Funding Your Family’s Future: A Guide to Choosing the Right Financial Planner

Funding Your Family’s Future: A Guide to Choosing the Right Financial Planner

Funding Your Family’s Future: A Guide to Choosing the Right Financial Planner

Financial advisors aren’t just for millionaires. Individuals of all ages and circumstances can benefit from the guidance a financial advisor offers. Recent college graduates have different financial goals than couples in their 40s. A newly married couple may be interested in purchasing a new home, whereas an older couple wants to maintain financial security well into retirement. Whatever the situation, a financial advisor or planner can assist with major financial decisions.

While some choose the do-it-yourself approach to securing their financial future, others seek the assistance of financial professionals.

Many even procrastinate when it comes to making crucial financial decisions simply because the process is too daunting. Seema Ramroop, CRPS, Senior Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch, works with her clients “… at different stages of their growth and to help [them] seek their preferred lifestyles through a one-on-one relationship.” A financial advisor is able to answer the many confusing and complicated questions you may have related to investments, insurance, inheritance, college funding, retirement funds, and more. The prospect of choosing and working with a financial advisor is overwhelming, and the process of selecting a financial advisor may seem like no easy feat. How do you choose an individual who understands your needs (and those of your family) as well as your financial goals for the future? Whether you are buying a business, saving for college, or funding your retirement, your main goal is to find someone you not only trust, but also formulates the right strategy for securing your financial future. Finding the right financial planner is the first step to securing your family’s financial future and ensuring all your financial goals are met.

Factors to Consider

When researching financial advisors, remember that not all financial professionals are the same. Stockbrokers, accountants, and insurance agents provide specialized services like buying stocks and mutual funds or tax-related assistance. Financial planners, on the other hand, provide guidance about investments and insurance as well as about major financial decisions like buying a house or business, retirement, and college funding.

During the process of researching and meeting with potential financial planners, keep your financial goals front and center. Samant Sharma, CFP, Wealth Management Advisor, advises clients to “look at their goals and needs, and ask questions regarding the planning process as it relates to achieving those goals.” In addition to keeping a list of goals, consider the following factors when choosing a financial planner:

Credentials: Look for someone who is licensed and has gone through rigorous testing and training. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) goes through training on regulations and ethics and must commit to ongoing education to retain their license, so check that their credentials are current.

Experience: How experienced is the advisor? Has the financial planner weathered economic slumps? Are they familiar with types of financial goals you hope to achieve? Review their qualifications and do research on their website.

References:As with any major decision, ask family and friends for recommendations. Does the individual have a good track record? Do they make appropriate recommendations and maintain periodic check-ins?

Reports: Will you receive quarterly and annual reports? Does the advisor check-in periodically to gauge progress and make adjustments when needed? A good financial planner will not disappear once the checks have been written, but rather maintain a strong working relationship.

Compensation: Some financial planners are paid by flat fee by the hour while others rely solely on commissions based on your investments. Commission-based planners may be motivated to sell you certain products, so it is best search for a fiduciary that has pledged to keep the client’s best interest in mind. When making payments, checks should always be written to a brokerage, insurance or financial services firm – not to the individual.

Prepare for Your First Meeting

Once a financial advisor has been selected, what next? Ramroop advises clients to first begin “by asking themselves what is it they are trying to achieve financially.” Whether you want to buy a house or ensure you have enough saved for retirement, your goals will frame the meeting. Sharma adds that clients should “gather financial information, assets and liabilities, to allow the Advisor to better provide possible solutions for you to consider.”

When sitting down with your financial planner, keep a list of questions ready so all concerns are addressed. Questions to ask during the initial meeting may include:

  • How do I know if I have enough savings to fund my goals?
  • How can I afford to keep up with rising healthcare costs?
  • What would happen to my family if we lost one or both of our incomes?
  • Do I have enough cash flows from my business and what are other sources of liquidity?
  • What strategies should I use to create a family legacy and be tax efficient?
  • What strategies can I use to plan for retirement?
  • What is the best way to leave money with a charity?

Tips from the Experts The experts share their advice for those beginning the process of financial planning.

Seema Ramroop: “It is a robust process, and it can be very easy to become overwhelmed by it initially … Your advisor’s role is to be a guide and to provide clarity for all the minutia.”

