GROWING demand for wedding planners has lured some young professionals into making a mid-career switch. Two of them share their experience.
Although it was a childhood dream years ago, Hannah Chong never thought of actually venturing into the wedding planning business. She had a comfortable job as an account director at training institute Raytheon Professional Services and travelled frequently.
|Career switch: Before venturing into the wedding planning business, Ms Chong had a comfortable job as an account director and travelled frequently
A conversation with a friend who was getting married, coupled with her desire to 'settle down because I missed home', took her in that direction and, after much thought, she left the company to set up Heaven's Gift in 2004.
'The conversation made me realise that I was quite excited about having an intimate connection to people who are getting married,' she said. 'The name Heaven's Gift was in my mind even before I started. I'm a staunch Christian, so I always think the company has to be something that reminds me of where I am. And Heaven's Gift is a gift to me.
'Later I realised that marriage is also a gift, more than an obligation. When you know that it's a gift, then the obligation comes easily,' said the soft-spoken Ms Chong, 35. She later underwent training at Weddings Beautiful Worldwide, a global organisation that provides professional education and certification for planners.
Her clientele consists of inter-racial couples, expatriates and Singaporeans living overseas. Her fees start from $6,000.
'I had a bride who loved painting, so we created a theme around it. The wedding favour was a painted egg on an egg holder with personalised guest names,' she related.
'To others, it may be 'just a painted egg; what's so special about it?' but to us, the wedding was a reflection of our couple, and that's what matters.'
She added: 'If I can, I'll ask my clients to have a real cake; not cut model cakes . . . I'm (also) not a champagne-pouring, dry ice effect person . . . I believe weddings should be very personal and real.'
And, to Ms Chong, the most important trait that a wedding planner should have is a passion to serve.
'If you cannot humble yourself to serve the bride or the family, then forget about entering the wedding planning industry. I came in with creativity, (but) the first thing I had to learn was how to serve my my bride and her family,' she said. 'It's only when you know how to serve them (that) you'll start to feel connected to them, and that's when their dreams become part of yours.'
Kim Tay started Wedding Concierge in 2001. 'After talking to friends and attending a few weddings, I realised that there was a gap to be filled in the planning industry,' she said. 'At that time, there weren't many planners around.'
So she quit her job at a web firm to venture out on her own. Seven years on, business has been 'encouraging', said Ms Tay, 30.
Wedding Concierge offers end-to-end service, which entails all the pre-wedding preparations. It also caters to couples in the midst of their own preparation. Fees for end-to-end services start from $2,800, and vary according to the scale and complexity of the event. Ms Tay works with a team of senior and assistant coordinators.
One of the more memorable weddings she took on was a pool-side wedding at Banyan Tree Bintan. 'The couple was based overseas, so they got their families and close friends to go there instead of coming to Singapore.'
Thematic weddings make up the bulk of her business, she said.
Wedding Concierge's style, she added, is all about creating 'weddings with a personal touch'. For example, she tries to weave in little details that tell the couple's love story and reflect their personalities, through simple things like a meaningful quote on their invitation card or more detailed ideas such as using items chosen by them.
Ms Tay foresees fewer couples opting for traditional Chinese sit-down dinners in the future, and an increasing number who will split the occasion into two days.
'Since last year, I've had a number of couples who held two separate events: a small, intimate party for their close family and friends, and another for their extended family, where they have the Chinese sit-down (dinners).
'The smaller parties would be held at unconventional places such as Sentosa, or overseas. Smaller parties generally have more options for venues, be it a nice alfresco restaurant or park.'
This article was first published in The Business Times on Apr 11, 2008.