Devika Narain, the essential organizer of “green” artisanal weddings, on what really matters when people get married
Bride and groom find her because her weddings are just beautiful, not in the sense that everything is over the top, but in a small, subtle, and delicious way that is all her own,
‘Top Notch’ is a bi-monthly column where journalist and editor Namrata Zakaria introduces us to the elite and club of fashion scholars.
Devika Narain only started her eponymous wedding planning business in 2015, when she was barely 25 years old. In two years, she was hosting one of the most low-key and famous weddings India has ever seen – that of cricket and Bollywood royalty Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma.
You would think it would catapult Narain into instant stardom. But thanks to the high-profile nature of marriage, everything had to be the country’s best-kept secret. “When I am asked about my clients ‘weddings, my simple answer is no. It is important that all couples stay private. To this day, I don’t know what most of my clients are doing,” s’ she still amuses. – girl laughing. “But I find it really cool how people find me fair.”
The bride and groom find her because her weddings are simply beautiful. It is not in the sense that everything is exaggerated that we mean “the great Indian wedding”. Narain weddings are simple, small, and with everything from flowers and decor to food, sourced from a 50 mile radius. Several people, including famous stars like Yami Gautam and Dia Mirza, are now organizing “green” weddings, but Narain has been organizing them for six years.
“I grew up in Lucknow so I’m infatuated with anything to do with crafts. We used to have karigars at home regularly. My mom is obsessed with looms and has a saree from every state, even the keychain she gave me has a sari from every state. So crafting was a big part of my growing years, and then obviously it became my design language. Plus, it was cheaper to source locally, so when I started it was a huge factor, ”she says. “Pinterest had just arrived in India and we were obsessed with Western white wedding decor. But I wanted to see Pinterest filled with Indian weddings. Sabyasachi calls being local and artisan a new kind of nationalism. “
Narain was featured last year on a hit Netflix show called The big day produced by Conde Nast. Did she ever imagine she would get here? “There is no straightforward path to what you end up doing in life. I am always amused when people ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, because I don’t know anyone who ended up with the career they said they wanted to be a journalist, but I realized I was way too optimistic for that, “she smiles. “I grew up in a large family where it was very common to have 20 people because India had won a cricket match. We are obsessed with celebrations. I remember going to a wedding when I I was 10, and everyone was so happy in the room. I’m lucky to be able to have a career in celebrating. “
Narain says we have the image of craftsmanship as a large craft store. But once we realize that it can be elevated to a level of luxury, there is no turning back. “There is a potter between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur who can only make one type of pot, that’s all he’s done his whole life. But when you order 100 pots from him, you realize that no two pots are the same “, that’s the beauty of doing it by hand, it’s so unique. I might not be the best wedding planner, but you need to understand our values, ”she explains. Narain sometimes asks locals to grow special flowers for a wedding and has passed a field in Lucknow from wheat to mustard for his own wedding.
Narain is married to famous wedding photographer Joseph Radhik, whom she says she met on the job because she is still working. They were married in a village called Itaunja outside of Lucknow where she had spent a few years while growing up. “We had no place or setting, we just didn’t want to work. The focus was entirely on family, friends and food and my dad made sure the local khansamah (the cooks) got up at dawn to cook something delicious. I wore my mother’s wedding lehenga and my family’s jewelry dating back five generations. Jo gave me her grandmother’s ring. And yes, we have cultivated a field of mustard around the house. “
She remembers a wedding in Srinagar where she wanted to stock up on everything in Kashmir but arrived there just 10 days before the wedding. same thing, and I had to go door to door asking the locals to give me a branch of their trees. I got to see a city and say people would have a hard time navigating otherwise. The same with Dhaka, Bangladesh, it was just beautiful and filled with art. “
Her most difficult marriage was to be a wedding in Chennai last June. “We couldn’t travel with all the restrictions and we had to organize everything on zoom calls. I was like, ‘can you move that vase two inches to the right? “”
Is an eco-friendly and sustainable wedding cutting expenses in a perhaps very elegant way so that the giant wedding industry can collapse? Is this the end of the Big Fat Indian Wedding then?
“It has been a while since he died, and my work is the biggest testament to that. People have chosen smaller, more elegant and more personal weddings. Young people are starting to pay for their own weddings and thus make their own decisions. about how they want to do it. They want to have fun, they want to call only the people who matter to them. So yes, the smaller, sleeker wedding was always going on, Covid just stepped up the change. Now I feel there is no going back. We started to appreciate the crafts. We have more respect for the vegetable vendor down the street who held us up for two summers locked up while the biggest chains have not done it, “she says.” The marriage as a theater is over. Spending hasn’t changed, but what we spend has definitely changed. “