Samant Sharma:“… Consistency of two-way communication is key. Updating your Financial Advisor as your life evolves will help match what your money is doing with what your life is doing.”

Special thanks to the experts who contributed their thoughts and advice to this article.

Seema Ramroop, CRPS Assistant Vice President
Senior Financial Advisor
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.
Tel: (727) 799-5621

Samant Sharma, CFP First Vice President
Wealth Management Advisor, Portfolio Manager
The Sharma Group
Tel: (727) 799-5615

Rina ShahAbout 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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in January 2016 issue of Desh-Videsh.


Get to Know: Karuna Chani, Beauty Expert and Makeup Artist

Get to Know: Karuna Chani, Beauty Expert and Makeup Artist

Karuna Chani, Beauty Expert and Makeup Artist
Internationally recognized makeup artist and skin care consultant Karuna Chani is known for her ability to blend eastern elements with western beauty trends. Born and raised in New York City, Chani graduated from Parsons School of Design, and later attended the Makeup Forever Academy in Paris, France. During her internships and post-graduate work, Chani was inspired by how a face could be transformed in a short amount of time.

Switching her focus from fashion to beauty, Chani worked with big-name brands Laura Mercier, Chanel, Giorgio Armani and NARS on how to use their products and create custom looks for clients. Chani transforms young South Asian brides and professional models with ease and expertise. Owner of and lead makeup artist at KC-Makeup, Chani opened her first studio in 2007 and recently opened a new one in NoMad, Manhattan.

Recently, Chani shared more about her background and favorite beauty secrets.

Tell us a little bit about your career and how you came to be where you are today.
I did fashion internships while studying at Parsons [School of Design], coordinating fashion shows for designers such as Carmen Marc Valvo, DKNY, Calvin Klein, etc. That work led to a realization that I wanted to be in the beauty industry, which changed my path from fashion to beauty in 2001. At the time, I was totally fascinated by how makeup could transform a face in 30 minutes and give a person such confidence all in one. Fashion and beauty go hand in hand though, so I wasn’t far off.
As a renowned makeup artist, you have had the chance to work with quite a list of stars. Who are some of your favorites and why?
Bollywood actresses Priyanka Chopra and Nimrat Kaur are my favorites, not only because they are natural beauties, but also talented, hard working, and an inspiration to all females. They are perfect representations that not only can you be beautiful, but smart and have it all! And to top it off, both are incredibly human and down to earth.
You also work with brides to ensure they look fabulous for their big day. What can a bride expect when working with you and your team?

A bride can expect exceptional professionalism (punctual, polite, personable), creative, unique concepts. No cookie-cutter look or technique. Understanding the client’s needs and coming up with a unique concept to suit her personal style and vision for her big day is what KC-Makeup is all about!

What is your favorite skincare product – one item no woman should be without for healthy, glowing skin?
Any skincare product that has hyaluronic acid and/or triple peptides is definitely one of my favorites! It’s an instant skin booster giving a slight lift and glow all in one!
Is there one particular step in a skin care regimen women should not skip?

It can’t be one step. it has to be at least two steps! (I promise the one additional step won’t take much more time). Every woman should never ever skip cleansing and moisturizing daily. It keeps the skin clean and hydrated and is a must for supple looking skin.

Many South Asian women struggle with finding the perfect shade of makeup. Do you recommend any particular brands to ease their search?

This has been an ongoing issue in the industry, since I began working in beauty and still continues to be an issue to this day. While it has improved in the past five years, for many it is still difficult to find the right shade of foundation. I would recommend NARS, Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and/or Makeup Forever to find the perfect shade for South Asian skin tones.

Increasingly today, younger generations in the South Asian community are choosing “non-traditional” careers. What words of wisdom do you have for those who aspire to careers in fashion and/or beauty?
Don’t do it unless you’re 100% committed and prepared to put in the required hard work, passion, perseverance and dedication. because this career is demanding, always changing and forces you to remain at the top of your game creatively and professionally. Oh and your social life may slowly slip away as you become more and more successful.

Work is my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s not for everyone.

How would you characterize your own style?
Classic and trendy with my very own unique flair.

Visit to learn more about Karuna Chani, KC-Makeup, and her services.

About the Author
Rina Shah 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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Photos provided by Karuna Chani and Tara Sharma Photography.

