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What it takes to plan high profile weddings: Aarti Manocha

An insightful look within by Aarti Manocha

This is the Part 1 feature of what I feel are the intricacies that go into planning a high profile wedding. It so details the very aspect of planning and executing a high profile wedding that I felt it’s prudent to divide it into two parts. Catch Part 2 on the Express TravelWorld digital platform. To get the insights of how the ‘truly’ big fat Indian weddings are planned and executed, we reached out to Aarti Manocha, founder and managing director of Milestones to Memories (MtoM).  MtoM in a short span of three years has handled weddings  and social events for the elite and HNI families from India, for industrialists, real estate developers and celebrities in various destinations within India and internationally. The most recent feather in its cap has been to play a small but vital role in Akash Ambani’s wedding.

It has been almost a decade since I have been planning and handling weddings and it’s interesting to experience the transformation that the industry is going through. From an unstructured segment, it has become a structured industry by itself. Planning weddings for elite families could be exciting but definitely challenging. To exceed or meet the expectations of these families isn’t a cake walk. How does the process start? There are times when the couple or families have decided on the destination and are just looking for a planner who could fulfil their wishlist. Very often, they are clear of what they want and expect from the planner.

However, there are also the ones who depend on the planner to give suggestions right from destination to hotel, artist, entertainment, catering and on everything that goes into a wedding. Generally, these are perceived to be the more challenging ones. However, over the years I enjoy these and thrive on such projects where it’s a blank canvas and we can paint it for these families.

It all starts with a meeting wherein I like to get familiar with the families and assess their likes and dislikes, the do’s and don’ts that they have thought of for the wedding celebrations. I prefer to hear the dont’s more, specially from the couple. Post which we put on our thinking caps and come up with appropriate suggestions for the destinations to begin with. This part is the most time consuming one and needs a lot of meetings, recces and finally the filtration process to shortlist the top two or three and then pin down to the chosen destination.

Once the destination is chosen, we set a milestones calendar with the family, listing all the big and small tasks that we need to achieve as we begin on the journey towards the wedding. We draw up a detailed checklist for all key departments of the wedding, mainly hospitality and logistics, RSVPs and guest relations, decor and production, artists and entertainment.

Ideally the wedding planner is like the captain of the ship and is the one who deals and manages all the other stakeholders involved in the wedding on behalf of the families.

However, with the HNI segment, specially the really large scale and elite ones, the families at times involve multiple planners entrusting a few or couple of these departments to each. It’s their own team that manages all these stakeholders and various planners involved. This is mainly only because the scale is extremely large and they prefer to have various planners exert their energies and expertise in that particular area of work.

I clearly love the ones, wherein I am the captain of the ship. Undoubtedly, it comes with a lot of accountability and consumes you totally from the time you are appointed until the wedding is done well, but it is always a great learning experience. Working with the who’s who always helps us expand our horizons, learn different perspectives and involves a lot of research and setting of newer goals.

Clearly, technology has introduced smart and efficient ways of tackling large numbers and ensuring zero errors. Automated intelligent excel sheets linked to apps are the way forward. When it comes to high profile guest lists and the numbers are large, then there is clearly no scope for error or mistakes. Automation and intelligent softwares help by cutting out the mutual intervention which helps us save time and avoid margins for error.

With HNI weddings, handling a vast list of international and domestic guests, involves various steps from the invitations going out to them, to receiving their RSVPs, updations, to emailing regular communications. From this list, the numbers are clearly derived that help us in planning few aspects of the wedding such as travel, seating arrangements, meal counts, staff to guest ratios, etc.