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.
Founded in 2008 by Neha Mehrotra with the vision to create magical weddings in South East Asia, the Middle East along with exotic locations and venues like cruise weddings for couples across the globe, Foreign Wedding Planners has grown to be one of the fore-runners in the industry catering to gorgeous destinations across Asia and Europe. Bringing style and detail to every project, each wedding is created and customized to reflect the couple’s personalities, and every element is executed to perfection as the company takes on only one client at a time.
Here, Neha takes us through her journey and shares tips for aspiring planners.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey? What motivated you to start a wedding planning company?
“I have always been creatively inclined. Since my childhood, I absolutely loved events and weddings. The grandeur, family get-togethers, decor, vibes, colors, music, rituals – everything excited me. I come from a background of interior designing, international business, media and sales, and I wanted to combine all my knowledge and experience into wedding planning. I decided to give myself two to three years to test out this new career path. I started Foreign Wedding Planners in June 2007 without any formal training or experience of working for someone else. I self-trained and read as much as I could on all related subjects. I launched my website with all my information and began with the idea of planning Thailand weddings for NRI couples from across the globe. Everyone questioned my business strategy, reasoning that planning a wedding from a different country without even meeting the clients is impossible. I took up a regular job while continuing to work on this as a hobby. Over the next few years, I realized I want to devote all my time to this and transitioned fully into this. It not only made me happy but also enabled me to make so many others also happy by turning their dream wedding into a reality.”
2. What were some challenges you faced early in your career? Did you have a support system and who was your biggest inspiration?
“The early challenges I faced had more to do with my inexperience in the field of wedding planning. There was no one to guide and no fixed pattern prevalent either. Unlike today, there were no portals to get information or contact details for vendors/artists/hotels. One had to research so much more to be able to sustain and actually get clients. Working in Thailand at that time was nothing like what it is today. There were barely any vendors or hotels who understood the requirements for Indian weddings. The language was a huge barrier too. I remember for the first wedding I did in Phuket, the decor was done by me and the hotel. Every vendor needed was procured through recommendations of the hotel.”
“I did not have a steady staff to back me. For eight years, I worked without any permanent employees on my payroll. I did everything on my own – from sales, PR, and marketing to planning, decor, and much more. What kept me going were the voices of the people who doubted me, motivating me to prove them wrong.”
3. Tell us a bit about Thailand as a location for an Indian destination wedding, and what sets it apart from the other destinations?
“Thailand remains as lovely and versatile as always! It has always been a location that offers a wholesome experience for any event. In my opinion, there are four major reasons that make it an ideal destination for Indian weddings.”
“Firstly, Thailand’s proximity to India means there is more frequency of flights, air tickets are cheaper and visitors can get visas on arrival. Secondly, Thailand tourism agencies and hotels have adapted dynamically to accommodate Indian weddings, in terms of ambiance, food, customs and celebrations. Thai culture isn’t very different from that of India, which makes things easier. Thirdly, is the budget! The same amount of money can get you so much more in Thailand compared to other destinations. Most of the vendors and hotels there aren’t too expensive. From modest to extravagant, Thailand has something to offer for every range. Lastly, there are so many versatile options in terms of locations and activities in Thailand – from world-class shopping, sightseeing, water activities, excellent hotels, beaches and mountains, and exemplary cuisine, it has so much to offer.”
4. After working with clients across Asia and Europe, how does the experience differ compared to planning weddings in India?
“There is definitely a difference in how our clients from abroad (especially Asia & Europe) function and communicate, which our team is more used to. We have always felt more comfortable with NRI families as we feel they understand the limitations of a wedding planner, and also all the artists and vendors we provide. They are better in temperament, mentality and professionalism. The same goes for the hotels/artists/vendors from abroad all of whom are much easier to work with, as they are used to a certain work culture. The experience of working in India is different. A difference in work culture and a lack of quality options available on a budget can create issues. One has to be sure of hotels and venues while working on lower budgets as they may not end up being as good. However, not everything is bad, but remember the comfort of our own country can never be replicated abroad.”
5. With so many talented people choosing wedding planning as a career, what makes you stand out from your peers and why?
“Right at inception, we lay down certain ground rules, principles and USPs which we follow religiously till date. This was not only to maintain a certain standard for our company but also to ensure a consistency of quality in all our work. We have built and nurtured a reputation, and have got several competitive assignments through word of mouth recommendations of satisfied clients. One distinguishing factor is that FWP strictly services only one client at a time. We customize every wedding and provide no pre-fixed packages. We also strongly believe in never misleading our customers and also provide counter solutions for anything we can’t deliver as per their request. Over-promising never helps and we bear it in mind at all times.”
6. What are the different elements you look forward to when planning a wedding?
“When we embark on the journey of planning a wedding for any client, we bear in mind all that is required primarily as discussed in the first few calls with the client/family. Those few details give us insight into the emotional aspect of the client and how exactly they envisage their special day. Choosing the right property is of utmost importance. We believe that each client’s requirements are different, and the right venue chosen is the first step towards achieving the correct focus. Following that is selecting the vendors, a very crucial aspect. We carefully scan the artists/vendors based on their past work, our relationship with them and track record and fit them according to our planning. Then comes the decor, personal touches and customization for each event. From start to finish, all aspects are covered for each and every wedding and a lot of time, energy and focus is given to each project.”
7. How do you add a personal touch to make every wedding special?
“As mentioned earlier, I attempt to understand the feelings and messages behind the conversations we have with couples when they approach us. I study them and their specifications in detail and understand what they really need from us. Any planner can do the basic hotel, food, and event vendor arrangements. However, someone who can connect well with a client and can relate to their vision, can add that personal touch. The family might have dreamt of a spectacular baraat entry or a bride might have a liking for a specific genre of decor, or a groom might want a certain bar arrangement. Understanding the couple’s characteristics and making sure it shows at the event planned is what makes it special for the family. Also, we add our personal touch by mixing with the family and guests and going beyond professional boundaries at times to assist wherever needed.”
8. What advice would you give young, aspiring wedding planners?
“There is a boom of wedding planners today with talented, young individuals trying to make a name for themselves. You need to not only sustain but also rise above others to be the best version of yourself to excel in this field. Focus on your USP’s, 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. Striving for more, work harder, and try not to blend in, is my best advice.”