Article appears in November 2015 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

Book Review: Let’s Celebrate Diwali

Book Review: Let’s Celebrate Diwali

Book Review: Let's Celebrate Diwali

The need for diversity in literature, particularly children’s literature, is evident in bookstores and libraries around the country. Non-white protagonists are pointedly absent from books read by school-aged children, which is a stark contrast to the true demographic makeup of their communities. Despite the increase in ethnic and non-Caucasian populations in the United States, the characters and stories depicted in children’s books have remained largely unchanged over the last 20 years.

Many first generation South Asian Americans grew up learning about their culture through stories told by grandparents and from reading Amar Chitra Kathas sent to them from abroad. This same generation is now raising their own children to be aware of their cultural heritage, a daunting task when available literature options are limited. Recognizing the need for diversity in children’s literature, up-and-coming publishing companies like Lee & Low and Bharat Babies are in an ideal position to bridge the gap.

Let’s Celebrate Diwali, written by Anjali Joshi and published by Bharat Babies, offers young readers an opportunity to learn about Indian culture and connect with characters that represent themselves as well as their friends and classmates. The illustrations by Tim Palin are bold and vibrant, appealing to children and adults alike. The characters are not drawn as idealized depictions, but instead as illustrated versions of our own children.

In Let’s Celebrate Diwali, Harini, a recurring character that also appears in Bharat Babies Hanuman and The Orange Sun, wakes up on Diwali day excited to share about the holiday with her classmates. When she arrives at school dressed in a beautiful lengha, Harini is surprised to see some of her classmates also dressed in formal wear. During circle time, the class learns that Harini, Amrit, Dhimen, and Urvi all celebrate Diwali, though they do so differently in accordance to their own religious traditions – Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh.

The beauty of the diversity of Harini’s classroom is not to be dismissed lightly, but rather praised for the reality it embraces. Harini and her classmates are a true reflection of the many students in classrooms today. With more schools recognizing and accepting the traditions of different cultures within their student bodies, so too should the characters in children’s literature. Harini, Amrit, Dhimen, and Urvi all enthusiastically share about their own cultural backgrounds, while their classmates are equally intrigued by the diversity in the world around them. In the end, the characters of Let’s Celebrate Diwali remind of us our own children and their thirst for learning, enthusiasm for life, and acceptance of the differences that surround them.

Through Let’s Celebrate Diwali and four other titles, publishing company Bharat Babies is on its way to bringing more diversity to children’s literature. In 2013, Founder Sailaja N. Joshi went in search of books that would share her love for Indian heritage in an age-appropriate manner with her then newborn daughter. Discovering a lack of adequate options, Joshi founded Bharat Babies to produce age-appropriate books that share the many diverse stories of India’s heritage, culture, and faiths. This year, Bharat Babies has published five books, all of which feature lovable characters and modern interpretations of the stories shared by generations.

Bharat Babies

Bharat Babies Titles
Visit to learn more about the publishing company or to order.

Hanuman and the Orange Sun
Written by Amy Maranville and Illustrated by Tim Palin

Ganesh and the Little Mouse
Written by Anjali Joshi and Illustrated
by Christy McCreery

Amal’s Eid
Written by Amy Maranville and Illustrated by Josh Stevens

Padmini is Powerful (Board Book)
Written by Amy Maranville and Illustrated by Tim Palin

Let’s Celebrate Diwali
Written by Anjali Joshi and Illustrated by Tim Palin

Rina ShahAbout the Reviewer
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing multicultural 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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Book review appears in October 2015 Desh-Videsh.

Your Wedding Decorator: Finding the Right Touch

Your Wedding Decorator: Finding the Right Touch

From lavish designs and bold colors to pastel florals and subtle centerpieces, weddings can be the ultimate expression of a couple’s personality. Through intricately designed mandaps, lush, fragrant florals, and creative use of color, couples can personalize nearly every aspect of their wedding decorations. While the type of venue and the choice of colors and foods can shape the feel of a wedding, the overall design and decorations tie all the pieces together creating an event to remember.

Finding a decorator, next to choosing a photographer, may be one of the most important tasks of wedding planning. Selecting a decorator should not be an after thought, but rather, a thorough search for a designer who understands your personality, style, and likes and dislikes. Madhu Anand of Anand Event Services shares that a decorator “…should understand their personality and be able to reflect it in the decorations.” Remember, you will be spending quite a bit of time working through your ideas for your dream wedding, so personality (yours and the vendor’s!) is a crucial aspect of the selection process. Choose a vendor that not only understands your personality, but also grasps your vision and ideas for a memorable occasion.

