Wedding planners: Runaway demand for wedding planners

This is an untapped service industry which is growing gradually and the possibilities of keeping the cash registers ringing are great for extrovert, customer service-oriented entrepreneurs
The London-based steel magnate Lakshmi Mittals daughters 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 Shahs sons wedding was staged on a replica Bollywood set; and film star Raveena Tandons ‘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, and hotel accommodation down to the flower arrangement. As a consequence, Indias 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 its cheaper to appoint wedding consultants who know suppliers who give better deals and large discounts.

ELABORATE AFFAIRS. Essentially this is a career for the versatile. Aspiring wedding planners should be hard working, extrovert, flexible, and customer service-oriented 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, self-motivation, and an ability to be prepared for any eventuality. Murphys 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 programmes 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 specially because the number of wealthy NRIs are staging weddings in India. They are ready, willing and able to hire/wedding planners to organise the big event according to their customised requirements. 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, coordinators, bridal consultants, event managers, florists, caterers, or a hotel. With some rudimentary experience, it is easier to set out on your own.

Mumbai-based Dipa Sheth and Sneha Tejwani cant 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 Mumbais 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 didnt know where to go for the various materials and services required for a wedding. Now we offer the whole package — the venue, hairstyling, food, music, hotel accommodation, clothes, and 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 then 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 diploma in institutional management, and from 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 five 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, theres no chance of either of them eloping J. Lo style with the groom.

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