Life at Your Own Wedding…

Yes… so I got married. Whooopy! And yes married life is great (for those of you who are afraid of the commitment). I have an amazing husband and an exceptional family here but what I am going to tell you about is the process that preceded all this exceptionalism.

Planning a wedding in Shillong (or any place for that matter) is a big pain in the arse when…

  • You are the one getting married
  • Organising everything
  • Financing everything
  • Trying to look gorgeous, glowing and skinny as hell at the same time.

The biggest problem out of all is looking skinny as hell especially when you belong to a Bengali family whose lives revolve around gallons of mustard oil. And obviously I happen to belong to one.

It all started one fine sunny December morning when I realised that my bank balance is a joke.

Why?

Because who in the world is prepared to fund their own wedding?! I had more important investments on my plate then… clothes, food, accessories, shoes, traveling, getting a pet and what not.

I needed a wedding on a budget. A very very very tight budget. To top that, I was supposed to coordinate everything from Bangalore. So I began preparing myself for the dark stormy winter nights glazed with thunder and lightning that was going to befall me in the coming months. Okay fine… I exaggerate. Phhhhhbbbttthhhh! What I did was as follows:

Step 1: I made coffee… lots of coffee.

Step 2: I watched 27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner and The Devil Wears Prada (the last one was just to get me off my ass)

Step 3: I bought a Filofax from 1987.

Step 4: I realized that for the next few weeks (a lot of weeks actually) Google and that Filofax were going to become my best friends. (Note to my actual best friends — there is no competition here! Please don’t kill me).

Since this was my first shot at getting married (and hopefully the last — I can’t go through this planning and execution again!), the first thing I had to do was find out what all is needed for a wedding. Google was contacted and finally the TO-DO list came along.

The list was as simple as this:

  1. Budget
  2. Guest list
  3. Venue & Music
  4. Theme & Decorations
  5. Functions
  6. Photographer
  7. Catering & Menu
  8. Invites
  9. Accommodations
  10. Transportation
  11. Hair and make-up
  12. Shopping (surprisingly this was the last of my worries)

The one thing that I hadn’t considered was that apparently the mother becomes your worst ever critic (and not in a good way) and an automatic objection droid to whatever you say, think, want and do during your wedding. This phenomenon usually starts with… “You should do something about your complexion. You need to look fair. And also you are too thin. You need to gain weight. Oh and we need to do something about your hair. Oh almost forgot… don’t wear heels for the wedding. You are freakishly tall”.

To all the Indian parents who think their daughters are too dark, too thin, too tall, too whatever — If you are so adamant about how bad we look then you should have considered fixing your genes before your respective weddings.

Phew! I had to get that out of my system!

Anyhoo… let’s take on each item (from the to-do list) and see how you clueless creatures can be helped.

BUDGET:

Wedding budget: Rs. 5,00,000–6,00,000

For successfully and smartly executing a wedding, a budget is absolutely mandatory but the more important thing is to stick to it. Brides and their families might want to stretch a little farther than their budget (What’s a few more dollars they may say) which leads to unnecessary spending. If you have extra, save it for the honeymoon. Don’t spend it on random guests who are there only for the food and alcohol!

While creating a budget, ensure that you include every tiny bit of expense (like bobby pins). Things which might seem very insignificant at the time, become sort of a pain in the wrong place when the bill arrives.

If you are not a total tool, consider using MS Excel for budgeting. With a few formulae to alter calculations automatically, I found this to be extremely helpful. A key to creating this excel sheet is that you divide each expense into categories. It can be the same categories as in the to-do list with sub-categories under each. That way, you wouldn’t miss out on anything.

Another thing you should do is keep a buffer. If something costs say 10,000 bucks, take it as 15,000 or 20,000 bucks. Keep about 20–30,000 extra in your budget for each category. That way you can plan for excess rather than face shortage especially if you are paying for everything. It is also really nice to see that you have a lot of money left after the whole financial nightmare is over.

GUEST LIST:

I always wanted a big fat Indian wedding. My bank balance disagreed. So I settled for a small gathering with family and a few close friends.

Then I made my first mistake… asking my mother to prepare the guest list and telling her to keep it small. Why a mistake you ask?

  • It took her about 3 months to get back to me with the first draft.
  • The list had 600 names of family, the extended family, the extended family of the extended family, friends, friends of friends and the entire town.
  • All these people would obviously be arriving in packs… obviously!
  • And every single one of these people HAD to be invited or else it would reflect VERY BADLY ON THE FAMILY! (I hope the capitalization works… I can’t stress enough on this)

Note to self for future reference: Reasoning and logic do not work with mothers. A screenshot of your bank statement… does.

The list eventually came down to 200.

If you have the money and interest to get yourself a huge wedding, please go ahead. If not, stick to what you want. The latter may be injurious to health whilst discussing with parents.