Factors to Consider
As with all your wedding vendors, budget is an important consideration for many couples and can determine the intricacy and detail of your design. Factor in whether you will do some or most of the decorations on your own. If you choose to rely heavily on a wedding decorator, pay close attention to their portfolio. Are they a full service decorator offering florals, lighting, and design? If your dream is a personalized and unique event, be sure to
share all details with your chosen decorator. Anand emphasizes that couples should “make sure the decorator understands their style – whether it is going to be traditional or modern, simple or elaborate.”

Whether you choose to do-ityourself or enlist the help of a decorator, you will need to be mindful of several factors when creating your design. The timing of your event, type of venue, and experience of your chosen decorator will influence the end result.

Timing: Be sure to consider the time of year, as this will influence the choice of colors and florals. Jilna Jasani of Suhaag Garden reminds couples to “… choose flowers based on the season … Rather than have your heart set on a particular type of a flower, start by asking for available options and then determine whether your heart is still set on those “must-have” white calla lilies.”

Also think about the time of day the event will take place. An outdoor, morning wedding will have a significantly different feel than an indoor, evening event. Your wedding decorator will be able to create a design that incorporates natural elements (such as lighting) as well as fabrics and other decor pieces.

Venue: Will the wedding be indoors or outdoors? What type of lighting will be available? Do you Decorator: Anand Photo & Video, Photo Courtesy: Anand Event Servicesneed to work around any unchangeable items, such as pillars or carpet color? Experienced wedding decorators will not only know how to work with a venue’s lighting and shortcomings, but also with the venue’s staff. Previous experience with a venue puts the decorator at a great advantage, ensuring your vision will come about easily and efficiently.

Experience: As with any wedding vendor, experience matters. Remmal Karamsadkar of Occasions by Shangri-la believes that couples should “ … first look for a reputable company with a good reputation who has venue and client references. The second tip is to make sure the décor company has a portfolio of unique concepts. Our third tip is to find a company with years of experience and highly trained specialist.” An experienced decorator has likely not only worked at number of venues with a wide range of materials, but also has a wide and varied design portfolio.

Prepare for Your First Meeting
Most couples (or the bride, at the very least!) already have a vision for their desired dream wedding. After scouring Pinterest and trolling through friends’ Facebook feeds, you are probably drawn to a specific style of mandap and type of floral and fabrics. Jasani advises that “sites like Pinterest and are great for creating your vision board for your big day. Having visuals will greatly help ensure you and your decorator are on the same page.” The visuals are a starting point for you and your decorator to create a unique and personalized design.

Don’t forget to share any details of your proposal and how you met with your decorator! Karamsadkar adds “Before meeting with your decorator, couples should prepare to think about and discuss their wedding event vision and inspirations. Decide if there are colors or a theme that you would like to incorporate into your décor.” The more details, the better. A decorator must truly understand the concepts you have in mind to be able to create a design that leaves you speechless.

Favorite Wedding Moments
The experts share their favorite wedding moments.

Jilna (SG): The wedding day is full of firsts: the first time you refer to your beloved as husband (or wife), the first time you get dolled up from head to toe, etc. We strive to add to that list of heartwarming first moments. The bride and groom-to-be do walkthroughs at the venue number of times before the big day, but they don’t see the space transformed until that day. That look of awe and sound of excitement when the bride and groom walk into their own wedding is what drives us (and gives us a big sigh of relief!).

Madhu (AES): There are somany favorite moments, but the excitement truly lies in seeing the bride in all her finery for the first time when she enters!

Remmal (OBS): Our staff’s favorite wedding moment is when the Bride and Groom enter their event for the first time. We love to see the happy look on their faces. At that point, we feel that we kept our promise to make your event a true expression of your taste and vision.

Special thanks to the decorators who contributed their thoughts and advice to this article.

Anand Event Services
Madhu Anand
Tel: 954-332-1560

Occasions by Shangri-la
Remmal Karamsadkar
Tel: 407-355-7700

Suhaag Garden
Jilna Jasani
Tel: 813-478-9283


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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in September 2015 Desh-Videsh.

