I spent $1.9 million on my five-day Indian wedding, which included a fire show and LED robots

I spent $1.9 million on my five-day Indian wedding, which included a fire show and LED robots
  • Carlita Nair and Sanjay Balgobin got married in a five-day Indian wedding celebration in December 2022.

  • The couple spent nearly $2 million in total, including outfits from Bollywood designers and celebrity performers.

  • Nair said the wedding was a great way for family and loved ones to get together and honor traditions.

This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Carlita Nair, who got married in a five-day Indian wedding in 2022. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

My husband Sanjay and I met six years ago and got married last year in a beautiful Indian wedding celebration.

Carlita Nair and Sanjay Balgobin at their wedding
Sanjay Balgobin and Carlita Nair at their wedding.Ptaufiq Photography

We're from very different backgrounds. Sanj grew up in America as the only child to an affluent family, while I'm half-Indian, half-white, and grew up between foster care and living with my grandparents. But we connected on our shared interest in entrepreneurship. Sanj began as a day trader on Wall Street and wanted to start his own hedge fund and brokerage, and I used to own a skincare company.

We now live with his parents in Florida, which is very traditional in South Asian culture.

We had our 400-guest, five-day wedding celebration in December 2022. Our actual wedding ceremony took place at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, Florida.

Carlita Nair and Sanjay Balgobin at their wedding at the Ritz Carlton
Sanjay and Carlita at the Ritz Carlton, Orlando.Ptaufiq Photography

We had our pre-wedding events — the haldi, mehndi, and sangeet ceremonies — at Sanj's backyard, where we built a 12,000-square-foot structure.

We had our wedding in the Ritz Carlton, and the reception at the JW Marriott nearby.

We picked the Ritz Carlton because we wanted a beautiful indoor venue with delicious food. The hotel plus catering cost $130,000.

Sanjay and Carlita at their wedding at the Ritz Carlton
Sanjay and Carlita's wedding at the Ritz Carlton.Ptaufiq Photography

Because of the location we're in, there are very few resources for South Asian community events. There are maybe one or two fantastic South Asian wedding planners, but they were booked on our event days.

We didn't want an outdoor wedding because some of our Indian outfits weighed up to 60 pounds and we didn't want to carry that weight in the heat.

We wanted to have the best food. The hotel has an Indian chef who will fly to any Ritz Carlton in the world just for Indian weddings.

Dinner at Carlita Nair and Sanjay Balgobin's wedding
Dinner at Sanjay and Carlita's wedding reception.Ptaufiq Photography

On our wedding day, we had purely vegetarian Indian food, along with some vegan pastas and traditional treats.

The next day at our reception, we served both fish and chicken dishes, along with a vegan meal — pretty standard stuff. But we knew we wanted some spice, so we added a sweet curry sauce on top of the chicken and fish.

We spent $700,000 in total on decor for the wedding and reception, and an extra $100,000 for the pre-wedding events.

Carlita Nair's mehndi
Carlita Nair at her haldi ceremony, where family and loved ones apply turmeric paste on the bride and groom to offer well-wishes to the couple.Ptaufiq Photography

I made slideshows of inspiration for every single event — everything from the color palette and the mood to the type of flowers and the smell.

I wanted the decor for our wedding day to be very traditional, ethereal, and covered in florals.

Carlita Nair at her wedding at the Ritz Carlton
Carlita at her wedding venue, which was filled with flowers and unusual touches like sofas for lounging.Ptaufiq Photography

Our dream was the entire ceiling to be covered in real flowers, and for it to smell like a greenhouse when people walked in.

We also wanted a few non-traditional elements that people had never seen before — small details like a curved runway and sofas instead of individual chairs for people to lounge on.

We also wanted the lighting to be very moody, even though it was a morning event. We wanted it to feel like when you were walking into a different place, a different world.

The vibe for the reception was celestial, like, "I love you to the moon and back." We had a celestial-themed custom dance floor, stars on the ceiling, and lighting in blue, purple, and red hues.

Carlita and Sanjay reception
Sanjay and Carlita at their reception.Ptaufiq Photography

We also had two custom bars, which had strings of clear glass balls with tinfoil inside wrapped around to give it that celestial, space vibe.

