When it comes to Indian weddings, where there’s a 1,000-people-odd guest list, multiple functions and a variety of logistics, it’s not easy finding that one wedding planner who can pull it off without a hitch. Wedding designer Devika Narain, however, seems to have the execution pat down. Having handled the Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma Italy wedding, and countless other beautiful ones in the country, Narain has carved a niche for herself; her eponymous Mumbai-based company is now the gold standard in wedding design in the country. With the season in full force, Lifestyle Asia caught up with her to understand how she forayed into the industry and what goes into making a typical Devika Narain wedding.
How did this career open up for you?
I was 10 years old when I attended my first wedding, and by the time I was 13 and saw the movie ‘The Wedding Planner’, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to be. But as an 18-year-old, I wasn’t sure. So I tried being a teacher, a journalist, a writer and even a painter. I understand now that it’s when all your plans go wrong that wonderful unforeseen things happen. Along the journey, I found myself in my dream job.
I lived every bit of my dream for four years, and soon got comfortable in what I was doing. And comfort has always been my greatest enemy. So one day, I decided to quit my dream job and decided to start on my own. In the initial days, there wasn’t any thought of making it big. It was a tussle between being able to make it at all, and at that point, I just went along and buried my nose in my work. And from there, on the dining table of a small rented apartment, the idea of DNC was born. It’d say we’re nowhere close to where we want to be, but exactly where I wanted to be when I was 18.
How do you stay relevant in an industry where the tide changes quickly?
By staying true to ourselves. If you love what you do and make something of value, you will always find someone to buy it. People don’t hire us because we’re the best wedding designers in the country/world or have the most creativity. They hire us because they believe in the same principles as us – of sustainability, authenticity, being personal and true to yourself. It’s about creating something so unique that it’s impossible to recreate.
How does one stay at the top in this job?
By being efficient and empathetic. You have to think on your feet, anticipate problems and have solutions. And you have to have empathy for the family – their needs come first. That’s what I mean by designing with heart. It’s not about a pretty theme or a fun product – it’s about being sensitive and enterprising.
What have you learnt in your career in wedding planning?
For the last decade, weddings have been about showmanship, grandeur and have had a theatrical essence. I have seen the shift in focus from ‘grand’ to weddings that make you feel good. It’s now about how guests feel, what they do and their overall experience. The focus of a wedding should be on family – it is the only time multiple generations are together and that should drive the celebration.
What’s your aesthetic – how do you approach a wedding?
At Devika & Co comes we design weddings, we are not essentially just planners. We don’t copy-paste. Our weddings are unique, bespoke and personal. And just like the art and design movement, this expression is devoid of market trends – it exists in isolation.
The most memorable wedding you created?
In the summer of 2015, I got a call from San Francisco. The caller, Sylvia, told me me that she was getting married in December in Kumarakom. She was Telugu, he was American. She asked if I could help. I googled the venue and saw the most stunning photos of the backwaters. Without thinking twice, I said yes. Six months in, we designed what was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever had the privilege of creating. To me, that’s what wedding spaces should do: Remind us of where we come from and make the people we love most, happy.
The most challenging and fulfilling part of wedding design?
The last few hours of setup are the best – a shot of adrenaline. The ability to be able to see something come to life from nothing is spectacular. The sheer joy that you feel after months of planning, absolute insanity, mess ups and firefighting is exhilarating.
A wedding you’d love to execute?
Design a wedding in the snow. Never done it, but would love to. And like all wedding designers, I want to do a wedding at the Four Seasons in Paris – I’ve heard it’s the best.
A destination that has your heart?
Kumarakom in Kerala. And of course, the Virushka wedding in Italy.
What’s in store for Devika Narain & Co?
We have only two goals. The first is to tell stories and family histories through spaces, and make each event unique and fun. The second is to go completely local and create weddings handcrafted by NGOs and artisans. Our goal is to give back little by little. We want to be conscious thought leaders in this industry, and become a bigger design house.