Life is never simple and without taking risks we can never give wings to our dreams. With this as my motto I stepped beyond the regular career choices to adopt one of my own making... a career in Wedding Design and Event Planning.
Way back in the late 80s there were no courses available for this line so, being a creative person with a mind bustling with ideas, I decided to educate myself.
With this objective in mind I did hotel management, then took a flying job with Cathay Pacific. I travelled the world with Cathay and saw beautiful shops that provided wedding services under one roof, which then became my inspiration.
They provided a full blown bouquet of services: wedding outfits, wedding cakes, rings, table florals, linen supplies, furniture, ambience builders as well as entertainment.
I wanted to be the first one-stop shop for weddings, the first organised face of wedding planning in my country. I did become just that.
What India had to offer then were just the regular tentwallas and phoolwallas; if one wanted a special wedding family members would take on one aspect or other of the arrangements, making that wedding less enjoyable for those who shouldered responsibility. We had no Internet, no graphic design, no TV channels... all familiar enough today to make people understand that yes, there is so much that one can do. We never even had western flowers, only gainde ke phool, laddi of roses, marigold, and daisies.... Few people travelled abroad and overall awareness was extremely low.
When I decided to set up my company in India, the real challenge was convincing people. “Why should we hire you?” asked the people I approached for work. “It is just an extra cost’, “What can you do for us that our phoolwalla or tentwalla cannot?”
That did not deter me, as I realised that the extra edge was my concept of thematic weddings, something no one in India did at the time.
So I sat down to draw up a list of thematic concepts: Victorian, Moroccan, Japanese, Chinese, Garden of Eden, Cupid, Las Vegas. I set up a small team of artists, graduates from NIFT or NID or jewellery design schools, as interns to make professional renderings of my ideas on paper, in colour. They were gorgeous.
Now I had a product to sell. This was 1992, by then we had MTV and Channel V and people watched music videos with their exotic locations and beautiful sets. The bling and glamour era was starting to take seed.
Armed with my drawings I made the rounds of clients again, and this time they loved what they saw. They decided to pay me a small fee for the concept, which their tentwalla would implement. I was satisfied, as this was a break.
Through my first project, a Japanese Theme Wedding, I realised that the vendors I worked with made things difficult by not giving the right kind of support or quality at the end of the day.
I edged into further dialogue with these clients and suggested that they design their outfits to match the theme, make cards to match as per my drawings and soon, like the camel in the desert, I managed to completely occupy their tent!
Iinvited a dance troupe from Japan to perform a musical, quite unheard of then, got a salad bar to serve sushi & sashimi, added some main course items like teriyaki chicken. I even did a bridal entry in a Japanese art form.
At the end of it all I was complimented, talked about, written about by the press and voila! I was flooded with orders.
When I worked there was no day or night, and weddings took place day after day. I had no time either for myself or for my husband, and barely had any time with my two little babies. I had to eventually send my children to a boarding school, another big compromise.
To achieve a quality product I decided to set up my own production unit and florist team. I introduced cut flowers and huge western arrangements at weddings, something different again. I did wedding cards, introduced stylised trousseau packaging, gifting with cards, jewellery coordination.And realised that innovation can never stop and that you are only as good as your last job!
Today one can’t imagine a wedding without a wedding planner, there are schools that educate you in event management, and it’s a career option – that’s my contribution!