Young and Inspiring: Wedding Planner Aakash Doshi of Zesst Events and Weddings
Our series ‘Young and Inspiring’ showcases fresh, exciting new talent powerhouses from the design, fashion, and event domains who specialize in creating dream weddings for couples.
The brainchild of Aakash Doshi, Founder and Managing Director, Zesst Events and Weddings is a Mumbai-based luxury wedding company that takes pride in planning, conceptualizing, and executing elite weddings across the world. Launched in 2007 with the aim of bringing intricate visions to life by using fresh and unique concepts, Aakash led his team in growing the brand with leaps and bounds to become a forerunner in the industry.
Here, Aakash takes us through his journey and shares his learnings and tips with young aspiring minds.
1. Tell us about your journey? What inspired you to become a wedding planner?
“Just as they say, wrong ways connect you to the right path, no mastermind was ever created by following just one stream in life! Through experimentation and changing fields, I too discovered my passion for wedding planning, and it has been over a decade now since we started turning dreams into realities and gave wings to happily-ever-afters.
The turning point in my life came in 2014, when, during one of my CA exams, I got a call from one of the most prestigious people in the diamond jewelry business. They wanted my company to host and curate their daughter’s big day. It was then that I truly harnessed my love and skill for designing, planning, and executing such a big celebration. A few months later, along with a friend of mine, I joined a well-renowned décor company in Mumbai where we inaugurated the ‘Planning and Management’ wing. Over the next few years, we took over that company, revamped and rebranded it as “Zesst Events and Weddings” where we not only get couples hitched for eternity but also curate priceless memories.”
2. Tell us about some challenges you faced when you first entered this field.
“With no contacts or relatives to bank upon, I entered this industry with immense pressure, no back, and infinite passion, and have never looked back. With a lot of passion and perseverance, Zesst has faced and overcome numerous challenges over the years to fulfill every client’s dream of a perfect wedding.
Till only a few years ago, wedding planners were not a common commodity, and everything was managed by family members. Destination weddings were not even existent, as weddings were meant to be attended by entire neighborhoods and were only held locally. With no Instagram or other social media avenues to showcase your work, it was challenging to find clients in the early days. With just simple word-of-mouth publicity to rely on, I started by planning the weddings of a few relatives and acquaintances. We put in our blood, sweat, and tears to conceptualize and execute every wedding that came our way. Ten years later, Zesst still approaches every wedding with the same dedication and hard work to make it the most special day in our clients’ lives.”
3. What sets you apart from other players in the field? Tell us about your design ideology.
“Every wedding planner is different from the other in a multitude of ways. When it comes to Zesst, I have certain ground rules, principles, and USPs laid down that my team and I follow religiously for every wedding/event we plan. One of our main founding principles is that all our designs and concepts are customized to suit the client’s needs. We understand the personality of each couple we work with and embed their style into our designs, which allows us to offer diversity in our designs as each setup is personal and unique to the client. We strive to bring amazing, vivid, and dreamy concepts to life. One example that comes to mind is when we mapped an entire 50 feet stretch of a palace in Gulmohar, Jaipur, and another where we mapped 40 feet at Hyatt Mansarovar, Jaipur. We’ve also mapped a bride’s dress at her sangeet event. One of our proudest moments was when we managed to execute over 3 weddings in one day across various destinations with the help and support of my highly professional team of diverse, passionate, and hard-working individuals.
We offer end-to-end services tailor-made to every client’s taste, budget, preferences, and personality. When it comes to property selection for destination weddings, we usually recommend our clients opt for horizontal hotels over vertical ones, as it gives us the space to travel across the property and play around with a wider layout. When I embark on the journey of planning a wedding for any client, I always bear in mind all that is required primarily as discussed in the first few calls with the client/family, as these details give my team and I an insight into the emotional aspect of our client’s personalities.”
4. You have worked with weddings in both India and abroad. How does the experience differ? What do you personally enjoy planning more?
“Whether you plan a wedding in India or abroad, both come with their own sets of pros and cons. The experience majorly differs according to the geographic location and the availability of specialty elements, acts, and vendors in that city. Choosing the right property is of utmost importance. I believe that each client’s requirement is different and the right venue chosen is the first step towards achieving the correct focus. Brainstorming as per the clients’ likes and preferences is something we love to do. We have planned weddings across India and abroad in countries such as Bahrain, Malaysia, Thailand, Phuket, and Bali, as well as several in Europe. We have conceptualized weddings in exotic, larger-than-life locations as well as intimate venues.
Even though we have executed a lot of NRI and cross-cultural weddings, I love to organize weddings in India. The opportunity to explore the rituals and different cultures is amazing. When planning a wedding abroad, the weather is also one of the major factors that come into the core of planning. We ensure that we understand the work culture and quality of options/vendors available at each destination before recommending anything to any of our clients. Understanding each client’s budget and taste before providing quality options is also important. I believe nothing is impossible if you try. In the end, no matter what the destination, seeing the happy faces of our clients as they enjoy each moment of their big day motivates us to keep delivering above and beyond.”
