A Grooms Guide to Planning and Executing an Indian Destination Wedding
Ok so you’ve taken the plunge, you’re engaged to the love of your life and you’ve both decided to do your wedding abroad — brilliant! Now what?
Firstly I know what you’re thinking — what does a guy know about wedding planning anyway? Well in the beginning, absolutely nothing at all! I thought I’d write this post to share the experience and fun (would you believe it?) I had being directly involved in a process that typically is ‘owned’ by the bride to be and how I ended up heavily involved in it one way or another.
My fiancé Vanisha and I very early on decided we wanted a destination wedding, for a number of reasons besides being awesome, we had an objective, we wanted all our of guests both friends and family to actually become a family, strengthening relationships that can really only happen when you’re on a holiday together, and with only 50 guests this was a real possibility. After drafting a ball park budget (note: be prepared for this to grow and allow for at least a 20% contingency!) We choose have our wedding over Christmas in order to escape the cold, wet London winter and with the added benefit of most guests having time off. Next we looked at destinations, we both love Asia and after a bit of research we quickly decided on the beautiful Island of Samui, Thailand.
Personally, I had only ever attended a dozen weddings, but Vanisha had attended over one hundred! Given my major lack of wedding experience / attendance as is typical for most of the Asian grooms I knew, the whole wedding planning process typically fell with the bride because she gets it. I was only too happy to follow this tradition and to an extent so was Vanisha and then something happened. Vanisha suddenly became immensely busy at work…
Typically in this scenario the bride’s family would step in and start to help, but we had both decided we wanted to do a destination wedding so how do we proceed? Sure they could still help but there is only so much they could do. Which meant I would have to get involved, me — who knew nothing about weddings or Indian weddings for that matter! We both knew we needed a planner, but where and how would I start?
I became slightly overwhelmed with the task at hand. It then suddenly hit me, I can do this — how? By handling it like any other large scale project I’ve run before, only this time I had to get as much ‘domain’ knowledge as possible and then de-risk it further as best as I could by surrounding myself with a team of experts.
I began to Google around to find local event planners and started to short-list a few firms to reach out to. After writing to them to send over our top-level brief it turned out whilst they could produce a wedding, none of them had real experience with Indian weddings. Vanisha said that this would be okay as she would have that covered but given her busy schedule I thought this would be too high-risk so I needed another strategy.
I took a break from researching planners and started to look at other elements, namely photography and videography. Being a destination wedding we realised the importance of getting to know your creative team personally, in order for them to understand you and really capture your best moments. If not, it doesn’t matter how technically brilliant they are, your pictures and video will simply turn out mediocre. Furthermore we needed a team that had both destination and Indian wedding coverage experience.
Given our travel schedules for the year this limited down our scope to teams in either London, Thailand or India. Vanisha contacted teams in London whilst I started to look at Asia. It was then that I came across the photographer, Joseph Radhik and our Videographer, Vishal Punjabi ‘The Wedding Filmer’ both of whom are based out of Mumbai, will travel the world and we cannot recommend them highly enough!
After a bit of back and forth with Joseph, I asked him to recommend some Indian wedding planners for which he sent over a short list. One of whom was the young and incredibly talented Devika Narain. She offered something that I didn’t know existed but desperately needed — Wedding Consultancy.
Essentially Devika was not only able to design and plan our wedding but also school me on the ins and outs of an Indian wedding; something that Vanisha would have done had she had the time. I knew we had to hire her straight away but when I explained this to Vanisha she still didn’t understand the need for an Indian wedding consultant. I told her to trust me and immediately arranged a meeting between her and Vanisha whilst she was wedding shopping in Mumbai. Vanisha fell in love with her portfolio (I knew she would!) and quickly understood why we needed someone like Devika in our team. A wedding consultant not only helps with the planning, but can bring fresh, original ideas to maximise your guest experience. Vanisha shared her Pinterest board of what she loved and Devika developed it futher and ran with it.
The next step was to find a local production company that could work with Devika to build out her designs. The local producers, Devika and us spent a week together in Thailand in July carrying out various site inspections, supplier visits and meetings. Just when I thought this was going to be plain sailing we realised the original company we sourced couldn’t perform to our expectations, we were presented with limited venue options, high supplier pricing and no justification. We felt badly let down and had to let them go — something you should be prepared to do.
Fortunately I was prepared for project risks, it’s always a good idea to have a few supplier leads on the boil as you never know when they might come in handy. One of those leads was Chat Limapant of BLISS Events and production freelancer Hattaya Laemsamoot; both of whom were more than happy to work with an external wedding consultant and could meet at short notice (most firms insisted on a turnkey event, even though they lacked Indian wedding expertise). They both worked tirelessly for Devika to deliver our wedding.
