Rio Lounge caught up with LaToya Patel from Sundar Weddings – a London based event planning company who specialise in Asian weddings.
What’s it like working in the Asian events industry?
As an expert in all things Asian weddings, LaToya admits that whilst event planning can be fun, it doesn’t come without its difficulties. As celebrations are largely family oriented, “you end up getting quite involved with not just the couples but the parents and sometimes aunties and cousins too! I find with Asian weddings in particular, there are often quite a few opinions in the mix which keeps us on our toes”
How do Asian weddings/events differ to traditional British ceremonies and parties?
“There are usually more events, more guests. So, on average, the events that we’re doing have 250-300 guests, but numbers can fluctuate either side of that as well – this is generally considered relatively small for many Asian weddings.”
Typically, couples host more events in the run up to the wedding such as the Sangeet (a pre-wedding party), in comparison with British weddings where guests expect a simple civil ceremony or reception.
The longest event LaToya and her husband Ajay planned lasted 5 full days. “It’s simply because couples hold the different events across different days … If you’re including 100+ people in each of the events and you’ll need to feed them at each, costs can start to increase quite quickly – catering is where a lot of the costs come in, especially for an Asian wedding.”
“There is also a lot more colour! The civil ceremony is about the only place where we’ll have a neutral colour palette – in all of the other wedding and pre-wedding events there’s a lot of vibrancy in the colours that are used. So we’re talking oranges, pinks, reds, gold.”
“Mixed couple weddings are quite fun too because we often get to merge the two cultures in the events we create.” For example, in the past LaToya has included a traditional afternoon tea in the middle of a predominantly Asian ceremony.
Why do you think it’s important to hire a wedding/party planner and what does it involve?
Typically there are around 18 core supplies that tie with Asian weddings (excluding anything more bespoke). This means that there are 18 companies or people to manage. “It grows from there, so there’s a lot of time invested in planning a wedding – more so than I think people realise.”
In a nutshell, Sundar Weddings provide a service to eleviate this pressure. This includes the sourcing, booking and management of suppliers as well as behind the scenes errands such as RSVP management, a detailed running order, on the day management and budget planning.
How important are suppliers and how do you go about sourcing them?
“We do actually have our own supplier list and we also learn of new suppliers as we go. Sometimes we’ll meet a couple and they have a particular supplier in mind and actually it works out beautifully with them, so we may use them again. Working with Rio Lounge was easy and stress free.”
Sundar Weddings used Rio Lounge at a summer event in Oakley Court last year. The client required lounge-style furniture which was to be used both outdoors and indoors. Our sofa range and colourful ottomans work perfectly at Asian weddings.
Is it possible to create a truly fantastic event on a budget?
“It depends … We do come across couples who want to do as much DIY as possible, but in our experience, there’s a real trade off with the amount of time they invest and sometimes it doesn’t quite come off as well as they’d hoped.” With the emotional toil and amount of time associated with planning a wedding, the extra cost that comes with hiring a wedding planner can be well worth it.
“Typically, the budgets we work with are around £100,000. So, to do something for less than that, I do think you end up making some compromises considering the looks our clients are going for. If a couple has a budget of £50,000 with 50 guests, that’s a really decent budget, but if a couple has a budget of £50-60k and 300 guests, that can be really easily and quickly spent.”
How do you go about making every event unique/individual whilst keeping pricing realistic/affordable?
Incorporating the couple’s personalities is key and comes from what LaToya learns about a couple during the consultancy and planning process.
“We have a client who we are working with at the moment who has a particular love of comics and Star Wars. So, we’re working on some great ideas to incorporate this into the day – which we can’t reveal now because we haven’t had the wedding yet.”
When things do not go as planned, how do you fix them? Can you share a couple of funny “behind the scenes” stories?
One interesting glitch LaToya was faced with involved the entertainment.
“We had a surprise planned for the groom who was really into a particular style of dancing. There was a dancer that had been on TV who he really liked so we actually colluded with the bride and we got the guy booked. Unfortunately, on the actual evening we received a phone call saying he’d been in a car accident!”
Luckily, those involved escaped unscathed and the dancer made his way to the wedding reception in a taxi.
However, “because the timings were off, we had to find a way to sneak him past the guests without anybody seeing – it was a bit of an undercover operation … It’s just a case of thinking really quickly on your feet because you get to a point where the only question you can ask yourself is ‘How do I do this?’ It’s not an ‘if’, it’s a ‘how’.”
Realistically, how long should you be giving yourself to plan an Asian wedding/party?
“The quickest we’ve done it in is 5 months and at that point, the couple had only booked the venue and catering. The longest period of time we have had is around one year, so it does vary and just means that [couples] need to make decisions more quickly.”
Do you have any top tips or industry best practices for those planning an Asian wedding?
The key to hosting a successful event means building in sufficient buffers and working closely with suppliers. “You still have to go through the details with suppliers so that they know exactly what they’re doing on the day, where they’re going to be, who else they’re going to be working with. Just booking a supplier isn’t enough, you need to go through the details with them.”
Find out more about Sundar Weddings and their Asian wedding planning service.