DJ Play That Song: Choosing an Entertainment Vendor for Your Wedding

DJ Play That Song: Choosing an Entertainment Vendor for Your Wedding

The best part of a wedding is debatable for many, be it time spent with family, eating great food, or scoping out the latest in wedding fashion. For some, there is no question – the dancing is the best part! In South Asian weddings, music, like food, plays a big role during the events. Whether to create a celebratory mood at the mendhi/sangeet or to strike a somber tone at the vidai, music helps to express how the crowd feels at any given moment. The best DJs know how to read a crowd and play to their feelings. A crowded mob on dance floor at the reception? Thank your all-knowing DJ for that!

Photo Courtesy: FengLong Photography

Do your due diligence when choosing your DJ and/or entertainment service company. From providing music at the baraat, ceremony, and reception to monogram lighting, dance floors, and effects, choosing an entertainment service company can be nearly as important a decision as selecting your venue. Even if you are not sure of how your wedding events will be structured, a reputable entertainment vendor can help you create the right ambiance with lighting and create a playlist that creates the perfect mood for each of your events. DJ Sumi Khan, of DJ Sumi Services, believes that “a great DJ will know when to play a particular song by reading and interacting with the crowd. When it comes to being a DJ, the crowd defines your style, so I read them and then go with the flow.”

Selecting an entertainment vendor is much more than just music. Most modern South Asian weddings include family/friend and bride/groom performances as well as videos, slideshows, and unique couple entrances. With receptions now resembling mini-musical productions, choosing an entertainment provider you are comfortable working closely with is key.


Factors to Consider
Selecting an entertainment provider for your wedding or events is much like choosing a venue or caterer. Price is certainly a factor, but so are the firm’s reputation, work ethics, and music selection. Firoz Dudha, owner/DJ of Dudha Productions also stresses the need for compatibility with his clients. “I will be the first to tell my clients that I may not be the best fit DJ for their event. It’s important for me to pass that client to a DJ who would be a better match.”

Many entertainment vendors now offer a range of services from dance floors, lighting, live entertainers, and emcee services, so carefully consider your specific needs when narrowing your list.

Budget: This is something to consider for all your vendors, and the entertainment provider is no different. Consider the number of events for which you need a DJ and Emcee. Do you need special lighting for any events? A dance floor? Want special effects like monograms? Be sure to sure to consider all details when reaching out to potential vendors for a quote.

Reputation: Experience is a key factor when selecting your DJ. There is nothing worse than an empty dance floor! Dudha explains that experience “should be the most important factor, not how long they have been DJing, but their experience with handling a crowd, and experience with the style of music required for each event.” Word of mouth referrals, references, and personally witnessing the DJ in action will give you a sense of their style and personality.

Professionalism: Of all your vendors, the DJ is one that needs to be in tune with event schedules and timing of entrances and performances. Khan stresses that “organization is a key factor – your dj will not only organize your event with you, but also keep in touch with your vendors to ensure a smooth, timely event. [And] your DJ needs to maintain a professional presence at all times from volume, language and proper decorum.”

Music: Check with your DJ on the available music collection. If you have a specific playlist in mind, the DJ will need to be sure all tracks are available. Also, ask that the music collection is current and includes wedding favorites. If you have a preference on whether guests can make song requests, check with the DJ on how he/she will handle the requests.


Prepare for Your First Meeting
As with all vendor meetings, be prepared to share your thoughts on what entertainment needs you have for your wedding events. On mehndi night, simply playing background music may suffice, while your reception needs may be more involved. Whether you have specific playlists or programming in mind or just a general idea of the type of music you like, be sure to ask questions and get ideas from your entertainment vendor. Khan advises couples to “ … make sure to have all details ready about your event to share. And never be afraid to ask questions.”

Attention to detail goes beyond just the first meeting. Ask your entertainment vendor how they will communicate with you throughout the process. Will the DJ surprise you on your big day or will they reach out closer to your event to set a timeline and narrow selections? Dudha likes to reach out to clients one and half months before their event. “I help them with music selection, itinerary timeline, and understand their playlist. [This gives me time to] mash up a custom mix for the Bride and Groom’s reception entry.”  Getting to know your entertainment vendor has advantages so they truly understand your style and needs for your events leaving you more time to enjoy your wedding day … and dance your feet off!


Favorite Wedding Moments
The experts share the latest in music trends and what they’re listening to now (when they’re not catering to the requests of brides and grooms!).

