Many girls dream of the perfect wedding from childhood. This month Ankita Mamgain meets a young entrepreneur whose job is to make this dream a reality.
A few months back I started reading Imogen Edwards-Jones’ Wedding Babylon. Based on true events, this book follows the life of a wedding planner for a week. Though extremely well written, it would always leave me feeling really exhausted and nervous so I stopped after a few chapters. I was only reading it; what about those who actually live it?
Yes, wedding planning is one of the most nerve-wracking professions one could have, yet Sara Al Salman makes it look like a piece of cake. The extremely calm and soft-spoken 27-year-old reveals that the secret lies in planning ahead.
“If you start planning in advance, it doesn’t demand that sort of toughness or nervous breakdowns,” she says, brushing aside the stereotypical, loud-speaker-carrying, frantic, commander-like image of a wedding planner popular fiction has painted for us.
She studied architectural and interior design at university and says the precision it taught her is a gift in her line of work. “In architecture you have to be very planned.
Every line, every millimetre counts and that kind of strong observation leads to being really well organised.
“Of course I have my assistants that help with the following up but I don’t think you need to be very firm or authoritative.”
A romantic at heart, Sara has loved attending weddings since childhood and was always interested in the world of design. Combining these two interests, she started crafting fairytale weddings for real life couples under her entrepreneurial venture Royal Weddings by Sara J.
“Studying interior architecture gave me creative edge, in conceptualising and executing wedding and event planning. It helped me see and understand the different aspects of a space,” she adds.
The first event she ever planned was her brother’s engagement in 2012, the success of which cemented her love for this career. While working at an interior design company after finishing university, a number of her projects were wedding events.
Speaking about the current trends and what couples are looking for, she describes it as a bit of a mixed bag. There are many couples who prefer the safe route of going for something that she has done in the past and can produce pictures of. However, there are also a good number of those who want something bespoke and original.
“I personally prefer to start the whole process of conceptualising from scratch for a couple. I’ve been lucky that most of our clients were willing to take a chance and had complete trust in me and the results were amazing,” Sara notes.
The trends usually revolve around colour and with this year’s Pantone shades already out, she sees a lot of pastels in the weddings to come.
A young professional with vibrant creativity, she strikes a balance between new and traditional. “It’s been a great learning process for me; when I put in place a traditional structure I learn about its significance and can relate it to my roots. And when you are doing something modern it’s a challenge to come up with something new and original every time.”
The budget is one of the trickiest parts of her job, as starry-eyed couples come with celestial dreams but with a limited amount to spend. “My endeavour is to give them the wedding of their dreams in whatever budget they have,” says Sara. “I am not comfortable with the fact that, in the wedding industry, either you have to have a really huge budget or it just doesn’t happen.”
Interestingly Sara has not had to deal with any ‘bridezillas’ so far, but she does make a quick mention about certain mothers who almost hijack the event and forget that it’s not about them. Her favourite venues in the island are La Fontaine centre of Contemporary Arts for its medieval castle-like environs and the Sofitel Ballroom for its exquisite interiors.
For her, the first meeting with her clients is very important, as it forms the foundation for the relationship they’ll share for the next few months.
“The first meeting is about trying to get a feel of the couple’s personality; I would like to know what they are really comfortable with. Trust is very important. It helps me to make the right choices and suggestions for the couple,” she adds. Sara advises to start at least six months in advance although she has produced events in three months as well.
For her the most gratifying part of this tireless run-up to the big day comes only at the end. “It’s the priceless expression on a bride’s face when she walks into the venue that makes it all worth it,” she adds.