Gurleen M Puri
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How did you get into Wedding Planning business?

I grew up in New Delhi, in a family of style mavens. We are Architects, Designers, Construction folks and Developers. We are all constantly envisioning and creating transformative environments. My parents valued the best of art, architecture, travel, food and wine, and introduced us to the best of everything, while growing up.

My home is a typical Sardar family. We embody élan and a larger-than-life attitude. We love grand dinners and hosting big, fun parties. I grew up seeing my family host these fantastic events, and always doing something to make those events extra-special.

I moved to Mumbai, when I was very young. These were the good ol’ days, where they were no Event Coordinators or Wedding Planners. Coming to Mumbai, I saw a lack of vivid entertainment. Banquets were simple, traditional, repetitive, and with little emphasis on detailing, basically very practical and somewhat boring.

Mumbai lacked a culture of experimentation, a lack of innovation and style and had no ‘wow’ factor. I started doing events at my home, just the way I had seen my family host events in Delhi. For each of my special events, I created exciting nights, integrating the best of art and architecture, food and drinks, and entertainment that resulted in fabulously good times. Then, I started doing events for friends, who wanted their special events to be unique, exciting, entertaining and memorable too. Soon, this process evolved into a personal and business philosophy, that we have never changed.

What are your specialties?

We look to create a dream ambience, but we place a large emphasis on deriving this ambience from classic and real concepts. We create our décor by integrating art, culture, history, and traditions. We develop themes that are not only about looking good, but we draw from traditions and the symbolism behind traditions. For example, our work reveres the Indian temples of Mathura and Tirupati, and we combine those environments with our age-old customs. We seek inspiration from the ancient and infuse it with the modern. We showcase this inspiration on a grand scale with décor and stunning installations, but also in the small touches, like the presentation of mithai on the thalis to the use of certain flowers.

Although, we pay reverence to Indian motifs, we are also stimulated by various other greats, like the unparalleled Belgian flower designers from Antwerp, the nature-inspired Asian masters and many other iconic design experts. Despite this wide sense of experimentation, we stay true to the greatest person in our event – our client. We pride ourselves on really understanding the client, creating designs that are tailor-made for them, understanding the spaces, people and incorporating art and architecture best fit for the event.

We specialize in fabrication, lighting, floral décor, fabrics, sensory stimulation and transforming the space. We take a bare, raw space and transform it into a space of wow. We take the length, height, breadth, scale of it all and create a completely different look every time. We have created visions inspired by the Badrutt Palace in Saint Moritz, the Tropicana in Havana, the magic of Marrakech, a Tropical Rain Forest, a vintage English garden party, Srinathji in Rajasthan and the Tirupati Balaji temples in Southern India.

When should one begin the wedding planning process?

The old adage, ‘the earlier the better’ works here. To create magic, one needs to plan every detail possible and have the luxury of time to spend on it. Additionally, if your wedding is in November or December, then planning can take about 3-5 months. You also need the advance planning to book the bests planners, spaces, flowers, entertainers, dancers, DJs, clothes, jewelry, make-up artists and other vendors. However, if you have an off-season wedding, then you could pull it off with even a month to plan.

How should one shortlist a wedding planner? What are the aspects that should be considered while doing so?

Wedding planning is a big industry now, with many qualified and talented people working in it. When short-listing a wedding planner, look for a person who is passionate about their work and experienced. Additionally, families should select a wedding planner that is not simply with good logistical skills, but has a lot of varied interests, artistic flair, good taste, is well-travelled, has the knowledge of incorporating diverse elements that have to come together, and most of all, maturity. A great wedding planner will be one that has a really good palette for stress, a solid planning and execution process, and has responsible, reliable, dependable team that can handle tough situations and last-minute glitches.

What are common mistakes that brides make?

Good question. It is a big job to manage the many aspects of a wedding for a bride, coupled with the emotions and nerves of the big day. So go easy on yourself. However, the best advice, I can give to brides is to avoid going on things simply dictated by trends and today’s fashions. Avoid the herd mentality and focus more on what you want, and what would work best for you. Choose a designer, jeweler, venue, theme, based on what is a reflection of you and what makes you comfortable in your own skin.
You have to love it, to have it. Don’t be bound by customs, what people think, or formality. Just enjoy yourself and likewise, everyone at your wedding will enjoy it too.

What are the key ingredients to have a perfect stress-free wedding?

You need planning, planning, and planning for a stress-free wedding. Planning needs a lot of research, homework and realistic decision-making before-hand. Focus on the big things you hoped for at your event. Don’t do a little bit of a lot of things. Decide on the overall look you want to project - is it modern and minimalistic, Indian and traditional, Bohemian and breezy, European and classy? And from that one big theme, come together to decide the smaller elements.

You can also pre-empt the initial panic by choosing the right planner, who will understand your wishes for your special day, understand the needs of your guests and then, accordingly help you select the right venue to host the event, the right food and drinks to satiate the guests, the right entertainment to enthrall the guests, all in all creating a wildly fun night. Our simple mantra is “if the host is happy, the guests will be happy”.

What are the dos and don'ts for a destination wedding?

Goa, Mauritius, Bali, Thailand and Europe are all great for summer and winter Destination Weddings. But the most important ‘Do’ for a successful Destination Wedding is choosing the right destination. The right destination will have the right infrastructure to take care of your wedding guests. Guests need an easy-to-travel-to location, good facilities, arrangements for breakfast, lunch and dinner and entertainment during the duration of the wedding festivities. You will also need to make travel arrangements, contingency plans for things like flight cancellations, unseen expenses for guests, and even cater to simple things like getting Indian clothes ironed well at the location.

In addition, you must ensure that the venue also has good support for the vendors and support staff to create the event. Vendors need things like road, rail and air connectivity to receive flowers, materials, furniture, vegetables, food and drinks and much more for the wedding. Keep in mind that you will have to create all aspects of the wedding, in a new location; therefore, the venue must be conducive to accommodate all of these aspects.

I recommend three things when it comes to planning a Destination Wedding. The first, to plan a destination wedding, you will need a fabulous wedding planner with a big team to handle all the logistics. Second, ensure that the venue can cater to the medical needs of your guests and vendors, in case of an emergency. Finally, plan your budget really well, with an adequate buffer, as Destination Weddings are known to go over budget.

What is the degree of control a bride should exude on a planner?

In general, if a Bride knows her mind and the planner is experienced, the bride needs to exude control only in the planning stages. Brides, Grooms and families can be very involved early on with detailed planning for the important aspects of the wedding, seeing trial pieces, mock-ups, samples etc. with the planner. Once the planning stage is over, then let go and let the talented planner handle things. Good Wedding Planners do their best with the trust and faith of their clients. Also, please note that good planners are adapting unfinished products, till the end, to design your dream vision, so embrace small changes, let go and trust the planner to do their best.

What are the current trends in the wedding market in terms of decor and locations?

Today, every dream is to be lived. We are seeing every type of vision in the wedding decor, from Retro to Rajasthan, from Saint Tropez to South India, South of France to the Italian Lake Como and the list goes on and on. We curate the old masters, ancient art, vintage architecture, and make it relevant for today’s time. We take classics like a Monet, the temples of India, and make it today’s art and architecture. From the food, to the fabrics, to the feel, we bring the old into the new, make it fun and relevant for today. Today’s hosts want their guests to enjoy the best of wine, caviar, and truffles, but all served in fun, personal, welcoming way.

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