Greetings, Maharanis! We're rolling out a new series of interviews with leading Indian wedding industry experts to help inspire you even further on your journey to planning the South Asian wedding of your dreams. Our first expert is no stranger to our regular readers or among her peers. Trusted to bring to life some of the most fascinating and luxurious bridal visions for over 13 years, Sonal J. Shah of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants has done it all. From celebrity weddings to writing her own book, "The Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect South Asian Wedding: Advice and Tips From the Industry Expert", you can trust that Sonal knows best. Here's what she had to share with us in our first ever Tastemakers interview!
MW: What's your favorite part about planning weddings?
SJS: "The creative process, from decor to menu planning. I feel like every element of a wedding tells a story. A story that represents the bride and groom. Creating the overall design of an event is the most fun part of the job."
MW: Can you tell us about your first celebrity wedding? Did you feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the prospect of planning it knowing the press it would receive?
SJS: "My first celebrity wedding was Jay Sean. Both him and his now wife Tara were so sweet, nice and down to earth, that it made the process quite easy. I just told myself that they were two normal people that were getting married, and the fact that he was a celebrity didn't change that, but the media pressure, and all around pressure in general, is a lot higher when planning high profile weddings."
MW: What trends are today's bride's looking for most when planning their weddings?
SJS: "We're seeing more and more high profile weddings thanks to social media. People want to wow their audiences and followers. More is being spent on the entertainment value and couple's are opting to go bigger with performances to entertain their guests. Decor is more important than ever too."
MW: What’s the most eccentric request you’ve received from a bride?
SJS: "To go shopping for her underwear the day of the wedding. The underwear she had could be seen through her dress, so me and my assistant had to run to JCPenny to get her new ones."
MW: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing and publishing your book?
SJS: "It took me over 5 years to actually publish the book. At the end of every year I would add a little more information to it. Every wedding is a learning experience and I wanted to make sure to include as much as possible. I wrote the book as if I was writing it to myself when I was planning my wedding. I kept asking myself, "What would I ask, what would I need to know?", and I wanted to make sure I covered all those answers."
MW: Best moment of your career so far?
SJS: "Definitely being able to publish my book, and hearing so many people say it has helped them plan their way. It's an amazing feeling being able to help people, even if they can't hire me. Another best moment was the wedding of Melanie and Neeraj Chandra. Planning a wedding of that magnitude, with so many moving pieces and at a property that had never done an Indian wedding was a huge challenge. Seeing it all come together and all the amazing press it has received has been very rewarding."
MW: What advice do you have to others looking to succeed in this industry?
SJS: "There is more to just the glitz and glam of wedding planning. A lot of people think that planning a wedding means going to events and being a part of them. But being a successful wedding planner means getting your hands dirty, going above and beyond for your clients and having a can do attitude."
MW: What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?
SJS: "I would say to value your work. At the beginning stages a lot of people think they need to offer their services for little to nothing. But if you don't value the worth of your service, or product, no one will."
MW: And finally, who is your dream celebrity client?
SJS: "Priyanka Chopra!"
We can't wait to bring you more expert insight from the South Asian wedding industry's leading vendors, so make sure to keep an eye out for our next Tastemaker Series interview!