Choosing the Right Photographer to Capture Your Memories

Choosing the Right Photographer to Capture Your Memories

Zamana Photo & Videography

Once couples and their families settle on a venue and choose a wedding date, the next important item on the list of wedding-to-dos is often choosing a photographer. You found a gorgeous backdrop for your dream wedding, now the focus shifts to finding the right person or team to capture memories to last a lifetime.

Most experts agree that style is the most important consideration when narrowing your list of top photographers. With Facebook and Instagram feeds full of images from friends’ and families’ engagement photo shoots and weddings, chances are you are already drawn to a certain look and feel. Peter Nguyen of Peter Nguyen Photography believes, “style is the most important factor couples should consider … I highly recommend couples take time to look through the photographer’s recent works. Create a private Pinterest board for wedding photo samples and inspirations, and share it with your photographer.”

From the style of photography to the nitty-gritty details of budgets, proofs, and prints, choosing a photographer can seem like a daunting task. No one wants to look through their wedding album years from now and be disappointed with the images. Though you may “ooh” and “aah” over artistic images and creative, out-of-this-world poses, there are many factors to consider (both practical and your own wants and needs) as well as questions to ask potential photographers.

Factors to Consider
Sona PhotographyMoments from your wedding events will be cherished not only today and tomorrow, but also for many years to come so the task of choosing a photographer may feel like a weighty decision. Personality, budget, experience, and photography styles rank among the most important factors to consider when choosing a wedding photographer. Niulka and Luis LaBoy of NSPG Media believe that “ultimately, it all depends on the couple’s wants, needs and desires coupled with a budget. Also consider their quality of work, personality, and experience. No matter how much you love someone’s work make sure your personalities click and that they have experience in the type of wedding you’ll be having.”Personality
Most photographers agree, it comes down to personality, personality, personality! Stephana Ferrell of Sona Photography stresses, “You have a vision for your day, and you’ll need someone behind the lens that can capture it for you the way you want it. Just as there are painters with different techniques to paint the same media/subject, your photographer and cinematographer will have a unique way of “seeing” your event. Likewise, personalities need to click as this will be a day with some hiccups and time management concerns- make sure all of your vendors will support you through your day and not add to the stress.For some couples, you may need to experience the photographer in action, so consider using your Engagement Photo Session as a trial run. Soham Patel of Soham Photography adds that doing an Engagement Photo Shoot help the photographer to “understand the bride and groom and their personality.” Your photographer is one vendor who is truly going to be with you every step of the way, so the connection you feel with him or her is not one to be taken lightly.Budget
Budget is always an important consideration for any vendor that you choose. Most photographers agree though, that budget alone should not influence your choice until you have narrowed down your list. Factor in the photographer’s ability to capture stunning images in the style you want. Also, be sure to compare apples to apples; in other words, prices do not always reflect the same time commitment or printing/album choices.

Photographers with many years of experience have not only fine-tuned their skills, they have also developed relationships with other vendors and are familiar with most venues. Seema Samji of Zamana Lifestyles adds, “Photographers who have been in the game for a while will be more comfortable with the shoot, rather than be overwhelmed with the size and complexity of the Indian weddings!” Being fully prepared also comes with experience as noted by Altaf Khan of Shennai Art Studio. “We don’t want to miss any key moments, so we bring multiple cameras, and use as many as five cameras.”

Wedding Photography Styles
Soham Photography
Your chosen photographer should reflect the style you envision for your wedding memories. Traditional or classic photographers will work from a shot list you provide and are more comfortable with formal, posed shots. Photographers who embrace a candid or photojournalistic style are more likely to step back and capture moments as they happen. Some photographers place more emphasis on an artistic or creative style. These images tend to feature unique poses, incorporate different angles and scenery, and focus on details like clothing and décor. Most modern wedding photographers use a blend of styles, so looking through portfolios is an important way of gauging where a photographer’s style falls. Ashok Pancholi of Digital Dream Studio emphasizes the importance of looking at portfolios and asks clients “to really look through past work in detail.” Portfolios will reflect how a photographer maintains their creative and professional integrity while also capturing the shots clients want.

