‘Indian packages’ let more South Asians opt for destination weddings

When Sabrina Sandhu and her fiancé Kultar Rai first told their families they wanted a destination wedding, their Indian parents didn’t understand the concept.

“Or how we could possibly carry out each event without losing the integrity of the traditions,” Sandhu tells Global News. “Once we explained the benefits, and the fact that would mean less work for everyone, they were fully on board.”

The couple got married in September 2016 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico, with 150 guests in attendance.

kultar and sabrina

Sabrina and Kultar at their reception.

Courtesy of Sabrina Sandhu

“It was a simple solution to the challenge of hosting a wedding in Toronto where we would have expected over 800 guests,” the 26-year-old continues. “We wanted our parents and immediate family to enjoy the wedding festivities versus spending the week hosting and cooking.”

 

 

But part of the rise can also be linked to the challenges of hosting a wedding at home.

In large South-Asian populated Ontario cites like Brampton and Mississauga, securing a large venue for up to 1,000 guests can take two years, experts say. And instead of hiring planners or caterers, many families pick up the work for the multiple events leading up to the wedding — leaving little time to enjoy them.

Hindu and Sikh weddings also come with several components, for Sikhs in particular, a Sikh Granthi (a Sikh official) and the Guru Granth Sahib (religious scripture) both need to be present at the traditional ceremony.

Kultar Rai and Sabrina Sandhu

But not only are some hotels offering officiants because of high demand, Sandhu says the one who officiated her wedding, Sat Purkh Singh, lives in Mexico City.

 

“We wanted to get married and enjoy the process of planning the wedding, while also doing something that was different, memorable and meaningful to us,” Sandhu says.

Kultar Rai and Sabrina Sandhu

Hotels targeting South Asians

Both the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels and Palace Resorts offer Indian wedding packages for countries like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Cessie Cerrato, a spokesperson for Palace Resorts, says out of their weddings so far in 2017, 20 per cent are Canadian, and 20 per cent of those couples have Indian ceremonies.

 

“All 10 of our Palace Resorts all-inclusive properties offer Indian weddings, and our most popular among them is Moon Palace Cancun,” she tells Global News. “Brides have been incorporating ‘traditional [Western]’ decor details to their events such as the sweet tables, and many are now doing two ceremonies, the Hindu/Sikh and a symbolic ceremony.”

Moon palace Resorts

A couple getting married at Palace Resorts.

Courtesy of Moon Palace Resorts

The package, which has been offered since 2012, features Indian catering, fireworks, drummers, mendhi (henna) artists, and a mandap (wedding stage).

Frank Maduro, VP of marketing for AIC Hotel Group of all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels, says the hotel’s Indian wedding package, “Ishq Rocks,” launched in 2015 for couples who wanted to personalize their traditional matrimonial experiences.

“We have local in-house vendors for decor, entertainment, flowers, make-up, mendhi, and catering,” he tells Global News.

hard rock resorts Indian wedding

Venue space at the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana.

Maduro says there are also out-of-the-box things couples are adding to their destination wedding packages, including drone cinematography, acrobatic performances and lavish grand entrances for the groom on either a horse or yacht.

Mixing the old with the new

But the true beauty of destination South Asian weddings is being able to mix both traditional aspects of a religious ceremony with modern wedding trends. Mahal says couples still take part in traditional ceremonies like the sangeet and mehndi night, but have many of their events outdoors.

“All old traditions are kept,” Mahal says. “It comes down to a beach/resort versus local banquet halls.”

 

Ashna Tanna, who tied the knot in May 2016 at the Moon Palace resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, says when it came to the Hindu ceremony, they were able to do all of the components they could’ve done in Toronto.

south Asian destination wedding

Ashna Tanna and her husband, Rikesh Shah, at their Jamaican destination wedding.

Courtesy of Melanie Gillbrand

The 26-year-old, who now resides in London, England, had 120 guests — one-third of the size her wedding in Toronto would’ve been. And with family from Toronto, London and Dubai in attendance, it made sense to choose a location everyone could fly to.

Indian destination weddings

“It was important for my family to have the priest who has married many of my family members be the person who married us, so we decided to fly him out,” she tells Global News. “Everyone was also dressed in Indian attire on three of the ‘Indian events’ and for the wedding lunch, we were able to have Indian food.”

The cultural divide

But for some couples, there’s always the initial hesitation from family members. Preet Kala and Aman Saini got married in January at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun. For their 50-person Sikh wedding, Kala says the couple flew out a priest from Toronto for the ceremony.