Thirdly, build out a solid creative A-Team. Happily for us Devika, Joseph and Vishal had worked together in various capacities over a number of years. This meant they already had a great working relationship and synergy which took the pressure off even more. By this stage you should have built a relationship with your team so trust them with the creative freedom to do what they do best.
Next we had to sort the stationary, luckily a dear friend of mine from Delhi runs the print and design company. DhruvCo did such a fantastic job for us. Friends, family and clients alike were all impressed and I encourage you to check out their work.
Tools of the trade
Now you need the right tools — I decided early on this was going to be run like any other project I’ve been responsible for, below is what we used.
- Google Apps — As a Google Apps partner this was a no-brainer for us, we’re used to rolling this out for hundreds of users and we know how powerful this is for realtime collaboration. Devika also agreed and we used this to manage the budget and design ideas.
I registered a new domain for the event (tip: keep the domain generic e.g gopalandvanisha.com instead of gopalwedsvanisha.com, that way you can re-use the domain for any other events you may wish to hold or promote). Secondly, I provisioned a new mailbox for the wedding planner to use to manage the RSVP’s and general communication with guests before and during the event.
- Smartsheet.com — A great spreadsheet like tool for realtime task management, very easy learning curve and will keep everyone in sync with the project status, essential when operating across timezones.
- WedPics App — Excellent way to collate the private wedding related pictures from all the guests into one shared album (even for those who could not make it), with the added functionality of event management. This proved invaluable for our last event given the unexpected storms in Samui, all guests were told to check the app for a real time event schedule as Devika and her team were regularly updating the timings based on hourly forecasts.
- WhatsApp — This worked really effectively having all our guests in one big WhatsApp group over the event and also encouraged random banter. Additionally it had the added bonus of keeping everyone in touch even after the wedding as guests returned to their various homes all over the world. (Note: this may not suit all weddings, particularly if your group size is larger than 100 guests as this is a current technical limitation of WhatsApp).
- Ustream — We wanted to do our best to ensure friends and family at home and elsewhere that could not make the wedding still feel part of the experience so we streamed the wedding live using this app and an iPhone. Very easy to do and very effective (we did have a few bandwidth glitches with our venue but this was forgiven)
Additionally my team at CloudHance built our wedding website and also setup a unique realtime social media wall to colate and collage guest post hashtags from across all networks into a virtual guestbook.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer couples — is be open-minded. It can be hard to delegate something so important to someone else, but this is a mammoth task, with lots of plates to spin and if you’ve not done it before, could go very wrong. This is something I say to new clients all the time if they are attempting to handle a large IT project, in-house, without a proven team.
You wouldn’t build a house without an architect, yet after buying your home a wedding is probably one of the biggest expenses of your life. More and more couples today are either choosing to or simply have to pay for all if not the majority of their wedding, yet it’s amazing how little consideration is given to planning and design. Recognise what you can and cannot do and take advice where appropriate, in this case a wedding consultant, to bring you up to speed on what it takes to deliver a successful wedding. They‘ll either become your planner or help you select the ideal planner and designer to realise your vision and to de-risk as much as possible.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”Alan Lakein
“That’s all very well, but I haven't budgeted for a planner!” I hear you cry. However, it’s really important to recognise the value of your own time, don’t underestimate the enormity of the task and in actual fact a planner is lot more affordable than you think and most probably cheaper than your time, on a per hourly basis. Additionally a good planner will likely cover their cost in the supplier negotiations alone so essentially it won’t really cost you anything at all. I recommend you choose a planner that will deliver for a fixed fee for their time and will purchase wedding supplies at cost, not operate as a flat percentage of your overall wedding budget. This was a major saving for us as Devika managed to source and bring with her lots of decor and other related items to the wedding from India.
Even if you’re planning your Indian wedding locally I would still recommend hiring your designer from India. From my experience this is the only way you will get the truly unique and contemporary wedding you’ve been looking for, by having access to a wealth of experience from a broader cross section of Indian culture.
Lastly — don’t forget to breathe and relax; it’s your wedding. Be prepared to expect the unexpected. Carry a ‘roll with it’ attitude and you’ll be fine. Your guests will have a fantastic time and most importantly your fiancé will be incredibly grateful for you getting involved.
I’m happy to share any other insights— just get in touch.☺
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CloudHance.com is a London based Google Apps Partner, communications, infrastructure, web design, app and business intelligence provider.