Prepare for Your First Meeting

Once the list of photographers has been narrowed, focus on gathering the right information at each of your meetings. Kimberly Romano of Kimberly Photography reminds couples to approach their first meeting with an “open mind. Come prepared with what you want to know from your photographer. Let us walk you through the process and ask questions, even if you’re unsure about the question.”In addition to technical questions about the contract, fees, and equipment, here are a few more to keep in mind during the first meeting:

  1. What style do you specialize in? (Styles discussed in the section above.)
  2. How would you describe your working style? (Do you want your photographer to orchestrate moments or capture candid shots?)
  3. Who will be photographing my wedding? (Be sure to meet with not only the owner, but also anyone who will be a part of your team.)
  4. Have you shot at my venue(s) before? (Understanding the lighting and knowing great spots for photos is a huge advantage.)
  5. Have you ever worked alongside any of my vendors? (Most wedding vendors develop strong relationships, which makes for seamless flow throughout all your events.)
  6. Are you shooting in digital or film format or both? (Most photographers shoot digital now, but always good to ask!)
  7. Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like? (Some photographers prefer to stay true to creativity, while others understand you need some posed photos.)
  8. How many pictures do you take? (Most photographers take 500 pictures.)
  9. Will the photos be retouched and color balanced? (Will this be done before you see the proofs?)
  10. How long after the wedding do we get to see the photos?

In reflecting on the role of a photographer, Amish Thakkar of Fine Art Productions states, “We don’t simply click and process pictures, we preserve the exact emotion you had during your wedding, and pack it into one beautiful remembrance of a wedding portrait.” So as you narrow your choices, consider how your first meetings went. Did you feel at ease with the photographer? Was there a connection, and did he/she understand your expectations? Will your emotions be captured to live on in beautiful portraits? Listening to your own intuition is just as important as considering budget and style.

Favorite Wedding Moments
The experts share their favorite wedding moments.Altaf (Shennai Art Studio): To be honest, every wedding moment is my favorite moment!

Ashok (Digital Dream Studio): Covering the entire Wedding! Especially capturing all the sentimental moments.

Kimberly (Kimberly Photography): After the ceremony…. for most, the ceremony is one of the most nerve-wracking, stressful parts of the wedding. Making sure everything starts on time, being in front of all your family and friends. Once it’s over, you see the stress go away and couples are in complete love and bliss.

Niulka and Luis (NSPG Media): My favorite moment of a wedding is the reception. It’s like the finale to a fireworks show saving all of the sparkle and excitement until the end!

Peter (Peter Nguyen Photography): The bride’s entrance is by far my most favorite wedding moment. I love capturing the groom’s look when he sees his bride for the first time in her wedding dress.

Seema (Zamana Lifestyles): I love that the weddings in the Indian culture involve all the families, friends, relatives, acquaintances, work colleagues… everyone comes to celebrate with the couple. There is so much love, joy and happiness…so many priceless moments to capture!

Soham (Soham Photography): When the clients and family/friends are having fun during all moments of the wedding … especially because pictures always come out great when people are happy!

Stephana (Sona Photography): My favorite moment is when the Bride and Groom see each other for the first time! In most cases, we are there with them prior to this moment, and the preparation and anticipation for that first gaze just makes for such amazing energy and emotion […] It is such a special moment, and I feel so honored when a couple entrusts us to capture it.

Photographers Special thanks to the photographers who contributed their thoughts and advice to this article.
Digital Dream Studio
Tel: 407-791-6064
Fine Art Productions
Tel: 732-662-5555
Kimberly Photography
Tel: 727-543-9723
NSPG Media
Tel: 407-301-8648
Peter Nguyen Photography
Tel: 678-428-2521
Shennai Art Studio
Tel: 678-485-0486
Soham Photography
Tel: 678-852-8525
Sona Photography
Tel: 646-250-6337
Zamana Lifestyles
Tel: 678-860-2921

Rina ShahAbout 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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in June 2015 Desh-Videsh.

Choosing the Right Venue For Your Vision

Choosing the Right Venue For Your Vision

Once a couple is engaged, along with the many congratulations and best wishes from family and friends, comes the inevitable onslaught of questions. When is the big day? Have you picked a place yet? Where you choose to host your wedding will likely be one of the most difficult decisions during the planning process. The venue should not only be able to comfortably host guests, but also be a reflection of the couple’s personality. Venues are not one size fit all – a space that is the perfect choice for one couple may be limiting for another.