Dudha:  There have been so many events with special moments, but it’s always amazing when you see the bride walk down the aisle. I realize that one day I will walk my own daughter down!  

Khan:  My favorite weddings are mixed culture weddings … I must say nothing is more beautiful when two cultures mix. Every single moment of weddings are my favorite, but one in particular is when I get my bride and groom behind the booth and they DJ with me. Also, feeling a sense of togetherness from my crowd is the most uplifting feeling!


Featured Experts
Special thanks to the experts who contributed their advice for planning wedding entertainment.

Dudha Productions
Firoz Dudha, Owner/DJ
www.dudhaproductions.com
Tel: (727) 418-8498

DJ Sumi Services
Sumaira Khan, Owner/DJ
www.djsumiservices.com
Tel: (407) 952-5903


About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. Based in the Bay area, The Arpan Group works with clients across the US. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

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Get to Know: Rajesh Bhandari, Musician

Get to Know: Rajesh Bhandari, Musician

Rajesh Bhandari first discovered the lyrical beauty of Indian classical music at a young age on a trip to Delhi, India. Bhandari and his father returned to the United States along with a harmonium and tabla beginning the young percussionist’s musical journey.

Born in Queens, New York, Bhandari now resides in Miami. Soon after the fateful trip to Delhi, Bhandari began studying tabla, music, and theory with Pt. Ravideen Ramsamooj. Over the years, Bhandari has studied with many great maestros including Pt. Samir Chatterjee, Pt. Anindo Chatterjee and Ustad Zakir Hussain. While he began his musical journey studying classical Indian music, Bhandari began exploring Western styles, including Jazz and World music, in his teens and during his college years at Miami Dade College (MDC). From Bollywood to Ghazal, Bengali and Punjabi geet to World music and Jazz, Bhandari enjoys learning and experimenting .

At the age of 14, Bhandari began performing and traveling, which was a unique learning experience. Early in his career, Bhandari was a dance accompanist at the New World School of the Arts in Miami. It was during this time that the young musician began to understand the relationship between dance and music. Feeling inspired, Bhandari began composing music for dances led by students, faculty, and visiting artists. Since that time, Bhandari has accompanied many dance artists and musicians from around the world, making him a truly versatile tabla player.

Bhandari now shares his knowledge and experience with eager young musicians in South Florida, where he teaches classes monthly. Fans can expect his latest solo fusion album, Ambient Resonance, to be available in early September, followed by tour dates in the fall. Featuring great musicians from a range of genres, the album will showcase Bhandari’s talent and love for music in all its forms.

Bhandari will also be performing with Vocalist Sudhir Narain, who will perform bhajans and geet, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 6-9pm at the Palm Beach Hindu Mandir.

For more information about Rajesh Bhandari, visit https://www.rajbtabla.com/.


You’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with accomplished musicians, such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Krishna Mohan Bhatt, Lakshmi Shankar, Falu Shah, and even Shakira. Is there any one moment that stands out as the most memorable?

Studying and performing Ustad Zakir Hussain’s music at Carnegie Hall in 2009 was definitely the highlight of my career. It was also an amazing experience working with Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Kala Ramnath and drummer Steve Smith in that workshop and performance as well.

And there are so many more amazing memories for me, from performing with Smt. Lakshmi Shankar on WLRN in 2003 to performing with Questlove to touring with Shakira in 2009 and more recently with Utsav Lal, Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, and Suresh Wadkar.

Why tabla, what drew you to this particular instrument? What are some of your earliest memories of learning to play?I think I was just fascinated with the sounds that one can make with this instrument, but I also fell in love with classical music’s rich nuanced melodies and deep rhythms. I remember from a young age a strong desire to practice and play tabla, and still to this day am in awe of what great music you can create.
Who do you consider to be a mentor and why?I would say I have a few mentors but Ud. Zakir Hussain has had the biggest influence on me, especially due to his work in fusion and world music. He really showed me how many possibilities there are for tabla in traditional Indian music as well as other genres. He also showed many artists how to be better stage performers as well as how to be more inclusive when it comes to classical music. He taught me how it is important to learn about the cultures of the world through music. Pt. Samir Chatterjee and Pt. Anindo Chatterjee are also big influences as well not only musically speaking, but they were both mentors on how to remain focused on practice and maintain virtues of humility, patience and perseverance.
What advice do you have for young Indian Americans who wish to pursue a career in music or the performing arts?The performing arts as a career isn’t the easiest path, but it can be quite rewarding. I do think there are more people now who are choosing to put a good effort forth as well. I believe it’s important to know your intent with your art first, then continue being consistent with developing your ideas and finding a way for people to experience it. Patience and humility is needed for this as well. But as long as you are genuine in your approach, you can find an audience and people are interested in having new experiences and the performing arts is a great way to connect with people on a very deep level. As the arts are a means for one’s expression of some of the deepest human emotions and can have a profound effect on those who can bear witness to it.

