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Uncertainty Is Biggest Challenge During COVID-19 Pandemic: Aarti Manocha, Founder, Milestones To Memories

A country like India which is known for big fat weddings, the ongoing pandemic, and dangerous third wave which is likely to hit us in the upcoming month can also restrict the destination wedding.

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The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has affected every business sector, especially the wedding industry. After the first wave hit us, the Indian government put up many restrictions on movement, which further worsened the wedding industry especially the destination wedding. After recovering from the deadly second wave, the Indian wedding industry is hoping to bounce back. 

A country like India which is known for big fat weddings, the ongoing pandemic, and dangerous third wave which is likely to hit us in the upcoming month can also restrict the destination wedding. 

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Aarti Manocha, Founder, Milestones To Memories, a wedding management company talked about the COVID-19 pandemic, destination wedding, and possible third wave. 

Q. How difficult is it to put a destination wedding event together during a worldwide pandemic? Like what are the implications?

Ans- The challenges of putting together a wedding at a destination have certainly increased in pandemic times. “Uncertainty" is the biggest challenge, what will happen a few months from now is a question no one can answer with regards to the pandemic. The regulations and norms of a state could change and that would mean that the entire planning needs to be changed too.

From the experience of working on weddings for the last two years, during these pandemic times, we have unlearned our old ways and re-defined our process and operations to make them suitable to deal with these uncertainties. Safety is of prime importance and is on top of the chart while planning the wedding. The other challenge is the shift in destinations - as most of the international destinations are not options yet, the focus got shifted within India. Within India, we have many beautiful destinations but most of these have connectivity challenges, also not all hotels or resorts in these destinations are equipped to handle the demands of a wedding. That leaves us with limited options within India too. Implications are many, the industry has suffered gravely, unemployment has increased. The events and wedding industry certainly has been amongst the worst affected industries. But the good news is that it will bounce back the fastest too and hopefully soon! 

Q. What are the things that you consider necessary in COVID-19 times, as far as destination weddings are concerned?

 Ans- Most important things I think that is necessary as far as destination weddings are concerned are:

1. Detailed and precise contracts with hotels, airlines, vendors, planners that cover the covid clause well enough.

2. Being honest with your clients on the feasibility and challenges.

3. To be prepared with Plan A, B, C, and as many needed based on the requirements and circumstances, especially with an emphasis on safety and precautions. 

Q. What approach do you follow when you prepare for a COVID-19 destination wedding?

Ans- In the pandemic times, we handled our first wedding project in November 2020 when the virus was at its peak and the number of cases was rising by the hour. It was the wedding of the daughter of a very prominent industrialist based in Kolkata. 

We had worked out a robust plan to ensure the safety of the guest, the team working on the project and most importantly the family hosting the wedding. It was at their residential premises which were spacious and large and could accommodate the numbers that were permitted at that time. Our plans included daily tests for various teams that were needed. We ensured social distancing by incorporating it in our design and decor so it happens naturally, we curated the food menus to be portion sizes for guests to avoid touch points - no buffets at all, so after us achieving success in that project wherein no guest or host or team working was affected by the virus and it was a beautiful and smooth execution.

That's when we derived the new working process that was created specifically for pandemic times. Also, as the vaccinations are progressing and there is some relaxation from the government authorities, we keep modifying our work process based on the number of guests, a destination that is chosen and the norms that are applicable in that state, the sensitivity towards the elders in that family and many such factors in play in the planning process. 

Q. Have you ever faced a situation where a couple canceled their destination wedding?

Ans- Not cancelled, but postponements have been plenty. Scaling it down to a home wedding happened in a couple of cases. 

Q. Are there ways to address the travel anxiety of the wedding guests?

Ans- The only way a planner can help in reducing the travel anxiety of a wedding guest is by ensuring that their plan for the safety of all guests is given prime importance and is really well planned. All the crew and staff should be fully vaccinated. Most importantly, this plan and process need to be communicated to the guest and not to the family only. Taking them through the process and protocol in detail to answer all their doubts and queries. Lastly, by helping them focus on all precautions and measures that they need to take at their end.  

Q. Do you have any advice for those who are just starting to plan their destination weddings for 2021?

Ans- Choose destinations and hotels that are flexible with the terms and conditions. Destinations that have good connectivity for the convenience of your guest. Try to choose hotels that you can take as buyouts, it will help you create the bio bubble that reduces the risk drastically. Ensure you choose a planner who is knowledgeable and experienced with that destination. Lastly, keep the numbers limited so it is manageable and within the norms of the government authorities of that destination.  

Q. During the ongoing pandemic, what kind of locations do you suggest to your clients? Like domestic and international?

Ans- Within India, there is plenty of choices, it depends on the couple and their families - whether they like the hills, beaches, or royal weddings in Rajasthan. However, as mentioned, the demand is high so sometimes there are very limited options available on muhurat dates. In fact, as of now, most of the November, December, and January dates are sold out in a lot of popular locations. Internationally, destinations are opening up slowly. The main criteria for international travelers are to be fully vaccinated, so you have to first draw up the list of your closest and nearest ones and review the same, to ensure that they are vaccinated before the D day and can travel. 

Q. Will a possible third wave make it more difficult to hold a destination wedding?

Ans- Hope the third wave does not happen. However, we all have become resilient post the second wave and need to be prepared for the third one, if it happens. Post the second wave itself, we have derived our sustenance strategy, as well as modified our work process for our clients and employees which is more suitable and importantly flexible given the uncertainty of the third wave. Preparation is all we can do I guess and hope for the best.

 



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