venues in Chicago, it was hard to find a reasonably priced space in the city to accommodate our wedding size. We fell in love with one space, but unfortunately it turned out to be much more work (and money) than we had anticipated. The main problem was that they did not offer any services at the venue itself, which meant that everything (except for the space) would cost extra. That’s when we decided to look at other options.

We ventured out to the Chicago suburbs. Sonia had been to multiple weddings at Ashyana Banquets, an Indian banquet hall, so we met with them first. We breathed a sigh of relief at our first consultation because Ashyana’s packages were much more manageable for us. They offered pretty much everything in-house. Our six-hour wedding package included food, a four-hour open bar, wedding cake, and floral centerpieces. They also offered free decor consultation, so all we had to do was meet with the coordinator to give her our ideas and budget for decor, and she took care of everything.

Where we allocated the least funds

The videographer. We honestly didn’t have a set budget for this, and we did end up frantically searching for one at the last minute. Thankfully, Christoph found Vanilla Video, a really neat company with no frills (unless you want them). They shot for ten hours, and we received three hours of raw video of our day for less than $1,000. We were very happy with their work, and would recommend them to anyone in Chicago.

What was totally worth it

Our DJ! We spent a little more than we had budgeted for a top notch DJ who just happened to be a former well-known radio personality in Chicago. What we got was more than we expected, as he not only spun great songs, but also danced and MC’d the whole wedding! We still get comments from guests today about how great our DJ was.

What was totally not worth it

One of the estimates we got back from a local print shop for programs and menus was extraordinarily high. We ended up just going to the UPS store to make color copies of the programs and menus ourselves, which literally saved us thousands of dollars. Since most of these materials ended up in the trash, we felt like it wasn’t worth the cost to invest in professional printing services. Also, avoid FedEx Kinkos, as they will try to up sell you!

A few things that helped us along the way

An amazing circle of family and friends.

Even though we took on much of the planning, there were some very special people that helped with various things. Our parents helped us quite a bit. Sonia’s parents came to most of our meetings to help with the logistics at the reception hall, and even negotiated prices. Christoph’s parents live overseas, and they brought hundreds of mini packages of German gummy bears to include with our wedding favors. Our favors were Indian Chai Tea bags with fresh spices (cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom) and imported gummy bears in little spice jars. Sonia’s Matron of Honor and her husband helped put together the wedding favors (after multiple trips to Indian stores and Ikea). Sonia’s Aunt also helped getting labels printed for the favors.

Sonia’s cousin was the day-of coordinator. She helped immensely with everything from getting the church decorated, to helping our guests get seated on the day of the wedding. That’s not easy to do with over six hundred wedding guests! In retrospect, we should not have done a formal seating arrangement with that many guests. We would recommend reserving a few tables for close family and friends, and have an open seating arrangement for all other guests.

Sonia’s friend from college was an additional DJ so that guests could also have Indian dance music. It was so much fun seeing our cultures come together!

My best practical advice for my planning self

Being flexible in all things wedding related will spare you from many headaches. There were several things we wished we could have done differently, but we quickly realized how happy we were to just finally be married, and how much fun our guests had. We know this might be cliché advice, but really just try to enjoy every moment (the good and the bad) because it all goes by so quickly. Everything just somehow comes together beautifully on your wedding day, so please don’t be so hard on yourself with the wedding planning!

Favorite thing about the wedding

It’s hard to pick just *one* favorite thing, but we think the memories that we made are definitely near the top of that list. To have family and friends from all over the world fly in to be with us on our big day was an honor and privilege. It was so neat to see people from all different aspects of our lives interacting and celebrating our union. We honestly never thought that would even be possible. It still feels like a dream!


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