All Maharanis obsess over the tiniest details, and you will often find us swooning over those rustic canopy-style tents, colorful pavilions, and exotic outdoor mandaps that add so much oomph to Indian wedding decor. In our second Tastemaker Series feature, we are elated to feature one of our early supporters, and the ultimate connoisseurs of luxurious tents, design, and drapery: Raj Tents, co-founded by Dominic Mitchell. With a diverse portfolio in wedding, corporate, and (celebrity!) social events, Raj Tents is an established name in the industry, especially with South Asian weddings. A plethora of brides and industry leaders have vouched for Raj Tents when it comes to turning the glam quotient up a notch. We picked Dominic's brains as best as we could, and here's everything that you need to know:
Maharani Weddings: Please tell us about the story of Raj Tents, and how you became experts in your area?
Dominic Mitchell: Our background goes back 25 years to when my sister was working for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Under His Highness’s patronage, she revitalized the tradition of tent manufacture in Rajasthan. Raj Tents was founded in the California in 2004 to bring stunningly beautiful tents to the US. We constantly develop and innovate to meet our client’s demands and provide new and exciting items - in fact I am writing this in India on my annual production visit.
MW: What do you love the most about creating the perfect canopy/ tent, and what are some challenges you experience?
DM: For our clients it is all about the end result- beautiful tents to create the perfect environment for their wedding celebration. When designing a luxury tent, we are always projecting forwards to that point of value for our clients and it is very satisfying to see all come together on the day.
MW: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you work on a project when the client has a vague idea of what he/she wants?
DM: Visuals are the best way to show alternatives and make decisions. Most clients don’t know exactly what they want and that is completely fine. Selecting some images that between them sum up the overall look and feel the family wants works well in communicating the desired end result. Our job is then to work backwards from that to see how to achieve it.
MW: Does Raj Tents have a signature touch? What element is key?
DM: Overall attention to detail, involvement, and hand work bring our designs to life. We have our fabrics milled and dyed – you can’t something better than the ingredients you start with – ask a winemaker. People often remark on the scalloped valances as they are such a strong design element and are in gorgeous colors.
MW: Indoor wedding vs. outdoor wedding: what is your preference and why?
DM: Of course an outdoor wedding has more scope for luxury tenting. However, there are lots of interesting applications for ballrooms, barns, convention centers etc. Our free standing metal framed Pergolas and Pavilions add elevation and where there are rigging points on the ceiling, we have lots of interesting options for hanging floating canopies and lighting treatments.
MW: From the standpoint of canopy and tent decor, what makes South Asian weddings special?
DM: The purpose the tents serve is what makes Indian Weddings special for us. Planning a multi-day, elaborate wedding has more potential for our tents and décor to transform the wedding. It is great to repurpose tenting for different wedding events and by changing out certain elements always keep the look fresh and exciting for the families and guests.
MW: Not all venues are the same. So to what extent and how does decor depend on the venue?
DM: If the venue was chosen mainly for it’s utility, we do not have to tread so gently. However, when it is chosen for the views, architecture, location, ambience etc., we need to find ways to accentuate what the family values about it. I would say the most successful wedding installations are those where the tenting and décor work together with the venue, both amplifying one another’s benefits.
MW: What is a starting point for brides/ couples who like to design their own decor?
DM: There is so much inspiration around, it can be hard to choose what to do. I would advise starting with the practical side, make sure you know what you are up against – location, time, budget, weather, etc. Then think laterally for a while, exploring alternatives. Don’t underestimate how much is involved – after all, that is why there is a multi-billion dollar wedding industry in the US.
We truly love featuring extraordinaires from the wedding industry, especially those like Raj Tents that have immense knowledge of the industry and valuable insights to share. Watch this space for our next Tastemaker Series!