Anjola Adeogun needs a marquee for his upcoming wedding event. He just flew in from abroad some weeks before his wedding. He had the idea of a perfect, glamorous wedding on his mind even before he boarded the aircraft to meet his fiancée of ten years. He is still preoccupied with his wedding plans, thinking the Nigeria he left behind years back is still the same. He is amazed when his bride-to-be told him about event management companies in the country.
The concept of event management has taken a new turn and the days of faulty and poor public address system, ugly looking tents, and poor general service are long over. Event owners no longer have to worry about the comfort of their guests and, more often than not, they now arrive at party venues to find that everything is in place. From mere supply of ice blocks, canopies and chairs some years ago, some proactive individuals have gone ahead to float event management companies that seem to be growing out of the necessity to meet the demands of people who want a replica of high profile events they witness abroad.
Zapphires Events, owned by Funke Bucknor-Obruthe, and Elizabeth R, managed by Ibidunni Ituah-Ighodalo, are two top event management companies that handle ‘A’ list events. Most event management companies combine public relations with event management, and they are committed to fulfilling clients’ needs and expectations through unsurpassed services and creative thinking. They strive to deliver to clients, sponsors, and attendees of every event good quality service; and so they take time to get to know clients’ culture and goals.
To be a top event planner is about uncanny ability to creatively think outside the box.
Ituah-Ighodalo is one of the most sought-after event planners in the country. She is known for her ability to do the unusual and deliver creative event ideas. She entered the public eye when she won the Miss Lux Beauty Queen title in 1998. She later took a short timeout from the popular scene to graduate from the University of Lagos and hone her event management skills. She came back with a bang when she launched her event planning firm, Elizabeth R. Since then, Ibidun has planned and packaged many high profile events with dazzling results and consistently receives rave reviews from clients and guests.
Funke Bucknor of Zapphaire Events says planning an event is all about creativity and devising new ways to do things. “We are known for our ability to deliver top-notch events on a wide range of budgets. We consider your budget before we decide on what suits your taste. Planning events is all about talent, creativity, and doing what makes the clients happy.”
Of course, there are still some drawbacks, but the colour, hype and near-perfection most event managers fight to attain these days tell more of their desire to create a one-stop-shop for event management in Nigeria. The emphasis is bearing the host’s stress and leaving his guests with satisfaction.
Wunmi Osinyemi is the director of Visk ‘N’ Surprises, which has been in the business of wedding planning for about four years now. She explains that there are two packages: partial and complete. The complete package entails getting everything needed for the wedding done, from the wedding dress to the food and drinks that will be served. The partial package, on the other hand, has to do with taking care of a part of the planning, which could be getting the hall decorated or catering for guests’ welfare like food, drink, sitting arrangement, or any other part of the event.
“Regardless of the type of wedding you choose to have, your wedding dress should be something you love and feel good wearing. We usually consult a wedding dress designer when choosing wedding dress to ensure the best fit, structure and design for the wedding we are planning,” she explains.
Planning for the venue is as important as the wedding dress for the bride and groom, observes Osinyemi. Planning a wedding always begins when the question of venue is popped. “Most people know the type of wedding they would like to have, but when you add another person’s dreams, aspirations and religious feelings, it can require some discussion. The couple is an important part of planning a wedding, and whether it’s the parents of the bride or the groom or a wedding planner, the wishes of the couple have to be taken into account. This is especially true of the type of ceremony that the couple decides on,” she says.
According to Banke Oluronbi, a wedding planner, determining whether the wedding will be a religious, civil or other type of ceremony will play a part in determining the venue. “The couple usually has an idea of where they want to have the wedding,” she says. “Our own is to grant their wish. Our job as the wedding planner will be to contact the venue and verify all information with regard to booking it for the day in question if that is included in the agreement.”
As interesting as their job seems, wedding planners stand a high risk of running into debt if the budget is not properly managed or if the couple decides to withdraw their contract mid-way into the preparation. “The amount I charge depends on the taste of the couple. For instance, it could be N2 million or more depending on what they want. Before I start working on the project at all, I charge a client of N200,000. It’s a commitment fee that is non-refundable if the contract is withdrawn. If it is not, then that will be the deposit for the service charge,” explains Osinyemi.
What the likes of Osinyemi find uncontrollable at times about their trade is the fact that most parents of the bride and groom influence decisions which they are supposed to leave to the wedding planner. Many people consult wedding planners for many reasons, chief among them being that they find it difficult most times to get a proper place for their wedding reception. In addition, they also want to avoid the stress of catering to guests before and during the wedding.
“Some of the questions couple asks are: Where do we get our wedding reception ideas? How do we decide between a formal dinner and a buffet? Do we really want to create a seating chart for 200 people or more? Do we want to embrace the pomp and the circumstance of the receiving line? The answer to that is a simple one. You look to your own life, the life of your soon-to-be spouse and you find a happy middle ground that satisfies you both,” says Oluronbi.
Wedding reception ideas come from mixing both the drama and the fantasy in couples’ lives. Therefore, they must think of a romantic setting that they would like to share with their guests and create it. It therefore means creating a beautiful outdoor setting with tents and paper lanterns that mix both natural and quiet illuminations as well as dramatic shadows.
In addition, the array of world-class events which Nigeria has hosted in recent times speaks of a bourgeoning industry that can compete favourably internationally. For Coca Cola to mount the tallest Christmas Tree in Lagos, first-ever in Africa, and also host high profile dignitaries as it did for the festive celebration in cities such as New York, London and Paris means there was a reputable event manager. Same also goes for world-class events such as ‘Big Brother Africa’, ‘Star Mega Jam’, ‘Smirnoff Ice’, ‘Johnny Walker’, among other international events that debuted in the country.
Today, it is a common practice to mount big outdoor canopies firmly on befitting spaces, with almost all aspects of the event contracted out to those who undertake other people’s stress. Etuk Umbo, managing director of Premium Outdoor, a Lagos-based event management company, says the host only needs to pay the service fees and relax because efficient and timely delivery is the selling point of event management. With the many outfits breaking into the business everyday, the MD notes that stiff competition is now driving the business.
“With half a million naira and above, we can be at your service. Unlike before, you can as well get something satisfactory with the budding event managers that flood the town these days. But one thing you will gain at the end of the day is successful outing, which is the ultimate in any event whatsoever.”
Given Nigeria’s passion for outstanding parties, concerts, among other social outings, event management is growing. Umbo says there is no better time than now for all creative minds to help Nigeria to take its rightful place in the scheme of event management.
Umbo, who left his booming engineering profession for events management, says you not only fete the public, but also derive joy and earn a living by helping in coordinating people’s lives, easing out their difficulties and the stress of event planning. “In any event, the guest is the king, and the joy for me at the end of any event is that my clients come calling to show their delight over the guests’ satisfaction.”
Events, according to him, are now stress-free with little input from the host. “Just tell us what you want, where, how, and provide us with our fees, you will be surprised by the success at the end of the event.” However, one of the challenges that organisers of these events are faced with is that of getting equipment that match the fame of their international clients, guests, and even artistes and celebrities billed to perform at such events.
But there seems to be a significant relief on such challenges. Now events can hold anywhere the client wants it – in the desert, on the sea, hinterland, and even in unimaginable places as long as the right event manager with the right equipment is hired.