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Planning a grand wedding


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Event managementToday one does not need to supervise each and every aspect of a marriage in the family. Just write a check and unburden yourself of the nitty-gritty of the arrangements, leaving the family to enjoy every moment of the event.

Marriages might be made in heaven, but creating the celebrations here on Earth is a booming business, especially in the United States, which has seen event managers flourish by taking on all the responsibilities of arranging a wedding.

Given that the most common complaint from parents of Indian brides and grooms is, “Loads of money but too little time to plan,” it makes sense to use event managers to organize the wedding ceremony. For a fee, they plan the entire marriage - from the bridal wear and jewelry to the décor, music, food, invitations and even transportation. It is the ideal solution for parents looking to pack away their headaches while ensuring the highest quality services and savings in the form of cheaper rates at wedding halls and catering services thanks to the contacts that event planners maintain.

At one time, an event planner was a luxury that only the rich could afford. But it isn’t a rich man’s game anymore. “People with budgets as low as $20,000 are opting for event planners to manage the event. Last year, we did 30 weddings, we have about 60 bookings now and are still only in May. With another seven months to go we could well enter the three-figure mark,” says Samir Qureshi of WeddingGurus.com, an event planner in the New Jersey area, who also believes that Christian marriages would be the inthing in future.

The immediate question is how much does an event manage cost to plan a wedding? “Anything between $30,000 to $100,000,” says Jyoti Soni of Celebrations! Decorators and Coordinators, in the business for the last seven years. These costs do not include bridal finery, dresses, or banquet hall rentals. Soni offers the following cost breakdown as an example: “Lunch and dinner would go to $100 per person.

On an average Indian weddings have about 400 guests.” It was Soni who managed the wedding of the Minnesota State Senator, Satveer Chaudhary. A close look at the industry would reveal that the wedding cake would cost up to $1,000, another $1,000 for a DJ and anything between $500-1000 for transport services.

With a Diaspora of over 1.2 million Indians to the United States, one could easily come across several weddings on a weekend, adding up to competition for space and resources. “During such times, banquet halls and flowers are at a premium” adds Qureshi of WeddingGurus.com. “A traditional wedding with all the works could still cost about $60,000,” Samir notes, adding that the high costs are often largely due to elaborate rituals.

This does not mean that one cannot marry without being extravagant; there are cheaper ceremonies available for the more frugal couples. “Kick out a brand-name hotel like a Ramada or Marriot, cut out the alcohol, and one could reduce expenses by $30,000,” suggests Qureshi, who helps plan wedding budgets and events. “The catch is,” he adds, “that people do not cut corners on events like sangeet, garba, and henna, which often take away more of the financial and manpower resources than the actual wedding itself.”

So what is in vogue when it comes to décor? “One could spend anywhere between $2,000 to $8,000 on the mandap itself. A lot depends on the flowers used and the season when the wedding is held. A décor with minimum frills could cost up to $2,000 whereas costly roses and lilies could jack up the budget by another $8,000. “The practice is to decorate the aisle, center pieces, and the buffet table,” says Sobia Qureshi. “We might even decorate the buffet table with petals. But, everything costs dollars.”

Cost may be one factor all ceremonies have in common, but one unique thing that Anil Gupta of San Jose has noticed is that there is sometimes a clear-cut difference of opinion amongst the parents and the couple who are getting married “People who grew up in the US are increasingly preferring sit-out dinners, and not the buffet style,” Gupta explained. “Interfaith weddings could be a reason for this change of heart,” he suggests. His clients seem to prefer the occasion to be one to remember and not one where guests were left standing in line for food. “Second generation Indian Americans are particular about having a unique concept and do not care whether it fails to match up to their parents’ social status,” he concludes.

But creativity is the keyword. There are people who research for party favors, with a reasonable favor costing around $15, but, with more research and planning, it could shrink to as little as $5. “We planned in advance and gave away goodies from India,” says Debjani, who got married recently.

Another recent groom noted, “I did not have the time and had a limited budget. So, all I did was write a check, and the event planners took care of the wedding. We found that when we directly approached the service providers, the costs were higher. But, when we directed it through an event manager, the costs came down by 25%,” he adds.

Given the apparent flexibility in costs, it’s hard not to wonder if this causes competition among the existing players and if there is room for more players. Opinions differ, as some feel that, with more Indians moving into the United States and more interfaith marriages, the boom time could just be starting. “We have a whole lot of vendors, and we work based on their availability and budgets,” says Qureshi, an advocate of the idea that event managers are not just for the rich and famous. “We manage the event, make connections, and plan every detail for the client.”

The connections Qureshi speaks of are with mainstream hotels, service providers, and vendors, often serving as the event manager’s most valuable asset. They use those connections to help bring costs down for their client and add value to their overall service. Everything boils down to budget.

Qureshi knows that all too well, declaring, “The community, word of mouth, and advertisements help us. And there are a lot of interfaith weddings that give us leads and may offer a new platform.”

Event managers give the family a hassle free experience ensuring that the marriage is an occasion to remember. This fact seems to be borne by most people DMM spoke to, as they felt that event managers were here to stay. “I found that they add a professional touch to the celebration besides reducing headaches related to coordination,” says Rashi Shyam of Haseen Events. “However, their biggest role is that of an ambassador between the bride and groom’s families.”

Bridging two families? Any event planner that can pull off that delicate task is a true asset to any marriage indeed.

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