The movie Wedding Planner way back in 2001 starring Jennifer Lopez and Mathew McConaughey created a buzz but the planning of weddings in Sri Lanka was not given much significance, as it was usually the parents, an older relative or the couple themselves that planned it. What spiraled this service into the limelight was mostly the convenience factor. The dawn of social media weddings makes one a virtual guest, which is the reason for it to be curated to perfection with minimal or zero glitches. With couples working, parents occupied with various matters or aged there has to be that professional who has the knack for organizing, ability to work under pressure and multi task with panache and who can also coordinate the couple’s big day. In the recent years we have seen the mushrooming effect of wedding planners who tend to sprout from all parts of the island. But how would you determine the most suitable wedding planner who could glamourize your day and bring that extra special touch as opposed to a blasé wedding that fizzles out of memory the moment guests walk out the door? We at Brides Of Sri Lanka caught up (literally as these amazing individuals are on their toes and kept occupied with planning) with three of Sri Lanka’s famous wedding planners who were willing to share their experiences and offer sound advice.
Let’s pull the curtain back to find out what goes on behind the scenes at weddings…
‘Weddings by Dila’
Dilani of ‘Weddings by Dila’ fame is a graduate in Information and Technology from Stafforshire University, and an USA certified Project Management Professional with over ten years of experience possessing a creative flair which she explored from childhood. “I was part of any event; be it a house party, school event, friends weddings etc., as it would give me immense pleasure to help in planning it or simply wrapping the cake.” which is why the planning of her own wedding from inception was no exception, “It came naturally and I took to the planning side of it with gusto”. That was the icing on the cake as people were talking about the perfect coordination and the manner in which the wedding just took on a dreamlike essence as it flowed from one stage to the next with apparent smoothness in a seamless setting. It sent off ‘wedding bells’ in her trend of thought as she coupled her project management skills which required the ability to manage a plethora of complexities such as organizing, time management, cost management, stake-holder multi management, rapport building with multiple individuals from various countries, cultures and ethnicities; and of course the ability to do all this with aplomb and not bury your head like an ostrich when under pressure. And voila; with her natural talent for creativity you have the perfect wedding planner!
“My friends encouraged me in my pursuit and offered to share images of weddings I had unofficially curated to open my social media page and I had my first official wedding planning assignment through an acquaintance. It was nerve wrecking as all weddings are but I thrive in such an atmosphere.
Lady luck shone on her, as she was able to resume her scope for planning even after a brief hiatus in caring for her baby. Her talent could not be hidden for long as she was much sought after by friends, acquaintances, family and strangers as her fame had spread through word-of-mouth and first hand exposure. What’s unique about her is her ability to put people at ease with her non-affable style, so much so that people often mistake her for a close friend of the bridal party. “I work with a limited number as I intend to offer a personalized service”.
What are some of the attributes a couple requires when searching for a wedding planner?
“Apart from the aforementioned technical skills, it is someone trustworthy who in the ensuing months will be considered their closest confident. The wedding planner should also possess attributes such as flexibility and compassion while confidently guiding the couple in the right direction in their preparations. The person should also be equipped with tact to handle emotional outbursts and conflicts that may arise with ease”.
The scope of services I offer are Full Wedding Planning – a complete peace of mind from the beginning of the planning process until you depart. We will look into every aspect of your day and plan accordingly. This package is bundled up with day coordination. The Partial Wedding Planning package is for couples who have already started planning and made certain reservations etc., but aren’t certain how to proceed further. We will pick it up from the point you have stopped. This package comes with Day Coordination.
Day Coordination is for couples who have enjoyed the planning aspect of it and are at the crux of requiring some guidance in order to curate. We assure that everything will be taken care of from wedding arrangements to the couple’s going away, while the couple and the rest of the family are at ease.
“While each wedding has its hair raising moments, I recall a wedding held recently in which a split-second decision had to made as to who was to be assigned to assist her onto the Poruwa while the bride was making her way towards the Poruwa as the previously assigned individual was held in traffic. I had to inquire as to a suitable relative who was willing to do the task in a matter of seconds. It was a race against time and it felt akin to defusing a time bomb.
Another recent incident highlights the importance of being intuitive and attentive. Sixth sense played a key role and that was at a hotel with multiple halls. The band requested for the wedding I was planning seemed to walk in and were on the verge of setting up their equipment, when I inquired their name. It that was fortuitous as it was not the band the couple had requested but another band assigned for another wedding in the same hotel as they had mistaken the hall”.
Wedding planning will ensure that everyone actually enjoys the day without gritting their teeth and shaking their fists or even pulling their hair out over the nitty gritty. All aspects are covered and nothing is left out.
