Multicultural Wedding Planning: A Chat with Reena Maheshwari of Kahani Events
Recently I sat down with Reena Maheshwari, the Twin Cities wedding planner behind Kahani Events & Design. Reena offers planning and design packages, rentals & custom decor for cultural weddings, beautiful henna services for pre wedding mehndhi/sangeet nights* and more. It was wonderful to get to know her and her business. Here’s a peek into what we talked about!
Amber: Reena, can you briefly share what encouraged you to start Kahani?
Reena: Starting Kahani has been on my mind for a number of years, as I see a gap in the wedding & event market here in Minnesota with respect to culturally specific and multicultural events. It exists with many venues not allowing “outside” cultural foods, it exists with planners not fully understanding the complexity of our events, it exists with wedding shows marketed specifically for a white bride. As I value bringing people together, it is also a goal of mine to bring a vendor community together that value and support a diverse community and/or are part of a diverse community.
R: I was in the construction/kitchen & bath remodeling industry for nearly 15 years – sourcing product, managing a team and running projects from simple kitchens to full apartment buildings. I came to a point where I needed a change and a fresh start – but I absolutely love finding unique products, working with people on their decor and design, and putting a full look together that works with their budget. Though I do miss homes, I still get to create a dream and I still get to work with highly stressed clients–Ha!
I see a gap in the wedding & event market here in MN with respect to culturally specific and multicultural events. It exists with many venues not allowing “outside” cultural foods, it exists with planners not fully understanding the complexity of our events, it exists with wedding shows marketed specifically for a white bride.Reena Maheshwari, Kahani Events
A: Cultural and multicultural events are your main focus. You planned your own wedding, which was a blend of Indian and Nigerian cultures. How did you bring elements from both into your celebration? What were the challenges of doing so? What were your favorite parts?
R: It was a bit difficult as both John and I wanted our wedding to be as simple as possible, and both of our cultures have multiple day, large, fancy events! We just made a list of what was most important to us and really didn’t allow too much commentary from our families. We wanted to have a balanced feel as an Indian-Nigerian wedding and not just one or the other; and we also wanted to make the events fit our values vs. following traditions. Food, music, decor, clothing, jewelry, ceremonies – all included elements from both our cultures. One of my favorite decorative decisions was making all the table napkins out of traditional Ankara print fabric.
A: What is something you wish for the wedding industry/wedding culture?
R: Overall, I hope we can find a way to reduce waste. I think we buy into all these Pinterest & Instagram ideals and whether its matching bridesmaid robes or inexpensive charger plates or even multiple outfits – we all go a bit overboard for weddings on one-time use items. Finding ways to create impact but use less is always one of my goals.
A: Your website paints a picture of people sipping chai, surrounded by their friends and family, all having henna done– that sounds amazing. Can you share a favorite memory involving henna?
R: While every wedding we do is an absolute joy, my family has been doing henna at Festival of Nations for over 25 years. Those four days every year are my favorite memories of doing henna. We’ve seen so many people from all over –Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota–come for the first time, open up and chat with us, learn something new, and then return the following years. We’ve seen attitudes change in those people – from henna being a curiosity, to being “cool,” to being an authentic cultural & artistic experience. Also, working with my mom, sister and a fantastic group of women, catching up on the years adventures, sharing our latest food creations, and now having my nieces come and join the fun– it’s really great to have those moments together year after year.
A: That sounds so special, especially to be able to have that experience with those closest to you. Lastly, what question do you most often get when a client is inquiring about your services?
R: People ask, “How much is it going to cost??” Honestly each wedding I’ve decorated/planned has been custom tailored for each couple’s needs, wants, budget, and how much they wanted to DIY. I’ve had weddings spend over $20,000, and weddings spend under $2,000. For many cultural weddings, food and a location that holds enough people are the two most important elements – so budgeting those items first is helpful when you really have no idea what the costs will be. Decor and florals can take 10-25% of the wedding budget – so set a range or limit for what works for you, and have your decorator (or planner or florist) give you options in and around your price range.
Check out KahaniEvents.com for more information about the services Reena provides, to view the rental gallery, inquire about henna, and to read some very useful blog posts about planning your special celebration. Additionally, any clients of Reena’s receive 10% off wedding florals from me–hooray!
*a Mehndhi night is a pre-wedding tradition in Middle Eastern & South Asian cultures where henna is applied for the bride & female relatives and friends. Nowadays, a Mehndhi night is often combined with a Sangeet – where songs, dances, and performances are made by family and friends to celebrate.