Though there are many available choices for a wedding venue, most couples have a general idea of how they want the day to unfold as well as the look and feel of the event. Kim Johnston, Director of Catering at the Marriott Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, believes that seeing the venue in person is most helpful. Choosing a venue can be a “‘we’ll know it when we see it’ moment. Everyone has a vision of their perfect venue. Choose a venue where you are the focus of their attention. If you don’t want to be one of many events, but one-of-a-kind, pick a venue that accommodates that special request.”

Narrowing the Choices
Couples should begin by creating a list of their top choices. Start with your budget. Be reasonable in what you can afford while still comfortably hosting your guests. While some venues provide linen and décor services or catering, others may not, so factor these items into your budget. Consider the main aspects of a venue needed to make it your ideal space – high ceilings, lots of light, outdoor options, in-house or outside catering, accommodations, hometown or a destination wedding, etc. Andrea Constatinou, Senior Sales Catering Manager at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek & Waldorf Astoria Orlando adds, “Be selective in the number of venues that you visit. Don’t go crazy visiting more than 3-4 venues – as often this just causes confusion.”

When considering from the many options available, couples should focus on:
Guest list: Along with venue, this item ranks high on the list of priorities. While the number does not need to be exact, a strong estimate will help establish the size of venue needed as well as other basics like invitations, catering, and accommodations.

Logistics: Will guests be from the local area or from out-of-town? Will all events be held in once place or at multiple sites? Will the events be indoors or outdoors? What time of day will the event take place? Take all of these into account as you narrow the possibilities.

Catering: Take a look at options for food and drink. Do you have dietary or cultural restrictions? Will you need an outside caterer?

Style: Part of the fun of planning a wedding is the perfect opportunity to show off your personality. While the idea of hosting a wedding in the lobby of an art museum might sound appealing, be sure toconsider all the logistics. Will the space hold not only the guests, but also equipment for caterers? If your fantasy venue is not possible, find ways to infuse your style. As you visit venues, ask the catering or event manager to help you visualize different layouts and unique options.

For South Asian weddings, couples should carefully consider whether the venue is aware of and can accommodate cultural needs. Teresa Bernstein, Director of Catering at the Hilton Orlando in Florida shares, “We have conversations with the family to and talk through the various cultural needs and expectations to ensure we are all on the same page. The Hilton Orlando is very familiar with cultural weddings, and we take pride is exceeding our guests expectations by immersing ourselves in the culture. The entire Hotel is engaged throughout the process, which permeates throughout the wedding.”

Preparing for First Visit
Once the list of venues has been narrowed down, begin making appointments to see the space in person. Be sure to allow adequate time to walk through the property and ask all of your questions. Michelle Shulman, Marketing Director at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Weston, Florida, also advises couples to “have an outline of what you think you would like your dream wedding to encompass. Use Pinterest and magazines with pictures of what you would like. The more details the better.” Catering and event managers have an eye both for detail and for how a space can be transformed, so share your ideas and thoughts for your wedding vision.

Be sure to have an approximate number of guests, number of events, and list of date options with you. The more details you are able to provide, the more comprehensive the proposal, which will give you a good sense of pricing and services. Rick Galipault, Director of Catering at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, reminds couples to “Be consistent in what you ask for so any proposals you receive are true ‘apples to apples’ comparisons.” By asking the same questions at each venue, couples will be able to adequately compare the price, size, room options, and catering to get a better of sense of which space is truly the right fit.

Favorite Wedding Moments
The experts share their favorite wedding moments.

Bernstein: I always admire the fact that I get to meet so many family members since the marriage symbolizes not only the union of the Bride and Groom, but also the two families. I love getting to know both sides of the family and seeing the love that goes into planning the Bride and Groom’s special day.

Constantinou: The first look…I love that moment when a couple sees each other for the first time privately…I still tear up.

Galipault: I really enjoy the Baraats; the enthusiasm and joy put into the Baraat is always amazing to see!

Johnston: When I finally get to see the bride and groom in their traditional wedding attire. So beautiful, so colorful!

Shulman: The Baraat, hands down. The joy, the music, the color and the elephant!

Featured Venues
Special thanks to the properties, all of which are well-versed in hosting successful Indian weddings, for participating in this article.

Bonaventure Resort & Spa

Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Hilton Orlando

Marriott Palm Beach Gardens

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 or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in Desh-Videsh March 2015