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lanning a wedding—no matter how small—is no small task. Planning an Indian, Pakistani or other South Asian wedding? In North America? Well, that’s downright Herculean. And not just because you’re managing multiple events and meddling family members—after all, you can’t just saunter over to David’s Bridal to find the accessories that make desi weddings desi: lenghas and saris and bangles and mehndi and on and on. And while there are now many resources for South Asian brides in North America, you’re still going to find the best selection back on the Subcontinent.

See All Nirali Weddings Here!

But taking a wedding shopping trip to India or Pakistan (likely for just two weeks) can be a daunting experience. That’s why we talked to the experts to make it a little bit easier for you. Read on to find out what you need to know before you go and while you’re there, and where to shop in New Delhi, Bombay, Karachi and Lahore. We’ve created a list—though not exhaustive by any means—of shops and markets specifically recommended by our experts. Don’t see your favorite shop included? Tell us in the comments. We’ll periodically update this story with new listings. (And don’t forget to check out More Real Tips From Desi Brides—it features a whole section on recent brides’ best tips for shopping abroad.)

Perfect Your Plan

Make a list, and check it twice. “Don’t underestimate how much you need to get done in that trip,” says Priya Narwani of Hitch Free, an Indian wedding planning and shopping service. In addition to clothing and jewelry, there will be a host of other items your parents and in-laws will probably need to buy, such as gifts for family members or wedding accoutrements. “Your parents are going to start thinking about what they will give the in-laws at the function, whether it’s a basket of chocolates or whatever. Suddenly, they’ll get to India and say, ‘I need to buy a silver tray to present it on’.” Narwani says that in order to know what you’ll need to shop for on your trip abroad, ask your parents and in-laws to help you create a list on paper ahead of time. “It’s never going to be a complete list, but you should have something to start with,” she says. “Indian parents are a lot more on the fly. It’s amazing the amount of knowledge the elders have, but it’s all sitting in their heads. You have to push them.”

claude-renault.jpg
Senoraa, Chenaii. (Claude Renault)

Get help from the locals. “Every family has the super aunt who knows everything about what you’re supposed to do. We always think she’s interfering,” says Narwani. “But when it comes to wedding shopping, she’s going to be your godsend. Love her and have her on your side. Contact her ahead of time to find out what you need to do. Don’t wait until you get to India.”

Don’t over-schedule your shopping days.
“You have to plan your days while you’re there,” says Sandhya Jain-Patel, founder of Xari Couture. “You need an itinerary. In Delhi and Bombay, for example, the traffic is really bad. You think you’ll get three things done in a day, but you’ll really only finish one.” Jain-Patel suggests consulting with local experts or family members before undertaking an overly ambitious itinerary. “Say, these are the 10 things I want to buy while I’m here,” she says. A local will be able to tell you realistically how much time you need. It’s also helpful to get advice on where to stay and how to get around.

Personal Shopper

If you need help with shopping for your wedding trousseau, look no further than Priya Narwani of Hitch Free. In addition to wedding planning and day-of coordination, Narwani offers a unique service: personal accompaniment to India for wedding shopping assistance and merchandise transportation. She will guide you through her network of tailors and other shopping sources to put together the perfect trousseau. And because she works with so many vendors on a repeat basis, Narwani claims that she can get the best prices for her clients. Just need some suggestions from Narwani before you go? She can do that, too. Rates start at $100 for consultation and increase depending on the services selected. Visit www.hitchfree.com for details.

Bring an entourage. “When you’re shopping, it’s important to have an elder with you who knows the culture, the etiquette, the language,” says Jain-Patel. “If you go alone, you’ll get taken advantage of. You want someone who will watch out for you.”

Designing That Dream Dress

Make appointments with designers in advance. If you plan on meeting with bridal designers while you’re in India and Pakistan, don’t expect face time unless you’ve made an appointment. “Get an appointment at least two weeks before you need it,” says Saadia Zaheer, a graduate of the Pakistan School of Fashion Design who has helped plan trousseaus for dozens of weddings. “Make them from North America before you go. Sometimes you can just walk in if the designer has an outlet, but you won’t actually be able to meet with the designer without an appointment.”

Work your connections. “With many designers, you need to know someone just to get an appointment,” says Nikki Khan of Exquisite Events in Los Angeles. If you don’t have a contact who knows a designer personally, try to get a reference from someone who has worn their work in the past. Any connection helps, so mention as many names as possible.