All images provided by Rajesh Bhandari. Article appears in the August 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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Get to Know: Mona Ahuja, Children’s Book Author

Get to Know: Mona Ahuja, Children’s Book Author

As a young child, Mona Ahuja listened to her mom tell magical stories about the Moon. Through those tales, Ahuja began to understand the importance of the Moon in Indian culture and folklore, an understanding she has since passed along to her three boys. Her love for storytelling and the vibrant imaginations of children led to Ahuja pursuing a career in writing.

Born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in the Bay Area, Ahuja first began her career in, at the time, the new industry of Internet Security. While the work was exciting and new, Ahuja soon chose to pursue her passion of working with children and instead began teaching dance to little ones. Her ability to connect and engage with youth has been much more fulfilling, and the experience even inspired her to explore her creative side. In doing so, Ahuja developed some of her ideas and began writing stories as a way to not only connect with children, but also continue the tradition of storytelling and the sharing of cultural folklore.

Chanda Mama is the perfect bedtime story for families to enjoy together and represents Ahuja’s fascination with the moon, which began when she was young. She shares, “As a child, on road trips, I would spends hours staring up at the sky in wonder of the Moon and its connection and power over Earth.” From wondering whether a “Man on the Moon” truly existed to watching the moon rise, Ahuja’s love for the beauty of the moon shines through the pages of her new book. Her stories about the moon helped to soothe her young boys at bedtime, and later inspired her share these tales with other parents. In Chanda Mama, readers join a young boy as he follows the moon in the night sky. The calming illustrations and gently-told story make Chanda Mama a much-needed addition to any family’s bedtime routine.

Who inspires your writing?
My children are my greatest inspiration for writing and telling stories. Children, in general, have an amazing imagination and are extremely observant. They notice and question everything. I don’t always have the age-appropriate answer for them, so I tend to draw on my creative side and stretch the truth a bit. Some may not agree with this method, but I love to see where it takes them. Often they continue on with my initial ideas and add their own stories. It’s a wonderful way to see how their minds work.

What are your thoughts on the diversity of books currently available in schools and public libraries?
I don’t think that it is as diverse as it should be, but it is definitely more so than when I was growing up. I’m happy to see that and thankful that my kids will be exposed to our culture and heritage through these books. Picture books are an excellent way to introduce different cultures to young children. My own personal library consists of books from Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, India, and many other countries. Stories about animals, the moon and sky gods, and fishing all captivate young audiences and reflect what is important to those cultures. Today, it’s more important than ever that our young children have that exposure and understanding starting at a young age. They need to understand that no matter where you come from, we, as humans, are all very similar in our need for connection, family, and love.


Chanda Mama
Written by Mona Ahuja
Illustrated by Sid Veloria
Published by Lekha Ink

Bask in the moonlight with this sweet tale of a boy’s affection for Chanda Mama, Mother Earth’s loving and protecting brother. Just as a brother watches over his sister and her family, Indian folklore teaches that the Moon, known colloquially as Chanda Mama, watches over the Earth and the Earth’s children. This beautiful picture book continues the Indian tradition of love for the moon. This beautifully illustrated tale is the perfect reading for bedtime.

Visit www.lekhaink.com for more information and to purchase your copy.


About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appears in April 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

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Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate

Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate

Indians and Indian Americans have long been known for their success across a wide range of fields in the United States. Amruta Houde and Niraj Antani are two young Indian Americans making a mark and paving the way for others to join them in their quest to serve and positively impact their community.

Learn more about what drives these impressive individuals to serve their communities.

Amruta HoudeGet to Know:
Amruta Houde,
Public Health Advocate

By Rina Shah, The Arpan Group

Volunteering comes second nature to Amruta Houde, a young Indian American pursuing her graduate studies at Columbia University in New York. At a young age, Houde, alongside her family, spent countless volunteer hours with organizations such as Sewa International and The Bhutanese Empowerment Project. While working closely with refugee communities as well as young adolescent girls in rural areas, Houde recognized the importance of information sharing, especially with regard to public health issues.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Houde has been a volunteer with various community organizations, including Sewa International, since she was in high school. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Georgia Tech and Master of Science in Psychology from Boston University. During a gap year after earning her Master’s, Houde volunteered with Sewa International in India where she worked with local NGO partners in rural communities to share health information. Her experience during this time inspired her to consider a career in public health, and she is now pursuing her Master of Science in Public Health from Columbia University.

