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An affair to remember

The job of a wedding planner is all about creating mega memories and letting the imagination run riot, says Vandana Ramnani
By Vandana Ramnani | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 10, 2009 10:13 AM IST

Flying in giraffes and Zulu dancers from South Africa or a BMW on a chopper is child’s play for wedding planner Meher Sarid. Recreating a sheesh mahal in saadi Dilli, doing up a frosted glass theme in blue, or even launching a Bollywood extravaganza in surreal Singapore…Sarid does it all without batting an eyelid. It’s her job to create mega memories and she loves every bit of it.

This passion goes back to her childhood, when she drew inspiration from her mother, an Army wife. “I used to be her assistant, doing the handiwork at all the lovely parties she organised. The creative bit came naturally from my mom,” says Sarid.

She started her career at Hotel Hyatt Regency and then worked at the ITC Welcomgroup Maurya Sheraton Hotel and Towers, New Delhi, after getting a diploma in hotel management. Then came a specialised course in theme parties and wedding management at Les Roches Bluche in Salzburg, Vienna.

When she trained with the Hyatt Regency in Delhi in 1988, the manager there launched food festivals and Sarid got to plan her first event with a Mexican theme with cactus trees, hats, tequila-based cocktails, haystacks and brooms serving as flowers. On her return from the Austrian institute, she joined ITC’s banquet sales division where she organised country-related events. However, a great urge to travel made Sarid join Cathay Pacific and get involved with recruiting and training staff for the food and beverage service. Subsequently, she set up her own design and event management company, Sound of Music, and since then there has been no looking back. “It was difficult convincing people why they should pay for a special service like mine, what value-add I had on offer, etc. I did a party with a crystal theme way back in 1988 when nobody had heard of crystals. The greatest challenge then was to bring about a total change in people’s mindsets, train talent to meet my requirements,” says Sarid.

The first wedding she helped organise was that of an industrialist’s nephew. “The theme was Paris. We recreated the café walks of the city, built a 60-foot Eiffel Tower with a bar underneath it, called in dancers from Moulin Rouge. It was great fun,” she says.

Another wedding planner, Vandana Mohun, the formidable force behind the Priya-Vikram Chatwal wedding bash, says that the wedding planning process starts with meeting the client and then getting on to working on the look and feel of the wedding.

“We create mood boards for each function and make another presentation to the client. Once a board is chosen we go in for extensive designing and make a final presentation along with costs, fabric samples to the client.” It’s not easy. “Wedding planning is a constant learning process, we learn from our mistakes. In fact, I’m still learning,” adds Mohun.

What's it about?
A wedding planner designs a wedding, keeping in mind a client's requirements and budget. The job entails planning the ceremonies, preparing budgets, helping the client select the venue and even the trousseau. A good planner will work out a theme and design the event, the menu, the invitations and even the décor of the venue around it.

He or she also has to arrange for a priest, the entertainment, the photography, and look after the guests’ travel and accommodation needs. A planner should be imaginative — creating a Bollywood set or a sheesh mahal (glass palace) for the venue or flying down Zulu dancers or a BMW on a chopper for entertainment. Planning a large wedding can take a year or six months

Clock Work
10 am: Reach office
10.30-11.30 am: Attend meetings, brainstorm on themes and ideas during lean season
and during wedding season discuss wedding preparations.
12 noon: Meet clients, fashion designers, jewellery designers etc, to prepare for
the big day,
3 pm: Coordinate with different team members
5 pm: Visit the site if wedding venue is being done up
6 pm: Meet clients/ hold meetings
7 pm: Dress up and go to the venue and stay till the main event takes place
12 midnight: Brief staff at the venue to take care of guests and leave for home

The Payoff
The wedding planning team comprises of designers, wedding coordinators, warehouse in-charge, fabrication in-charge, operations managers, skilled craftsmen, carpenters, painters, welders, artists, florists, sound and light technicians. The outfit may have three departments — design, client relations and production.

A coordinator can earn Rs 7500 pm at the entry level. By the first year s/he can start earning Rs 12,00p pm and at the end of the third year s/he can hope to get anything like Rs 30,000-Rs 50,000 pm.

An operations manager can earn Rs 10,000 pm at the entry level and Rs 1 lakh pm subsequently.

A planner can benefit enormously from his/her own set-up. The sky is the limit where earnings are concerned then — and they can earn lakhs or even crores during the wedding season

Skills
.
A flair for organising events, an eye for colour and fashion sense
. Good communication skills, great negotiating skills, knowledge of customs and
rituals
. Good with time and space management
. Major USP is multitasking abilities

How do i get there?
You could be from any field — scriptwriting, jewellery designing, textile designing, commercial art, interior designing or for that matter from the area of hospitality or event management — anything that allows your creative juices to flow.

To begin with, you can work with an established wedding planner to gain hands-on experience before you venture out on your own

Institutes & urls
.
National Institute of Event Management, Mumbai
http://www.niemindia.com/courses.htm
. Tania-Tapel Wedding Planner Training Academy,

Mumbai
http://www.tania-tapel.com/training-academy
. Event Management Development Institute, Mumbai
http://www.emdiworld.com/india/epr_new.htm

Pros & Cons
.
The job requires extensive travel
. You get to do a lot of creative work and meet exciting people
. The money is fantastic if you are known in the industry
. It involves long hours, constant plan changes and dealing with (at times) bizarre
client requests
. Dealing with deadlines and something as huge as a wedding involves dealing with all kinds of people: From a carpenter to a nitpicky client. This can cause tremendous strain and sleepless nights

All about being innovative

One can be successful as long as one has the will power and no dearth of innovative ideas

How and when did you decide to turn wedding planner?
In 1994 when I came to Delhi, I decided to open air-conditioned floral boutiques. After these were successful I decided to plunge into the business of wedding décor. Gradually, I set up a trained team of designers and event organisers and there has been no looking back. Today, we also have an in-house logistics arm which caters to furniture, carpets, upholstery — everything that is required for a wedding. We’ve also entered into tie-ups with international designers who’ve trained our personnel in the new styles and trends of wedding decoration.

Did you have any formal qualification for this job?
No, I do not have any formal training in wedding planning. One can achieve success in this field as long as one has will power and no dearth of innovative ideas. However, it always pays if one has had formal training to handle events of this magnitude. Besides, a planner should be patient enough to be able to swim from one crisis to another.

Your advice to youngsters wanting to take it up as a profession?
It has not been an easy journey for me. I had to go through several ups and downs. Today, however, I have a brand which is known for its quality floral décor. Youngsters who wish to take up a career in this field need to be highly innovative, have an eye for detail and let their imagination run wild. They also need to have immense will power and loads of patience. One only gets better with experience.

Vikaas Gutgutia

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