Sharing Sundays: Wedding Planning

***Apologises for some of the low quality images as they were just ones I took on my iPhone***

Exactly a year ago today my brother married the love of his life, so a huge congratulations to them, not that they will ever read this blog post!

Background

I wanted to share the wedding planning process as I was heavily involved in day two of their big day. Traditional Indian weddings generally last for three days but my brother and his wife didn’t go down the traditional route as they are both from different cultural backgrounds – my brother being Punjabi and his wife Austrian. On day one of their wedding, which they organised themselves, they opted for a blessing ceremony which was a really nice touch (they also had the legal ceremony beforehand). My brother had asked a priest Harjinder Singh known as Man in Blue to conduct his part of the blessing and their was a priest to fulfil my sister in laws blessings.

Now on to day two and this is where I (sister of the groom) come in to the picture. Even though the bride and groom didn’t want a traditional wedding my parents wanted to throw them an Indian style party and I was asked to organise this day, a huge challenge I was willing to take on, even though I had never even thrown a birthday party let alone almost single handedly organise someone else’s wedding for them!

My bother and sister in law chose the caterers which we used for both days and as you may well know certain venues only use in-house or specific caterers. The Brewery was their venue of choice for day two of the celebrations and a great choice it was. Great location in Barbican East London, so it wasn’t too far for the family travelling from Kent via the Blackwall Tunnel, although I was worried we may get stuck in the Sunday traffic but fortunately we didn’t and it was perfect for the Londoners attending the party. The only downside to this venue is they don’t have on site parking but on the weekend if you’re lucky you may be able to find free street parking, which a lot of our guests did and there is a car park around the corner from the venue which is reasonably priced for london. We also hired a coach for guests via Momentum Hub, who were so helpful and really efficient with their service on the day and considering we booked last minute (two weeks before) the price was fantastic especially compared to the ridiculous prices other local companies had quoted me. My parents caught the coach there and back with our guests and I’ve been told their was an after party on the way home!

The Venue

When you book The Brewery you are hiring the entire venue for day, reception hall, cloakroom, toilets basically every nook and cranny they offer, which is pretty amazing. The foyer was a great place to meet and greet guests and give them to opportunity to dump their coats and belongings in the cloakroom behind the reception desk and guide them to where they needed to be. We also had a room for canapés which was lovely and I highly suggest having canapés before the big party even though it may be an extra cost as for our event it was a great ice breaker for an hour or so for guests to relax and mingle with one another and was great for photo opportunities.

We were given a lockable room for our belongings and where the bride and groom could freshen up, unfortunately the door didn’t lock but luckily nothing was missing at the end of the night.

Favours and Props

Before the big day I had made three hundred favour bags, yes three hundred, it wouldn’t be a big fat Indian wedding without that many guests! In which I put chocolates and custom Love Heart sweets which I ordered from Personocco on eBay, another great company to deal with. I also ordered some fun table props from various Amazon and eBay sellers which I had to assemble myself, which was quite time consuming but worked out to be cheaper cost wise and added great fun to the evening. My favourite being these personalised laser cut ones from notonthehighstreet which were quite costly so I only put them on the main family tables. I had also ordered a personalised Instagram board  via eBay in size AO which was a fun prop to get guests to interact with each other and the photographer/videographer and it also came into use later in the evening on the dance floor once the drinking had commenced.

I wanted to name each table so there was a theme but this proved to be a bit difficult as it wasn’t my wedding so I bought quote cards from kikki.K to work as table number / name as we decided not to have flowers as centre pieces, one because it wasn’t in our budget, two the table was too small and three the caterers had provided sharing dishes to serve the food in and they acted as the centre piece.

The personalised props added a nice touch of attention to detail to the day and guests really took notice of this.

The DJ

Once the canapés were over the guests were directed in to the main hall for the wedding party. I hired a DJ via Calibar Roadshow who were great to deal with and we were assigned Demetri on the day, who I must say did a great job getting all the guests on the dance floor and he fulfilled any song requests we had. He was also really good at directing how the day would go for example, when the cake would be cut, starters, mains etc – he requested a timings list from be beforehand. Calibar were a great company to deal with from start to finish, I dealt with Jamie via email and phone and he was nice and polite whenever we communicated. Demetri arrived at the time quoted so he could set up and sound test, which I thought was really professional as I’ve heard of DJs taking full payment and not turning up for events. We were advised to pay extra for a dance floor which I think was worth it as it broke the room up and looks great in photos. we didn’t need to pay extra for uplighting as this was provided by the venue and it set the ambience perfectly. If your venue doesn’t provide this service I would pay extra for it as it just adds that extra touch of class.

The only thing I would say I was disappointed with the the DJs was not having confetti fall for the dance and the smoke machine. At the time I didn’t even notice as I was so busy making sure everything else was running smoothly but when I took this up with Jamie he said the venue didn’t allow this due to health and safety – mmmmmmm! This was part of the package I had paid for and I wasn’t offered any money back. However it wasn’t a big deal and looking back at the wedding video it probably fit the vibe better not having those extras but I wish this had been communicated with me prior to the event. Two dhol players were also something we paid for as an extra to accompany the DJ, it wouldn’t be an Indian wedding without Dhol Players and I think they were worth every penny. They played whilst the bride and groom walked in which added excitement to the atmosphere and they played a set for about ten to fifteen minutes which got the crowd going on the dance floor.

The Cake

On to the cake, we wanted an egg free wedding cake as quite a few Punjabi Sikh people don’t eat egg for religious reasons and we wanted all the guests to enjoy the cake. After a lot of researchI found Amna of Bespoke Cakes and Treats She allowed us to have a cake tasting session in the flat and understood exactly what we wanted and she was great at directing how many tiers we should have, offered different flavours, asked about the colour scheme (which I had forgotten about) and made many other suggestions that I didn’t think about. She arrived to set the cake up at the venue at the agreed time.

