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Want to be a wedding planner?

Yusuf Begg | August 17, 2004

Do you want to get your daughter married in a tapovan? Or have her walk down from the heavens straight to the mandap?

Oh yes, you can also have a Niagara-type waterfall as a backdrop to the rituals. Or get the groom to reach the bride's house in a chopper?

Flights of fancy? Sure, and possible too -- just get in touch with a wedding planner. He/she will deliver.

"Wedding planners are professionals who offer a range of services under one roof," says New Delhi-based Vikaas Gutgutia, managing director, Ferns 'n' Petals.

The company started as flower retailers but moved into wedding planning a few years back. Says Meher Sarid, director (themes and concepts), Sound of Music, another capital-based entity: "We provide our customers with everything that a wedding needs -- right from the pre-wedding events to sending "thank you letters" after the ceremony is over. Our USP is to provide a hassle-free wedding to our customers."

Wedding planners take charge of a wedding. And that means planning and executing all functions, selecting venues, designing and sending invitation cards, decorating the venue (and that includes lighting, landscaping, music, etc), catering, entertainment.

Basically these professionals take over the management of a wedding leaving the host to have time to enjoy. "The trend started around 2000," says Jai Raj Gupta, chief executive officer, Shaadionline, the Internet-based matchmaker.

"It sort of coincided with the rise in the disposable incomes of the rich and upper middle class Indians. And over the years weddings have become aspirational. Your wedding should be better than your neighbour's."

The recent spate of wedding exhibitions such as Bridal Asia and Vivaha have helped focusing the attention on getting in professionals to manage weddings.

Most wedding planners agree that their industry is still disorganised. The figures for the Indian wedding industry vary between Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 50,000 crore. Aspirants do not need any professional degrees/diplomas to become a wedding planner.

Working under a wedding planner and then branching off is the only way. The problem is worsened with every tentwallah and decorator calling himself a wedding planner.

Very few wedding planners disclose their real income. The problem is partly because their customers do not disclose the exact sum they spend on their daughter's or son's wedding. Charges vary.

Sarid's rates are around Rs 50,000 for designing a function plus 15 per cent for services. Mumbai-based Gurlein Manchanda says that she charges roughly Rs 50,000 and can go higher depending upon what the customer wants.

Gutgutia takes a flat 10 per cent of the total billing. Shaadionline, on the other hand, charges a consultancy fee that ranges between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh.

Investments in the wedding planning business is not much. As Manchanda says when she started around 1987, she didn't have an office.

"Times have changed. Now you need a basic office set up. Wedding planning is not a product, but a service. Contacts and goodwill are the two ingredients you need," says Gutgutia.

Because of the huge market, there is enough space for more players. As Gutgutia points out, "The real boom will happen when the middle class starts hiring wedding planners. Another four or five years and we'll see this phenomenon happening."

But the flip side according to Gupta is the tendency of every person, who has attended a wedding jumping on to the wagon.

"Credibility is our biggest USP. We must try to get the best deal for our clients. Not milk them as many in the trade do. The existing players should start to professionalise their approach. Only then can the industry grow." / (011)30901818, 30901738 / (011)55650688/89/90/91 / (011)26808090-3 / (022) 26202834

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