Some of the errors are centered around the inability to plan a proper budget and stick to it. Most often couples are dazzled by names and make advance payments without a proper plan but may end up getting into huge debt. One needs to realize that even a pin needs to be accounted for and this is one of the greatest benefits in securing the services of a professional wedding planner. If you are looking for someone who goes above and beyond her call of duty and blends in with ease as a family member, Dila of Weddings by Dila would be your ideal choice.
‘Weddings by Suranga Fernando’
Suranga is no stranger to the limelight as she has been featured on many billboards and cover shoots related to the national carrier. After 11 years of service, she embarked on a different path, which focused on family. Suranga excels in the role of wife and mother, as in everything she pursues. “I received several requests to prepare weddings as a result of the experience I acquired working side by side with my husband in the corporate events industry. Through this I got a foretaste of event planning and decided to combine my studies and launch my own brand ‘Weddings by Suranga Fernando’ in 2015. From the moment I took that initial foray, I was mesmerized by this role as it brought immense pleasure.
With a wealth of experience and expertise, we have made remarkable progress with the help of experts in related fields. Over the last few years, there has been significant change in the wedding industry here in Sri Lanka. This paradise which we call home with its breath-taking locations, have held countless celebrations. Our isle beckons the foreigners who value the exotic beauty of our island for their destination weddings and its own people, who wish to explore the vivid trends such as the intimate outdoor functions that are rather unique.
What is your scope?
We have managed to add a unique dimension to the local wedding industry with this team of knowledgeable, innovative, and dynamic professionals and have won a reputation amongst locals and foreigners by catering to their wedding needs. They are dedicated to providing couples with more than they imagined on their special day. We as a team create unforgettable moments and the bond we create with our clients are not just based on work but also as family. These bonds, we as a team carry through our lifetime even after the function per se.
As event planners something that should be highly prioritized is the quality of events we put together. We ensure that we keep the quality at its peak rather than the quantity of weddings we undertake. Giving our utmost dedication towards each wedding and ensuring that its perfectly done, we manage our time by accepting maximum of 5 weddings per month.
What’s unique about what you offer?
Our highest priority is always to exceed the client's expectations. We aspire to uphold our motto of delivering excellent service at a reasonable price to all of our customers. We have a team that consists of industry experts in various fields. They are the best in what they do from design to lighting to sound and entertainment. Understanding and grasping the nature of individuals in the families we ensure that both bride and groom’s side of the family are supported throughout and is happy within the process.
In general a wedding planner should be highly dedicated, driven with creativity and patience. Being a good listener and making sure that the client is comfortable during the communication is key for a successful event. Organization skills and time management are highly important for a wedding planner and should know of their duty to take up the burden off the clients’ shoulders. A well-versed wedding planner will be versatile and non-discriminatory and will support you all through the process from the very beginning till the end.
Advantages of having a specialized person to plan the intricate details?
Specialized person has more experience and knows how to handle unforeseen circumstances and take the leadership in making the required decision. Knowing well about the crowds, the gravity of the event and identifying the aspects having the knowledge to tackle situations without panicking is a huge perk of hiring yourself a professional.
Aside from assisting with budgeting, the most significant benefit of hiring a planner is finding someone who will advocate for your wedding vision from beginning to the end with the technicality of a wedding and eventual execution of smooth operation. While many suppliers handle several weddings every day or weekend, a planner is focused entirely on your special day and will work tirelessly to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Not only should your wedding planner help your out with the designing and styling of the event and making sure your ideas are implemented in the most reasonable manner but also will be in charge of coordinating the day. The wedding planner is to ensure the vendors do arrive on time and perform the duties as planned ahead. Your wedding planner is there to make sure you and your family is stress free on the big celebration and to enjoy and relax. A wedding planner is your friend, sister, consultant all in one to ensure your dreams come true.
What are some memorable moments, which are etched in your mind?
On the 2nd of December with heavy planning for over a year, a beautiful outdoor event was on play. Yet the weather was against us with the forecast of a cyclone and the fear of the event being in danger was heavily in our minds given that the venue was in a high-risk area. Eventually with the last minute changes, decisions, prayers and faith we all had, the grey clouds moved out with barely any wind causing havoc. In the end it was just perfect…
‘Charm of Magical Moments’
How did it all start?
Wedding planning and styling has always been my dream. I founded Magical Moments after leaving the apparel industry, where I worked my way up the ladder for a decade and a half at the local apparel powerhouse Brandix. While some may like the safety a 9-5 job brings, I always wanted to strive for more. Hence I left behind a flourishing career to pursue this lifelong dream. What I do now is less a job and more a passion, though I continue to combine that with integrity and my experience in the corporate world, to offer services that are both personalized and professional. This was, is and always will be the foundation upon which my services are built on.
What is your scope?
