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Runaway demand for wedding planners

This is an untapped service industry which is growing gradually and the possibilities of extroverted customer service-oriented self-starters with an eye for detail keeping the cash registers ringing are great

he London-based steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter’s wedding venue was the grand Versailles Palace, Paris and featured an international guest list, complete with elaborate soirees stretched over a week; film producer and diamond tycoon Bharat Shah’s son’s wedding was staged on a replica Bollywood set; film star Raveena Tandon’s ‘royal wedding’ vows were exchanged in a palace in the deserts of Rajasthan. In post-liberalisation India with the middle class expanding exponentially, weddings are becoming elaborate, rocking affairs. But as they become page three big ticket events they have to be minutely planned — from guest lists, invitations, transportation, hotel accommodation down to the flower arrangement. As a consequence, India’s ages old but informal wedding industry has given birth to a new and offbeat career — the wedding planner.

The demand for wedding planners — with or without J Lo looks and charm — is rising because even the middle class is beginning to require their services. As families become nuclear, weddings are becoming more elaborate and parents, usually working couples, have little time or energy to plan and deliver wacky, zany weddings. They are beginning to discover that it’s cheaper to appoint wedding consultants who know suppliers who give better deals and large discounts.

Essentially this is a career for the versatile. Aspiring wedding planners should be hard-working, extroverted, flexible, customer service-oriented self-starters, with a meticulous eye for detail. A study of the history, geography and rituals of major religions and linguistic communities would certainly help because weddings can be elaborate affairs, lasting from two days to a fortnight depending upon the customs of castes, communities and religions. A wedding planner is expected to have high energy levels and self-motivation and should be prepared for any eventuality. Murphy’s law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) operates with particular vehemence in India.

In terms of formal education qualifications, a graduate degree and some work experience are adequate. Currently there are no specialised study progra-mmes on this particular subject. Those insistent on formal training can either go abroad for specialist programmes in the field or sign up for hotel management, event management or floral arrangement courses. The best way to excel in the wedding biz is to work in different capabilities in the hospitality industry and gather a variety of skills, talents and knowledge. An additional degree or diploma in business or event management will certainly stand you in good stead while promoting a start-up or even if you want to work for an established wedding planner.

Career prospects are good. This is an untapped industry which is gradually growing and the possibilities of keeping the cash registers ringing are great. The best way to start is to apprentice with wedding planners, co-ordinators, bridal consultants, event managers, florists, caterers or a hotel. With some rudimentary experience, it is easier to set out on your own.

Sheth (left) & Tejwani: growing lists
Mumbai-based Dipa Sheth and Sneha Tejwani can’t seem to have enough of weddings, as planning these big events is their vocation. They operate under the name and style of Occasionz Unlimited from a small office in Mumbai’s Parel area. The idea of launching Ocassionz Unlimited came from abroad where such services are common. The concept was — and still is — new to India.

The partners discern a great future as nuclear families increasingly find it a formidable task to organise weddings. "The concept is very western. In India people still wonder how outsiders can handle the money spent on a wedding. We started with an NRI client who didn’t know where to go for the various materials and services required for a wedding. Now we offer the whole package — the venue, hair styling, food, music, hotel accommodation, clothes, the works," says Sheth, adding that their clientele is not limited to the rich and famous. They offer weddings from Rs.2 lakh upwards.

Their fees come from the savings clients make from caterers, marriage halls, decorators etc. "Since we deal regularly with vendors we get good discounts and special prices. These savings are passed on to clients. The money we save for clients pays for our bill," explains Sheth, an MBA from Los Angeles, USA, who returned to India in 1990, worked for the Times of India group as a systems analyst and in a firm of chartered accountants as management consultant. Tejwani has read home science at Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai, with nutrition as her specialisation. She also has diplomas in institutional management, and the hospitality and catering industries.

According to the duo the prime attraction of this interesting new profession is the flexibility it offers. "With families to look after, and young children, not being stuck to a 10-6 office routine has its advantages. We set our own pace in a creativity-driven vocation," says Tejwani.

Now three years into this business, Occassionz offers the whole gamut of wedding services from mehendi, engagements, sangeet, cocktails and theme functions. It also has a growing list of caterers, decorators, florists, videographers, beauticians and obliging hotel managements. "Whether you need entertainers such as DJs, singers and dancers or designers and printers of invitation cards, travel arrangements for the wedding parties or choosing the trousseau, we are ready, willing and able," says Sheth.

And since they are both happily married, there’s no chance of either of them, eloping J Lo style with the groom.

Indra Gidwani

2547 Views  | Posted on:March 2005 Add Comment  Show Comments (0)