No one does weddings quite like South Asians. Desi weddings are multiple-event affairs that not even Bollywood can fully grasp the magic of. And that magic is apparent whether you’re on the Indian subcontinent or not.
When it comes to getting married, we Desis go bigger, harder, and wilder.
However, that isn’t always a good thing. Desis love their traditions, but there comes a time when you need to realize that some practices should be put to rest. The way your grandmother did things might no longer be feasible. What worked back in the motherland might no longer be affordable. South Asian weddings are one of the most fantastic displays of family, food, and festival. But there are a few things that need to change before we lose our reputation as the world’s best wedding revelers.
1. Inviting everyone and their mother— literally.
The average South Asian wedding has around 500-600 people. That number can surpass 1,000 back on the subcontinent! When I said I was only having 350 guests at my own, multiple people told me it was impossible. Desis literally can’t even comprehend having a (relatively) smaller wedding. But the economy is down and wedding prices are up, especially in the US. I told my parents that I was not, under any circumstances, going to invite people who don’t even know my name, let alone have any interest in my wedding past the food. Having a more intimate wedding with more invested guests results in a better time for everyone.
2. Feeling entitled to an invitation.
Since I got engaged three years ago, way too many people have asked me or my parents about my wedding… when they aren’t even on our B-list. Talk about awkwaaard!
I recently found out that a distant relative is even planning on buying clothes for my wedding; this person has never even invited either of my parents over for dinner! And then there are all the stories I’ve heard of people actually picking a fight with someone because they weren’t invited to their kid’s wedding. I blame this on my previous point: we’ve built a culture of invite expectation.
Well, not everyone can afford 800 guests. Nor should they. If you actually care about the newlywed couple but didn’t get an invite, keep your mouth shut and send a gift.
3. Neglecting to read or RSVP to an invitation.
For all the fuss that Desis make about receiving an invitation, they sure don’t seem to think much of actually reading it. You should not be asking me where or when a wedding is on the day of. That’s what refrigerator magnets are for! Invitations also have information about dress code, registries, and parking.
And RSVPs are not optional!
If you show up without one, your hosts will be scrambling to find you a chair and a plate. So, at the very least, make your kid call or go online to let them know whether or not you’ll be coming.
4. Bringing along an uninvited friend or family member.
This one’s my worst fear because it happens at every wedding. I’ve told my parents, as well as my fiancé’s, that I will have someone checking the guest list at the door of every event. Anyone not on it will be turned away. “But that’s so rude!” they said. No, it isn’t. Showing up at a wedding you weren’t invited to is.
I don’t care if your cousin or your childhood friend or your mother-in-law’s niece’s husband is visiting. They weren’t invited, and some rando showing up is extremely unfair to the bride or groom’s cousin or childhood friend or mother-in-law’s niece’s husband that was cut from the list. Either decline the wedding invite or leave them at home with the Netflix password.
I’m sure they’ll understand.
5. “NO BOXED GIFTS”
Ah, the cash grab.
Look, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to deal with loading a hundred different packages into your car and figuring out how to get them to the couple’s home. But “no boxed gifts” is honestly a kind of tacky thing to write on an invitation unless you have a wedding registry. And it’s about time South Asians discovered this fabulous innovation for gift-giving. Registries don’t have to be for just items, either— you can give guests the option to pay for parts of your honeymoon or donate to your favorite charity in your name!
6. Showing up late.
Desi Standard Time is an integral part of South Asian life. But there are times when it stops being cute. In addition to having a curfew, some wedding venues will also charge you extra for overtime. And late guests result in delayed ceremonies, speeches, and food. Show some consideration for your gracious hosts, and show up on time so that everything stays on schedule.
7. Not showing up at all.
This is way more common at weddings than at regular parties or dinners, probably because people figure that the hosts won’t notice their absence at such a big event. But, trust me, they notice. And it’s seriously rude.
Weddings are expensive, and South Asian weddings are in a league of their own cost-wise. If you truly can’t make it after already RSVP-ing ‘yes,’ let your hosts know so that they can give your place to someone else or at least tell their vendors so that they aren’t charged.
8. Ignoring seating arrangements.
Much to my excitement, more and more desi weddings are utilizing seating arrangements. And as a guest, you should abide by them! Without seating arrangements, people have a hard time finding a table for their entire party to sit together. Chairs get shuffled, people get squished, and the layout becomes very uneven and unpleasant to look at. Just trust the organizers’ judgment, and feel free to move around after dinner is served.
