Updated: April 21, 2021 12:24:41 pm
Ambika Gupta, luxe wedding designer and the one behind actor Kajal Aggarwal’s beautiful wedding, founded her company The A-Cube Project about eight years ago. This was the time when Chennai was still in need of a bespoke wedding design company, Gupta tells indianexpress.com. “I became a design entrepreneur because I wanted to express my creativity, generate happiness, be my own boss and do something absolutely different from the norm. The one thing that has persisted with me from the beginning is the hunger to create something fresh and unrepeatable every time.”
Today, Gupta’s brand has made its presence felt pan-India as well as in the international markets. She recently spoke with the outlet about her experience of organising Kajal’s wedding, the future of Indian weddings, and more.
The pandemic has hugely impacted a lot of industries. How did it affect the wedding industry?
The impact is multi-dimensional. Last year, the onset of the lockdown obviously hurt all businesses but once the restrictions eased, the challenges came in different forms. To start with, we can no longer access craftsmanship, manpower, and creative resources as easily as we once could for obvious reasons. Our deadlines are shorter, and the stress is a lot more intense because we have to race against time to coordinate details about travel, sanitation protocols, venues, and deliverables. But we are adapting, learning, and moving on.
What kind of challenges are you facing as a wedding planner during the pandemic?
There are many challenges but primarily, the timelines need to be kept on track, the buffer time needs to be sufficient enough to manage last-minute curve balls and we must ensure timely delivery of resources such as flowers, clothes and other essentials because we are living in times where irregularity is regular. Also, the pandemic has changed price points for raw materials, labour, skill and artisanship so we need to keep that in mind as well. The biggest challenge is to keep everyone safe and ensure that safety protocols are not compromised at any point.
You came up with the ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ theme for Kajal Aggarwal’s wedding. Can you share some details?
Kajal and Gautam are very rooted in their heritage and respect each other’s traditions deeply. Their wedding had to reflect their love for their country and their diverse cultural influences. The theme was hence perfect. To give you an example, for the final ceremony, sights and experiences specific to Kashmir were incorporated in the design to pay a tribute to Gautam’s heritage. The theme was ‘Shikara – Voyage of Love’ and we replicated mountain ranges and the majestic Dal Lake. The mandap was reminiscent of a pyramid and paid an ode to the hilly terrain of Kashmir. It was held together by gold frames and translucent baby pink screens. The mandap bore intricate details of a shikara, with panelling reminiscent of Kashmir’s houseboats and we also beautifully framed pashmina embroidery pieces. It was our way of making Kashmir a part of the celebrations.
As an artist, Kajal values creative inputs and trusted me completely. I think we connected well because we are both detail-oriented.
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How was the experience of organising a celebrity wedding like?
This was my third celebrity wedding. The first one being Radhikaa Sarathkumar’s daughter Rayanne’s wedding with IPL ace bowler Abhimanyu Mithun in 2016. The second one was the wedding of the daughter of acclaimed art director Sabu Cyril, who is also the creative force behind the production design of the ‘Baahubali’ franchise. And, of course, we designed Kajal Aggarwal’s wedding last year. Kajal did not behave like a celebrity at all. She is a very grounded, humble, clear-sighted person and she and her family were very trusting and aware of how creative ideas turn into actual experiences. They gave me extensive inputs about their preferences and then let me ideate and create to the best of my ability. It was a wonderful experience to work with and for her and to get to know her lovely family. It is just serendipitous that her sister Nisha saw my portfolio, and after a few calls and meetings, we were on. Not a flashy person herself, Kajal wanted her wedding to be understated but elegant. Keeping that in mind as well as the couple’s roots and their respective cultural legacies, I developed the core ideas and the rest was just a beautiful, organic process. We brought the wedding together in just 35 days.
Weddings amid the pandemic have become small-scale intimate affairs. How else has it changed the idea of the “big fat Indian wedding”?
Traditionally, a big fat Indian wedding at least boasts a minimum of 250 people and can even go up to over 15,000 guests. Now weddings need to be focused on personalisation, detailing and warmth so that each guest feels special. The ‘wow’ factor still needs to be there along with a sense of grandeur. The number of people who can be at a wedding may have gone down but in terms of decor, we don’t see much downscaling. People are willing to even go for destination weddings and we recently did one in Pondicherry. The pandemic, however, has made people even more aware of environmental and social concerns so many couples are going in for green weddings that are sensitive to issues like waste generation. Many are now also consciously giving back to the less privileged sections of society.
Have destination weddings suffered a hit?
Destination weddings give people a chance to cut loose from everyday tensions and taste something like a holiday getaway. So there is a considerable spurt in destination weddings though ultimately everything depends on the travel restrictions which change very frequently. Right now, because of international travel restrictions, there is a huge resurgence of interest in Indian destinations. Ultimately, the pandemic will decide how strong the trend becomes in the months to come.
Some (including celebs like Dia Mirza) have also made news lately for conducting eco-friendly, sustainable weddings? Are you incorporating the same in your projects?
I have always eschewed the use of non-biodegradable materials and I prefer to use eco-friendly materials as much as possible, be it pampas grass, wheat stalks, local arts and crafts to cut down on carbon footprint or doing away as much as possible with plastic, styrofoam and other staples that creep into big events. It is also important that we support our local artisans and farmers during this pandemic and I always have that at the back of my mind whenever I sit down to plan a design.
How do you foresee the future of weddings in India?
How people will plan their weddings will be decided by the direction the pandemic takes in the time to come. Human beings crave joy and connection and that will never change and weddings will take place though with limited guests and within sanitation frameworks. Small, intimate weddings will remain popular for a while. Personalisation will be the key and will become even more nuanced. As a designer, I can do a lot more, play with the five senses to make the experience even more memorable, interactive and experiential.
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