VENUE & MUSIC:

Venue & music budget: Rs. 50,000–1,00,000

If your guest list is undecided/on hold, it will become very difficult to select a venue. The first thing that any hotel will ask is how many guests. Venues need to be booked at least 6 months prior to your wedding date especially if you have a Spring-Summer wedding. Just because your guest list is pending, don’t hold out on your venue booking. The smart thing to do in such a case would be to look out for open spaces. Also, keep 2–3 options open till about a month before the wedding date.

Music: A lot of venues provide music. You could either hire a DJ which they will arrange for you or you could give them a CD with your playlist. Selecting the playlist is something that you and your fiancé should do together. Depending on what type of wedding and reception you have, you could choose between romantic, slow paced music to total party and dance numbers or even a mix of both.

Recommended venue: City Hut Dhaba, Oakland, Shillong

DJ/Music available

Catering packages available

Decoration package available. Independent decorators allowed.

Outdoor catering available

Accommodations available

Contact No: 0364 2220386

THEME, DECORATIONS:

Theme, decorations budget: Rs. 50,000

This can be quite mind boggling. If you already have something in mind, great. If not, then deciding on the colour, materials and design is quite taxing.

But I have a solution. Pinterest.

This is one website/app which gives ideas on anything under the sun. I created a board and started pinning everything on wedding decorations that I liked so that when I would eventually go to Shillong and meet the decorators, it would be very easy to explain what exactly I wanted and I could also share those images with them.

Finding the right decorator is a very crucial task. You should pick someone who understands you and your style quotient. This person should be able to visualise what you want and execute it the same way. Decorators usually tend to add their own flavour to the décor. Beware. Be very specific on what you want.

I went with my family decorator who usually does all our functions so he is aware of what we usually want and the best part is we could strong-arm him into getting a discount!

The best way to get in touch with wedding decorators is through social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Try to find pages which fit your requirement and budget on these platforms. Why social media? Because firms that have a website and a social media platform, tend to be more professional and you could also check out their previous work.

FUNCTIONS:

Functions budget: Rs. 10,000–30,000

If you would like to go through all the strenuous functions like haldi, mehendi, sangeet and what not, try to have these at home or get a friend to host it at their home. This will save the cost of another venue.

I only had Mehendi and that too forcefully. Thanks besties!

For details of mehendi artist please leave me a message on Facebook.

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Photographer budget: Rs. 20,000–60,000

This is another key item on your agenda. The best people to take candid shots of your wedding are your friends. And if they own a DSLR (and know how to use it) nothing better! If you don’t have any such friends, you will have to consider a professional photographer. The cost usually works on how many photos you want and the cost per photo. The photographer might have additional charges as well.

I got a professional photographer to take all the stage photos (especially for Hindu weddings) and friends to take the candid ones. You wouldn’t want your friends to just stand in one place with a camera glued to their faces and neither would you want to lose out on the candid shots. I had two designated friends to do all the clicking so that if one went for a break, the other one could step in.

Also, a professional photographer will design and create the wedding album for you… in case you want a digitally created album.

Recommended photographer: Highland Studio, Oakland, Shillong

Contact no: 0364 2211983

CATERING & MENU:

Catering & menu budget: Rs. 1,50,000 (as per 200 guests)

The per plate cost ranges from Rs. 500–1500/2000 depending on the venue/caterer you choose. For a budget wedding, anything between Rs. 600–700 per plate should be okay. The final cost will also depend upon the number of guests who turn up. Some hotels have a fixed number of plates and anything extra would cost separately while others are more flexible. It is better to get a catering package for a budget wedding. The package would generally include all categories of food items, however, live counters (like chaat, paan, ice cream, dosa, etc) come at an additional cost. All this is exclusive of taxes. If the venue has its own catering, taxes will be applicable (18–25%) whereas independent caterers may or may not charge taxes.

You will have to schedule a sit down with the caterers and see what options suit you best.

Choose your menu wisely. If it is a union of two different communities, you would ideally want to have preparations from both cultures to suit everyone’s pallets. Remember that you cannot please everyone so don’t waste your time overthinking the menu. Keep it simple and delicious.

It is also a good idea to check with anyone in your circle who has gotten married recently for references.

INVITES:

Invite budget: Rs. 3,000–5,000 (for 200 cards)

I bought my invites from Bangalore and the best place to pick out your invitation cards from would be Chickpet. This market has an entire section dedicated to invitation cards and the prices range from Rs. 5–2000 per card. Yes, you have to walk it out a bit in that area. The best thing is, at a flat cost of Rs. 1,200, the shops will get the cards printed (in English, Hindi, Urdu and all major South Indian languages. Unfortunately, Bengali is rarely available) as well. All you need to do is select the card and give them the copy of the text you want printed on the cards. The whole process takes about 3–4 working days.

If you are in Shillong, you should either buy your cards from Guwahati or Kolkata. Preferably Kolkata.

You should ideally have this printed and ready with you a month before your wedding date. Distribution of the cards must commence at least 3 weeks before the wedding date (depending upon the number of cards to be distributed). Keep a buffer of about 50 cards for last minute emergencies.

