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In conversation with wedding designer Devika Narain

IMG-20170414-WA0023Devika Narain never imagined she would enter the wedding business. After majoring in English Literature, she went on to work at CNN- IBN, only to realise that mainstream journalism wasn’t for her. Craving to indulge her creative side, she wound up with a job in a wedding design company, and that’s where she found her calling.

She launched Devika Narain & Co. three years ago. Hers is far from a textbook fairytale approach to weddings. “We believe in the real celebrations that are worth remembering for a lifetime. We design for the eclectic bride, the one who is not afraid to open her hair and dance at her own party. It’s about experiences, and not just spaces, for us,” she tells Aashni + Co in an exclusive chat. Read on for ace wedding advice, and all about Devika’s recent wedding as well.

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Boutique hotels vs five-star properties—what’s your take?

The psychology of space has always intrigued me. Different spaces invoke different feelings, and that is the core of good design. Boutique properties are great for intimate weddings, service is more personal and the hotel becomes an extension of the family home. Five star hotels are great for weddings with large guest numbers with multiple venues and staff equipped to handle the pressures of a wedding. A sense of what you would want the guests to experience defines this choice.

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Intimate vs larger than life—how does one pick a side or balance the two?

For the last decade, weddings have been about showmanship, grandeur and have had a theatrical essence to it. I have seen the shift in focus from grand to weddings the make-you-feel-good weddings.

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The essence is now on how guests feel, what they do and how their overall experience is. I believe the focus of a wedding should be on family—it is the only time multiple generations of a family are together and that should drive the ethos of a celebration.

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The best way to balance it out is to choose which functions to make personal and which ones to celebrate with your extended circles. Smaller ceremonies followed by larger dinner ensures you have the best of both worlds.

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Destination wedding vs marrying in your hometown—how can one decide?

You need to answer three simple questions, to make this decision:

  • Will your hometown be able to accommodate the number of guests you are looking at? Are there sufficient resources to provide for a wedding in your hometown?
  • What matters more to you? Some destinations help in recreating family homes (Like Kumarkom did for Sylvie and Aaron), while some are a great excuse to take your entire family on a holiday.
  • Are you up game to handle the logistics of a destination wedding? Destination weddings require a lot more recces, time and logistics than a local wedding.

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Which are the most popular wedding destinations for 2017-18? What about the ones that are best avoided?

As much as I adore Rajasthan, I love that families are experimenting and willing to travel for weddings. The fact that weddings are being viewed as holidays for the family has made the process of choosing a destination so much more exciting. The backwaters of Kerala, desert destinations like Jaisalmer and Bikaner, spas like Sukhvilas and the hills (Mussourie and Shimla) are great to host weddings.

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Europe has now become more accessible for Indians than ever before. Budapest is cheaper than Thailand, Greece and Italy are both beautiful and have fabulous food, the Middle East has treasures like Jordan and Muscat, and these are playing host to some beautiful weddings. I am thrilled to see weddings move away from Goa and Thailand.

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What are the key ingredients that prevent a wedding from turning into a cookie cutter affair?

The best way to plan a wedding is from the perspective of someone attending it. People plan and design the most beautiful weddings and completely overlook the needs of the guests we are hosting it for.

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Space out your functions, provide sufficient seating, create experiences that engage guests, and induce conversations. Think about the food and what you and your family actually enjoy eating as opposed to what is fashionable to serve. Be comfortable in your clothes so you can enjoy your wedding, spend less time getting dressed and more time at the functions.

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Tell us about the one of the most memorable weddings you’ve worked on till date.

This is a tough one! Somewhere in the summer of 2015, I got a call from San Francisco-based Sylvia telling me that she’s getting married in Kumarkom in December. She’s Telugu, he’s American. It already sounded like a dream wedding to me!

Sylvie + Aaron, 2015 (18)I Googled venues while on the phone with her. One look at the stunning photos of the backwaters, and I said yes. This would be first wedding in Kerala for me.

Sylvie + Aaron, 2015 (20)

Six months later, we designed what is one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever had the privilege to create. The greatest honour you can have as a designer is to be granted infinite creative freedom and that’s exactly what I got. Sylvie and Aaron had a beautiful story and their families were extremely special. With one meeting and two phone conversations, I was able to create something that made all of us so happy. To me, that’s what wedding spaces should do—remind us of where we come from and be able to make the people we love most, happy. Sylvie taught me that.

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You recently got married in a beautiful ceremony yourself. How did you don the hat of both the planner and bride?

I remember my first day at work…I was putting together a bunch of references and found one that I absolutely loved and put it into a hidden folder. Over the last eight years, I have collected over a thousand images for myself, and during the same time, given them away to other brides. When the time came to use that folder, I had nothing left! Which was honestly a blessing.

Photo credit: Two Mann Studios

Photo credit: Two Mann Studios

For our wedding, we simplified everything. Joe (Devika married noted photographer Joseph Radhik) and I both wanted to enjoy our own wedding, and we drove every single detail around that. There was almost no décor ( our wedding table centrepieces were bought on the morning of our ceremony!), I wore my mother’s wedding lehenga, and heirloom jewellery. A friend officiated us and it was followed by a laid back picnic lunch at my uncles’ farm in the middle of mustard fields. We had the most brilliant photographers down from Canada that gave us the most interesting perspective of our own wedding.

As a bride who plans weddings for a living, I learnt the importance of delegating. My aunts, cousins and friends were the greatest help and having them help me plan gave me an excuse to spend more time with them—which was awesome! Joe and I planned all the details and then handed them over so that we could make the most of our day.

What would your dream wedding look like? Tell us in the comment box below!