Sabrina Suri is an uber-talented and stylish planner who started Joie de Vivre Events after a history of planning fabulous parties for friends in high school and college. She sat down with me to talk about her job, her clients and what she’s learning right now from planning her own wedding…
Talk about a wedding that stands out for you as being one of your favorites
Sabrina: The wedding from this last weekend was the best one ever! It was a challenge to make everything that the bride and the groom wanted fused into one. The groom wanted an outdoor music festival-type wedding and the bride wanted a romantic princess-type wedding. And we really made both of them happy – even though it was such a luxurious wedding, we were still able to get that outdoor, relaxed feel.
The outdoor ceremony was in the north courtyard at COSI. We had butlered hors d’oeuvres, and we had orchids on all the butler trays. We had pretty signature drinks, like Smoke and Ginger. For the reception hall we had three chandeliers in a tent that was completely lined with fabric. At night the full tent lit up in purple.
They’re huge music festival fans so there were a lot of little things that we did to bring that into the wedding. As the guests went into the cocktail hour they picked up “concert tickets” for the reception. So when you walked into the reception hall you had to find your table name which was one of the festivals that the bride and groom had attended during their 8-year relationship.
The couple had their grand entrance using a trolley. Then at 10:30pm the DJ announced the live band taking over, and a live brass 10-piece jazz band took over. We had three courses – hors d’oeuvres, the main reception meal and we had a late night snack. The midnight buffet included Kobe beef sliders, a nacho bar (where you filled your martini glass with nachos and shrimp and steak) plus we had a fire table where you could make your own s’mores.
I’m so happy they found me. It was literally like the royal wedding of Ohio!
When you first start working with a bride, what are the first questions you ask?
The first question is always – how many guests? The best way to exponentially reduce your costs is to keep your headcount in mind from the very beginning.
In the beginning we discuss how hands-on they want me to be. Some girls will just give you their credit card and say ‘you know what I want and I trust you, so go make it happen’ and other girls want to be involved with every decision.
Later on in the process I heavily depend on them sending me images. They can just Google stuff and send me images, which I then put into their inspiration file. That helps me decide what I think this will work for her. Nine times out of ten, I’m pretty spot on.
Does Joie de Vivre have any particular specialty? How would you describe your clients?
I am the only first-generation South Asian/Indian wedding planner in Columbus. We are really able to relate to those South Asian brides. However I don’t just do South Asian weddings. Most of my clients are traditional American clients. I have a pretty good blend of the two. And almost all of my weddings have been multi-faith. We’ve had a lot of fusion weddings where we need to blend multiple religions and customs and traditions into one event.
How are you well-suited for the fusion and South-Asian weddings?
From a personal standpoint, I know what they’re going through. I think because I myself am in a multi-faith relationship, I can relate well to the challenges of brides and grooms who are trying to please multiple family members and trying to make everyone’s customs come to life. And I think its easier for them to relate to me.
How did you get started in event planning?
When I was in high school I was voted biggest partier! Not because I was a partier, but because I planned the parties. I just always had this knack for bringing together large groups of people and creating a setting where they could have a good time and relax.
In college through my engineering studies, I was the event coordinator for all of our engineering fraternities and our clubs and organizations. When I moved to Columbus for my job as an engineer at Honda, I had a large network of friends who were all new to Columbus. I was always planning new stuff to do just so that people got to know each other and feel comfortable in Columbus.
We started making trips to Vegas and I made some connections there with club promoters. I started sending larger groups from Ohio there. And then I said, well if I’m going to start doing bachelor and bachelorette parties, well maybe wedding planning is the next thing. That’s pretty much how I got started.
For me its more about bringing people together to enjoy their time together, rather than having to worry about the details. I hate to hear a guest complain at a wedding. I hate to hear a bride say she’s so exhausted or tired at her own wedding. I don’t ever want to hear that!
What’s it like to be planning your own wedding?
I haven’t done much for my own wedding because my brides are my priority. I pushed back my own wedding date over a year and a half because I have too many clients for 2011 to worry about myself. My mom wasn’t too happy about that!
What I have learned already, is that it helps to have a third party there when you’re talking with your parents about things you may not agree on. Maybe someone isn’t going to say something they normally would if a third party is there. When I’m present with those brides, I act as a buffer. Maybe I don’t even have to say anything, but just being there helps everyone a lot. And I kind of wish I had that right now.
What advice do you have for the brides reading this?
The best advice I can give would be (whether you can have a planner or not) to communicate with your family members and your fiance about what you really want.
Also don’t be afraid to ask questions of your vendors and find the right ones who fit you and your personality. Vendors make or break your event. Even if you can’t have a planner, do your research and homework and ask the right questions.
Why is it important that you click with your vendors personality-wise?
I’ll use photography as an example. Its really important that you feel safe with your photographer. Your photographer is going to be by your side for the entire eight to twelve hour day, if not longer. And so if you have someone who is standing there with you all day long giving you orders (as far as poses go), you want to feel completely comfortable with them so that comfort shows in your pictures. You’ve got to make sure that you relate to the personality of the vendor. It’s very critical I think.
You can find out more about Sabrina at the Joie de Vivre website.