By Surbhi Gogia
Weddings have always been a grand affair for South Asians. Back home they are super fun. Food and chatter all around, excitement in the air, a hundred different delicacies to gorge on. It’s like Diwali and Christmas together. The wedding week is a maddening roller coaster in everyone’s life. When the first wave of Indo-Canadian immigrants settled in Canada, they had small and simple weddings because of the limited funds and limited number of people available to attend the ceremony. But as the time passed, the immigrants earned money and made Canada their home, they started bringing the Indian experience of weddings in Canada in terms of clothes, budget, customs, food and grandeur.
The Indo-Canadian wedding Industry in the Lower Mainland is booming.The budgets are getting bigger and the trends are getting bizarre. Pardip Narwal is one of the success stories of the people who have made it big due to this grand wedding affair. Pardip is a wedding planner who runs her company under the name Big Phat Indian Weddings. Her educational background is Chemical Engineering and Forensic Sciences, but her passion to co-ordinate, communicate and plan events pulled her towards this business.
What started as a joke in her family, turned into a serious thing. “Back in 2009, I was sitting with my cousins when they pitched an idea about opening a wedding planning company of my own. I didn’t know anything about the industry, but the idea just stayed with me. I started doing my research, attending wedding shows and went to vendors to get a feel of the wedding industry. Initially the vendors were resistant because I was very young and there weren’t any South Asian wedding planners at that time,” she says.
But the demand for a South Asian wedding plannerhad been floating. Pardip touched the right cord of the customers and her business picked up. She organized the first wedding with a huge budget and entered the arena. Since then, she has been planning weddings, corporate events, grand birthday parties and anniversaries.
With over 8 years of experience now in this industry, Pardip plans around 15 to 20 weddings a year. She says that Indian weddings in terms of budget are getting bigger. The average cost of getting married in the Lower Mainland is well over $100,000 in combination of both families, which includes various functions like Mehndi, Jago, Ceremony and the Reception.
The changing trend she says, is that couples are shrinking the number of guests but increasing the quality of the services to their guests. “The budget too is going up, but most of the clients that I get want an intimate wedding with quality services,” she observes. Quoting an example she says, she will be organizing a wedding in April in the Okanagan. “My clients are from Eastern Canada, they have hired me from BC and they will having their wedding in the Okanagan. Only 225 people will be attending the wedding, but there budget is well over $150,000 as they want quality vendors and will be flying out/paying for most of the vendors to come from Vancouver,” she says.
She says she has also observed the trend of increase in number of people who want to have a Destination Wedding. “Being of South Asian descent, there is always pressure on you to invite everyone you know in your circle. Destination weddings takes that pressure off. There are a lot of couples who don’t want to invite the entire crowd and arrange a wedding outside their hometown with close family and friends,” she says. She informs that Mexico is one of the top wedding destinations. “But we are now gearing people towards the Caribbean and the Bahamas too, because they have some really good packages.”
Another trend that Pardip has observed is of duplicate weddings. “There was a time when young people would get married as per their parents consent. They still do it but they are now opting for partners they like irrespective of their religion and race. We organize a number weddings where they want to do civil ceremony according to one religion or race and reception according to another religion. There are lot of South Asians getting married to races that reach outside of the Indian descent, which is wonderful to see when we bring these families together. We also do a variety of Indian Wedding Ceremonies including but not limiting to Sikh, Hindu, Fijian, Guajarati, Sindhi etc.”
Pardip’s company’s role at this time is not limited to just wedding planning. They also take the couple’s family to the place of worship for the ceremony’s rehearsal. There are clashes amongst the families when they belong to different religions. “We step in as the binding factor and educate both the families about each other’s customs and culture so that they are comfortable on the day of the events.”
As the cost of getting married is increasing, so is the bizarre demands of the customers. There is always a race to be different or to create an experience of a grand Indian wedding. Pardip says customers sometimes ask to arrange exotic animals like Elephants or Camels. There have also been demands for an entry of bridegroom by the helicopter, which is easily doable, but with a price tag. Pardip says everything is possible, however these things are costly and involve a safety risk. “I always ask my customers to think twice before asking for such things. There was a family who wanted to get an elephant for their barat. We could have arranged it. But it would have cost them $80,000 for a 15 minute ride. I sat down with them suggested was that money really worth spending?”
Wisely spending the money on a wedding, is a huge issue with the couples. They are so excited about their weddings and celebrations that they forget about the life after the ceremony is complete. “Most of the time, South Asian parents spend the money on their children’s weddings but we’ve seen recently that couples now are footing the bill. They sometimes over-spend and regret. I always advise the couple to budget their wedding. We even offer them services of a mortgage broker and financial advisor for after their wedding to set them up for the rest of their lives,” she says.
Pardip is of the view that there is nothing wrong in spending the money the way couples want, but the expensive weddings are increasing the pressure on those who do not want to do it, or can’t afford it. “There are cases where those who have limited resources are taking loans against their mortgage for a wedding due to social pressures of throwing a fabulous event. It shouldn’t be like that,” she says.
Everything’s grand; everything’s a dream. But have you ever paused to think, do we really need all that? Does everybody want that or does everybody just comply with the norm? It has to be had even if the parties involved are short on funds. A lehnga worth thousands of dollar; an aerial entry; the list is long.
Budgeting Tips from Pardip Narwal
When planning a wedding, there are so many things involved, including hiring various companies to put together your vision. With that vision, comes cost! Most couples are stumped on how to figure out an appropriate budget for their vendors, so we have a few tips to help you with this:
Gaining quote from your vendors on what exactly you want will give you a rough idea on what your ideas will cost you. You may only budget a small amount towards a type of vendor, then realize that your vision may cost more, or you can adjust your ideas to fit a smaller price range.
Prioritize Your Vendors
Figure out what’s most important to you, is it your photography, is it your décor? Once you prioritize what’s most important to you to the least important, look at the quotes you got and see where you can adjust
Be Realistic and Educate Yourself
At the end of the day, we all want to save money, but always remember, you are getting a service from your vendors so be fair with pricing. For example, if you are wanting a ceremonial setup that includes all fresh flowers with no drapery showing, and your budget is only $500, you need to do your research. Educate yourself on what something like that would normally cost and see if it’s feasible for you to do, or for you to adjust your budget. So if you get a quote for $5000 on flowers oppose to $500, there is a reason for it.