Time your trip right. Zaheer says that most designers need five to six months to create a bridal outfit, and during busy seasons, they may just turn you away. “August to December is the high season, so try to give your orders in the winter or spring. There are fewer weddings in the summer, so they have more time then.” But know that many designers travel during the summer and get a lot of requests from Western visitors around the same time, so plan in advance as much as possible. Expect December, especially, to be a hectic month.

Set things in motion from home.
Can’t make it India or Pakistan in time to start the process? Khan suggests establishing contact via telephone. “Tell them what you’re looking for, give them your budget, send a deposit and have them start working. A lot of designers now have Web sites, and you can discuss what you want based on the collections they showcase online.”

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Shopping in Karachi. (Zofka)

Consider ready-to-wear or off-the-rack creations. “If you don’t have a lot of time, there are good options at the established boutiques and fashion houses,” says Zaheer. Adds Narwani, “When we talk off-the-rack here, we turn up our nose. But India has an amazing range for off-the-rack bridal wear.”

Research styles and designs you like in advance. “Buy as many magazines as you can get, even if it means ordering them from London. It doesn’t matter how old they are,” suggests Jain-Patel. Use photos from those magazines and from Web sites to get an idea of what you want before you go.

Create a wedding notebook. Jain-Patel swears by an all-purpose notebook that you can take with you on your shopping excursions. Include the pictures from your research, alongside everyone’s measurements. You can even trace foot measurements right into it. “If you like a particular motif or material, cut it out and put it in there,” says Jain-Patel. “Then, when you go to India, you can specify what you definitely want on your outfit. It will also help illustrate what you mean, because in India, the same styles can have different or multiple names.”

Dress to impress.
If you’re meeting with designers and shopping in fine jewelry stores, don’t plan on wearing tattered jeans and flip flops. “You should wear nice clothes and dress up when you meet with them,” says Zaheer. The designers are also auditioning you, and people are more image conscious on the Subcontinent than they may be here. And when working with designers, you may need to massage their egos a bit. If you don’t like a particular style, be tactful with your words.

Accelerate the deadline. South Asian tailors and designers are notorious for getting things done at the last minute. While you may be used to telling vendors your exact deadline, you may want to use a slightly earlier date for dressmakers to avoid last-minute panics.

Measuring Up

Wear the right bra. When getting your fittings, wear the kind of bra you’ll wear on your wedding day—“something that will give you shape,” advises Jain-Patel. “They will alter your clothes to what you’re wearing.”

Give them a sample. Recent bride Nadia Samadani advises bringing a blouse that fits you well and leaving it with the tailor, even if he has your measurements.

Trousseau Assistance

Sandhya Jain-Patel of clothing and home fashion company Xari Couture knows India—especially shopping there. She spent time living in India and working with numerous tailors and craftsmen, so she understands how artisans work. She has translated that into a consulting service for South Asian brides who need help putting together their trousseaus. Jain-Patel typically requires six months or more to work with each bride, but she brings with her a wealth of information. And her tips and tricks can make it easy for you to get what you need. For example, “I have a car service there that’s absolutely impeccable—they know every single place in Delhi.” For more information, contact her through www.xaricouture.com.

Make sure things don’t hurt. When you’re trying on lenghas or other fitted clothes, Jain-Patel suggests trying them on bare skin, because “a lot of times, the embellishments can pinch. Mukaish, which is an embellishment of tiny rhinestones or disks of beaten silver or gold, “feels like thousands of little ant bites.” To remedy such problems, make sure your clothes come with a good lining.

Get a cotton mock-up. Most good designers will construct a completely tailored sample according to your measurements in plain cotton, says Zaheeer. They will test this on you before starting any of the actual cutting and kaam. If they don’t, ask them about it.

Consider a second trip. Samadani says that “If you can possibly make two trips so you can do the fitting, do it. When you’re in Pakistan you can be on top of the designers and follow up with them right away.”

Bargaining for your budget

Save every receipt. Whenever you put down a payment, paste the receipt into your wedding notebook and write down exactly what you’re buying, advises Jain-Patel. You’ll save yourself from hassles later.

Get a jewelry receipt.
When buying fine jewelry, “you can ask for a proper receipt that will tell you how many stones, total carat weight, cost, etc. They may charge you a bit more for it, but it’s worth it,” says Jain-Patel. “You’ll have protection if you want to exchange it later, and it can be useful for insurance appraisals here.”

Know that you can design a dress within your budget.
“Every designer will ask you for your range,” says Zaheer. “Be honest. They will present you with styles that fall in that range.” And whether you’re in India or Pakistan, you can always adjust the price according to the amount of “kaam” (the embroidery, beadwork and sequining) on the outfit. “If you like an outfit that costs 400,000 rupees, you can ask whether they can tailor it to 200,000 rupees. Designers are willing to do that.”

