One of the most important things in life for most Indians is their wedding. It is common here to marry at a quite young age and the weddings consists of a number of ceremonies and rites, so it will often last for days. One of my good friends here in Mumbai, Anita Patel, is a wedding planner. So in order to know more about weddings here I asked her a few questions.
Q: Hi Anita, you have been running your own wedding planning business here in India for some years now. How did it start?
I have been in India since 2008 as an international wedding planner and prior to that I have been planning weddings for 13 years in the UK! As a youngster I would go to weddings with my parents and attend 3-4 weddings a day at the weekend, none were very well organized, definitely didn’t know the couple in most instances and there would be 1000-2000 people coming and going throughout each wedding – it boiled down to no personalization, lot of unnecessary guests, lot of unnecessary wastage and an opportunity to eat well at weekends!
I felt there was a need to change the focus and making it about two people who were making a commitment to one another and that the guests to enjoy the shared experience of attending a wedding that was somewhat organized well. My logistical expertise came naturally and so this was a great strength to Indian families and I incorporated creativity, and focused on sit-down dinners with table plans and rsvp – creating a unique style of wedding back 15 years ago, among the masses who were having chaotic Indian weddings!
The company was voted UK’s Best Wedding Planner Award in 2008, and this was the right time to showcase our services here in India to deliver exceptional standards of service that focused on personalized attention to detail for all elements of the wedding and a sophisticated service level, which was then time managed to perfection.
Q: I have understood that it is still quite common with the arranged marriages in India, even in cities like Mumbai. Have you seen any changes in that over the years?
I have hosted both traditional arranged marriages and love marriages and marriages concepted through matrimonial sites! Its amazing how people perceive the different styles. The wedding planning can become very stressful if too many people are involved and no one is listening to each other, so communication is key.
Arranged marriages are no longer two strangers getting married, it is a channel for parents and family to introduce two eligible individuals to see if they are suited to one another. The couple themselves decide if they like each other enough to want to meet again and pursue to a marriage level – so unlike the olden days where parents found a partner for their child and they just turned up on the wedding day, this is no longer the norm.
Love marriages were frowned upon by communities for a while both in the UK and here, but people are more accepting now that society has changed and if two people have found one another themselves, it probably has the basis of some common interests that they share that can unite them for a healthy marriage. It saves all the time and trouble parents have to ask around for eligible bachelors or bachelorettes!
Q: Who is it that decides how the ceremony should be performed?
In India it still is very much a family affair and the parents, uncles and grandparents have a great deal of input into the wedding planning process.
There are traditional ceremonies in all religions and depending who you choose as your partner both sets of parents will want the blessings of their friends and family to unite the happy couple.
If the couple is a mixed marriage which consists of two different religions a discussion between families will take place whether they will do one or both ceremonies to respect each others religion if permitted. There is no right and wrong anymore – it is purely what suits you as a family and how much time you have to plan all the different events and how much time-off people from the immediate circle of relatives can get from work.
Q: Do you help to plan weddings for different religions? If so, how do you cope with the differences in rituals that the different religions require?
I have an international expertise in wedding planning which means they are smaller than what people are use to locally (the average wedding is between 100-400, though I can execute a sit down dinner for up to 800 guests through my level of experience and operational expertise). Saying that local families do appreciate the structure and co-ordination we bring to the table. We have never said No to a job based on religion, we find out more about the couple and families and see how we can incorporate both religions seamlessly for the guest experience to be exceptional.
Even back in the UK, when mixed marriages became the norm it became easier to plan and execute weddings that delivered both religions adequately for no one to question why one and not the other. I have done numerous mixed weddings over the years and have enjoyed the versatility they present – nothing is set in stone and that is the beauty of our cultures.
Q: In Christian weddings, there is a lot of fuss about the wedding dress. But it seems like the dresses in Indian weddings look quite different. Can you tell anything about the design why the dresses are like they are?
There are traditional colors associated with the Indian wedding and most brides like to conform on such an auspicious occasion.
The different styles of outfits vary around different states you will notice, so the Gujarati Hindu bride is expected to wear a panetar saree. However, a Punjabi bride is more likely to wear a two-piece shimmering lengha. A Hindu Punjabi bride will probably wear a two-piece lengha also. Yet a Sri Lankan bride will traditionally wear a white saree.
A bride regardless of anything wants to look her best on her wedding day and hence why there is so much fuss on the wedding dress, and deservingly so!
Q: How does a typical day for a wedding look like for you?
An 18-20 hour day springs to mind….up at the crack of dawn long before any of the guests, getting things ready behind the scenes to ensure everything is prim and proper by the time we are ready to start with the proceedings of the day.
It is important to take care of the bride and groom, their family and their guests throughout their entire day with us so I do keep venturing out to where the guests may be just in case they need any help with anything.
I probably have variable areas that are being used throughout the day so the work commences systematically in terms of where guests will be located first.
The discussions with vendors generally goes on for months fine tuning the requirements. The instructions are clearly given to vendors once decisions have been made with the family, at least a few weeks before the event so they understand exactly what the requirements are. Our detailed schedules and floorplans make life a lot easier on the day so we are not having to go through every fine detail on the day. They have a checklist that they can work from and I am still available to them as well if there are any glitches that occur to make decisions on behalf of the family, and having contingency plans in place should there be any issues.
I love taking care of my “family” and their guests as their overall experience will be what they take away with them, so far me it is important to create a stress-free environment where communication allows them to know where they need to be at any given time, and then for them to be wowed by what we have to present to them throughout the day!
I am normally the first to arrive and the last one to leave and so I can keep an eye on every small detail – that it is done with love and care all the way through. My passion for the job always shows through in every job I have been involved with since day one of starting my business back in 1995. Our regular testimonials and winning the Number 1 award in the UK is testament to our dedication and commitment to the industry and to the people we look after!
Q: What is the most special thing you have been asked to provide to a wedding?
Every client is special and all their needs are important. I have been involved in so many beautiful weddings over the years that I know its not about the money they spend always its also the beauty of people and the gratitude to being asked to someone’s wedding and appreciating the efforts of a family to host such an occasion.
To put on a wedding is a huge task in itself, most make it hard for themselves by not getting the right kind of help – appointing the right wedding planner will save a client a great deal of time, money, effort and stress. This is the most important thing I contribute to my clients which is invaluable.
You can find more information about Anita’s wedding planner company here
Talk to you soon!