A Q&A with past bride Sanjeet Choda
Planning a destination wedding is exciting and can pose multiple questions. Our very own optimum weddings by Dyana Dessar bride who couldn’t wait to join the team as a wedding planner, Sanjeet, had the most beautiful destination wedding on the picturesque Amalfi Coast in Italy. I could tell you the many multiple pros of having your own dreamy Italian wedding, but what better way to learn more about it than to hear straight from Sanjeet! I asked her some useful questions which I hope will answer some of your queries but also give you a better insight into just what a beautiful romantic Italian wedding is really like.
Sanjeet, what made you decide on a destination wedding?
I had always dreamt of having a destination wedding for as long as I can remember. I was determined to have something different and more fitting to our personalities than a wedding in the UK. My now husband and I didn’t want the same gigantic Indian wedding that normally follows the same routine, and we also didn’t want our parents to look back at our wedding as the biggest headache as opposed to a fond memory! Our must haves were gorgeous sunshine, a warm Mediterranean climate, unbeatable scenic views and ultimately, to have that relaxed holiday feeling for the duration of the wedding festivities.
What made you choose Italy as your destination wedding?
Italy has beautiful scenic options that just do not compare to anywhere else we have been, from the gorgeous turquoise waters to the traditional vineyards, it really is just stunning. Additionally, as a couple, our favourite cuisine is Italian food and so it seemed like the perfect idea to incorporate that into our wedding. We have always felt at home in Italy and it has a real sense of family and warmth radiating throughout it and so that really sealed the deal for us!
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What made you decide to hire a professional wedding planner rather than try to do it on your own?
It was the simple fact that we were well aware that although I LOVE planning and organisation, even this would have been a jump too far for me to attempt to plan as I had so many things to think of as the bride, planning aside! We really wanted someone that knew the country inside out and would be able to have a handful of suggestions readily available according to our requirements. There was also the potential language barrier as we understood that not all suppliers would speak English, and this could potentially reduce the pool of suppliers we could deal with.
What did you look for in your wedding planner?
Good taste was top of the list, I didn’t want to have to be going back and forth with a planner that didn’t understand the vibe we were going for. It is so important to stick to what you want and what feels right to you and not be persuaded to change that due to a clash of style ideas with your planner! I also wanted someone who had experience in planning an Indian wedding, and someone with a strong personality who I knew would be able to stand up to the demands of a big Indian wedding with equally big Indian families and ultimately, be able to get the jobs done properly. I knew that it would be an exciting and also stressful time and so I also really wanted a planner who was both kind and also good fun. At the end of the day, I knew we would spend many hours together (slight understatement in my case!), and so it was important to us that we had a good vibe and a good laugh throughout the planning process. In hindsight, at the end of the day, this really added to our wonderful wedding experience.
Why did you choose the Amalfi coast and what was it that made you know when you had found your perfect wedding venue?
I don’t think that my words could do it justice, the place is just everything we love. The bright colours of the flowers, the dramatic coastline and mesmerising views, the vibrant blue sea, the feast for the senses of the mix of cultural and natural beauty, the glow of the Mediterranean sunsets, the abundance of wonderful Italian zesty lemons, and of course the food! We also loved the affable nature of the Italian people and the way that they welcome visitors. It was love at first sight and this was and still is our little piece of heaven.
The deal breaker and magnet which ultimately drew us to Amalfi was our Reception venue. It was exactly what we had pictured in our minds and as soon as our planner sent it to us to consider, it was game over. We had multiple events and multiple venues to view on our first visit, each of our top choices for those venues won us over and were even more beautiful than we had imagined possible. The beauty of the Amalfi Coast just has to be experienced, my words really cannot do it justice!
Did you stick to your original budget work? What advice would you give couples with regards to things often costing more than initially expected?
No, we did not! When we saw our reception venue, that was our main focus and must have features, and so we adjusted our budget to what we needed to in order to make that work. From the moment we said yes to the venue, our planners, optimum weddings by Dyana Dessar were clear about the impact which it would have on our budget, but at the end of the day that’s all they can do and we really appreciated their honest words of wisdom. The discussions of whether changes are feasible and adjustments can be made are for you and your partner to have. We couldn’t get the venue out of our heads and so and after discussing the economics of the situation with our families, we decided that we were happy to still move forward, so that’s what we did. As you go along, there are certain cutbacks you can make, however, we learnt so much about each and every cost, and costs which we had never even considered. My advice is that it is always handy to have a “buffer” or a safety net in addition to your original budget to account for any unexpected costs.
Where did you get your stunning outfits from?
We went for the whole authentic experience and followed our roots back to India to find them. I had tried looking around in the UK, however, with my mother’s family having contacts in India, we found that we preferred the vast range of designs available over there!
Was it difficult as you wanted a Sikh wedding outside the Gurdwara?
Definitely, however, we were exceptionally careful when choosing our venue to ensure that we respected the wishes of the Gurdwara. We took extra trips to Italy specifically to meet with the priest and take him around the venue to ensure they were satisfied with the conditions we had explained to them. This can be daunting, however, there is always something you can do to make this work. We stayed positive throughout, and in our case, we’re lucky enough to find a wonderful priest who accommodated this and made it that bit easier.
What words of wisdom would you give to couples who are looking to plan their wedding abroad?
Do your research and trust your gut instinct about a planner, it will always be right and it will pay off! See if you can speak with past brides or couples who had the same planner to get an understanding of how they work. Most importantly, I always tell brides to enjoy the planning process! I remember Dyana telling us not to sweat the small stuff and to stop and take it all in. The wedding celebrations go by in such a flash, so to get the most out of it, make sure that you enjoy the planning too. Be realistic with your budget to avoid stress and be flexible wherever you can.
How do you think weddings will be in the post Covid-19 era?
I think 2020 has really given everyone the opportunity to stop and appreciate what we have. With this appreciation, my hope is that weddings post-Covid will be that much more special, with everyone being thankful just to be around their nearest and dearest celebrating these milestones.
How do you feel now the shoe is on the other foot and you have stepped over to join us as a wedding planner?
I love it and I love all things wedding related! The one thing I will say is that I now hugely appreciate just how much time it takes to put together briefs, recommendations and quotes for each couple. As we offer such a bespoke service to each couple, I have a much better understanding of what has to be done in order to give our couples that unique experience and ensure that their wedding is completely tailored to their taste.
Although our 2020 weddings did not go to plan, I am looking forward to putting that much more passion, energy and love into our upcoming weddings in 2021and onwards!