Recommended Card Shop in Bangalore: Vishal Cards, Temple Street, Sultanpet

Contact no: 080 41234535

Recommended card printer: BCD Xerox, Shillong Brahmo Samaj, Keatinge Road, Shillong

Contact no: 0364 2500080

ACCOMMODATION:

Accommodation budget: Rs. 30,000–50,000 (for 10 rooms)

If you have outstation guests and have to make stay arrangements for them, then welcome to the most annoying bit if the whole process. Your guests will not confirm their attendance till the last minute and if you have a wedding during peak tourist season in Shillong like me, God help you. Don’t lose your sleep over this though. You can’t do jack about this. So might as well chill.

Since RSVP on the invitation cards are frowned upon in India, the best thing to do would be to book your accommodations at least 3 months prior to your wedding date. While making reservations, keep the following in mind:

  • Take a wild guess and block rooms.
  • Make sure you have at least 2–3 buffer rooms available.
  • It is better to book double rooms because 3 people can stay in it with an extra bed.
  • Ensure the hotel provides complimentary breakfast to all guests. You don’t want your guests annoyed early morning.
  • Ensure you check the rooms for basic amenities, cleanliness and hygiene before booking.
  • If your hotel/convention hall doesn’t have accommodation or turns out to be too expensive, try to get accommodations close to the wedding venue (say within a 2–3km radius). This will cut down on your transportation costs.

Recommended accommodations near City Hut Dhaba:

Earle Holiday Home — 0364 2228614

Hotel Pegasus Crown — 0364 2220668

TRANSPORTATION:

Transportation budget: Rs. 50,000

Connectivity with the outside world is a problem in Shillong. It is either unavailable or too expensive. If your fiancé’s family are around 20–30 people and you need to arrange for their travel from Guwahati to Shillong, the cheapest way is to hire Meghalaya State Transport buses. Yes yes I know what you are thinking… but the buses are exceptionally well maintained and new. They charge you for both trips per day (this is non-negotiable) and the total cost for return trip (that is — pick-up and drop off) is about 20,000. This needs to be booked at least 3 days prior to the travel date. If the number of passengers are less than 10, you can consider booking SUVs which cost about 3,000 per trip.

Within Shillong, an SUV will cost you about 4,000 Rupees and an S class about 3,000 Rupees for a full day.

You should also get the travel details of your fiancés family well in advance so that you can plan accordingly.

Meghalaya State Transport Office — 0364 222286

HAIR & MAKE-UP:

Hair & make-up budget: Rs. 10,000

Having been a crew for six years, I wasn’t going to let anyone paint my face. So I did my own make-up. For hair and saree draping I got in touch with a local parlour which was highly recommended by friends.

What was that? You know how to drape a saree? Trust me even I do. But on your wedding day, you really wouldn’t want that stress on yourself.

Recommended Parlour: Vanida Beauty parlour, Opposite Glory’s Plaza, Police Bazaar, Shillong

Contact no: +91 9436725724

Recommended Spa: Mapui’s, Laitumkhrah, Shillong

Contact no: +91 9862909869

SHOPPING:

Shopping budget: Rs. 2,00,000 (excluding precious jewellery)

Weddings are the perfect occasions for gifting. And the perfect occasion to become a beggar too! Keep the gifting to a minimum.

As for your wedding outfit, please be reasonable. If something is worth half your bank balance and you will die if you don’t buy it then go ahead. If not, don’t buy it. you will wear your wedding outfit only once in your lifetime. Get something which looks gorgeous on you and is easy on your wallet. I got my wedding lehenga stitched by my husband’s friend who happens to own a boutique. So check out your options first before committing yourself to an outfit.

If you really don’t like gold jewellery, there are plenty of options. These days, fashion jewellery looks better than actual gold and you would laugh at the prices. And the best part is… you can shop online!

Recommended online jewellery store: Mirraw.com. They have everything ranging from earring to necklaces, to bridal sets, waist bands, arm bands, anklets, mang tikas, mangalsutras, rings, the works… do try it out…

Check Pinterest for — For wedding decorations, playlists, outfits, mehendi designs, printable planners and calendars, shoes and accessories, engagement/wedding ring designs, etc.

Note: You do not have to do exactly what is written there. You can browse through a few ideas and then personalise your own.

For details on who designed my lehenga please drop me a message on Facebook.

Lastly, the following points are extremely important:

  • There will be things that go wrong during a wedding… like missing garlands because it was forgotten… groom’s family arriving and parents not there to welcome them… delayed transport… mehendi artist cancels last minute… decorator cancels last minute… hailstorm (yes this one actually happened 2 days before my wedding and completely ruined the shamiyana at home)
  • The key is to keep calm and identify the areas that may need back-ups and ensure that your back-ups are in place before the wedding day.
  • Delegate work. Involve friends and family into the whole process of completing tasks. I know you can do it by yourself but don’t exhaust yourself.
  • Eat healthy. Eat well. Exercise. Sleep a lot. Laugh a lot.

If you are the bride…Good luck and have fun!

If you are a bridesmaid… just… good luck.