Monday, 8 April 2013

Wedding Planners (Deccan Herald, August 2011) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/174901/they-say-we-do.html


They say, “We do”

Trends
Juanita Kakoty traces the growing popularity of wedding planners in making weddings memorable experiences.
The first time I came across a big fat Indian wedding was at Bangalore, in the winter of 2006.

Along with a couple of friends, I had taken a taxi from the Bangalore Railway Station to the Koramangala Club where the bride’s family had arranged accommodation for us.

That was the second ‘awe’ moment — the magnificent club and the royalty with which each one of us were treated. The first ‘awe’ moment was the invitation card that reached my pigeon box in the hostel at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

It looked like four designer swatches in one envelope, each swatch declaring a ritual and venue with timings. This designer invitation in hand, in case we needed directions on the way, never mind the already stationed mini traveller van at our disposal, we reached the bride’s house just in time for the pre-wedding puja. My friend, the bride, a pretty Koluru woman, looked her lovely self in an off-white sari with maroon and gold border. She wore lovely fragrant flowers in her hair and lots of gold.

From there, we were taken to the Crowne Plaza at the Electronic City for an evening of drinks and dinner. Cocktails flowed like from a great never-ending fountain and the young and old alike made the most of it!

There was live local music to set the mood which slowly gave way to North Indian Punjabi beats as well as Bollywood popular music so as to regale guests who had come all the way from the northern part of the country. This occasion doubled up as a sangeet ceremony too — a North Indian trend catching up in the South.

Some ladies were applying mehendi on whoever was interested (an excited British male friend got designs made on both his palms); and there were a lot of bangles and kumkum given away as ‘auspicious tokens’ in aesthetic pouches, much to the delight of female guests.   

Early next morning, we returned to the house for the wedding, which was a mix of local South Indian and Bihari customs. The groom was from Bihar. After the wedding, all the guests were treated to an awesome platter of local food, after which, in the evening, we were taken to the Crowne Plaza, yet again, for the reception. And it was a repeat of the earlier evening — food, drinks, music and dance — all arranged in impeccable style.

We left the next day, but the wedding celebrations continued. The reception for who’s who happened a few days after, attended by big names from all over the state. To ensure smooth operations, the wedding reception was conducted twice — first for family and friends, and then for all professional contacts of the parents of the bride.

Her busy parents had used the services of ‘wedding planners’ to design the week-long wedding rituals and customs. This, when my other South Indian friends tell me that even now, in 2011, weddings back home are generally very simple, major expenses being food (which does not include drinks), jewellery and wedding gifts.

The second time I attended a grand wedding was in 2007, at a farmhouse in New Delhi. The huge expanse of open land, beautifully done up with lights and flowers in white and blue, was filled with people. As far as eyes could see, the land continued and so did the crowd of people in that vastness.

The buffet ran quite a stretch and displayed cuisines from all over: Mughlai, Chinese, Italian, Thai and South Indian; all this besides the various vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters and drinks. In the dizziness of good food and drinks, I completely forgot about the bride and the groom. But yes, now that I remember, they wore elegant regal attires. Like out of a movie on India’s royalty.

Around 2007, I also attended my first ‘mega’ wedding in Guwahati, where weddings are mostly simple affairs. There was a mehendi and sangeet ceremony with drinks and dinner afloat the River Brahmaputra on Jalporee, the floating restaurant that was booked by the bride’s family for the entire evening.

The wedding and reception took place at one of the high-end hotels in the city amidst Punjabi and popular Bollywood music; and two days after, the bride and groom’s families flew to Delhi for another reception at the posh Tivoli Gardens, a privilege for friends and professional contacts who couldn’t make it to the wedding at Guwahati. And throughout the wedding, what caught my attention was that the traditional mekhela-sador had given way to sarees; and even those youngsters who wore mekhela-sador had their attires designed not in traditional weaves and patterns, but in zardosi embroidery; not in pat or muga silk, but chiffon, organza, etc.

Ever since, every time I have been to a wedding, be it in the north, south, east or west of the country, the setting has been distinctly ‘Bollywood’. Ceremonies have happened like they happen in films. And ‘grand’ is the buzzword for weddings today, if you have the money to afford the style that is.

Gone are the days when the country’s prime minister’s daughter used to have a low-key affair. The obvious reference here is to Indira Gandhi whose wedding saree was made from yarn spun by her father Jawaharlal Nehru. Today, there is an emerging clan of wedding planners co-ordinating not only the dresses of the bride and the groom, but also taking care of every other detail.

