Started in late 2015 by Saurabh Malhotra, Tina Tharwani and Manoj Mittra, Shaadi Squad has, in a short time, planned successful celebrity weddings and other celebrations. After Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s dream wedding in Tuscany, they organised Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ engagement in Mumbai and were recently in news for planning actor Varun Dhawan’s much-talked-about wedding with longtime girlfriend Natasha Dalal in Alibaug.
“With all three of us hailing from a production background, we noticed how there was a lot of common ground between films and weddings, be it the larger-than-life scenarios, the hospitality, and logistics-driven nature, people management skills, sets and decor, food and beverage, or scouting various destinations,” they said.
In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, the Shaadi Squad trio talks about what went behind planning Varun’s wedding, working with celeb clients, and wedding trends of 2021.
From Varun-Natasha, Anushka-Virat to Priyanka-Nick, you have planned various celeb ceremonies. How has your journey been?
Getting into the shaadi business seemed more or less the same, except that our clients here would be ‘real’, and not on ‘reel’! The journey so far has been fantastic, with loads of learning. After our first ever wedding, which was in Oman, we received numerous compliments and a number of people coming up to us saying they definitely wanted us for their own or their child’s wedding! Looking back, we were young and naïve and took people’s words very seriously. We actually went almost a year without landing our next client! In hindsight, this was actually the best thing that could have ever happened to us – we grew up, learned how to read people, and this has enabled us to land the nicest of clients and even better partners and vendors. Since then, however, there’s been no looking back.
Many celeb weddings are kept secret until the very last minute — what is it like working under wraps?
When it comes to keeping details under wraps, it is difficult as we have to work with numerous vendors and disclose details at times. We just ensure that those we work with are professionals themselves and understand and respect client privacy.
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Could you give us a peek into what went behind planning Varun’s wedding?
The wedding was honestly planned in two weeks. Both Varun and Natasha were quite clear about it being an intimate affair with only the closest of friends and family. While they were flexible with the look and feel of the functions, they were sure of making it a cozy affair. We heard them out and aimed to deliver the same. Given the time-frame, most of the decisions were taken virtually or in real-time. Both of them were sure of what they liked and what they disliked when presented with choices. This made it much easier to get things moving quickly. Of course, we also had to plan for the testing of every guest and vendor before they arrived for the wedding as well as have a sanitisation protocol at the venue.
Which celeb couple was most involved in the planning process, and in which way?
At any celebrity wedding, you need to forget their profiles; they are literally the bride and groom, like any other client. The involvement differs from client to client; some like to be involved in everything, some are interested in a few aspects such as décor, or security, and some may leave the planning to their family or trusted friends.
The pandemic has changed the way weddings happen now; has it affected your business/working model?
Being a boutique wedding planning company, Shaadi Squad is known for planning intimate weddings. Due to various protocols by government authorities, and even most hotels, the guest lists are restricted and weddings are downsizing in terms of numbers. For us, we now have more enquiries coming in for intimate weddings. In terms of processes, we now have hygienic and sanitisation protocols also in place for each event. In terms of spending, while the size of weddings has reduced, the spending power still remains high. Couples now want to get more into detailing and curating experiences for their guests.
What are the biggest wedding trends one can expect in 2021?
Minimalistic and intimate weddings: Keeping the pandemic aside, Indian weddings have mostly been larger-than-life with hordes of relatives and loads of décor. Since a few years, a shift towards minimalism has been observed. In the current situation, weddings are becoming even more intimate. In terms of décor as well, couples are ditching the often rigid colour palette of reds and yellows, and are going for a more natural and rustic appeal with lesser colours involved. Having a minimalistic wedding is among the newest trends that are rapidly gaining momentum in the Indian shaadi scenario.
A sustainable approach: As people around the world are becoming more and more aware about environmental issues, they have begun adopting eco-friendly practices in all that they do. Even in the case of weddings, couples have begun emphasising on a sustainable approach. For instance, couples are becoming increasingly conscious of how their food choices impact a wider sociological context. Moreover, with a huge fraction of people going vegan these days, the need for a plant-based-only menu has been felt. Couples are now becoming all the more considerate of the amount of wastage produced, and are seeking sustainable solutions for their menu as well. From eco-friendly or digital wedding cards to upcycled décor and menu options, the trend of an impactful and sustainable approach towards weddings is pretty much ‘on the cards’ for 2021!
Weddings are often about ‘last minute’ changes/plans. How do you deal with such scenarios?
Even with the best planning, last-minute changes are a part of weddings. We anticipate these during our planning process and usually do have a back-up plan or resources to manage the same. The only way to deal with such scenarios is to have a sharp presence of mind to manage last-minute requests. We haven’t received something that we have struggled to pull off, yet, but we have received a bunch of requests that had us cracking up. For example, we were in Goa for a wedding, when all of a sudden there was a transport strike. We had to coordinate between three different venues with guests and vendors in various locations with no transport at all. That was an experience of a lifetime.
What tips would you give to someone planning a pocket-friendly wedding?
Definitely limit your guest list, opt for upcycled décor and choose local vendors. These will help in controlling the budget to a great extent.
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