Top destinations to hot cuisines, Samit Garg tells t2 what’s trending in weddings 

Luxe fairy-tale weddings to tourism events like the Pushkar Fair — Samit Garg, the founder and director of E-Factor Entertainment, has many feathers in his cap. t2 caught up with the big daddy of lavish weddings at the EEMA East Conclave 2018 in Calcutta recently. 

By Pramita Ghosh
  • Published 6.06.18
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Luxe fairy-tale weddings to tourism events like the Pushkar Fair — Samit Garg, the founder and director of E-Factor Entertainment, has many feathers in his cap. t2 caught up with the big daddy of lavish weddings at the EEMA East Conclave 2018 in Calcutta recently. 

GARG’S TOP FOUR

 Shashwat and Shivika Goenka’s wedding: Sanjiv Goenka’s son Shashwat’s wedding in 2016 was a gala affair; almost all the hotels of Calcutta were taken and most of them were sold out. The sangeet saw the largest performance of Cirque du Soleil in India. The events were spread over 
five venues. 
A royal family in Hyderabad: The interiors were inspired by The Great Gatsby that spelt grandeur. Hundreds of retro bulbs were used on the ceiling but it was the manor house created for the occasion that was the highlight.
Tara Singh and Sahil Vachani: The wedding of the daughter of Analjit Singh, founder of Max India Ltd, in 2013 was an intimate but lavish affair. Held in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, the spotlight was on Lionel Richie, who performed at one of the events.
Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra’s wedding: The wedding of Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra in 2009 was a very cosy affair for a few chosen guests in Khandala. The wedding was done in a traditional Mangalorean ceremony that was followed by a big celebration in Mumbai.

How did you get into the business of events? 

I got into it accidentally. I was brought up in Lucknow and then had to move to Delhi where one of my cousins used to run an infrastructure company for events. I joined his office. When I would watch a concert, I used to think that I could do it better than this... not realising that some day I would do that. That is how I got into events and since then there has been no looking back.

What was the first event you organised?

The first event I did on my own was a May Queen Ball in Jaipur. The event was worth Rs 42,000 and I saved Rs 7,000... and I was very happy! The first wedding was a big thing for my career... it was of Peter Punj and Sonali Nanda (2001). That wedding started the trend of big weddings in our country. 

Who is an ideal client?

Someone who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t want, so that there is clarity. But people who don’t know what they want but will still talk so much, unse kharab client aur koi nahin hai.

What’s your business philosophy?

This is a business of making people happy. I do five or six weddings every year and I proudly say that I say no to 10-12, not because I am arrogant but because I can’t do it. I will never take up an assignment if I am not being able to connect with the family at a practical and emotional level... then I will fold my hands, apologise and walk out. 

What are the key things one must keep in mind when hosting a destination wedding? 

Weather, availability of venue, logistics and ease of travel, the culture of that place, hospitality standards prevalent in that part of the world, availability of infrastructure in that region, paperwork required in terms of visas. It is best to go to a place where getting visa is easy. 

Also, what are the spots that guests can look around to get a hang of the place. Like a lot of people do destination weddings in a hotel where everything happens only in the hotel... then why not do it in Delhi only? It’s important that people are exposed to the surroundings. Lastly, the budget.

What are some of the best places for destination weddings?

Istanbul... because weddings have a lot to do with culture and hospitality, and Turkey is the best for this. In India, Udaipur will be my pick. It is very expensive but there is nothing like it! In terms of the experience, the other place is probably the backwaters of Kerala. 

What’s your favourite theme for a wedding?

If I have to give a name to that theme, it will be simplicity. And simple is the most difficult and expensive thing to do. 

What is the quirkiest theme you have done?

An Afro-themed pre-wedding party for youngsters. We hired a fort that was 50km from Jaipur. It was the first time an event was done there... we created this theme that had everything inspired by Africa. The colour code, the decor, entertainment, food, DJ, the costumes for the guests with animal masks and headgear…. It started as a sundowner and finished with a champagne breakfast. 

What are the changing trends over the years, in terms of what couples prefer now?

Fifteen years ago, expectations were really low as couples didn’t have much exposure. There were exceptions, though, like Sonali Nanda... she is an avid cook and so she was very fussy about the kind of food being served. She was involved in the curation of each and every menu and we did plates worth Rs 6,000 that had oysters and lobsters. 

Today, in a lower or middle income group, everyone is aware and people above that, well, there’s no limit to expectations. Am glad people are aware now because when clients know what they want, the process gets easier. 

What are some easy ways to cut costs?

If you want to do something that is extraordinary, it doesn’t necessarily have to be very expensive. One should know what his/her need is; if I know what my need is, I will be able to put a cost to it.

Food is a very important part of weddings. What are the most in-demand cuisines?

People are very particular about food and it is a hugely important aspect in a wedding. Around 30 per cent, I would give to the look and feel of the event; 30 per cent food and 20 per cent each to hospitality and the rest. 

In terms of cuisines, Peruvian is a trend these days. Then there’s Sri Lankan and French cuisine.

Do a lot of people want star performers at their weddings?

I don’t think they are looking for something specific. The discerning clients look out for world-class experiences and those experiences could be anything. It is no more just about two hours of an action-packed show; even if it is 45 minutes, it should be presented in such a way that a person would not even want to go out to the bar to refill his glass. But then there are some who want a specific artiste whom they like. 

When do we see you organising an event in Calcutta?

I am not sure but I am very keen to create a festival for the city… something around the Hooghly. If I look at Calcutta or think about it, then New Market, AC Market, Victoria Memorial, the Eden Gardens, the racecourse, the Howrah station and the Howrah bridge come to my mind. I don’t want to do something small... it has to be something that engages with all of these things that Calcutta is known for and, of course, the food, which is the most important!