Interview by: A Simple Toast

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a wonderful colleague of mine about Indian weddings.  Her name is Eileen and she is the CEO and founder of A Simple Toast where you can create personal and corporate gifts that are really fun.  You can read more about her company at http://asimpletoast.com/.
Many of our readers are not familiar with Indian weddings.  In a nutshell, can you tell us what makes these weddings unique?
The most prominent thing that makes Indian weddings unique is the fact that they include multiple days of festivities. The first few days leading up to the actual wedding day are filled with smaller ceremonies and festivities to pamper the bride and groom and also to introduce the two families together.  Working with a wedding that includes many days of festivities, involves working with many vendors.  Each event occurs in a different venue and requires its own set of decorations, food, and entertainment. Once the wedding festivities go into action, all of the vendors involved work like a well-oiled machine working together in order to deliver services that are above and beyond the client’s expectations.
On the wedding day, before the wedding ceremony starts groom processes into the ceremony space usually on a horse or car (Called a Baarat). After this there are smaller rituals done on the groom and then the main ceremony starts with the brides and grooms families. The ceremony lasts hours long and is based off of ancient Vedic traditions.  The ceremony occurs in a Mandap; a raised structure that can be very ornate.  It is very dynamic and involves participation from immediate and extended families.
Indian weddings are not based off of one main ceremony but many smaller rituals and ceremonies that the bride and grooms families participate in throughout a course of several days.  They are filled with vibrant colors and lots of good food!
We saw on your website that you offer elephants for the groom.  What in the world is involved in bringing an elephant to a wedding event?
I have been asked this request many times in my professional career.  It’s actually not as hard as you would think as there are companies out there that cater to renting elephants for events and especially Indian weddings.
As an event planner, maintaining a high level of security for the guests processing in the Baarat and for the animal is always the first priority in a process such as this so the presence of fire and police are extremely crucial.
With that said, there is a lot of communication involved with city officials and police and fire officials in order to secure permits to close streets and have security present.  On the flip side, there are a lot of counties/cities and even venues that do not allow permission for elephants to be present at events.  In this case the client has to opt for a horse or car.
A lot of clients think that it would be very cool to have an elephant at their event without thinking about the financial costs associated with this kind of request.  The cost to just rent the elephant can be in the thousands of dollars without adding city permit fees and fees for having emergency services present.  In the end the client has to think about if they really want to go through all the red tape and financial costs to wow their guests.
In the United States, where do most Indian weddings take place?
A majority of the weddings that I have done have been in hotels and banquet halls; however Indian weddings can take place wherever a client wants.  I’ve done weddings in parks, museums, and loft spaces.  They could also be in exotic or unique venues like boats, and piers.
When hosting Indian weddings in some of these venues however you have to think about the logistics very carefully.  Most Indian weddings have an average guest count of 500 people so the venue has to be able to hold this volume.  In addition, 99% of these weddings involve a horse for thebaarat so the venue has to be ok with allowing this. Aside from a few requirements, Indian weddings are like any other wedding and can take place where any other wedding can.
What was one of the most difficult requests you ever received?
The most difficult request that I’ve ever received aside from the elephant would be a helicopter landing as part of the Baarat.  The problem wasn’t the request but the avenues that we had to go through to be able to fulfill the request.  The groom wanted something elaborate for his procession and they had already signed the venue, so the most logical action would be to have the helicopter land in their parking lot.
We found a couple of helicopter companies that were a perfect fit for this type of event.  We went as far as talking to the Department of Transportation in NJ to get the proper paperwork approved, but in the end we could not deliver this request, because we had a very hard time getting permits from the city for the landing. The groom ended up renting an exotic car for the baarat.  Sometimes fulfilling requests such as this don’t turn out positive and it’s out of our control.  These outcomes can be really disappointing as we spent so much time trying to work with the state to work something out.
Finally, what is your favorite part of planning weddings or events?
There are many parts of planning weddings that I enjoy, so this is a really hard question to narrow down.  One of my favorite parts is the look on the clients’ faces when I present them with an idea that they love.  Another, and this might seem a little cliché, is on the day of the events.  The stress-free feeling that the couple expresses to me that they have throughout their festivities because of all of the work that I put in is something I don’t think I will ever get used to.
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