In speaking with Houde, her desire to be an advocate for the Indian American community as well as to influence public health policy globally are abundantly clear. Her enthusiasm and dedication are an inspiration for all who wish to be actively involved in bringing about change on all levels – local, national, and international.

Learn more about how Amruta hopes to make an impact in the public health field in her post-graduate career.

What are some of the public health challenges faced by the communities in which you worked in India? How do organizations like Sewa International make a difference on local and national levels?

The public health challenges I observed in India were related to adolescent girl’s health, which naturally influences their development and access to opportunities. Millions of girls are not receiving comprehensive, accurate health education in school or at home. I spent time in Assam and Hyderabad where Seva Bharati, a partner NGO, conducts weekly sessions and camps for teenage girls. They have created a system where girls become “older sisters” and conduct confidence building activities and health education sessions. Another major concern is lack of adequate bathroom facilities for girls in schools which results in a significant school drop-out rate of female students and teachers. Seva Kirana, a partner NGO based in Bengaluru, is working to increase the female literacy rate by building clean toilets in schools and slums.

What are some challenges you faced while working with local NGOs in India?

As I traveled around to various states in India, I noticed that many NGOs are doing similar work in their local areas. However, there is little to no communication or exchange of resources between these organizations. During my time visiting various organizations around the country, I was able to serve as the connection and share project ideas and health education materials. Strengthening the network of NGOs would allow volunteers to learn the best practices from each other.

Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate
How has your experience as a first-generation Indian American shaped the way you approach your work?

Most of my previous visits to India involved visiting relatives, shopping, and visiting famous landmarks. Experiencing India outside of the tourist context allowed me to truly understand my roots. Understanding the culture of a community is vital to serve. In the U.S., it is important for our community to have representation in various spheres, from healthcare to education to government. As a public health professional, I aim to serve as a voice and advocate for the Indian-American community.


A year-long study abroad or gap year spent volunteering can be eye-opening and influential in many ways. How did your gap year shape your decisions? Why would you recommend college students/recent graduates consider a gap year?

The most common reactions after telling someone you are taking a gap year are “Won’t this set you back in your career plan?” and “Wow, that’s so cool!” I completed my Master’s in Psychology two weeks before I left for India with plans of returning and doing my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. All the projects I worked on in India happened to be related to public health. If I hadn’t taken this gap year, I may have never realized that public health was my true passion. As for the second reaction, yes, it is an extremely exciting time! But there is another side to it as I saw the reality of the world around me and my true self.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What type of work would you like do once you graduate?

After completing my Master’s, I hope to continue in the field of global mental health. Mental health is a topic treated with caution and often avoidance. Through public health policy and programs in the community, I hope to increase awareness about mental health conditions, increase access to mental health resources, and in turn, decrease stigma.

Who has played a crucial role in influencing the events of your life? How so?

As the years go by, I realize more and more that my parents played the most crucial role in shaping who I am today. I observed my parents juggle their careers, family life, and community service throughout my life. More often than not, serving others became the priority. They always reminded me that it was my duty to step outside of my bubble and use the time, resources, and knowledge that I have to selflessly serve all those around me.

Increasingly today, younger generations in the South Asian community are choosing “non-traditional” careers. What words of wisdom do you have for those, particularly young women, who aspire to pursue their interests and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit?

There are many points where we have to decide to take a chance on doing something new or not. Take your time to make a decision and evaluate all the possibilities. But once you’ve made a decision, go all in. Do not doubt what you’ve done. If you continue to doubt yourself, you can never be completely committed to your decision. Sometimes things may not go the way that you’ve planned, but this is not failure. You’ve simply gained something out of the decision that you weren’t expecting. Each experience is a learning experience, it’s in our hands to reflect upon this and develop.

All photographs provided by Amruta Houde.

Article appears in February 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

Rina Shah

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative

Indians and Indian Americans have long been known for their success across a wide range of fields in the United States. Amruta Houde and Niraj Antani are two young Indian Americans making a mark and paving the way for others to join them in their quest to serve and positively impact their community.

Learn more about what drives these impressive individuals to serve their communities.