9. Ignoring the emcee.
The emcee is there to conduct the evening and make sure things run smoothly. If you don’t listen to them, you have no one but yourself to blame when the party becomes a bore. If you’re being asked to quiet down, please quiet down. If you’re being asked to put away your cameras, put your phone down and pay attention.
If you’re being asked to get on the floor and dance, either get your bhangra moves ready or encourage the person next to you. Keep in mind that the emcee’s requests are usually coming from the couple themselves, so do it for the two people you’re there to celebrate.
10. No rehearsals whatsoever.
Desis don’t have rehearsal dinners because the night before is almost always spent at another wedding event. But wedding organizers need to start at least having a quick run-through of the itinerary, who’s walking when and where, the order of speakers, dances, etc.
There was a mishap at one wedding I attended where the emcee announced the wrong names during family entrances! Last minute changes and additions are never a good idea. Discuss a plan beforehand and stick to it.
11. Talking during the ceremony and speeches.
Just stop. Please. It’s extremely disrespectful, and the person you’re talking to can wait until dinner. Even though you probably just spoke last week. Or even last night.
12. Horrible speakers.
I’ve got a rule for my own wedding. Only two to three speakers for each side, max. My fiancé and I will specifically ask certain people, and they will be given up to two minutes. No one wants to hear my college BFF blubbering about my generosity and how I’m basically a sister and always there for her. Get a funny friend or the cousin with the best anecdotes, so that your audience isn’t falling asleep or going back to discussing girls for Simran’s son who just graduated medical school.
And know your parents. If your dad has a tendency to ramble or your mom has stage fright, encourage them to stick to a quick ‘thank you’. Your guests will appreciate it.
13. Serving the food late.
Make sure you hire caterers with good experience and a solid track record. If you’re running behind schedule, that only means the caterers have even more time to set up. Guests should not be milling about and start to curse you under their breath. While you hope they’re not there just for the food, you do want to make sure they’re fed well and on time. And, for the love of whatever is holy to you, please make sure the food isn’t cold!
14. Rushing the buffet.
Again, listen to the emcee, people! Wait until your table is called, and everyone will get their food much faster. Cutting in line is also not okay. You’re there to celebrate the happy couple, not to stuff your face. Desis are so bad about this that at a friend’s wedding, guests caught a glimpse of the buffet and ran to get food during the cake-cutting ceremony!
15. Taking more food than necessary.
Don’t be a glutton. If the food is a buffet, you can almost always get seconds, so stop loading your plate like you’re going to feed your entire table. Have some decorum!
16. Complaining if the food isn’t South Asian.
You eat desi food at home every night. You probably had desi food at the event last night. If there happens to be Chinese or Italian served at one event, appreciate having a variety for once in your life, and eat it. You’ll live.
17. Taking photos on stage with every. single. family.
Receiving lines make sense at weddings where the guest list is under 150 people. But when you have 600 guests from about 200 families, you’re just wasting everyone’s time and torturing the poor couple. Stopping to take a photo with each family that comes up to say hello is even more baffling to me. Out of the dozens of weddings I’ve attended throughout my life, I have only seen the stage photo from about five or six of them. And the worst part is the boredom the guests have to suffer through as everyone else takes their turn.
18. Letting children run amok.
South Asians need to learn about child-free weddings. I recognize this is a far-off dream, but the least you can do is leave the hall with your screaming kid so that you don’t disrupt the ceremony. And please keep them from running onto the stage or dance floor. No one wants to trip or have a random kid in their photos.
19. Harassing the DJ.
Chances are, you’re not more qualified than the guy behind the booth to control the playlist. Even if you were, you can’t just disrupt what they’ve already discussed with the family beforehand. And don’t even think about asking him for the microphone for your impromptu speech! Yes, I’ve actually seen it happen before. Stick to the dance floor or your seat, and leave the DJ alone.
20. Ogling the bride.
The bride is the star of the wedding in almost every culture, but South Asian brides go through a special kind of torture. Aunties will gawk at the bride and pick apart her appearance like she’s cattle for purchase.
As a South Asian bride, you get judged on your clothes, your makeup, your jewelry, and how much it all probably cost. Rather than being happy for the couple, guests speculate whether or not they’re a good enough match – usually looks-wise – but if you’re not gifted in terms of appearance, a career in the holy trinity (law, engineering, medicine) is good enough.
I don’t expect these things to change with one article or even with one generation. In fact, these aren’t even changes that need to be made, so much as improvements. South Asian weddings are some of the most vibrant celebrations in the world, and the issues that I’ve raised here are only holding us back. We need to make our weddings more about love and less about pageantry.
And we need to start serving the food on time.