Do your homework on prices. You may expect that you’ll be able to bargain everywhere you shop, but that’s not necessarily the case. Narwani says that many bridal stores in India offer fixed prices, which she prefers. Still, if you’re buying many outfits from one place, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a bulk discount. As for designers, Zaheer claims that “you can bargain with them, no matter how big they are.”

Of course, haggling in “earthier” markets is commonplace, but you may want to have a local with you—most shopkeepers can smell Westerners from miles away.

When it comes to jewelry, expect to be able to bargain 20 percent off the price, particularly in Pakistan, though Zaheer warns that “Coming from outside, it can be harder. Women in Pakistan, when they shop, will wear jewelry when they go to show that they know prices. So it’s especially important to take a local with you for jewelry shopping.”

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Flower seller. Gujrat, Pakistan. (Azlan H.)
Your invite itinerary

Plan your invitations in advance. “If you’re buying your invitations there, discuss with your parents and fiancé about what’s going to be on the card ahead of time,” says Narwani. If you take your wording with you, you can get a mock-up much sooner. Take proofread copy with you so you’re not trying to come up with it in a frenzy.

Keep postage in mind.
“While Indian wedding cards are beautiful,” says Jain-Patel, “make sure you factor in the cost of mailing. I had a friend who had lavish cards made only to find out that they cost $2 a card to mail them in the U.S.” Have postage requirements with you, and keep in mind any inserts you’ll have to include. If you’re getting fabric invitations, says Jain-Patel, you can find plastic sleeves for postage and addresses.

Bombay City Guide: Page 2
New Delhi City Guide: Page 3
Lahore City Guide: Page 4
Karachi City Guide: Page 5

For a complete list of Indian and Pakistani bridal designers, see page 2 of Vow to Wow.

Ismat Sarah Mangla is dreaming of a shopping trip to the Subcontinent.
Published on June 18, 2007.
Photography: Main image by Asad Chaudary. All other photographs courtesy of the photographers noted and designers and businesses featured.

Pages: Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

Comments are closed.
  1. June 20, 2007, 4:58 pm Saadia

    OMG i absolutely love the wedding issue. I feel like planning my wedding once again from the start. Its not only helpful for the desi Americans but also for South Asians. If living in Lahore, there is a good guide on Karachi, Delhi and Bombay; main fashion capitals here in Pakistan and India. From big couture designers to small market places, i loved each tiny detail. Well done

  2. June 20, 2007, 6:31 pm Raj Bhandari

    Very informational and well researched issue.

    Just anecdotally, we get quite a few brides from all over the country in our Dallas office, who have been to India/Pakistan, and could not find or make their dream trousseau in the time they had – and like to work with an experienced US based company (like us).

    Keep up the good work!

  3. June 26, 2007, 5:19 pm priti singh

    in gurgaon, there’s a mall, that’s just designed for fine jewlery, and all famous jewelers are there such as tanishq and notanda’s and sons.

    one stop, you can have a huge variety of different jewelry and prices, its definetly a must stop for all shopping for fine jewlery. can be a bit overpriced, but its worth the extra price rather than searching all over for different stores, esecially it you’re short on time.

  4. June 28, 2007, 9:01 pm janki

    looks good!

  5. July 16, 2007, 6:13 pm adeela ali

    I love pak wedding!!!

  6. July 18, 2007, 8:12 pm aliya

    can u send me bridal dresses or can u tell me a very good beauty parlour for the bridal makeup

  7. July 23, 2007, 2:37 am priya

    hi,
    on ur website if u add website link of designers,would be very helpful for viewers to shop…

  8. July 25, 2007, 2:32 pm sukanya

    what about all those bengali girls who are shopping in kolkata? wheres the guide there?

  9. August 17, 2007, 2:28 pm val

    This is great, but what about shopping guides for south indians? I like this magazine but wish you would be pan-Indian, rather than cater to a North Indian audience.

  10. December 15, 2007, 4:08 pm sehrish

    i like bridal dresses.specely pakistani bridal dresses. can show us new fashion bridal dress in ur web?

  11. December 21, 2007, 10:41 pm Aarti

    Hi, my name is Aarti, First let me say i love this web site… who ever is keeping up with it is doing a great job. Keep it up!. Now can someone send me a link to shopping places in bombay.. yes the page two or shopping guides gives you most of the high end stores to shop from but i am asking for botiques reasonable indian clothing, or shoes or purses.

    Please if anyone can tell me where to go shopping when going to india or in bombay.