Over the past nine years I have guided Magical Moments’ meteoric rise to lead the industry in styling and planning bespoke local premium weddings and destination weddings. I have carved a name for myself as a premier wedding planner of Sri Lanka and am hailed as a top industry player for creativity and ingenuity in curating one-of-a-kind weddings to the point where I am privilege to have my work showcased internationally in publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.
My forte in wedding and event planning lies in knitting together my client’s delicate ideas and weaving them into a unique, original one of a kind event. I am a perfectionist, and pride myself on my keen attention-to-detail. Be it a beach wedding for 50 guests or a grand ballroom one with 1000, I have the expertise and experience to turn my client’s dreams into reality. It is a privilege and an honor to be entrusted with crafting what for many is the most important day of their life filled with their most treasured memories.
What’s Unique about what you offer?
The term ‘Wedding Planner’ is a misnomer in describing what we do. In addition to the promise of impeccable coordination and planning services, I also personally design and style my weddings to match my client’s desires. Traditionally in Sri Lanka, this is mostly done by the florist. I create a holistic vision for each of my events, encompassing all aspects of the décor, food and entertainment, to craft the fairy-tale weddings my clients dream of. This includes multiple site visits, multiple sketches, a very detailed styling proposal and hours of back-and-forth discussions with our vendors. We go above and beyond to give our clients an event that will be talked about for years to come.
There are no shortcuts to quality when working with me; my impeccable attention to detail and strict work ethic is one that has spearheaded my team to strive for excellence. This is why my portfolio is a cut above the rest, and why I have several clients who are now more like family!
In your opinion, what should couples look for or expect from a wedding planner?
• Organizational skills: A good wedding planner should be organized and have excellent time management and multi-tasking skills. Most of the time, wedding planners have several months to plan a wedding, but occasionally that time frame may be only a few weeks, and a good wedding planner must be able to work under pressure and keep to deadlines.
• Communication Skills: Communication is integral to planning the wedding of your dreams. Deadlines and tight schedules are a dime a dozen with a wedding. A good wedding planner will keep you updated regularly on the preparations ensuring that you know the status of the planning at any moment through the process and leading up to the day-of when they keep things running fluid and on time.
• Attention to detail: Your wedding should be a perfect day. Planners should be forward thinking and able to identify any potential hiccups, and either bring them to your attention well before they become an issue or deal with them in the moment. This is especially important the day-of as they need to ensure that the final design translates correctly into reality when vendors start setting up.
• Experience: Some things just cannot be learned on paper. In no way does this mean that newcomers to the industry aren’t talented; we were all there once! Looking through a planner’s past work will help give you a better idea of what they are capable of. Experienced planners will have built strong relationships with service vendors and may also have executed weddings at the location you choose. This means they will be better equipped to handle the nuances of vendors/locations, ironing out any kinks before they appear.
• Level of Service: It is important to decide early on what exactly you expect a planner to handle. It could be as simple as coordinating the reception on the day-of or as complicated as styling, planning and executing a bespoke wedding. While my forte is the latter, you can find value in choosing any level of service over doing it yourself.
• Personality and Trust: You need to also ensure that you’re able to trust the planner as there are times when planning can get difficult. Even if they may be incredible at what they do, ensuring that your personalities click and that you trust them 100% is key.
Wedding planners are able to work to ensure every aspect of your wedding is amazing, but they each have their own skill set that they bring to the table whether it be the visuals of the wedding or the food. The couple needs to ensure that it matches what they are looking for.
There are advantages of having a specialized person to plan the intricate details. Having a good wedding planner will leave you and your family stress-free to enjoy your special day. The only thing that should be on your agenda is to have fun and live in the moment! Everything else should be left in the hands of a planner that you trust. They will manage the service vendors on your behalf ensuring the final product matches your expectations.
We start the planning process months in advance, helping you prioritize what to spend on and advising on which vendors are most suitable for your design and budgetary requirements. As your event is styled completely in-house, all you need to worry about helping us understand your vision; once things are finalized, we will handle the delegation and communication to vendors. We will also help you navigate the legal and admin restrictions that have arisen as part of the pandemic.
What are some of the memorable moments you would like to share with us?
Our pièce de resistance is a four-day ceremony at numerous locations on the southern coast, including a private island and a mountain villa overlooking the Indian Ocean. I would need a whole page to describe how amazing it was to style that wedding. Booking a steam train for the wedding party to travel in, custom-building a single table for 120 people which snaked from one end of the property to the other and organizing a special multi-national dining experience with mobile catering from a 5-star boutique hotel are just a few of the talking points. I have also had the opportunity to turn the Shangri-La ballroom into a pseudo-botanical garden for a client who wanted to be immersed in nature.
By far though the best part of this job is the people I meet, both from here and from around the globe. It is not uncommon for my clients to become friends over the months, and sometimes years, it takes to plan their dream wedding.