Preety Patel, a resident of Wilmington, is the only Indian wedding decorator in North Carolina and her services are in big demand especially during the busy Indian wedding season.
Until about 25 years ago, many Indians living in America returned home to have their wedding ceremony. But having the convenience of priests and decorators like Patel living in the US has allowed many couples to get married in typical Indian tradition, without even leaving American shores.
Patel's business is booming, with clients from Ohio to Florida. In 2005, she did three weddings and last year 15. As the growing research and medical fields in North Carolina bring more Indian workers to the state, the need for her services has increased, according to the local community StarnewsOnline.
"For each wedding, I can't have preconceived notions of what they want. Some couples desire lavish ornamentation and rituals," Patel said.
Most modern Hindu weddings cost $50,000 to $100,000. Patel charges $1,000 to $5,000 for her services.
"The food in an Indian wedding is the most important thing," Patel's husband Vijay said. "It's what people will remember forever."
For many Indian weddings, elaborate decor and food are "more of a status thing", Patel said.
To run such a specialised business, Patel has two storage units packed floor-to-ceiling with the 'mandaps'; plastic storage bins of silk and satin fabrics; a Ganesh statue; a padded silk saddle for a white horse used for the groom; a fire pit, and a padded swing for the bride and groom to lounge on at the reception, all imported from India.