Indian Wedding Food Menu

Indian food is as diverse as the nation it comes from. Read on for the importance of Indian food at weddings and how to pull off Indian dishes on your menu.

By Ruksana Hussain

Indian Wedding Food Menu
Photo by Unsplash

Part of wedding planning for an Indian wedding, and possibly one of the most intense, is the wedding menu choices.

As diverse a nation as India is, so is its culinary heritage and traditions. And Indian weddings involve many ceremonies, both religious and cultural. Each of those, simple or complex as they may seem, hold special significance to the Indian wedding ceremony. And rest assured, every wedding reception has its preferred menu items that truly celebrate the occasion. So, pay special attention when time comes to make decisions for your Indian wedding food menu.

First, the Logistics

To sit or not to sit, that is the question. Indian meals have many parts to them, from the rice to the curry, to the breads and vegetable sides, and then some. Do you want a buffet or family-style service where there is more of a sharing of Indian cuisine with a community vibe, passed plates that are self-serve, or do you prefer a formal sit-down dinner service with food served tableside?

Your budget, wedding venue, and guest list will dictate some of those important decisions. Considering most Indian weddings are events that feature guests in the thousands, a buffet is the most practical option, but an intimate wedding—like a destination event—could feature a formal sit-down dinner.

Then, the Rituals

Depending on your religious practices, cultural inclinations, and familial preferences, different events within the wedding will require certain foods be served or refrained from. A temple Indian wedding menu might allow only vegetarian dishes be served, while one at a Muslim cultural center will be devoid of alcohol. Some ceremonies might need food preparation to happen on-site, so the meal can be blessed for the occasion. This might mean you cannot accommodate all guests and dietary preferences or allergy issues.

Choose Your Beverages

While it’s more common today to provide an open bar or some form of alcoholic beverage service, including a cocktail hour, not all Indian weddings feature boozy drinks, either for religious or cultural reasons.

Instead, you might find a few different options for non-alcoholic hot and cold sippers, such as filter coffee (concentrated coffee) and masala chai (spiced tea) or goli soda (carbonated fruity drink), aam panna (mango-based summer drink), lassi (in a variety of flavors, both sweet and savory), sharbat (fruity or floral cordial-based beverage), or fresh fruit juices, aside from the more popular branded beverages.

All the Appetizers

Passed hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail hour are great, but given the variety of options available in Indian gastronomy that qualify as starters, nibbles, quick bites, or appetizers, a snack bar (like a salad bar) is more appropriate and typically found at Indian weddings.

Choices range from pani poori, aloo tikki, and mini samosas to mini idlis, masala vadais, and bajjis. And that’s barely even scratching the surface. Though salads (and sometimes soups) typically feature as part of the main course, you might find lentil salads, or mixed vegetable salads, and even a fruit salad with spices (called fruit chaat) in the appetizer section.

Some Trending Extras

It’s popular to have live food stations at Indian weddings—a walk-up table service if you will, where you can ask for a dish to be made to your liking on the spot. This could include appetizers or also main course accompaniments and sometimes desserts. Wedding food ideas like food trucks have also gained popularity, and it’s common to see wedding vendors serving regional delights from across the country in dedicated trucks strategically placed around a huge wedding hall or an open outdoor space.

Logistically speaking, these are great options, so not all your wedding guests are hovering around one food service location all at once, and it makes for great conversation starters at an event where many might not necessarily know each other ahead of time.

Pleasing Main Courses

The bulk of the meal planning for an Indian wedding food menu lies in the main course options which come in as many or more varieties as there are states in India. Muslim weddings will feature a lamb or mutton biryani as the highlight of the main course, but a South Indian Hindu wedding means a plethora of vegetarian dishes served with a variety of rice preparations or Indian breads along with accompaniments such as chutneys and pickles. A Malayali Christian wedding may feature appam (string hoppers) and beef stew, while a Bengali wedding often includes some form of seafood. In the northeast, Assamese weddings offer axone/akhuni (a fermented soybean dish), and pork dishes are common at celebrations in Nagaland and Manipur.

Don’t Forget Dessert

Commonly found on an Indian wedding food menu are desserts such as gulab jamun (fried dough in sugar syrup, that’s often served warm accompanied by ice cream), kheer (rice or semolina pudding), and rasmalai and rasagulla (both milk-based preparations). But bebinca (Portuguese-influenced layer cake) or rum/fruit cake at a Goan wedding, shrikhand (yogurt-based dessert) at a Maharashtrian wedding, and payasam (South Indian-style pudding) at a Tamil wedding might also be options. And, of course, thanks to Tesher and Jason Derulo’s Jalebi Baby tune, jalebis, which were somewhat favored at weddings, are now seeing new interest.

If you have specific requests for your Indian wedding food menu, it’s important to find the right caterer to work with. But it can be a time-consuming process, so begin early in your wedding planning. ANd make sure to consider where you’ll be hosting and how many guests will be in attendance. You want to enjoy the food at your wedding as much as you want your guests to, so make it special by including all those sweet and savory dishes that will make this a memorable event.

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