by ASJAD NAZIR.
ACE PLANNER ONKAR SINGH PUREWAL ON ORGANISING THE PERFECT DAY FOR COUPLES, HIS BBC SERIES AND TOP TIPS.
More couples, than ever before, are hiring wedding planners to take the stress out of their big day and introduce ideas they perhaps would not have thought of.
Self-styled greatest wedding planner the world has ever seen, Onkar Singh Purewal has been helping couples with their big day for over a decade and is so good at his job that he landed a BBC documentary series about the same.
Eastern Eye caught up with the talented wedding planner to talk about his job, top tips for couples getting married, his BBC series and more.
What first got you interested in working as a wedding planner?
It was more of an accident that I ended up being a wedding planner. Many years ago my family and I bought a hotel, and my job was to get more weddings. I didn’t have the experience of ever running a wedding. Through failed attempts in getting the right people, I decided to learn the wedding trade in areas from an event manager to being a caterer and waiter. From there, I started learning the process of building a wedding. I understood what was needed to make a wedding happen and more memorable.
What happened next?
After several years I got better and better. Then we entered the Asian market with our company Pure Catering (renamed Wedding Guru Events). What I found in the Asian wedding industry was that there was no control of the wedding. Caterers didn’t care about the timings, service or contacting the bride about building the special day. Caterers are important, but I was dismayed how so many didn’t care about the bride or groom, but more about serving the food as quickly as possible and getting out. I believe any wedding company has a duty to make sure someone’s wedding is well-organised and is as good as possible. So when I started the company I was determined to not only provide fine cuisine, but an event management side and eventually evolving into a wedding planning company.
You do catering, event management and wedding planning. How would you describe the experience of working with couples getting married?
It can be varied depending on the culture. I have dealt with all – English, Muslims, Hindu and Sikh weddings. But the commonality I found with all of them is that they are under a lot of stress and have this picture in their head that is unclear and more of a feeling they want. My job is to articulate that feeling and turn it into a vision, and then turn that vision into an actual dream day. It’s rewarding.
What was the experience of making TV series The Wedding Guru?
Unbelievable. At first it was strange having cameras follow me around, but quickly I forgot about it as I made sure the company didn’t have cameras right in my face, as I wanted to concentrate on the event itself; it was all about the people I was serving. I wanted to show the stress and amount of work that goes into a wedding, and that weddings don’t appear out of thin air. It takes time, planning and making sure that it gets done. After filming, I had to wait months for it to come on TV and was really strange when it broadcast, and very surreal.
You got a lot of attention after the series, what was the most memorable?
There were many memorable moments after the show went national. I was working and as people entered the wedding venue, they would stare at me and ask ‘are you the wedding guru?’ They would ask for selfies and this has carried on at events since then.
What has been the most memorable wedding you have worked on?
Just recently I had to arrange a waiter per table, the décor, catering and bar all within my own company for around 450 people. So I had about 50 staff and two event supervisors. It was incredibly hard work, but was so satisfying to see all that months of planning. The scale of the operations was immense and so chuffed when the client too loved it.
What is the key work a wedding planner does?
The wedding planner has to be a confidant to the bride and groom. They have to turn their dream into a reality. They have to get suppliers to work together for the wedding to create something special.
What sets you apart?
Where I’m quite unique is that I get stuck in on
the day making sure that my services and the suppliers I have brought in, get the job done in the best way.
So on the day of the wedding, I turn from a wedding planner into an event manager for the whole wedding. I like it to be the way the bride and groom wanted it and take no exception from any suppliers.
I make sure I’m the first to turn up and the last to leave.
Do you work closer with the bride or groom?
It is more the bride, but I am finding that grooms are having a lot of input in the wedding nowadays.
What is the secret to finding a great wedding planner?
Know, like and trust are the principles I believe you can use in your research of wedding planners. Know their work from past portfolios, past clients or visiting them at an event they are doing. I believe you have to get on with the wedding planner. Sometimes it will be a long relationship, up to 18 months, so the couple needs a sense of being comfortable with the planner. The relationship can be personal as you are dealing with family members and planners have to be part of that. I mean, you are working on a day they will hold forever in their memory. Liking someone and knowing them is just not enough. You have to be able to trust them as well.
How can you trust them?
That sometimes is found during the research period when you are looking. A good wedding planner will be open about what can and can’t be done. If a wedding planner says yes to everything they are warning signs. Any good wedding planner should guide the couple and be comfortable enough to be honest about their choices. If you don’t have that element of trust, then that can put a strain on the planner and wedding-side relationship.
Have you ever had any strange requests in your job planning a wedding?
Strangely, no. But I reckon someday, someone’s going to ask for a mermaid in a fish tank. I can see it.
How do Indian weddings compared to other ones?
Each cultural wedding has its own attributes, but Indian weddings are always bigger and there is a lot more colour in them.
Why do you love being a wedding planner?
I have lost count the number of weddings where I see couples displaying their love and telling each other they will be with them for the rest of their life. It’s a significant moment in one’s life and being able to be part of that is the best. Seeing love every weekend at your job is special.
Ace wedding planner Onkar Singh Purewal gives key steps for couples planning a wedding:
- Style: First, think about what type of day you want, including cultural significance, party atmosphere, boutique, classical, countryside, contemporary and so on.
- Budget: Before thinking about things like outfits, jewellery and honeymoon; set a realistic budget for how much you have to spend on the wedding overall. Set a maximum budget you can’t go over, including contingency money. Then work within that.
- Guests: Once you agree on the style of the event (don’t worry about colours or decor at the moment), decide on the number of people you want to attend.
- Venue selection: Venues are the foundation to all of it. You have the number of guests, type of style and most importantly the budget, now select a venue that can accommodate things like catering, décor, entertainment, photography and such.
- Food: Decide what food you want and check for a selected caterer, the venue may have on their books. If so, make sure they have an event management team connected to the company, not just waiters. If not, then look for an event management company as well.
- The wow factor: Get a good décor company that will work with you to create the style you want. Also work with the venue’s existing look to emphasise your desired style.
There are many things to do, but these six will decide the rest of your planning. Don’t go cheap on these because you’ll pay for it later.
- Visit www.weddingguruevents.com, Facebook: Onkar – the Wedding Guru, Instagram: @iamweddingguru