Our sangeet, which is an Indian wedding tradition where there's singing and dancing to celebrate the union of the two families, was Jaipur-themed, referring to the city in India.

Carlita and Sanjay playing a game at their sangeet
Carlita and Sanjay had their sangeet and mehndi night at a structure they custom-built in Sanjay's backyard.Ptaufiq Photography

The lighting itself cost $25,000 and the rigging another $20,000, but we were able to receive discounts.

Carlita and Sanjay dancing at their wedding reception
Carlita paid special attention to the type of lighting she wanted at her wedding celebrations.Ptaufiq Photography

We got a discount for the lighting. For whatever quote your wedding planner gives you, go get two or three quotes yourself.

I knew I was going to have this big wedding, so I knew my outfits had to bring the presence that I needed for such a grand event. I spent around $38,000 in total on my outfits alone.

Carlita Nair in her wedding lehenga
Carlita Nair in her wedding lehenga, which cost around $13,000.Ptaufiq Photography

My wedding day outfit is by Rimple and Harpreet, a big Bollywood designer. The lehenga, along with the shoes and jewelry, cost nearly $13,000.

My white reception outfit is from the Indian designer Manish Malhotra. He'd just dropped a collection right before the wedding, so my outfit was straight off the runway with a custom blouse. It cost $21,000.

Pre-wedding, I spent $3,500 on my sangeet outfit and wore a family heirloom sari for my haldi ceremony.

Hair, makeup, jewelry, and turban tying cost around $25,000, with hair and makeup costing $6,000.

Carlita Nair at her wedding ceremony
Carlita Nair at her wedding ceremony.Ptaufiq Photography

For hair and makeup, I flew a makeup artist down from Vancouver. I used to model when I was a teenager, and this artist had done my makeup several times before, so I knew exactly what I was getting, which was amazing. She even gave me a massage before every single event before doing my makeup.

Most makeup artists for South Asian events, especially when there are three events or more, usually charge prices starting at $6,000 up to $15,000, so it was a discount compared to others I interviewed.

We wanted to arrive in style, so we had a chauffeur driver, which cost $2,000.

Sanjay Balgobin coming out of a Ferrari on his wedding day
Sanjay was driven up to the wedding in a Ferrari.Ptaufiq Photography

I would advise other couples to invest in a photographer. Our photographer cost $40,000 for the full five days, plus a pre-wedding photoshoot. That price also included travel expenses and video.

Carlita Nair at her wedding
Carlita Nair at her wedding ceremony.Ptaufiq Photography

I'm so happy with the photographer we got, especially since photos and video are what we look back on after the wedding.

We spent $10,000 on sound and the emcee, and another $15,000 on the entertainment. We had two Indian Caribbean celebrity performers, Ravi B and Savita Singh.

Dancing at Carlita and Sanjay's wedding
Dancing at Sanjay and Carlita's wedding.Ptaufiq Photography

We also got some cool, relatively inexpensive additions for our parties, like LED robots that emitted CO2 gas, drummers on stilts, and a fire show. We even considered getting real-life elephants and tigers, but they were too expensive.

Fire show at the Balgobins wedding
A fire dancer at the Balgobins' wedding celebration.Ptaufiq Photography


These cost a few hundred dollars per hour, and our guests had a lot of fun with them.

In total, we spent $1.9 million on our wedding celebrations. Our families came together to pull the entire show off.

Sanjay and Carlita's reception
Family and friends at Sanjay and Carlita's wedding.Ptaufiq Photography

Our whole family came out to help us for our wedding, including financially, during the planning process, and with the small details. In Indian culture, the bride and groom often aren't obligated to pay for the entire wedding, and cousins and aunts buy things here and there.

Sanjay is also the only child and has a big family, so he really wanted to throw a grand celebration for everyone.

If you're not Indian and you come to an Indian wedding, the first question you usually have is, "How did you do all of this?" But everybody comes together to make it happen, and I'm really grateful for that.

Editor's note, September 27, 2023: This article has been updated to clarify details about Nair's childhood.

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