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 with stars in their eyes.
Divya Chadha was always going to be the person organizing that amazing party. The ‘go-to’ girl in college to bring people together and create incredible events, her career potential as a successful banker didn’t faze her for a minute when opportunity knocked. It was an ‘event’uality there was no escaping from – she took the leap of faith, founded, A Klass Apart and there’s been no looking back!
In a candid conversation, she tells us about her journey in the wedding planning industry.
1. Tell us a little bit about A Klass Apart
A Klass Apart is a boutique wedding planning company operating between the UK and India, catering to global brides and grooms seeking destination weddings. The AKA client is typically an NRI from UK/US/Europe looking to have an intimate (80 to 200 pax) wedding celebration.
I launched A Klass Apart in late 2008 when I realized there was a huge gap in the market for NRIs coming to Asia and Europe looking for someone to realize their wedding requirements and Indian resident clients who wanted to get married abroad.
Born in London and having grown up across different continents I have been exposed to a variety of cultures. I can understand and actualize the requirements of couples from diverse backgrounds. Tending to a wide range of requests is, in fact, where AKA’s forte lies. We offer a contemporary approach to wedding planning with enough oomph and fusion that brings together beautiful wedding traditions whilst reflecting each couple’s individual personalities and quirks.
2. Was wedding planning Plan A? When did you realize that this was your calling?
Growing up, I was always the ‘leader and organizer’ among my peers at school and university (think class representative, house captain, school prefect, university student association council, etc.) I had a knack for getting groups of people together and creating a great social event. At my university in Montreal, as part of the Commerce Students Association, I organized weekly events for almost 3000 students including a Fashion Show for Charity supported by brands such as DKNY, Trussardi, and La Vie en Rose. Being the social person that I am – it was only natural that my peers approached me to organize nights out.
When I moved back to London after graduating I took up a banking job in line with my education, but I never gave up on planning parties for my network within the city. Then, a club owner approached me to take over Events & Marketing for a very popular club. I took it up straight away, much to the horror of my family who wanted me to stick to being a banker. Despite receiving two promotions within the span of a year I realized that a typical 9 to 5 job was never going to be something that satisfied me.
I went on to launch my first company, Events Horizon Ltd in London in 2002. We managed nightclubs and also catered to private events. One of the couples I knew asked me to organize their wedding back in 2005 in the UK and another one landed me my first destination wedding in 2006 – I haven’t looked back since.
3. A lot of people want to enter the wedding planning industry because they associate it with glamour. Knowing is the wedding industry up close and personal, what do you have to say about this field?
Though weddings represent a fairytale for each couple, the process of wedding planning is not glamorous at all. A lot of interns who come to work with me learn early on they will have little in common with JLo in the movie The Wedding Planner.
Wedding planning is all about learning to understand the thoughts and emotions behind the decisions that couples and families make. It requires you to find a balance between providing your client with the best of services while being realistic about the budgets. You will often find yourself working long and unsocial hours, and missing your own personal events because your client always comes first.
As for the days of the functions, if you need eight hours of sleep, becoming a wedding planner is not an option. Wedding days involve being on your feet for 18-20 hours a day, coordinating with suppliers, vendors, hoteliers, the couple and their families and not to mention last minute requests and changes. Being a wedding planner is about being able to play a lot of different roles. One of my brides told me I was her planner, BFF, therapist, travel agent and accountant all rolled into one person!
4. There is no end to the number of weddings that some destinations see. Which is your favorite destination for a fairytale wedding? And your preferred properties/hotels?
This is a hard question to answer because for me picking a location depends on the mood that that particular wedding is trying to create. Personally, I love nature and being outdoors and am not a fan of conventional ballroom events. Therefore, fairytale destinations for me include locations like Mauritius, Turkey, Jordan, Bali where you can explore a plethora of different styles of venues. On the other hand, if I were looking for something majestic then a palace in Rajasthan would be ideal for a traditional Indian wedding. A palace in Turkey or a castle in Europe would be well-suited for a more contemporary magical feel.
I also love the idea of a function at vineyards in Italy or a ceremony on a sea facing cliff top in Portugal or maybe even at a nature reserve in Mauritius. I once organized a small 60 person wedding in the desert where the groom came on a desert dirt bike, celebrations were held by a bonfire and guests camped out under the stars. It was magical.
In terms of preferred properties – there are way too many to mention. Hotels are just a place for the guests to stay. Thus, as long as it meets your personal criteria in terms of comfort, ease of access, and affordability, it is a good place to go ahead with. The venues for the functions are what I prefer to focus on.
5. Tell us about the most interesting wedding you executed.
There are just so many! Each wedding I have ever planned has been a different experience. Some take a few weeks to plan (the shortest turn around service I have offered was within 60 days) and some take about a year to plan.
One distinct memory I do have is from a wedding where the groom wanted to skydive into the location. I was really excited about that, however, the families decided they couldn’t handle the stress of this situation so we knocked that idea out pretty quickly. Another one is from a welcome picnic that was held by the waterfall at a nature reserve in Mauritius where all the guests got to arrive at the spot on 4WDs and ATVs. This was a real ‘nature experience’ for them.
6. What would you say is your biggest struggle as a planner? What is your biggest accomplishment?
Biggest struggle: luckily nothing major. Sometimes I feel as an NRI myself, resonating with extremely traditional ideas is difficult. Also, as much as it would be great to do a big fat Indian wedding with celebrities galore and endless budgets – it’s something goes against my personal aesthetics. I can and will do this for my clients but it’s not something I am doing for myself.
Biggest accomplishment: Getting to work with absolutely amazing couples who are truly #aklassapart. I’m still in touch with some of them years after organizing their weddings. That rush of emotion which comes with knowing that your bride thought of you when they got pregnant or had their first child or when they send another couple your way even years after their wedding is something that can’t be compared.
7. What are your favorite wedding trends this year?
There are so many wedding trends that the industry has seen this year. Cool and contemporary, indie-chic, simple yet elegant, floral installations, perspex/transparent installations, food trucks and fusion foods and last but not the least smaller guest list – I love them all and the best thing is they work, even when put together.
8. If there’s one golden rule you would give a couple-to-be, what would it be?
It’s your wedding, think about what you want. Be open about your likes, dislikes, preferences, and most importantly your budget with your wedding planner and trust them to turn your dreams into a reality.
If you don’t know what your wedding budget is – follow the above steps and let your planner guide you realistically about the financial commitments required for your dream wedding and believe me – they can make it happen for you.
To book A Klass Apart to plan your dream wedding click here.