Niraj AntaniGet to Know:
Niraj Antani,
Ohio State Representative

By Rina Shah, The Arpan Group

At the age of 23, Niraj Antani became the youngest serving member in the Ohio House of Representatives. Born and raised in Miami Township, Ohio, Antani remained in state and earned a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. Now 25, Antani (R – Ohio House District 42) is poised to be an influential force in politics. Recognized by in 2015 by Forbes Magazine, Antani is on the list of top “30 Under 30” people in the United States for Law & Politics.

The young Indian American began his foray into politics first as an intern for his congressman at the age of 16. During college, Antani participated in The Washington Leadership Program (WLP), an eight-week leadership program based in Washington, DC, where young South Asian Americans are exposed to the South Asian American political Diaspora. The opportunity to meet with and learn more about the political process from leading community figures paved the way for Antani to become a changemaker of his own right.  

Learn more about how Antani got his start in politics as well as how his Indian American background influences his work ethic.

Why politics? What inspired you to pursue a career in public service?

I have been involved in politics since I was 16, interning for my congressman. Through politics, and being an elected official, we can make large change for the benefit of our community. I want to be a voice for my community, for my generation.

How has your experience as an Indian American shaped your career and values?

The Indian-American culture has taught me the values that I hold most dear. Hard work, perseverance, independence, among others. It is through these qualities that I have been able to succeed in politics.

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative
Who has played a crucial role in influencing the events of your life? How so?

There have been a lot of people who have influenced me. Harin Contractor, who runs the South Asian American internship program in DC, the Washington Leadership Program, first connected me to the Indian American political community. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her staff gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. Congressman Turner and his staff gave me my start. Scott Jennings and the Romney campaign gave me the grounding and skills I need to thrive in politics.

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative
Increasingly today, younger generations in the South Asian community are choosing “non-traditional” careers. What words of wisdom do you have for those, particularly those who aspire to a career in public service?

We need voices who will fight for our generation of Indian Americans. Our parents immigrated here and built successful lives. Now, we need a seat at the table to advance our community to the next level. I’m proud to be the youngest Indian American elected official in the country, but we need more to get involved.

All photographs by Mike Elicson, Ohio House of Representatives.

Article appears in February 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

Rina Shah

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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Designing the Ultimate Wedding Cake

Designing the Ultimate Wedding Cake

The Artistic Whisk | Photo by Kenzie Shores Photography

The Artistic Whisk | Photo by Kenzie Shores Photography

That moment where the silver lining on the wedding planning cloud has finally arrived – the “design wedding cake” item on your wedding-to-do list! The venue has been selected, and contracts have been signed. You have met with every wedding vendor possible from photographers to wedding planners and décor professionals to hair and makeup artists. You have never been more ready to move on to more delicious tasks – choosing and designing your dream wedding cake!

Everyone in the wedding planning entourage is likely to get on board with this task. Couples may already have favorite flavors in mind and are looking to match the design with the overall theme for the wedding reception. Pinterest is a bride’s best friend during the wedding planning process, and even more so when it comes to designing the wedding cake. The challenge lies in finding the perfect design, while still ensuring the cake tastes delicious. A seemingly simple task is suddenly made more difficult, but at least tastings are involved!

 

 

Factors to Consider
You will likely have a design in mind as you begin the process of selecting the baker who will make your dream wedding cake come to life. You may have sampled scrumptious cake at a previous wedding or event or have seen incredible designs on Pinterest. As you begin the task of narrowing down choices for your design and baker, some of the same factors that play a role in selecting the venue, décor, and other wedding components are also important in this selection. Mercedes Blackwell, Owner of and Cake Designer at The Cake Studio agrees and says “[your cake designer] will be able to suggest the best options in order to achieve your vision for your wedding.  Today’s dessert and cake options are so unique and varied, that you will surely find several alternatives that will make your wedding a memorable experience.”

Photo Provided By Zehra's Cupcakery

Photo Provided By Zehra’s Cupcakery

Budget: Your budget will impact how intricate the design of your cake as well as the number of tiers. Using fresh flowers vs. sugar flowers, Styrofoam layers, a sheet cake for serving, all of these are options for optimizing budget. Speak with your cake designer to determine the best way to achieve your dream vision without breaking your budget.

Venue: Is the wedding reception outdoors or indoors? The temperature and serving time will influence the choice. Some frostings can withstand heat, whereas others need refrigeration. With the right details, your baker recommend flavor and frosting pairings accordingly.