    Thank you very much.

  12. January 29, 2008, 1:31 pm SAPNA SUBHASH AGARWAL

    hiiiiii……plz can any1 suggest some places in bombay where we get designer sarees n dress materials at whole sale prices…i mean i would like to know the wholesale markets.(bridal wear).

  13. February 9, 2008, 7:54 am veena kotecha

    where we get Georgette, chiffon, royalsilk thaans

    I would like to know the whoesales prices

    tankyou

  14. February 15, 2008, 4:50 am shan

    I ‘m a designer from lhr… working for an english newspaper’s magazines … also worked for some fashion mags here in lhr…
    I just say that your presentation is great … Excellent work …. Good

  15. March 1, 2008, 10:54 am Saadia

    Hi, wanted to update everyone about this new mall in Lahore, called as 10-Q by PFDC (Pakistan Fashion Design Council) under which almost all the known designers of Pakistan come. To name a few HSY, Karma, Kamiar rokni, nomi ansari, sehar saigol of libas, niki nina, zara shahjahan, elan, and a few new upcoming including Ahsan nazir and Sania Qureshi. They have the famous jewelery designer Shafaq Habib from islamabad and shoe designer Naila of Panic. Its a great concept of bringing all the designers under one roof. Now you can just go to this one place and have the luxury of ordering all your clothes from one place or just pick it up from their pret collections. And if you visit don’t forget to go upstairs (its not part of PFDC) but they have a new designer zarmina khan their and the shoe designer nadia kassam from karachi is finally here in lahore. Def go check it out

  16. March 6, 2008, 4:30 pm Jigisha

    Hi, do you by anychance have details on where to shop in Bangalore for bridal wear? My wedding will be held there and I’ve never been to that city before, thanks!

  17. March 19, 2008, 8:55 am Sundas

    AHHH THANK YOU SO MUCH. I really needed this, keep up the good work 🙂

  18. March 26, 2008, 11:19 am rabia

    plz can u tell me the complete address of 10-Q PFDC in lahore?

  19. April 1, 2008, 1:58 pm Chandni Arts

    Looking for Imitation Jewellery, exporters from India, bridal, Bindis, Tikkas, Sarees, Punjabi Suits.

    Thanks

  20. April 2, 2008, 12:16 am Imran

    Hello,

    Plz can you tell me about fashion designer for man, who works in catual,offices,parties and etc.

    Thank you.

  21. April 6, 2008, 4:01 pm Payal

    I hope all the people who bought their wedding clothes and party favors or even going to the extreme of having their wedding in India are extremely happy. You have contributed to the India’s economy while single handily destroy the economy of your country. I realize how expense weddings are but instead of spending your money in other countries try to find economic ways to spend money in your own economy. Maybe one day your job you hold will to be outsourced to India too.

  22. April 7, 2008, 5:01 pm prerana

    Going to India to buy items for your wedding is not about trying to contribute to the Indian economy and screwing over the economy of the country you live in. Its about your tradition and culture.
    As Indians, sometimes it is much harder and less efficient to buy some of these items in countries such as the UK and US, even though there are shops and many South Asians. Many local Indian goods sellers inflate the prices. Things can be unnecessarily expensive. If you go to India, you get what you pay for, nothing less. You can buy more things, have more choices, learn something new…
    I know, I know. You spend money to fly to India, but still, sometimes you get more out of that trip than you do to the local ‘Little India’ of your hometown.

    prerana

  23. April 9, 2008, 12:16 am Pooja

    Payal: i’m not sure you understand, weddings aren’t held while keeping in mind economic circumstances (culture, family etc), and even if they were why not spend money in India (or anywhere else as a matter of fact? (are you opposed to the so called “destination weddings” as well? Or is it just India you have a tiff with?) When I first started reading your post, I assumed it was going to be one of those posts that pushes people to donate money to charities in India rather than spending exorbitant amounts of money on a wedding…but! I was wrong.
    First of all; not all jobs are outsourced to India (it is a smaller percentage than you think) Second: India outsources jobs as well! Third: One of the reasons why jobs get outsourced and people of south asian decent get hired is because there is always a need to fill positions that require math and science concentrations. There is a smaller proportion of Americans graduating with these degrees thus creating a demand which South Asians fulfill. Fourth: Corporate companies based in India stuggle to retain their employees, because outsourced jobs from foreign countries/companies attract the Indian employee pool; leaving Indian companies without employees in their own country…sound familiar?

