When cricketer Virat Kohli married actress Anushka Sharma in an intimate, luxurious ceremony in Tuscany, Italy, in December 2017, netizens could not get enough of the dreamy pictures of the wedding. Set in an 800-year-old village which has been turned into luxury resort, the mandap laden with fresh flowers in hues of pastel pink grabbed attention, almost as much as the wedding finery by Sabyasachi.
The ethereal décor was a result of wedding designer Devika Narain’s impeccable planning coupled with an abundance of resourcefulness and creativity. Founder of her eponymous wedding design firm – Devika Narain and Company – she had introduced wedding design as a concept separate from wedding planning.
Devika has designed some of the most opulent, high-profile weddings including those of cricketers Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Kartik.
Penchant for weddings
Born and brought up in Lucknow, Devika’s enchantment with happy endings began at an early age. She says, “As a child, I was always enamoured by weddings and the aesthetics of such events. Also, I grew up in a family which was looking for an excuse to celebrate! That had a bearing on my career choice. However, before I forayed into the wedding design space, there were meanderings.”
Armed with a degree in literature from the Lady Shree Ram College Delhi, Devika tried her hand at journalism and even considered being an interior designer before she joined Delhi-based firm, The Wedding Design Company, as a wedding designer and planner. During her stint there, she worked with world-renowned floral designers Shane Connolly and Rob Van Helden. She quit the company after four years in a bid to start her own venture.
Despite her four-year-long experience of having worked as a wedding designer at a leading wedding planning company, Devika initially had a tough time establishing credibility with her clients owing to her gender.
She recalls, “People would have trouble accepting that I was highly capable for the job. They would say things like, ‘How can a woman procure all the materials and make the arrangements by herself!’ When I started, it was difficult for people to equate my efficiency with my gender because the wedding planning and design space has been male-dominated.”
Consistent dialogues with her clients, however, helped her eliminate the cynicism fuelled by sexism. She says, “To get a clear picture of the vision that our brides and grooms and their families have, we have extensive discussions with them. It is a vital part of ensuring that their idea of a wedding gets translated to their maximum satisfaction. Those discussions helped me in moulding the perception that gender has no connection with one’s prowess as a wedding designer.”
Devika’s designs are also high on the sustainability questions. She says, “Weddings in India are known to generate colossal waste. We are trying to change that and support micro enterprises through our designs. For instance, for the décor fabrics, we seek services from local craftsmen and dyers, and get the patterns drawn by hand. Once we used chicken mesh to create wooden troughs (instead of floral foam which is non-biodegradable) for the centerpiece floral décor on the tables at a wedding in Jaipur.”
‘Covid will change the landscape’
On being asked how the COVID–19 pandemic will change the way weddings are held in India, Devika says, “The fluff and the theatrics that have been synonymous with Indian weddings will become a thing of the past. Intimate, low-key, personalized ceremonies will take precedence over themes and designs that spell grandeur, which will also reduce wastage. Fewer guests will become the norm and Indian destinations will be favoured more than the international ones.”
In India, wedding industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $50 billion. The pandemic has made thousands of weddings to be cancelled and postponed over the last few months, which is bound to impact the industry badly. Devika adds, “Yes, weddings have been postponed indefinitely and the industry has taken a beating. But, people will not stop getting married – only the approach will change.”
On how her firm is preparing for the shift, she says, “As designers, we are trying to focus on our creativity and exploring new ideas that we can implement once things go back to normal. We will be following government-approved safety and hygiene standards.”
For Devika, every bride and groom are Virat and Anushka, and it is this dedication to her customers which motivates her to innovate a new style for each wedding.
(Edited by Athira Nair)