Preet Kala And Aman

Preet Kala And Aman Saini

Courtesy of Preet Kala

“Both our families were mainly concerned about the religious aspect of the wedding,” Kala tells Global News. “It was more about having the Guru Granth Sahib Ji present, and to take the four lavaan [four hymns]. Once we introduced our families to the priest and had him explain how the wedding would take place, they were much more comfortable.”

 

She adds that for Canadian South Asians, it’s also about educating older family members about these types of weddings as options. And with so many customs that have been ingrained in families for decades, it’s just as important to start new ones.

Aman Saini and Preet Kala

“The entire family gets to be together. It not like the bride side or the groom side, everyone laughs, stays, and celebrates together.”

 

 

6 Dishes from Udupi Every South Indian Food Lover Must Try

If there’s one Indian dish that can give Butter Chicken a serious run in terms of International presence, it’s the Masala Dosa. I’ve stumbled upon multiple versions of this crispy dosa slathered with a potato filling (known as palya in Karnataka) from Denver to Melbourne. The Masala Dosa is one of the most ordered dishes in restaurants in Chennai, Bengaluru and other parts of South India but many foodies agree that the origins of this dish point in one direction. Udupi might be a tiny town north of Mangaluru but Udupi and neighbouring towns like Kundapura are a haven for foodies. One of Udupi’s best known contributions is its now ubiquitous Masala Dosa, but that’s just one of the many unique snacks that you can savour in and around Udupi. From cylindrical idlis to dosas crafted in rice flour, we pick some of Udupi’s must try snacks:

6 Dishes from Udupi Every South Indian Food Lover Must Try

1. Masala Dosa

 

This is one dish you won’t have trouble finding across India. The classical Udupi version is golden brown and crispy. I love how it gently disintegrates into tinier crispy bits, some restaurants (like Woodlands in Chennai and Bengaluru) used to insert a tiny banana leafwith freshly churned butter inside the dosa. This butter would melt inside the dosaalong with the masala on its way to your table. Pangala in Manipal (Udupi’s twin town) serves one of the best Masala Dosas in and around Udupi and is a big hit with the town’s large student population.

masala dosa

2. Kaddubu or Moode

My first memory of the Kadubbu takes me back to the iconic Dasaprakash restaurant in Chennai. From Kadubbu to Moode (or Mude) to Gunda, the locals use quite a few terms to describe this uniquely shaped cylindrical idli. It’s the same batter cooked in a different mould. The conical moulds are crafted with jackfruit leaves and placed in a large vessel inside a conventional pressure cooker. It’s also cooked in Kedige (the local name for screw pine or a type of pandanus leaf). Some local restaurants in Udupi serve it with etty (prawn) chutney.

 

3. Bajjari Dosa or Neer Dosa

This airy, incredibly light dosa can probably be folded to fit into your palm. Made with a thin batter – that’s almost the same consistency as a Rava Dosa batter, with rice (better when soaked overnight) and coconut. It’s why it’s called Neer (water) Dosa. It makes a perfect accompaniment with some of the region’s meat and seafood gravies. Mathsya, one of Chennai’s true-blue Udupi restaurant, serves this dosa with a simple mixture of freshly ground coconut with jaggery.

neer dosa new

4. Goli Baje (aka) Mangalore Bonda

Mitra Samaj located next to Udupi’s iconic Shri Krishna temple is one of the town’s best known food institutions. This modest eatery serves a variety of Udupi snacks all day but it’s their Goli Baje that is their signature dish and usually available around 4 pm – tiffin time. This delectable deep-fried snack combines maida (Flour), rice flour and curdwith a smattering of green chillies and ginger. You can sample authentic versions of this dish at Palmgrove Hotel in Chennai or Ballal Residency in Bengaluru.

 

5. Mangalore Buns

Sweet or savoury? The only way to know is to sample this unique dish that can pass of for a poori or even a katchori but tastes distinctly different. Locals call this fluffy poorilookalike, a bun. The bun gets its subtle sweet taste from overripe bananas that are mashed into the maida and let to ferment for a few hours (overnight is even better). The flavours are further enhanced with a few cumin seeds, sugar and curd before they are deep fried just like pooris. There’s a tiny Woodlands restaurant in Udupi that serves an authentic version of this dish, you can also sample this at restaurants like Mathsya and Ashoka Hotel in Chennai.