    New York Times: Outsourcing Works, So India is Exporting Jobs

    New York Times: As a Center for Outsourcing, India Could Be Losing Its Edge
    –The company also distributed some $23 million in bonuses. ”And we’re doing a lot of other things to retain employees,” said Stephen R. Pratt, chief executive of the Infosys consulting arm in the United States.

    Infosys is hardly the only Indian company making a serious effort to attract and keep employees. Over all, according to a recent survey by Hewitt Associates, the consulting group, wages in the country’s major outsourcing sectors have been rising by close to 15 percent a year.

    The reason is increased competition for labor, thanks in large part to American companies’ rush to outsource work offshore. In fact, the competition has become so fierce that typical Indian operations in business processing — including call centers and offices handling payroll, accounting and human-resources functions — can expect to lose 15 to 20 percent of their work forces each year, versus single-digit percentage losses in the late 1990’s.

    Do.Your.Homework.

    Thanks!

  24. April 21, 2008, 9:07 am rabia

    plz can anyone tell me the comlete address of BARKAT ALI SAREE WALAY in LAHORE?

  25. April 21, 2008, 9:40 am Nirali Magazine

    Barkat Ali

    43-COMMERCIAL BUILDING, SHAHRAH-E-QUAID-E-
    AZAM, LAHORE – PAKISTAN
    Ph: 213213/211298

  26. April 22, 2008, 9:16 am rabia

    IS it on mall road?

  27. May 23, 2008, 5:24 am Asim Nazir

    Hello please do your work same like that and also give one picture of one item on your web site all the jewellers Thanks

  28. May 23, 2008, 5:31 am Asim Nazir

    to rabia yes mall road comercial building asim nazir

  29. May 26, 2008, 12:06 pm saj

    hi can some 1 plz give me the full address of 10-q in lahore

  30. May 27, 2008, 11:40 am rabia

    can anyone tell me that 10 q gulberg shopping mall is under constructionOR they started?

  31. June 2, 2008, 8:57 pm ASHAR KHAN

    hi can some 1 plz give me the full address of 10-q in karachi

  32. June 16, 2008, 5:20 pm Anamika

    Hi, i will be getting married in December and i wanted someone to design my bridal outfit that was in one of the indian movie songs, does anyone know any designers in bombay who can do this.

    your information will be really helpfull..

    thank you

  33. July 1, 2008, 8:03 am Samson Inayat

    Greeting in the name of God Almighty,

    Dear Editor,

    We have studied your comments referred to Libas-e-khas. Sir perhaps you do not know about our credibility in fame in the field of fashion and designing. As we are the magicians and producers of lastest designs in Pakistan. We have participated in Fashion Shows in Pakistan and internationaly.The people all around the world know our products.
    Therefore we request you to not write such kind of negative comments related to our unique work in fashion and designing. If you some kind of doubt ,please personally visit our out lets.

    Yours in Him,
    Samson.

  34. August 3, 2008, 5:49 pm Sandya

    Hey!

    This is such a GREAT article. I am getting married to a Mississippi boy in Delhi this December and this is such great info for all the shopping we have to do :)!

    i am also looking for any recommendations ya’ll have on wedding photographers based in Delhi, India. I have been looking for alternative photographers but all I find is the usual, bland ones. Any ideas?

    Thanks for the help!

    Sandhya

  35. August 5, 2008, 5:42 pm Rahema

    where can we find stuff for men in Pakistan?

  36. August 25, 2008, 9:33 am mehreen

    i am fond of ur creations both for male n female i hv a collection n i want to send its shoot whiich u can present in ur mag.

  37. September 16, 2008, 9:22 am meera

    thanks, this is a cool writeup.
    will shop from these places for my wedding.

    thanks again 🙂

  38. November 11, 2008, 1:29 am shami

    i need bridal wedding maroon color suite
    plase help me and give me,

  39. December 31, 2008, 6:33 am tassadaq hussain shah

    hello, I have a brother who organizes celebrations of marriage, family Hussain Shah, I live in portugal

  40. January 3, 2009, 4:09 am jitesh

    can any body tell me who is the model in ads of mumbai paper fir seasons sarees at plaza santacruz [w]

  41. January 4, 2009, 11:04 am VIJAY LAKHANI

    we are manufacturer-exporters of ladies designer salwar suits/sarees for wholesales to stores/boutiques based in US/UK/CANADA http://www.designersalwarsuits.com

  42. June 4, 2009, 12:08 pm sonia

    Great list, goin to lahore soon, last time i went i was way tooooo unorganised to know wer any of the shops wer as i didnt make a list of any stores or addresses and had to jst go along with aunties and their choices….thanks…. =)