How To Host An Asian Wedding
We spoke to LaToya Patel from The Asian Wedding Club about how Asian weddings are changing to work within COVID regulations and why this is now relevant to so many wedding venues.
15 person Asian weddings in 2020 to 2021
Until the wording was amended by the government to include faith ceremonies this month, couples planning an Asian wedding have been unable to celebrate marriage in a meaningful way since March. After such a long delay, many couples are now moving forward with plans for a small 15 person wedding to enable them move in together, plan a family and move forward in their lives. Unlike a traditional Asian wedding with hundreds of guests, an elaborate banquet and loud music, these are weddings that can be hosted in almost any venue.
Using a Hindu wedding as an example, the wedding day would consist of the Hindu faith ceremony, including the fire ceremony, immediately followed by a civil ceremony and then the reception, with 15 people present throughout. Some couples are opting for the legal ceremony in an approved venue or register office on a different day, however to avoid unnecessary mixing of households it is wise for this to involve the same guests.
From the experts
If you offer dry hire and have amended your price lists to offer 15 person packages, check that you aren't unintentionally discriminating against Asian couples by only amending the "per person" packages.LaToya Patel, SW Events and The Asian Wedding Club
Why is this relevant to your venue?
Many traditionally Asian wedding venues are remaining closed until larger events can take place. Others are simply too big to host such small numbers.
Couples are looking for alternatives, ideally within their own area so that they are less likely to be affected by local lockdowns.
Those venues who have been contacted about hosting a small Asian wedding will want to understand the different elements and traditions involved.
50-150 person Asian weddings in 2021
It is too early to know whether there will be significant number limitations for receptions throughout 2021, so with the uncertainty on numbers permitted, limitations on travel and a desire to keep their elders safe, many couples planning an Asian wedding are planning much smaller weddings for 2021 than they have in the past.
We are expecting to see a large number of Asian weddings for between 100-150 guests, with many families prepared to reduce the guest lists to fit with whatever regulations are in place to ensure that their wedding can go ahead on the date planned.
Those wedding venues who typically host Asian weddings, and have ample space for social distancing, will be well suited for these events.
Supporting Asian wedding venues
Asian weddings are traditionally held in banqueting suites and event spaces, as well as ballrooms in large hotels, where very large numbers can be accommodated. While some have the facilities to host smaller weddings, others will run at a loss if they are obliged to open for small events. Venue hire charges for dry hire venues would mean the cost per head spirals out of control.
These large venues are an essential part of the wedding economy and it is important that they are supported now so that they are available for traditional 500+ guest Asian weddings in the future.
Nusrat Khan, who owns 450 and 1200 guest capacity wedding venues and represents other venues in the Asian Wedding Association that have been closed since March, stresses the need for financial support for those venues that are closed, to ensure they can bounce back as soon as larger events can take place.
Atul Lakhani, who owns a state of the art wedding venue and event company, Sanjay Foods, sees the trends changing.
“There has been a gradual shift towards smaller weddings anyway, but coronavirus may have really sped that up. Big Asian weddings will be back, but perhaps not to the same scale that we have seen them in the past.”
A brief insight into Asian wedding ceremonies
There are three main ceremonies that we see most of in the UK. They are:
- Hindu Weddings – These are predominantly held in hotel and event venues licensed for civil ceremonies, rather than Hindu temples. They involve a small ceremonial fire, which is the main consideration for a venue. See below for more information on how venues accommodate that within their HSE regulations.
- Sikh Weddings – these are predominantly held in Gurdwaras, the Sikh place of worship with the receptions being held in hotel and event venues.
- Muslim Weddings – the religious ceremony, the Nikkah, is carried out by the Imam, usually in an event venue or hotel. The ceremony takes around 20 minutes and is followed by a reception. The legal wedding takes place in the register office or an approved venue at another time.
The key considerations for venues hosting Asian weddings
Although most venues are suitable for the small weddings under current guidelines, as weddings start to return to normal next year there are a few particular questions that couples are likely to ask.
Does your venue permit ceremonial fires?
- For Hindu wedding ceremonies – there is a ceremonial fire that forms an essential part of the proceedings. It’s safe indoors, typically risk assessed by the supplier of the vessel the fire would be in and is monitored from the moment it is lit through to it being removed from the room. Your risk assessment will need to reflect the need to isolate your smoke alarms during the ceremony and have someone on standby with a fire extinguisher, however you can be assured that even the most prestigious venues such as Claridge’s and The Savoy allow these types of ceremonies.
Is your venue “Dry Hire” and do you permit external catering?
- Dry hire – Asian weddings typically include large numbers of guests and flexible guest lists. They have access to a network of suppliers that cater specifically for this market to hire everything from the ceremonial elements to the tables and chairs. Some venues offer dry hire conditional on using suppliers from an approved list, others allow couples to choose who they bring in. Prices are usually based on hire of the venue, rather than a per-person cost.
- External caterers – the meal typically served after the wedding ceremony is a really important element of the day and the preference is for authentic Asian cuisine (e.g. Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani). Even if your chef can cook Asian dishes, the couple will almost certainly prefer to use their own caterers. However, some catering companies can pre-prepare dishes for your venue to serve. If you have valuable rugs and carpets in your venue it is worth bearing in mind that some of the spices used in authentic cuisine, particularly turmeric, can stain.
Does your venue have noise limitations?
- Asian wedding receptions often involve loud music – this can be an issue if you have a noise limiter that will cut out from loud music or clapping. It may also be a consideration if there are other guests staying in the hotel or nearby.
Do you have multiple rooms?
- For Hindu weddings – ideally the religious ceremony and civil ceremony will be in different rooms with one following immediately after the other, so two rooms of similar size are ideal, with the first one then being quickly changed around for the reception.
For 2022 and beyond – what is your capacity?
- Asian weddings usually involve large guests lists– during COVID guest numbers will be significantly reduced, but from 2022 we expect numbers to return to usual, typically over 250 guests although some couples limit their guest lists to around 150.
And finally … is that your best price?
- Negotiation is normal – negotiating on price is a normal part of any Asian wedding bookings so be ready to negotiate a little if you can, but regardless, don’t be offended by the question!
Interested in finding out more?
LaToya Patel is a wedding planner who specialises in finding unusual venues for her couples so is familiar with helping venues understand all that’s required to host these diverse and colourful events. She joined us for a one-off Zoom session, watch the video.
LaToya can be contacted for individual assistance and consultation by email or through her website.
A venue consultation with LaToya typically includes:
- Discussing venue layout and how best to use the rooms for an Asian wedding.
- Drawing up draft floor plans for the set up.
- Providing a “starter” risk assessment to use for the fire element.
- Running through how to conduct an Asian Wedding ceremony (particularly Hindu Ceremony) in a socially distanced way.
- Helping shortlist “trusted” Asian wedding suppliers as a starting point and making intros for them.
- If required, helping to arrange a shoot at their venue with an Asian wedding setup that they can use to help with marketing. This gives venues an opportunity to see the “fire” in action too!