I’m in India, at the airport, in Bangalore (or Bengaluru), and I arrived two and a half hours early. Here in Bangalore, you never know what you’re going to get when you take a cab and head to a place. You can make it 15 kilometers in an hour-if you are very, very lucky-or you can take four hours, easy.
That’s why, especially for going to the airport, taxi drivers take it safe.
We did not fare so well a few days ago in heading from the hotel where the Exotic Wedding Planner Congress conference was held to the location of the welcome dinner. Distant, indeed, no more than 10 miles. Literally three hours exactly, almost stationary, motionless and exhausted in the midst of almost surreal traffic. Four cars and 5-6 motorcycles in a space that, at our place, would have barely contained two cars, in a riot of honking horns blaring automatically. This was definitely the soundtrack of these days, regardless of whether we were in a restaurant, in a hotel, at work. A constant background of thousands and thousands of horns, at all hours of the day and night. After a while you get used to it, it becomes almost familiar.
For the first time in India, albeit for a very few days.
Understanding, listening, comparing with colleagues from all over the world is crucial. It is not just a matter of “networking.” It is really the need to want to create a family, increasingly large, of colleagues who share the same work in sometimes different ways, but united by the same issues, fears, sometimes ambitions.
I met hundreds of Indian wedding planners who were fascinated by my presentation on the emerging market of Destination Indian Weddings in Italy. Literally open-mouthed at the magnificence of the frescoes inside the palaces of Florence, Rome and Venice, the Italian gardens on Lake Como, the Tuscan country atmosphere.
Incredibly even more attracted to my wild & outdoor oriented approach, with folk tendencies, which I am trying to develop in Sardinia, parallel to the “Costa Smeralda style” luxury.
Think how wonderful that would be, a colorful, boisterous Indian wedding in Italy barefoot on the beach, or in a granite quarry? It will come, I’m sure. (Maybe it has already arrived? ;))
Through their speeches I learned so much, so much. Not only about rituals and traditions-from the scenic Mehndi to the development of the ceremony-but especially about the art of negotiating with the Indian client. Which follows rules all its own, which if you don’t know you risk at best losing the client, at worst offending him. At worst worse, of arranging the wedding believing you’ve made a good deal, and being left with you, at the end of the day, in your underwear.
It is through this invaluable family that the best of us, grow professionally. The virtue of being Speaker on a major international stage is a huge accomplishment and certainly another important building block for my recognition, but I think the investment of time, of sacrifice, has its deepest meaning in what happens behind the scenes, of these events.
A dinner foursome with fellow Wedding Planners & Designers extraordinaire, from Dubai(Sandi e Sawsan Audi) and from Kuwait (Bibi Hayat). Hours and hours telling each other about each other’s events, mistakes, frustrations, how customers behave and how to negotiate with them.
To learn, in those few hours, things about their world that no one else will ever tell me, nor could I find in any book. That Saudi marriages are frustrating, in managing the musical aspect. Almost always the men are separated from the women, sometimes ashamed to dance with each other, afraid of judgment. Having fun is fine, but not too much fun. It would be disrespectful to the groom.
Whereas in Kuwait there is entertainment, all right! Indeed, entertainment must be studied to the top, and they make up for the absence of alcohol with chocolates. That’s right. The bride and groom spend literally thousands of dollars on chocolates. Kind of like us with confetti, but in a “millionaire” version. And caffe&latte stations, for all tastes: from espresso to mocha-latte, to caramel machiato, to all those absurd variations that would make the Italians cringe but they like them to death.
And to hear the stories of these women for whom working – and traveling for business – is not so easy. Of hours and hours stuck alone at the airport because with a Palestinian passport you can pass, with a Jordanian passport you can’t because there are problems with that country right now. Maybe tomorrow it will be resolved and we will let you pass, maybe not. But either way you need the letter of authorization signed by your husband.
That’s right, the husband has to authorize you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Business Woman, if you manage million-dollar marriages every day like you manage -whatever- the shopping list for the baby’s birthday. No, if you don’t have a letter of authorization from your husband, you don’t pass. If you’re not married, and therefore can’t have your husband’s letter of authorization, you don’t pass.
My colleagues roll their eyes when they talk about these things. Maybe one day it will be different, they say. Maybe not, but they are used to it, born with it.
These are precious moments, for me, part of my growth as a person and a professional.
And when these clients come to me, to Italy, I will be better prepared than I was yesterday. Or I will know that I can count on the help of these extraordinary women to understand them better. And they will be able to count on me.
At the end, exhausted from these long days and a not exactly light dinner, we talk about us, how we feel. They ask me to tell them about the world of “A Story about Love.” (link masterclass – link gala), They saw via Instagram. In the end, all of us, we need to find a way to balance this life, to be happy even when-almost at the end of EVERY event-we swear to ourselves to close up store, that this will be the last one because it’s too much.
There is stress, so much stress. The realization, on the part of each of us, especially at these events, that after 20 hours of intercontinental transfers, hours and hours in the air writing keynote presentations instead of watching the latest movie premiere on Emirates, jet lag, two hours in a cab from the airport and then makeup-keys-and-straight-on-the-stage-because-we’re-late… we’re sacrificing so much. Too much?
I don’t know, I can’t come up with an answer, but I often wonder about it, especially in the past year.
Just today a fellow Wedding Planner passed away suddenly. I didn’t know him personally, we had promised to meet soon. But I know he was highly respected in the environment, for his energy and professionalism, for being one of the forerunners of this profession. This news tonight hit me very hard. I was afraid, one day, that I too would disappear like this, from one moment to the next, the fear of perhaps being on the other side of the world, away from my loved ones.
We get so busy always chasing after something bigger, to succeed, that it only takes an episode like this to remind us how feeble, volatile all this really is. Is it worth it, to keep sacrificing so much?
A reflection I will be making over the next 20 hours of flying back, finally, home.
Video by Melrish Studio, Dubai | Cameras – Dan Edjamin Samarita, Rbee Cruz, Norbert Yanzon
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Fascinated about this world? Read my last Post about my previous adventure as speaker at Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summit, Sardinia