Over the last 20 years, our L.A. Stretch Limos have been a feature of Sikh and Punjabi weddings all over the UK, providing our chauffeurs and staff with a host of delightful memories.
The Asian wedding scene has grown significantly since the 1990s when we first started L.A. Stretch Limos, and are now a far cry from an after-wedding party in a local community school or leisure centre! We have witnessed the growth in Asian weddings which today are meticulously organised by dedicated wedding planners, feature white horses and a Bollywood Brass Band, banquets in 5-star hotels for 500+ guests, award-winning DJs such as Maharaja Music and Illusions Roadshow and leading bhangra-industry artists including Malkit Singh MBE, H Dhami, Shin, Juggy D and Jassi Sidhu, with a key requirement being the very best in modern stretch limousines and traditional classic cars.
The aspects of a Punjabi wedding that always raises a chuckle with the L.A. Stretch Limos staff include the limousine viewing and the booking form. When booking a stretch limousine for their big day, unlike an English wedding, it is not the decision of the Bride and Groom to book a stretch limousine, it is a family affair. At the viewing, there a minimum of 4-6 decision makers – mums, dads, brothers, uncles all arrive to inspect the limousine and then each try and negotiate a discount! Experience teaches us that a Punjabi wedding is never going to run to time and be a simple 12 hour hire, so we try to focus on making the family aware that additional hours will incur additional costs at an hourly charge….but the booking party always focus on a low initial price, rather than the overall booking value!
Often weddings are held in the Midlands, the North or in Scotland, and duly the booking form states a start time of 6am to leave East London. On the day, our limousine arrives at 5.50am to find a hive of activity at the wedding house, but no one is in a position to actually leave. Two hours later and various uncles and brothers start to load the limousine with various gifts, blankets and boxes of ladoos! With the trunk full, supplies are often loaded in the front of the limousines as well!
Other wedding vehicles arrive, and the fleet commence their 3-4 hour journey to the Gurdwara. Our limousine is usually accompanied by a line or Mercedes Benz and BMWs – each with personalised number plates of Sikh surnames! Behind is the bharat – two or three coaches full of brightly dressed family members and friends, with the ladies displaying an array of colour and the gents in western suits and brightly coloured turbans. One of our most memorable events at a Punjabi/Sikh wedding was on a London-Newcastle journey. Approximately 4 hours into the journey, the wedding vehicles stopped at a service station just outside Newcastle. With the ladies entering the service station to touch up and get ready for their arrival at the wedding ceremony, the gents decided to have an impromptu party in the car park of the service station – the alcohol had been flowing, and they uncovered a huge barrel like drum – the Dhol – at 10am in the morning! With one of the guys beating a fast beat on the drum, the coach-load of men decided to take start a merry dance!
In 20 years of chauffeuring, this is the only time we have witnessed a morning pre-party before the actual wedding has taken place.
Arrival at the gurdwara sees the fleet of vehicles welcomed by an equally large congregation of family and friends from either the bride or grooms side waiting outside. The meeting of two families, in the bright sunshine, outside the gurdwara takes place and the guests make their way through to the gurdwara for their tea and morning snacks. For us, it time to change in order to clean the vehicle following the motorway journey.
Within a couple of hours, the happy couple are married and our limousine transports the party to a local park for photos or onto the Hotel for the wedding reception. The alcohol certainly flows at the wedding reception, with bottles of Bacardi, Jack Daniels and Bells being consumed. Our chauffeurs are often well looked after by the family of the bride or groom, with lunch and snacks being offered aplenty. Given that we are working on the day, and driving at that, it often takes multiple refusals and apologies by our chauffeurs who try to placate an eager uncle who takes our refusal of JD or Barcadi as an insult!
After the doli ceremony at the brides house, it is usual that our chauffeurs have to inform the booking family that the hire time has been fulfilled. The journey home is on additional time, and can only start once the payment for additional time is made. For all Punjabis planning a wedding in 2013 or 2014, our advice would be to ask for the limousine to arrive at 8am rather than 6am, and take the advice of our L.A. Stretch Limos staff who can often advise that getting from London to Birmingham, with the Wedding, Reception party and Doli, it is best to book the 16 hours we advise in advance!
Overall, the Sikh/Punjabi weddings are extravagant, flamboyant and joyous affairs – with bright colours, infectiously loud music, dancing and alcohol aplenty and a fabulous array of food. With our limousines making the transport journeys as luxurious as possible, the whole event is often a great day for our chauffeurs who help to ensure the day is a memorable one for not only the bride and groom, but also for the vast array of family and friends!