The role of a wedding planner includes all aspects of the day – from clothing and flowers, to venues for ceremony and reception, to food, drink and entertainment, and can even include arranging accommodation, comforts and facilities for wedding guests.
Here Deepak Mundada, Operations Head, Bandhan Weddings, talks to A. Radhakrihnan about the business of planning Indian weddings.
How did you end up in this business?
Born and raised in a business family, I had a knack for it since childhood. Academically though not a really bright student, I managed to complete my engineering from the esteemed College of Engineering, Pune.
But I always obsessed about all kinds of business ideas. I even used to joke about starting a Pan Stall, but never desired a corporate job. However, after graduation, I got placed with HSBC Software and worked with them for 4 ½ years. But as they say ‘Old habits die hard’; so I yearned to do business of some kind.
After weighing my dreams v/s my fears, I finally resigned, and trained with a relative who had a catering business. Six months into the training, a contract we acquired helped me set up my own catering business. Almost 1 1/2 years into it, I thought of going the next mile. That was the time when I met Darshan Somani, a good friend and one of the renowned personalities in the world of Wedding Management and Décor. Interacting with him, I realised what I wanted to explore. That’s how it all started in the month of November 2013.
How long has your company been in business?
Bandhan by Darshan Somani or ‘Bandhan Weddings’ has been in the business for the past 11 years. Started as a two-man show, we are now a team of 12. We rose from doing a couple of events in one year, to doing almost 30-40 big budget weddings. We are incidentally empanelled decorators with JW Marriott, RITZ Carlton, Sheraton Grand, Corinthains Resort and Spa, to name a few.
How many weddings have you planned so far?
We have planned more than 200 weddings in the past 11 years. We believe in adding personal touch to the event and that’s why we work only on maximum two weddings on any given day. Average size of the wedding is 300 to 400 guests, with an approximate budget of 30 to 40 lacs.
What are your different wedding packages?
We don’t work on package deals. We customise every bit of detail for every client, and that is our USP.
What challenges have you faced with weddings in the past and how did you deal with them?
Natural calamity like rain is one of the major challenges. Having a backup plan with a good team, ready to work under any circumstances helps us deal with these obstacles efficiently. Another challenge we face is vendors and artists not reaching on time or cancelling. To overcome that, we ensure a good rapport with our client and work with a good network of vendors.
Every time we are out on the field, it is like fire fighting, as lot of things are being done for the first time. Also, each venue is different in every aspect and keeps us on our toes and ready to fight.
Does it make sense to hire a professional wedding planner at an added cost?
Absolutely! As we always say, in India weddings are a big deal, especially for parents. It happens once in a lifetime and couples weave beautiful dreams of their special day. With professional help, you can save a lot of time, reduce stress, and enjoy wholeheartedly, without running around behind people to get things done.
What was your most unique wedding?
Every wedding is unique in its own way. We were once doing a post wedding event in Bangkok. It was a good time handling the vendors, managing the artists flown in from India, co-ordinating with a local event company, and working with the hotel team who had a different style of working. It is always fun to work in such a diverse setup.
The first event experience is always special, and mine was filled with lot of surprises. Lot of rain, changing of venue, moving artists from one venue to another – and all of this happening in the course of one hour.
What sort of services do you offer? Do you have everything in-house?
The services we offer range from planning to executing the event, or as we call it Sagai to Bidai. While we do provide an a la carte option, we always try to conduct the whole process, as it helps the host relax and enjoy the wedding.
But we don’t have everything in-house like light, sound, genset, etc., the reason being it requires a huge investment, maintenance and cannot be done single handedly. It is difficult to keep pace with constantly changing technical aspects and arduous to find and maintain the technical manpower required. All in all, it is good to do what we are best at and leave the rest in the hands of the best from the industry.
Do you do destination weddings?
We do specialise in destination weddings. We have done weddings pan India. To name a few, the prime cities we have covered are Chennai, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Pune. Internationally, we have done a destination wedding in Bangkok, Thailand.
Are weddings the only main events you plan? Why not other events?
Yes, we specialise only in weddings. Every year, working for almost six to seven months for events, it becomes really difficult for us to balance our personal and work life and health. Also, we are a people’s company. It’s easy for us to connect and work efficiently with families more than corporates.
Do you create a timeline that tells everyone involved in the planning process what and when to do something?
Yes, once we are finalised as a planner, we create a schedule which covers all aspects of the wedding, right from invitation cards to caterers to trousseau. The regular meetings are to keep a track of what is happening and also to speed up the things.
Who to you is your ideal client? Your experiences?
There is no framework. In fact, the beauty of this whole process is that every client is unique. The experience with every client is what we cherish for a lifetime. One experience I can recall is where after the event, the entire family thanked our team for the work we did. In another instance, one of the clients came down all the way to Pune after the wedding to meet the entire team with special gifts for every one and also treated us to a lovely dinner.
More than the couple, it is the feedback from their parents that makes our day. In fact, our business runs mostly on references rather than ads or any other social media promotions. It is the word of mouth which has helped us to grow into a respected company in the field of event management.
How do payments work? What is your fee?
We are very flexible in payments. We create a schedule for the payment and also give a timeframe; so the host has sufficient time to arrange for the funds. We mostly do it by cheque and a little bit by cash. Fee depends on the amount of work and the team required.
Can you help one stay on budget?
We respect everyone’s budget and as we say, no budget is small or big. In fact, we try to reduce the budget wherever possible. It is more of how comfortable and confident the client is working with us.
What is your cancellation policy?
This is quite a rare instance. But if the situation arises, we are ready to give the entire amount back, excluding any amounts that we might have given in advance to any agency.
What’s your secret for staying calm under pressure, and how do you deal with a day of disasters?
There’s no secret as such; just experience which says that the calmer we are, the easier it is to handle a situation.
Do you show examples from your portfolio of weddings with a similar style to the clients?
Yes, we always share our recent work with the client. But it is just to show the style of work. We try to create a new experience and style for every client.
What is your message to others wanting to take wedding planning as a profession?
It’s a long walk up the hill. You will have to create a good trust for yourself to go up the path. To create an unshakable brand; be honest to the profession and to the clients.
Any other interesting details?
I always dreamed of reaching out to maximum people and also meeting new people. Answering these questions today makes me feel like I have been successful in achieving some of it.