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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Could virtual weddings be the new norm post MCO?

Reka Teemor wedding planners Faiz Sabari (left) and Rozana Mumtaz speak to Malay Mail during an interview June 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Reka Teemor wedding planners Faiz Sabari (left) and Rozana Mumtaz speak to Malay Mail during an interview June 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Wedding planners Faiz Sabari and Rozana Mumtaz saw their business prospects shrink overnight on March 18 when the government-imposed movement control order (MCO) kicked in.
The award-winning design duo who have 16 years of experience combined and have built a career in planning lavish, no-holds barred wedding receptions for some of Malaysia’s most high-profile families saw their main revenue source dry up. The next three months of the MCO became a period of self-reflection for them to figure out what to do with their company, Reka Teemor.
“It’s a very difficult situation whereby before the movement control order, we were very, very busy. We had weddings every weekend and it just stopped, but we couldn’t do anything.
“We had zero income, that’s for sure, and then we had to pay our staff and we had to educate people,” Faiz told Malay Mail in a recent interview at the Reka Teemor event space here.
The 250-people cap and the five-hour limit places severe restraints on Malaysian wedding celebrations. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The 250-people cap and the five-hour limit places severe restraints on Malaysian wedding celebrations. — Picture by Hari Anggara
While the government has finally allowed big groups of people to gather again, the 250-people cap and the five-hour limit places severe restraints on Malaysian wedding celebrations which used to see invitation lists of hundreds of guests and last days, especially among the more traditionally-minded families.
Realising that weddings may no longer be the same, Faiz and Rozana teamed up with a local tech solutions company called Weddie.my to offer a new bespoke package to their well-heeled clients that incorporates holographic displays, besides enabling distant guests to interact with those present in the reception area, send angpows to the bride and groom and even purchase wedding gifts in real time.
“Even though you cannot come to the wedding, you can still see what’s happening in the ballroom, just from your cellphones. All that is needed is just a password. This is exclusive for weddings.
“You can have a smaller intimate wedding but still broadcast it to many more,” Rozana chipped in.
She said planning for weddings was a creative process and those in the industry need to reinvent themselves constantly. 
“We have to move on, reinvent and constantly pursue creative approaches. This is a creative industry after all. We believe this is a new norm,” she said, adding that those who opt to use the technology will need to fork out roughly another RM10,000. 
Tradition and financial limitations
Maha Events & Deco wedding planner Rajes Sivagamy speaks to Malay Mail during an interview June 26, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Maha Events & Deco wedding planner Rajes Sivagamy speaks to Malay Mail during an interview June 26, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
But the hefty cost means not everyone can embrace tech easily.
Make-up artist and wedding planner Rajes Sivagamy who runs a bridal house and event and decoration business was hit hard by the MCO and even considered closing shop after 20 years in the industry. 
She had 28 weddings lined up before the MCO, and one by one, her clients called to postpone their receptions. Her priority now is to regain her financial footing.
“So far no, I am not planning on offering any technological solutions. We are not there yet. I know there are new applications and I received many emails offering such solutions, but I think people are not ready yet, and we too are not ready yet,” she told Malay Mail.
Rajes, who largely plans Indian weddings, said many of her clients asked for the full traditional customs and rituals when they sought her out. Incorporating the rituals into a virtual wedding would take more time and planning than she can afford right now.
“We definitely should be open to those options, but not until year end, as I have no time for additional offerings and packages since my brides are all calling in to book their dates fast, just wanting to have their weddings as originally planned, since Indian weddings are usually held on auspicious dates and many want to get married on certain dates,” said Rajes, who owns the Femina Bridal and Wedding Gallery and Maha Events and Deco.
Another factor that makes virtual weddings a less viable option is the additional cost on the client. Rajes said most of her clients place greater emphasis on the finer details, like ensuring fresh flowers, dress, decorations fit in with their wedding theme, which for many is a milestone event in their lives.
“At this point, they are very much concerned about things like these, to fit into their desired wedding theme, and not so much about new technology for weddings,” she said, adding that some of her clients had even lost their jobs during the MCO.
Wedding rush, industry crash?
Jovita Lo of Jovita Lo Weddings said weddings were emotional events where being physically present makes a world of difference. 
To her, a virtual wedding, viewed through a screen, diminishes the human element somewhat. 
“A wedding is an emotional event. It is not a business meeting where you can just use Zoom to see your guests. It means more to the couple when their guests are there personally, where they can hug and take photographs together.
“This is one of the reasons some of my clients have opted to postpone their weddings to next year,” she told Malay Mail, disclosing that 80 per cent opted to delay their wedding date.
Lo is bracing herself for a wedding rush once the MCO is fully lifted. 
She said that with the number of couples who have postponed their wedding celebrations to next year, there may be double-booking of event spaces and professionals. She said there have already been incidents of overlaps.
One of her clients, who was supposed to tie the knot in May, postponed to the same date next year, which happened to clash with the wedding plan of another couple who had booked Jovita Lo Weddings earlier.
“Fortunately, I have two planners in my company and we can still handle it. However, for someone who is linked to wedding industries, like photographers, some couples prefer having the lead photographer at their weddings.
“When you hire Jovita Lo, you don’t want my staff there. You want me. The same goes with photographers unless you don’t mind having the second team. So, I foresee a lot of double bookings with the talent, wedding planners and venue when things go back to normal,” she said.
Lo said these were among the new challenges in the “new normal”; those in the wedding industry will not have to adapt as best they can.
She added that these are among the new challenges in the new normal and that those in the wedding industry must now need to adapt to the situation as best as they possibly can.
Her advice to couples planning for their big day is to review their guest list and consider throwing smaller, separate receptions so everyone can still join in.
“Perhaps the couple can host a reception that is exclusively for the family and relatives and a second reception exclusively for the friends of the bride and groom,” Lo proffered. - MalayMail

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