Videographer

Finding a videographer was a hard task so I suggest spending your time researching someone who fits your specifications. I’m so glad I did and came across Hussien from Eastern Elegance who did a fantastic job on the day and after with providing the footage. From his portfolio I was able to see that he had filmed many mixed marriages and his style was natural. He was great to communicate with, turned up on time and captured the day perfectly. He emailed beforehand requesting which music we would like played over the main video and highlights reel. On the day he worked in stealth mode which meant the guests were able to be comfortable. I really liked that he asked guests to offer messages of congratulations with a piece to camera, it made for hilarious viewing once we received the video. You hear horror stories of having to chase up videographers for six months after the event trying to get what you paid for but fortunately that wasn’t the case with Hussien, he delivered everything as promised within the agreed timeframe.

Photographer(s)

However this wasn’t the case with the photographer I had hired. I’m not going to name and shame but to say I was disappointed is a massive understatement! He is extremely well known in the Indian wedding industry and the reason I booked him is because I’ve seen his work in Asian Bridal magazines as well as his online portfolio which looked amazing, even one of my friends couldn’t believe he was booked to capture this special day. On the day he arrived on time and was professional therefore I didn’t question his style as he’s done this a million times over.

Once I eventually chased him up for the photos a good few months after the wedding party I was in shock at the quality of the photos as they looked like someone had taken them on their iPhone with any care or consideration. Also none of the photos were edited as agreed via our contract. After a lot of frustrating emails back and forth, about eight months later I received the edited images but cannot describe how disappointed I still am with the images and service provided by this particular photographer, especially as I paid more for him than the videographer whose service was impeccable. Lesson learnt not to go after the name and fame of people.

Luckily the photographer my brother had hired for the previous day had offered to take photos for this day too. It’s as if the universe knew we would need a back up! I had never even thought of hiring a non Asian photographer, as when I was talking to people getting advice they suggested someone from the same culture would know what moments to capture ,even though nothing traditional was happening, I still decided to go down this route. I can not recommend Alexa Kidd May enough, seriously. Like our videographer she worked in stealth mode, managing to capture some amazing moments and her work ethic is outstanding.

Caterers

Now finally on to the caterers, I’ll start with the good stuff – the food. Firstly I can’t name the company we used as since the wedding it has come to my attention that they have dissolved the business and changed the name, apparently they do this quite often, which doesn’t surprise me at all due to the shoddy customer service they provided.

I honestly cannot fault the food at all. All of our guests praised the food on the day and still talk about it a year on. They also provided a food tasting day for us which was great as, whilst I am currently planning my wedding I have found that some Indian food caterers don’t offer this service, strange I know!

So what was annoying and frustrating about this particular caterers I hear you ask? Well they sold their package as “Wedding Planner and Caterers.” However, there was a lack of planning from their side. The amount of frustrating emails I had to send asking for updates and specifics was unbelievable and I later found this to be the same situation my brother and sister in law were in with them while they were planning day one of the celebrations but by then contracts had been signed and money exchanged.

The Wedding Planner was assigned to both days, even though they were booked as separate events and half way through I was assigned another person who had absolutely no knowledge regarding our event, only to be assigned the original planner a few weeks before the wedding – it’s frustrating reading it back.

We were advised on how much alcohol we should purchase, only to discover at the end of the night that we had to take over half of it back home, along with juices and tonics as the wedding planner had told us to over buy! When we were placing the alcohol order I did question er numbers but she reassured me that the numbers were correct for the size of our party.

The kiki.K cards which were provided for the tables weren’t in a holder as promised but buried under cutlery on even on the floor!

My lists of negatives can go on and on regarding the planning services of this company as once money had been exchanged we just felt like a number, our day didn’t feel special just another event for the company. If it had been my wedding I would have been extremely disappointed having to deal with people who give off a negative attitude. I’m glad I was able to take this pressure off the bride and groom.

It wasn’t entirely bad as on the day there was an event manager who did his best to make sure the day ran as smoothly as possible. If it wasn’t for the lack of customer care, I would have booked this company for my upcoming nuptials. However the stress and lack of care isn’t worth the hassle.

Tips

  • Make sure you have a paper trail of everything – timings, costs, contracts etc as it is something to refer back on. Unfortunately you can’t just take someones word in the wedding industry as, you are just one of many events these professionals are hired to attend.
  • Get receipts for all payments so wires can’t get crossed over lack of payment.
  • Know right from the get go who you are dealing with and who to contact in an emergency.
  • Make sure you have a trustworthy friend or family member you can delegate important jobs to on the big day and make sure they have the right contact numbers if need be for the DJ, caterers and any other external companies needed on the day.
  • Make lists and cross off jobs as you tackle them.
  • Delegate as much as you can throughout as this takes the pressure off you and lets friends and family get involved and enjoy the process with you.
  • Ask lots of questions as and when you can so that you know exactly what you are paying for and expecting on the day.
  • Enjoy every moment and don’t let any of the companies or people you are hiring for you big day take advantage of you or add to your frustration – this is something I have learnt in hindsight as it tarnishes the memory of such a special time.

Verdict

Guests generally don’t pick up on what’s gone or is going wrong behind the scenes. It’s only you the organiser that knows how things could have gone differently which means the day was a success.

Planning someone else’s wedding is hard work (not that my brother or sister in law put any pressure on me for the day) and it has made me appreciate how much effort and attention to detail goes in to planning a big once in a lifetime (hopefully) event.

Hopefully I can use this knowledge and these tips when planning my own big day!

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