Is it your wedding? Have fun but make conscious decisions

Inspired by Devi’s post “Wedding planning for social impact” on her Developing Style Blog (I love her blog by the way and the impact it has, do check it out!), I decided to pen down memories of my engagement and wedding planning… lots of thought and time went into it and it was so worth it.

Devi’s blogpost is beautiful and much needed. I have seen many spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (crores/lakhs of rupees) on a wedding but the bride and groom do not enjoy it. My wedding was also light on the budget but beautiful… and most important of all, Tej and I had the most fun! We enjoyed our wedding, remember most of it and most of the people who came too 🙂

Her article made me think a lot and I wanted to share my thoughts with you… so here goes…

Our total engagement AND wedding expense in 2010 and 2011 was approximately $15,000-$17,000 (Rupees 10 to 11 lakhs to the max); yes you read it right, and no, I did not make a mistake in the number of 0s. That is all we spent inclusive of the minimal gold (Indians generally buy a lot of gold), clothes, food, venue, return gifts, flight tickets etc.

I did all the planning via email and phone, sitting in Singapore.. it was quite a challenge as I am quite specific about certain things, but all thanks to my mom, Tej and his sister for helping out.


As most of you may know, Tej and I have known each other for 20+ years now; we met in school and fell in love later on, decided to marry after having known each other for 13+ years.

We held our engagement at a hotel in Chennai, India, as that is where we lived most of our lives and where we met each other too. We had over 200 guests; so our expenses included venue, food, my flight tickets to and fro Singapore, clothes, gifts, DJ, flowers, rings, cake (we did e-invites).

  • My saree was about $100 and Tej’s dress was another US$100 or so.
  • My jewellery was antique (no gold) and all accessories including footwear came up to approx. $100.
  • I did my own makeup and hair was styled in a local beauty parlor.
  • My mehende was done by a friend in Singapore (see pics below).

The party was well organized, we looked great (!!), everyone enjoyed and so did we!

We are complete foodies, so most of our money was spent on good food. The DJ was arranged by my sister-in-law and he was too good. We met each and every one of our guests and spent a few minutes with each of them too; no rush, not just greeting them as a formality. We danced, we ate, we laughed and we had super fun… and oh ya, we did exchange rings (LOL :)).

Total engagement expense: $2000 (Rupees 1.2 lakhs)

Mehende, Wedding and Reception:

We had an Arya-Samaj style wedding; reason being I am TamBram from South India and Tej is from North India – we did not want two ceremonies in different styles and we did not want to choose between the two either. Plus North Indian weddings are for many days (7 days long sometimes) and Brahmin weddings are many hours long (wedding ceremoney alone is 4-5 hours + 2 days of other ceremonies). I could not even bear to think of sitting in front of a fire, exhausted, for few hours… so we did a quick, yet very informative and beautiful Arya-Samaj wedding. We had specified in out invites that we do not want gifts from the guests and that we just want them to join us and enjoy with us on our special day; all we asked for was their blessings and best wishes.

Our early morning wedding ceremony

My mehende ceremony was held at home and I will never forget the experience. We are a middle class family and my mom used to live in a 1-bedroom apartment in Chennai. We had invited over 20 friends/relatives for the mehende (yes, we did fit in the humble home) and had the mehendewale (the guys who apply mehende) from Sowcarpet, Chennai. In the middle of applying mehende, the power went off (India is famous for powercuts) and we did the rest of our mehende among mosquitoes, candlelight, heat and super fun! 🙂

I had stitched my mehende dress from my mom’s saree and paired it with my engagement jewellery.

This was taken once the power was back on… you can see how evidently happy we were!

Our pandit (priest) was super nice and explained all the rituals in Hindi, English as well as in Tamil for everyone to understand. Our wedding ceremony was in the early morning at a hotel; we had decided to limit the guests to less than a 100 – mostly elders in the family and close friends only. We wanted to invite everyone else for the evening reception. Even though this was not well received by many of our relatives, we wanted to do what we were comfortable with… so as always, we ended up doing what we want and wished.

It was so important for us to understand what we were doing at our own wedding – the different rituals, why the 7 rounds around the fire (saath phere) etc. and it was very informative and useful that the priest took interest in doing that. The wedding was over in about an hours time and then we had breakfast, and there we were, husband and wife 🙂

Coming to the details of expenses; total wedding and mehende expenses $2500 (Rupees 1.62 lakhs):

  • My wedding saree was a beautiful pink and gold zari-net saree from RMKV for less than $100 (Rupees 5500 to be exact)
  • My jewellery (not gold) was my revamped engagement jewellery (in the necklace I had the stone color changes, bangles are the same) and a few extra pieces (maangtika, earrings, payal), altogether for $100
  • The garlands were from T.Nagar street shops (custom-made, as we did not want heavy ones or flowers that have a very strong smell) – $15
  • Makeup, hair and saree-draping was done by moi – so no expense there
  • Tej’s dress and shoes – $100
  • Venue + food (breakfast) – $250
  • Flight tickets, travel – $400
  • Miscellaneous expenses – $500
  • Mehende – $100
  • Gifts – $100
  • Decoration and flowers – $150
  • Printed invites – $85
  • Photography and videography (inclusive of reception, mehende, print album and studio photoshoot) – $600

The part that we were most excited about and looking forward to was our wedding reception. Prior to the reception, we had enought time to relax, go over to Tej’s house to play some wedding games and then come back and get ready for the reception 🙂

Our reception was in the grand ballroom of the hotel and we had invited over 500 guests; there was a DJ, buffet dinner, dance and so much fun! It was wonderful to see all our schoolmates, college friends, relatives, work friends, their families, kids etc.

For this, we spent a little on the higher side (total expense $6000 (approx. Rupees 4 lakhs)) compared to what we spent for our engagement and wedding. In addition to these expenses, we did buy a little gold for ourselves.

  • My reception lehenga $250
  • Tej’s suit+shirt $150
  • My jewellery $100
  • Makeup by myself
  • Hair by a stylist friend $15
  • Food and venue $3500
  • Decoration and flowers $250
  • DJ $120
  • Gifts $1000
  • Transport $150
  • Miscellaneous $500

As you can see from the pictures, we did look awesome 🙂 , we had happy guests, we had fun and our venues were great as well.. so we never compromised on quality or quantity, even though we were light on the budget….

So, overall, a wedding does not have to burn your pockets, put your bank account on fire or make you suffer in debt. It is a happy point in your life looking towards more happy times ahead… so think about it consciously before you spend those $ or rupees. Think about the amount of pressure your family may be facing. If your family is the one wanting to spend a lot, it is up to you to make them understand that it is not required. Buy for handmade, local brands… but from people who make a humble living out of selling their products or services to you.

Some ways I can think of saving money on weddings:

  • Go for e-invites and not printed ones (save on $ as well as paper)
  • Buy clothes that aren’t too expensive and so heavy that you will never wear them again (I wore my reception lehenga at my sister-in-law’s wedding too)
  • I do not believe in spending $$$ on makeup, hair etc. If you are confident, do your makeup youself or find a friend who can do it. Go to local parlors for their services too. Now you can source them online and their prices are nominal.
  • I do not believe in hiring celebrity makeup artists, celebrity or high-end designers, decorators etc.
  • Buy as much jewellery as you need and like, not in excess
  • Go easy on the spread of food that you organize for the guests… so not overdo

The above thoughts and actions are what Tej and I believe in and what we did and will do in future also… do share your experiences on planning weddings or other events in your life consciously – we would love to hear from you! Remember, have FUN – that is what counts the most!

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