An article taken from Jakarta Globe , was written based on interviews with me.
If you want to start a lucrative business, consider becoming a wedding organizer.
Indonesians often spend a fortune on weddings and invite thousands of guests. A wedding is an indicator of one’s social status, and what is considered small usually has about 500 people in attendance. The more money a couple — or their families — have, the more people they invite.
Back in 2003, Fenny Palijama was a housewife who was bored with staying at home. Today, she manages Kenisha, a flourishing wedding organizing business that she built with her friend Lita Erlan.
“Having been a career woman all my life before I had a child, I got stressed out doing nothing at home,” said Fenny, who used to work at a law firm.
“My friends often asked me to help them plan and organize their weddings. I thought, ‘Why not turn this into a serious business? I work, but not at a nine-to-five job, so I can still be at home, too.”
Fenny said she and Lita initially set a goal of a minimum of 12 weddings a year.
“We increased [the target] gradually, from 12 to 24. Then it became 30,” she said. “This year, we are planning to handle at least 40 weddings.
“This is a very good business. We have always managed to meet our annual target,” the 33-year-old mother of two said.
Traditionally, a wedding is held at the bride’s home, with a tent set up outside to receive the guests. A small group of relatives tasked with helping out the bride’s family comprise the wedding “committee.” Guests come and go and the celebration can last the whole day, from morning to evening.
If the bride’s house is small and cannot accommodate the hundreds, even thousands of guests, renting a function hall or a hotel’s ballroom is an option. Some couples prefer this because it is more practical. To rent a function hall for a wedding in Jakarta, one typically needs to shell out about Rp 27.5 million ($2,790).
Reserving the venue is only the first step before the big day. Planning a wedding entails a lot of hard work and can take up to a year, even longer. Among the plethora of details that must be covered are the invitations, decorations, food and drinks, photography, wedding gowns and suits. This is where a wedding organizer can come to the rescue.
“Many people, especially those who work, don’t have much time to handle everything for their wedding. They need help,” said Arif Rachman from Manten Party, with manten translating to bride and groom in Javanese.
“Clients are free to choose vendors, but we also provide them with some choices if they wish,” said Tommy, who also works at Manten.
Wedding organizers are also there to bridge communication between the families involved.
“We have had clients, couples, who could not stand their big families,” Tommy said. “Every one in the family wants to be heard when they have ideas. And this often leads to a family feud.”
Arif said that when such a dispute occurs, a wedding organizer is a third-party, independent body.
“We have to be neutral and not side with any of the family members,” he said.
Television star Rina Gunawan, who owns a wedding organizing business named after her, echoed the same sentiment.
“When we are organizing a wedding, the clients’ families often treat us like we are family members,” the 35-year-old said. “[But while] that is nice, I always tell my kids [her employees] to stay in the middle and not side with any of the families.”
The job of a wedding organizer may also include taking care of payments to vendors.
“Rather than having to deal with several vendors and transfer money to different accounts, clients choose us to help them take care of things like that,” Arif said.
Rina described wedding organizers as mediators. “We connect our clients with their families and with vendors,” she said.
The cost of hiring a wedding organizer varies, depending on the services required.
“Our service costs between Rp 14 million to Rp 30 million,” Fenny of Kenisha said. “It depends on whether they want us to handle everything, from finding the vendors for them, to negotiating prices. We call this the A to Z package.”
Manten Party charges between Rp 20 million and Rp 25 million, according to Arif.
“Aside from going to vendors, we can also help in handling documents at the embassy if it is a cross-cultural marriage between an Indonesian and a foreigner,” he said.
While not divulging figures for services that her company provides, Rina said a standard minimum budget that her clients prepare for the wedding, inclusive of organizer fees, is about Rp 300 million.
“Very often, clients come to us and say ‘OK, this is all I have. Please help us organize a beautiful wedding with this budget,’ ” she said.
“But then again, the cost of a wedding depends on many things, including the number of people invited, the catering company they choose, the venue, and so on.”
Having been in the business for nearly 10 years, Rina said her company has handled some truly extravagant weddings.
“A local official in Kalimantan held a wedding party for his daughter. He wanted everyone in the region to come, so it turned out that there were 20,000 people invited,” Rina said.
“They had their own hundreds of people to help make the party run smoothly. But still, everything was under our control as the wedding organizer.”
Rina’s company is currently handling the wedding of the son of one of the country’s top businessmen. “There will be 14,000 guests at the wedding,” she said. Surprisingly, despite the sometimes large number of guests invited, a wedding organizing company is made up of only a few fulltime staff. Rina Gunawan Wedding Organizer has eight, Manten Party has six and Kenisha has four.
“Most wedding organizers hire freelancers, and we do, too,” Rina said. “The bigger the wedding is, the more freelancers we hire.”
What makes organizing a wedding tough? The three companies are unanimous in pointing out that the difficulty lies with the couples’ families.
“It is often the families that give us a hard time,” Rina said.
“Sometimes, the bride’s family argues with the groom’s family over things. But I can understand that. These are two different families about to become one big family and they all want the wedding to be perfect.”
Family members complain when they are not satisfied. “Often, the clients are happy. But people in the family are not and think we are not doing our job well,” Fenny said.
“There were times when I or members of my team cried after being yelled at by a few people who were not happy,” Rina said.
“I always tell my kids that if that happens, they should find a bathroom and cry there. But once they are out of the bathroom, they have to be able to smile again. We sell services here. We have to make our clients happy.”
Dewi Sartika Sari, who works for Rina, recalled an incident when the families of one of their clients argued over the traditional dance to be performed during the ceremony. The bride’s parents were Acehnese, while the groom was from West Sumatra.
The groom’s family insisted that the wedding should include a number of traditional dances from West Sumatra. But because the bride’s family was against the idea and were paying for the wedding, they made the family wear Acehnese clothing.
But there is also a certain satisfaction to be derived from all the planning and the hard work and it’s not all financial.
“When you see that your clients are satisfied with the work you’ve done, you know that it’s not just about money,” Arif said.
“I feel so happy when, after all the guests leave, the clients come and shake our hand and say ‘Thank you so much.’
“That’s when I know I have achieved something.”