5. Tell us about the most memorable wedding you have worked upon.
“As I mentioned earlier, our biggest motivation has always been client satisfaction and appreciation. The joy and pressures of working towards curating the biggest day of someone’s life are unmatched. Living by this mantra, it’s difficult to pick out just one as each wedding has given us a new chance to learn, experiment, and grow. One that stands out for me is ‘Rishil and Vidhita’s Grand Sangeet and Engagement’, which not only won us awards in the event industry but also won a lot of hearts. After months of effort, sleepless nights, and all the roadblocks, we were able to pull off a two-day grand engagement at ND Studio, Karjat with an outdoor sangeet, with its backdrop being a palace!
Another destination wedding we executed was for Aniket and Ritika at Gulmohar Palace Jaipur where we lit up the entire palace to give the bride a perfect, dreamy, and never-seen-before entry setup. It was a surprise for the bride from her mother-in-law who wanted to welcome the bride as a daughter. This was followed by a grand varmala with larger-than-life SFX and fireworks. The reaction of the guests was the best feedback we could’ve asked for, as more than 70% of them were teary-eyed. Another was when we executed a mehndi function on a moving yacht, where the couple mingled with the crowd in a fun and relaxed environment. The guests had a gala time with live music, food, games, and fun giveaways like macrame keychains, a live instant Polaroid counter, and more.
A wedding is one of the most special occasions in a couple’s life and we feel greatly honored each time we are entrusted with the responsibility of creating magic on these special days. We are driven by a passion to bring new ideas to the table and execute each affair as immaculately as possible.”
6. What is your favorite wedding destination in 2023 and why?
“India is a huge and beautiful land of diverse cultures and experiences, and it is impossible to pick favorites, but we love the western belt of the country for some of the most amazing spots. In Rajasthan, the front runners would be Udaipur, and Jaipur, while in the south, Kochi takes the cake.
We have always been wowed by Rajasthan – be it Jaisalmer, Udaipur, or Jaipur. The food, ambiance, culture, and artists have been amazing, while the ethnicity and landscapes available offer a vast range of options. In the past season, we had done mapping on palaces twice for two different clients in Jaipur, something that other properties or cities like Mumbai would not allow due to a lack of space and infrastructure. Rajasthan has an amazing architectural backdrop!
Internationally, we vote for Bahrain! This island is set apart from the rest of the Middle East, and has a very different vibe to it, along with excellent hospitality. A lot of our clients for the coming season have vouched for Bahrain as they have no limitations or restrictions as such, which is something we all look forward to.”
7. What wedding trends and destinations do you foresee gaining popularity in 2024?
“Just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two approaches to consider when designing weddings as well – for clients who like it minimal and intimate, and for clients on social media taking over the craze. The wedding industry is an evergreen dynamic place. There are also quite a few international trends that have been making inroads into India due to the kind of global exposure we have available today.
While some prefer to go all out and have an extravaganza, some still prefer to keep it minimal. They desire an intimate affair and prefer spending their big day with those who matter most to them. When it comes to decor and setups, I have observed a shift of couples from traditional rich hues towards pastels and soft color palettes. Another big trend that is slowly catching on is that of extra food carts or specialty counters from special chefs, specific food joints, and caterers. Clients often use these options as a substitute for the traditional buffets provided by five-star hotels. These carts are often spread across the venue and have chefs making their dishes right before the guests which adds to the novelty. This also leaves room for customization and allows everyone to have their food made to taste, and even includes regional delicacies such as jalebi fafda, undhiyu, or the famous dal baati.
Many Couples also love to have background dancers in their entries and dances to make their wedding a grand affair, while others yet prefer having to keep it in the family for destination weddings for a truly memorable and personal experience. Lastly, with people becoming more aware of the environmental consequences of their actions, eco-friendly practices are gaining traction, such as digital wedding invites Save the dates.”
8. What wisdom would you share with young, aspiring wedding planners today?
“The greatest advice would be to always keep learning, never stop growing, never say no to any particular work allotted to you, and always keep an open mind. You never know where the opportunity or inspiration may come from.
There is a boom of wedding planners in India today with talented, young individuals trying to make a name for themselves. You need to not only sustain but also rise above others and be the best version of yourself to excel in this field. Focus on your USPs, formulate a clear strategy, and understand the business and your clients well. There is no end to learning and growing, so be open to networking and making connections among your peers. I look at my peers as colleagues and guides rather than competition. I am constantly trying to learn and grow by looking at the developments and direction the industry is moving towards. For me, the success of each event usually depends on how efficiently and systematically it has been carried out.
Never be in a rush to reach the top or money quickly in the initial days. Don’t be too hard on yourself in case of any mistakes. In case you fall, stand up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. Your mistakes will only help you grow and become better.
Keep your horizons open and keep learning at every chance you get!”