Guests: The guest count is crucial as many bakeries charge per serving. The number of guests will also help determine the number of tiers needed for your cake. Will other desserts be served leaving the cake to present the “wow” factor? In either case, your baker can suggest ways in which to maximize serving size and still amaze your guests.

Flavors: With so many flavor profiles from which to choose, couples can feel inundated. Trust your baker, s/he is the expert and can recommend complimenting flavors. For couples who want to offer a variety, Zehra Laljiani and Saba Hasnain, founders of Zehra’s Cupcakery, suggest they “opt for dessert tables featuring a variety of miniature desserts or cupcakes along with a smaller wedding cake, or feature a groom’s cake along with the wedding cake.”

Theme: Consider the overall theme of your décor, invitations, and event in general when selecting your design. Jovana Boksen, Owner of and Chief Pastry Artist at The Artistic Whisk suggests that “the bride and groom should research what styles of cake they think suits their theme. We recommend coming to the tasting with some sort of inspiration, i.e. color swatches, invitations, Pinterest boards, dress photos, etc.”

Prepare for Tastings and the First Meeting
The list of possible bakers has been narrowed, and now comes the fun part – the tastings! The experts all agree that keeping an open mind during the process is key. Tastings give couples an opportunity to not only sample the baker’s specialties, but to also understand flavor pairings and profiles. Boksen shares “We prepare 21 unique flavor combinations at our tastings, which is a lot of cake! Remember to choose which flavor you think is best. Don’t try to please everyone, it’s impossible.”

Photo Provided by The Cake Studio

Photo Provided by The Cake Studio

Coming to the tasting with the right people is just as important as bringing your appetite. Laljiani and Hasnain advise couples to “bring only the people who will have a final say in the decision regarding the cake design and flavors. While it may seem fun to have your bridal party, parents, and in-laws at your tasting, it can result in too many varying opinions and make the experience more daunting for the couple.” Staying true to what you as a couple enjoy will be important as you make the final decision. Though your guests should enjoy the cake, ultimately, the cake is one of many memories you will remember from that day.

The first meeting also gives bakers and cake designers to get to know the couple. An understanding of the bride and groom’s personalities as well as their likes/dislikes will shape the final design. Blackwell shares that “getting to know the couple a little bit is also very important to me. I enjoy getting a glimpse of their individual personalities and finding out how they met. This conversation usually reveals something interesting and unique that can be incorporated into their wedding cake.” 

As you venture out to tastings, some additional questions to keep in mind include:

  • Can the baker accommodate dietary restrictions?
  • Will the baker be preparing other wedding cakes the same day?
  • How far in advance should orders be placed?
  • Will the baker offer recommendations on the best to way serve?

The Perfect Wedding Cake
The experts share their thoughts on the perfect wedding cake.

Jovana: My idea of the perfect cake is probably what I made for my own wedding!  I particular like classic cakes, but with a twist. Something original that hasn’t been seen before, those are my favorites. As far as flavor goes, I enjoy cakes that are made from scratch while using all-natural ingredients. I can always tell the difference!

Mercedes: My cake preference is a simple, clean design with some height and a very marked focal point, such as a large bloom. I like muted shades with a touch of “bling” such as gold or silver. My flavor preferences are complete opposites because I always like to offer two flavors. The first would be a light Raspberry Lemonade combination, which is Lemon Chiffon cake with Raspberry and Cream Cheese fillings, and second would be Dark Chocolate cake with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache fillings. Offering completely different flavors makes it more exciting!

Zehra and Saba: We always enjoy a cake that is unique, exotic, and daring. The one we enjoyed creating most was our dragon cake, which was a coconut cake with a mango buttercream and mango, passion fruit, and basic reduction as a topping. This cake was the perfect blend of sweetness, tanginess, and spice and would be a wonderful choice for a bride who is looking for an exotic dessert.


Featured Experts
Special thanks to the experts who contributed their advice and tips for designing a wedding cake.

The Artistic Whisk
Jovana Unietis Boksen, Owner & Chief Pastry Artist
www.theartisticwhisk.com
Tel: (727) 560-5662

The Cake Studio
Mercedes Blackwell, Owner & Cake Designer
www.weddingcakeorlando.com
Tel: (407) 614-2860

Zehra’s Cupcakery
Zehra Laljiani and Saba Hasnain, Co-Founders
www.zehrascupcakery.com
Tel: (678) 640-6415


About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. Based in the Bay area, The Arpan Group works with clients across the US. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appears in the September 2016 issue of Desh-Videsh.

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