Emerging trend
“Marriages are a once a lifetime affairs. Everybody wants it to be the most special occasion of their lives. This is where we come in. Our task is to provide the dream wedding that our clients ask for; and this demands a lot of attention to detail,” says Puja Gidwani, a wedding planner based in Mumbai.

Wedding planners are doing good business in the cities and metros of India. As the film Band Baja Baraat depicts, ‘wedding planners’ are much in demand today and they are raking in good money too. As Shruti, the lead character in the film says, “Wedding planners never go out of business. Come recession or what may, people will get married. People will spend on marriages!”

Style and convenience have become the ‘mantra’ around weddings today. A friend, son of an ex-professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, arranged his marriage reception at a fort in Rajasthan after he exchanged vows with his wife at a posh venue in Delhi Cantonment. The whole entourage went to the venue in a deluxe bus for a few days of letting one’s hair down. Nobody had to break one’s head over getting things together. 

The groom’s friend, who was just getting into the new and emerging profession of ‘wedding planning’, took charge of everything from getting the decorations done to food, music, booking for rooms, etc. This happened some five-six years ago. Today, when I check the internet for wedding planners in Delhi, I see a long list and various options — marriage at beaches, forts, palaces, etc.

This has been the trend even in Mumbai. “There is a lot of demand for destination weddings in dream locations. Most metro cities are too cramped for space and don’t have a dream location. So holiday destinations become a huge attraction, which become a site for the wedding as well as offer a good break from the regular rigours of life.

Many couples from Mumbai opt for Kulu-Manali, Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan for their wedding venues. These are mostly small affairs and only families and close friends are invited to these weddings,” reveals Gidwani. And when I ask her about other dream destinations, she quickly adds, “International destinations are quite a craze too. Dubai, Pattaya and Venice are a huge favourite!”

There is another interesting trend emerging in India — marriages conducted in customs specific to other cultures. “Very recently,” says Gidwani, “We managed a wedding where a Marathi couple got married according to Malayali customs in the backwaters of Kerala.” And then, when I ask her if wedding planners are only for the upper classes, she says, “We cater to all classes of people. The idea is to give somebody a perfect wedding, irrespective of their class. Besides, we only charge a fee for our services. Clients make payments to all vendors directly.”

There are wedding planners, however, that are meant only for a niche category of people. Garima Kumar, who has been in the business of wedding planning for over eight years now, says, “When we started, people were hesitant to hire us because till then families arranged weddings. The mindset did not allow wedding planning to be viewed as a professional task. Therefore, we arranged destination weddings in India for NRIs who came back to the country for their weddings. In the initial years, we did one wedding a month at palaces in Rajasthan, at the backwaters of Kerala, and by the beaches of Goa. Over the years, however, the interest in wedding planning has grown manifold. As people become increasingly hard-pressed for time, they prefer professional help for booking vendors, doing the decors, etc. Thus, mindsets have changed tremendously.” 

One can make a fairly good guess of how wedding planning as a profession is flourishing from Garima’s words, who is currently negotiating with 7-8 clients planning destination weddings in 2013-15.

“Today, we do 5-7 weddings a month. But one team takes up only one wedding at a time to ensure the highest possible degree of satisfaction for clients. Wedding planning as a professional field is gaining acceptance in India and a lot of such companies are mushrooming. We receive applications from a good number of college graduates every year for job placements with us. This is promising, but we recruit only those young people who have their heart and soul in it. Wedding planners have to draw from experience, and give every wedding a personal touch. They have to be as interested in the wedding as the clients! Only then can we gain trust in the market. And this business is all about trust.”

“Grand weddings are in vogue now. This trend started some two years ago where about 100 people, mostly close family and friends, attend the wedding. They are taken to a holiday destination for three-four days of celebrations, for a lifetime of memorable experience.” The Indian wedding scenario is definitely changing. Weddings in India are increasingly being organised with panache; and it would perhaps do good to keep in mind that value comes with a price.

3 comments:

  1. hi.good write up!!thanks for sharing the post.make your wedding more memorable with sankar live music wedding events.sankar is one of the best singers in bangalore.he performed many corporate events like INTEL, IBM,Centum Electronics, Wipro, Accenture, TATA Group, Karle and many more..

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