Just as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon have changed your shopping behaviour, online start-ups are trying to change the way you plan your events. These online event planners are standardising the costs of venues, catering, decorators, photographers and make-up artists. They are making it easier for individuals to discover service providers that suit their budget and also act as a single-point contact to resolve issues.
"Traditionally, those with a wedding budget of over Rs 1 crore have been opting for a planner. The scale of the event is such that they want a single-point contact to manage and coordinate everything. Online wedding planners are changing this. We target middle-class families that have a budget of anywhere between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 75 lakh," says Sanna Vohra, founder of Theweddingbrigade.com. On the ground wedding planners are preferred when an individual is going for a destination wedding to places like Goa or abroad to countries like Thailand, Turkey and Greece.
If you are holding an event with a large number of invitees, the biggest cost you will incur is on the venue and catering. "For a wedding, it can be between 30 and 60 per cent of the total expenditure. For smaller events like anniversaries and birthdays, venue and catering can be over 90 per cent of the total budget. If you take the help of an online service provider, you can save up to 30 per cent," says Harsh Baid, co-founder of Bookeventz.com.
Expand your options
When planning an event, people mostly rely on references for all services. They ask friends and family members to recommend venues, caterers, photographers and make-up artists. One of the benefits of going to online event planners is that a person can evaluate service providers sitting at home. "We have been making a library of venues online. After selecting the vendor on our website, a person can have a 360-degree virtual tour of the venue. Many clients do a shortlist or eliminate venues after going through these tours," says Dharam Mehta, founder and chief executive officer of Wedwise.in. Others also offer the same service. Similarly, many event planning websites showcase the works of decorators, photographers and make-up artists. One can look at their portfolios and pricing and then shortlist.
If you are short of ideas or want to know the latest trends, these websites come handy. Especially for weddings, one can look at current trends in clothing, decoration, gifts, invitations, party games and designs. "We put out pictures of recent events that we have conducted for potential clients to look at and get an idea of what's trendy. Vendor references are also given alongside. If they like something, they can get in touch with the vendor immediately," says Manas Wadhwa, founder and CEO of Weddingplz.com. On Weddinggplz, one can also look for services such as choreographers, detective services, dieticians and nutritionists, personality development classes and cooking classes. Theweddingbrigade.com has tied up with vendors to offer products that are only available at their website. These include designer clothing and a range of items given as party and wedding favours.
Costs and savings
Most planners don't charge individuals any fee. They make their money through the commissions that their vendors pay. Each company has its own way to help clients save cost. Wedwise has preferred vendors. These service providers offer a discounted non-negotiable rate to individuals that last for 48 hours. "To book a hall, clients take up to a month. There's a lot of negotiation. Some take the best rates from us and ask others to match it. So, we have the one-time best rate offer that lasts for a limited time," says Mehta.
Others send their executives with the individual to the shortlisted halls, who negotiate with the owner on the client's behalf. Pricing and preferences can change, depending on the date and time of the wedding, number of guests, whether the menu is vegetarian or non-vegetarian and if the individual wants liquor. There are specific dates when venue owners don't negotiate. The executive understands these combinations and accordingly guides clients to either demand lower rates or go with the quoted ones. Similarly, one can look for service providers within one's budget in nearby localities and compare different offers.
Baid of Bookeventz says that event planners usually have a lot of bargaining power with vendors other than venue owners and caterers, who can have high margins. Depending on their availability and season, planners can even negotiate a 30-40 per cent discount with photographers, videographers and other artists.
They also suggest areas where you can cut corners without compromising on quality and also areas where you should spend a little extra. For example, most planners suggest that the client should cut down on decoration and spend a little extra on photographers and on looking your best. "After the event, the decoration goes waste. All that a person is left with are the memories of the day. That's why, one should get the best possible photographer, videographer and make-up artist that the budget permits," says Mehta.
Vohra says that in many Indian weddings families make heavy gold sets that the brides don't wear later. Instead, she suggests that they can make lighter sets that the bride can use regularly. "Many are also opting for artificial jewellery to wear at all smaller functions," says Vohra.
If you want to have smaller events at home to save costs, you can also use an online service such as Cookfinder.in. The website sends cooks to your home. Depending on your need and budget, you can also ask them to send support staff, which will set up, serve and also clean your house after the party.
Convenience and services
"You can take group planning decisions by adding family and friends on our app, who can view items you have shortlisted and give their advice and suggestions," says Anand Shahani, CEO of Wedmegood.com.
These planners act as a single-point contact for all vendors, so that you don't need to call them individually. Many of these service providers also offer back-ups in case there's a last-minute cancellation by a service provider.
Many are also willing to accommodate special demands if you have any, which usually may not be possible with the venue owners. So, you can demand a vintage car as transport or come on a tractor rather than on a horse during a wedding.
My wife and I were looking for a photographer and make-up artist for our marriage. We had received a few references from friends. To explore more options, I searched on the internet and came across online wedding planners. They came handy as I managed to get a list of 70-80 vendors close to my locality. Their portfolios were available and I could evaluate them online.
The make-up artist that was recommended to us was also listed on the wedding planner’s website. From her quoted rate, we managed to get around 10 per cent discount. The photographer gave a discount of around 20 per cent from the quoted rate.
Once we had shortlisted the make-up artist and the photographer, we negotiated with them and finalised them offline. The wedding planning website also had venues and other service providers, but we didn’t use them as other family members were involved. They used their own references for such bookings.
For my daughter’s birthday party, I used an online event planning website because I didn’t want the hassle of going to individual venues and negotiating with them to get the best rates. So, I browsed through the venues available with the online event planner. The venue and food were the main concerns.
I had a few restaurants in mind and those were also listed on the website of the event planner. When I had directly approached a restaurant which I had finalised, the manager quoted around Rs 900 a plate for adults and around Rs 550 a plate for kids. But the event planner got me around 10 per cent discount without charging any fee.
The executive of the online event planner company also handheld me through the entire process – from shortlisting the venue to setting up the party.