“When’s the wedding?” is the familiar question when that tell-tale band on your fourth finger is spotted. In this month for weddings, we asked four popular wedding planners, Akushla Andrews (Events by Akushla), Minha Akram (Event Horizon), Janice Hakel-Ranasinghe (Kairos Weddings) and Minoli Ratnayake (The Lifestyle & Co) for some helpful tips to navigating the [...]


They make it happen, your big day


“When’s the wedding?” is the familiar question when that tell-tale band on your fourth finger is spotted. In this month for weddings, we asked four popular wedding planners, Akushla Andrews (Events by Akushla), Minha Akram (Event Horizon), Janice Hakel-Ranasinghe (Kairos Weddings) and Minoli Ratnayake (The Lifestyle & Co) for some helpful tips to navigating the planning and staying sane on your wedding day!

An Indian wedding by the beach planned by Kairos

Top tips for newly engaged couples planning their wedding?

Akushla (Events by Akushla) says, “When couples come to me I ask them three simple questions first. Do you want me to come up with a budget (depending on their vision) or do you have a budget? How many people are you inviting? And where would you like to have your wedding?”

“Nobody wants to hear this but don’t waste all your savings only on your wedding day!”laughs Minha (Event Horizon). “Be pragmatic about allocating a budget. Look at pictures about what you like to wear and have a focused vision of your wedding.” If hiring a planner Minha advises, “Keep an open mind before meeting them” and “it also helps meeting planners who have a background in design.”

“A wedding is like an unrehearsed play, with many actors and backstage crew, with you as the leading lady and leading man. The planner is the director behind the scenes,” says Janice (Kairos Weddings). For a wedding within your means, the key is understanding priorities. Older brides are more pragmatic focusing more on good food and entertainment, she says while the younger brides are more concerned with the “look and feel” of the wedding. Janice’s systematic simple solution: Pick a date, pick a venue and then pick everything else.

“I think individuality plays a key role in what people like and don’t like,” says Minoli (Lifestyle & Co) adding that she and business partner Rishini Weeraratne make it a point to get to know their clients’ taste in order to cross out scenarios. “Younger couples are very individualistic and they want to leave their own mark on their wedding. Try and relax and really enjoy each other and your engagement. Also think about what kind of bride you would like to be? What is the aesthetic you want for your wedding?”

Some memorable weddings you helped create?

When a client (based overseas) wanted a vintage ‘feast’ theme at her wedding, Minoli and Rishini converted the Galle Face Hotel’s Jubilee ballroom into a 1900’s elegant evening themed dinner scene with gold plated candelabra, dull gold plating, flower décor etc. The wedding took five months to plan with only one initial meeting with the client, before she flew down two weeks before the wedding!

Janice helped plan a100 man perahera for a Buddhist wedding “just to bring the groom in” -the groom riding an elephant up to a certain point. The bride had a comparatively simpler arrival on a palanquin escorted by 15 to 20 dancers! Janice has also assembled a ‘champagne skirt’ in order to serve some excitement and ‘bubbly’, acrobats, a ‘kadala man’ serving nuts, a wedding movie theatre concept, and even flown down high profile videographers, pop singer Madonna’s back up dancers, Russian ballerinas etc.

Minoli Ratnayake

Rishini Weeraratne

For her sister’s wedding back in 2008 at Bolgoda with her family’s support, Minha styled a “Middle Eastern theme” to complement the bridal attire. “At that time not many people were having outdoor weddings,” she recalls. “It was a new experience for many.” Getting creative with the food arrangements is also relatively easy, like suspending trays of sweets on the branches of a large “sweet tree” at her own wedding. “It’s the little elements that make the weddings unusual and allow them to stand out,” she states. Minha has even had a Doughnut tower instead of the wedding cake as it figured in the couple’s love story. “We try to make it as meaningful to them as possible.”

Some unavoidable wedding woes?

“Nothing ever fully goes according to plan,” Minha laughs adding “Most things that don’t are out your control.” She recalls whilst coordinating a Malay wedding watching, in horror, as one young man’s silk sarong (worn over pants) started to slowly fall down as he was walking in the wedding procession.

“I’ve had an instance where the groom suddenly went missing!” Akushla recalls reassuring us that he was ultimately found.

Among her “plenty of nightmares” one of Janice’s most memorable was when the registrar was half an hour late. With the ceremony being well on its way Janice asked a guest to sit and pretend to be the registrar allowing the couple to publicly sign and walk out as scheduled. When the registrar finally did appear she secured the couple a private room where they officially signed as husband and wife in front of family. “The groom was a VIP movie client and his bride couldn’t help laughing that ‘This is so typical …there’s usually one or two takes’.”

