All bridal magazines tell you that one of the first steps during the wedding preparations is "establishing your color scheme". We skipped that step as we were determined to keep the decorations to the minimum and we hoped that our guests would not mind that. In the end, they were coming to our wedding to share our joy, not to admire the centerpieces.
In accordance with Hindu wedding rituals, wedding ceremony should take place under a structure called "mandap". Thanks to the existence of a large Hindu community in the Bay Area, there are several companies that rent them here. I contacted almost all (if not all) of them to find out what kind of mandaps they offered and how much they charged for renting them out. Quickly I got frustrated that nobody was willing to tell me their prices and they all insisted on meeting in person. "Madame, it is better to discuss prices in person" - may well be, but I do not have time to visit five or six places spread out over the whole Bay Area just to pick one item that I need for the wedding!
Luck was on our side and during one of the subsequent visits to the Livermore Temple we witnessed a wedding under a beautiful gold-red mandap. I sent Anil to find out from where that mandap was rented. Again lady luck smiled on us: the very first person that Anil stumbled upon was a brother of the bride. He gave us a contact info for the Hayward-based company called "Prime Party Rentals".
A week later we visited that company and decided not only to rent a mandap from them, but also all other items that we needed, such as silver stools, banquette table clothes, chair covers, and so on. We also asked them to make garlands for us.
Prime Party Rentals did a decent job, but I'm not sure if I can recommend their services as they messed up several things for us. For example they put on marron ribbons, instead of red, on all the chairs. Luckily I noticed that in time and they managed to exchange them before the ceremony started.
Second thing that they messed up was a set up of the mandap. During Indian wedding ceremonies fire is used extensively and hence the wedding halls have special fume exhausts under which a mandap should be placed. The people who were setting up our mandap failed to notice the fume exhaust and they placed it in the wrong place. Because of that we had to have a fan on throughout the wedding to avoid a risk of activating a fire alarm... (That would be fun: sprinkles starting in the middle of the ceremony...)
Third, the garlands they made for us were unacceptable. Most of the flowers were wilted and looked utterly sad. We only noticed how bad they looked at around 9:30pm on Saturday evening (12h before the start of our wedding ceremony), so we were doubtful if we would manage to find a florist that could make new garlands for us. After our uncle intervened with Prime Party Rentals, they took care of making our garlands look somewhat better. Still, they were not of the quality we expected and paid for.
As for other wedding decorations, we decided not to have flower centerpieces and instead have a nice selection of fruits that our guests could munch on before lunch. We also decided against renting plates, glasses and silverware, as the rental price was close to the price of buying those items! So we thought that it made more sense to pay a little bit more and own the items, rather than rent them. Of course that meant much more work for me as I was the one that was washing it all, by hand, before the wedding. And let me tell you, it takes a lot of time to wash 120 wine glasses, 120 juice glasses, 120 plates, 120 knives, 120 forks and 120 spoons.
The knives, forks and spoons were brought by Anil from India, whereas wine glasses, water glasses and plates we bought in IKEA. After the wedding we gave half of these items to our friends and family, and we kept the other half for ourselves. So even now we could throw a party for 60 people :)
While shopping in IKEA, I noticed a nice big elephant and convinced Anil that we should buy it and bring to the wedding. According to Indian wedding customs, the groom should arrive to the wedding location either on a horse or on an elephant. I really wanted Anil to arrive on an elephant and I was willing to pay a lot to see that happen, but arranging it in the US would not have been easy. So, as a compromise, I thought that at the very least we should bring a little elephant toy with us in the car.
Anil with an elephant in IKEA: