Use speakers and a microphone to elevate the sounds
South Asian weddings are typically large and drawn out with all sorts of events.
South Asian families are typically larger, communal groups of people.
Thus, it is safe to say that weddings are the right kind of occasion by which all South Asians can usually see these parts of the family.
One such event by which families celebrate is via a dholki night. It is also known by the terms “dholki” and “sangeet”.
This is typically a small-scale pre-wedding event at home, with music and dancing.
It is a celebration of the festivities to come, the union of two individuals, usually involving close friends and family.
They are often celebrated differently in other South Asian cultures, for instance, among Northern Indians and Pakistanis.
However, it is Punjabis and Gujaratis who most often have dholki events.
Whilst not all South Asians have dholki nights specifically, pre-wedding events are a common feature of South Asian weddings.
And, it can be a stressful time to organise one of the funniest functions of the wedding week. But, not to worry as we’ll discuss how to make your dholki night unforgettable.
Across all Desi cultures, the decor is quite an important aspect of a perfect dholki night. This is because it is the key to setting the atmosphere and environment for this gathering.
Typically, there will be a staging area set up where women will sit and sing. And, there are multiple ways to approach this.
Many stages use fairy lights, curtains, and cushions as seating to distinguish the stage from the rest of the room. It has become trendy to drape fake or real flowers across the walls of the room.
Marigold garlands are an iconic feature of many dholki nights.
Whilst dholki nights can have any colour themes, yellow, orange, and green are popular.
It is preferred to not shy away from bright vivid colours. After all, South Asian weddings are proud displays of celebration.
Decor is a great way to play around with different elements to create colourful and intimate arrangements. There are no limits!
One way this could be achieved is via candles and tee lights. Setting these up in beautifully ornate dishes or diyas can help to add another level to your decor.
Embroidered umbrellas being hung upside down are also a great way to add texture and depth to the space.
Alongside beautiful mats on the floor, they help to complement the event.
It is almost impossible for any South Asian event to be complete without good food, let alone a dholki night!
As dholki nights tend to be smaller events, it is not desirable to have massive amounts of food. The ideal way to approach food is to have a delightful array of smaller snacks available.
It is here where samosas, chaat, chappli kebab, and pakoras are perfect. But any kind of smaller snacks and treats will do!
Pani puri/gol gappe are also a staple of a perfect dholki night!
These are hollow spheres made of bread that gets filled with potato, chickpeas, and onions alongside flavoured water and spices.
Increasingly, pani puri is eaten in “shot” form at dholkhi nights, and there is often a “game” element to this.
For a more healthier option, fruit kebabs may be a great option. This involves sticking various cuts of fruits onto a wooden skewer and presenting them neatly on a tray.
For those with a sweet tooth, small dessert snacks also provide for great range. This could be as simple as bitesize snacks that can be bought in tubs from a supermarket.
Or these can involve more of a South Asian twist. Mithai such as barfi and gulab jamun for instance, are popular options.
There is a variety of mithai out there, whichever is chosen shall captivate the close family and friends’ tastebuds.
The trick is that you want dishes that will be small and also not too filling, especially where there may be dancing involved!
Drinks are also an essential element.
Mocktails have become extraordinarily popular amongst South Asians. They are a great, flavourful option for everyone.
However, having regular cocktails for those who drink is also a way to make your dholki night stand out.
Bartenders who make the drinks in front of you in a fast-paced fashion are a unique touch to captivate guests.
Treat it almost as if it’s a taster for the food to come during the actual wedding events.
Music is an area where cultural differences may appear.
The Indian sangeet events will more commonly have music and dancing.
Whilst it is standard for South Asians to use music, many Muslim dholki events opt for naats and nasheeds instead.
These are religious forms of poetry that may or may not involve instrumentation. Nasheeds are hymns in style, usually using acapella or percussion instruments.
This is because there are some Muslims who take the view that music is forbidden, though this is not universal.
Regardless of the reasoning, it has become a more common sight on Muslim dholki nights.
In terms of music and dancing, dholki events traditionally involve renting a dhol or dholak drum.
People will sit in a circle whilst playing the drums and encouraging others to practice dancing for the wedding.
The event was traditionally done separately for the bride and groom. However, in many cases, this is changing, with more mixed-gender dholkhi nights becoming common.
Punjabi dholkis typically involve playing classic Punjabi songs, such as ‘Tera Yaar Bolda’ by Surjit Bindrakala.
Gujarati garba ceremonies involve dancing to the garba folk dance.
Use speakers and a microphone to elevate the sounds of the singing, but you may not need it given how loud some guests can be – which is perfect!
Some families also hire professional musicians to add backing music to the vocals and dhoki sounds.
Dholkhi nights are typically more casual than the main events, and there is no one set dress code. But, that does not mean one can’t or shouldn’t put effort into an outfit!
Especially where dancing will occur, the key should be that these are light, breathable, and comfortable.
For Pakistani dholki nights, brightly coloured outfits are usually the go-to – especially for the bride, bridesmaids, and her family.
It is an option for brides to wear anarkali suits or shahara suits.
These are long, flowing dresses that allow for freedom of movement whilst being adorned with beautiful patterns and imagery,
Grooms may typically wear a kurta. However, the option to pair a kurta pajama with an elegant waistcoat is not a bad idea.
It would be advisable for the bride and groom to avoid repeating colours with their main wedding outfits here.
Guests can dress in a wide variety of manners. For women, an embellished lehenga or sari may be a great option.
A salwar kameez is a safer option for those unsure of what to wear.
As for men, a banghala jacket with dark trousers is a good option.
Though realistically, as long as you show a bit of flair and are dressed comfortably, the outfits are not the most important part of a perfect dholki night.
For anyone planning a dholki night, good decor, food, music, and outfits are aspects to focus on.
The event is a great way for the family to unwind before the business of the main events.
What elevates a good dholki night from a perfect dholki night is the attention to detail to these things. But, remember to have fun, first and foremost.