Bridezilla: fact or fiction?

Minha Akram

“Pretty much all girls have a Pinterest board of wedding ideas for their big day,” Akushla shares. The advantage of the right wedding planner can help them make it a reality without stress. Brides do “burn out” and go over budget if not guided correctly.

“I’ve been very lucky to have sweet brides,” says Minha, sharing that she once even travelled to India to pick out her bride’s attire.

“The bride usually takes the lead,” Janice shares however adding that nowadays grooms are getting more involved. She takes into account the ‘parent factor’ in decision making. Suspicious ‘Mothers of grooms’ do emerge closer to the wedding. However it’s all worth it Janice sentimentally shares. “They come a long way with you and ultimately become your closest friends.”

Any shift from weddings 10 years ago to the present?

“The biggest factor that has changed weddings is the internet!” Minha states. The lack of social media in the past made ideas “less complex and actually more original” but with the emergence of Pinterest and Instagram, weddings are becoming more complicated and similar. The vast amount of trendy ideas has couples picking almost erratically and not really understanding what works well together, Minha shares, advising them to get the input of a planner or creative to get their styles organized.

Although June was traditionally popular, Janice shares that this year there are actually fewer hotel/venue bookings for weddings this month. Now it’s August, December and January.

Incorporating a couple’s individualism and personality has become a strong factor, Minoli states. A couple from India, “wanted us to include the groom’s love of House music (while not giving his 90-year-old grandmother a headache) and the bride’s love for elephants (with no live elephants being used).”

Current trends?

I personally feel it depends on the client’s preferences,” Akushla says. Although the minimalistic approach is largely popular, some still want extravagant weddings.

White is also still popular, with emerging colours being blush and pastels and certain brides going for darker hues like navy blue. The use of particular flowers and candles are also seen.

Couples tend to either want more rustic styles with gardens, greenery, earthy and vibrant colours or tend to take another extreme direction with a more “Royal gilded elegant angle,” says Minha. “Weddings are a marriage of interior designing with décor.You have to be really careful when mixing your creative elements.”
Blush and neutral bronzes are also increasingly popular, says Janice. So are ‘Bollywood’ themes for homecomings and wedding performances from the wedding party with influences of the Indian ‘Sangeet Nights’.

Janice Hakel Ranasinghe

Social media has made couples more open to destination weddings to escape the confines of a stuffy ballroom, the planners unanimously comment. Braving the unreliable Lankan weather the event planners reveal that Galle, Bentota, Negombo, Beruwela, Bolgoda, Sigiriya, Kalutara, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Dambulla, Jaffna and Kandalama are some such destinations for gorgeous wedding scenery. For more intimate settings, halls from hotels and gardens in Colombo are also in high demand, whilst beaches still remain popular. “Sri Lankan beaches are not overdeveloped and there’s a sense of adventure,” comments Minoli.

Being a South Asian country what are the values which are integral to making the ceremony special?

“Nowadays some people don’t really care about what their parents have to say” Akushla remarks urging young couples to “make them feel like they’re also involved.”

Minha too shares that it becomes “sad” when couples omit their family from the planning process. Families should get together and contribute either by packing sweets, writing cards etc. The couple should be open to compromising not only among themselves but also with their families to ensure that everyone is happy, Minha advises.

Janice recalls that even during the economic downturn of 2008, that their wedding market continued to grow. “We realized that Sri Lankan parents still put aside money to save up for their children’s big day. It made us realize that parents want to bless their children.”

Akushla Andrews

“A wedding is about bringing two families together,” Minoli states adding “we try to make it a point to specifically include the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom in the planning while keeping in mind the individuality of the bride and groom.”

What does it mean to you to be a part of a couple’s big day?

Some of her family members almost missed the bridal procession as they were distracted by their tasks, Akushla remembers. “We take the bulk of work off them and allow them to actually enjoy, witness and be a part of this wonderful moment with their families.”

“As a wedding planner taking the stress off the couple and them placing their full trust in your hands is something you can’t really put a price on,” Minha shares. “It’s an amazing experience. You almost feel like you’re part of the family.”

Wedding planning was relatively new to the Sri Lankan market when she started out, Janice recalls. “I had to explain it over and over again to my customers. But as it grew into a lucrative business I wondered whether I’ve created a monster!” “It’s an honour to be able to be there for someone on such a special day. There are still times I’ve had a tear or two during the ceremony.” Meeting the children of couples whose weddings she helped plan is also a heartwarming moment.

The 1900’s vintage feast:An elegant setting from Lifestyle & Co

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.