This is an interview with the founder and editor in chief of the South Asian Bride Magazine, popularly known as the SAB. SAB was born in 2005 as resource blog for South Asian brides and now has a print, online magazine and bridal events. It’s a go-to place for if you a planning a wedding. As of today, SAB has over 77,000 Instagram followers and is one of the most respected global brand for South Asian weddings. The women behind this incredible work is Sadaf Kherani.
Listen to the entire conversation below:
Kunal: Sadaf, I’ve attended your events and I just love everything you have done to create this amazing community for bride. So thanks for doing what you do.
Sadaf: Thanks Kunal. It’s my pleasure.
Kunal: You have a great following on the social media space. Your shows are attended by a lot of people. It is basically the hottest resource out there for South Asian bride. Especially those that are in US and Canada. So what is about SAB that makes it so amazing?
Sadaf: I did a lot of research before we started this brand. We wanted to create something that reflected the elegance and sophistication that goes behind our culture. There’s lot of misconception and misunderstood things about Indian weddings. There are lot of things that are not understood at all. We worked really hard to create a brand that was reflective of that. From our logo to the layout of the publication to the way we curate our shows, everything is done in a more of a modern format as opposed to a very old fashioned, traditional way. The brides that have grown up they can relate to with on a mainstream level. Having said that, a lot of non-South Asian brides follow us on social media and attend our shows and read our publications. It is integrated from an Indian-American or Pakistani-American standpoint as opposed to just an eastern standpoint.
Kunal: When you started, what was your vision. Was your vision to create this modern format for brides?
Sadaf: That was precisely my vision. I respected Grace Ormonde. When we started I wanted to build something that would slowly garner a following that was going to be loyal. Overtime we’ve been able to do that. The vision was alway to be able to be relatable to the modern South Asian American bride. I wanted to be the Grace Ormonde of South Asian media. Not me and myself but the publication and my brand. So I emulated SAB on Grace Ormonde.
Kunal: Do feel you are there you are with your vision now?
Sadaf: We have been growing at a steady pace for past 5-6years. We are getting there. Obviously a lot of work goes into putting a show together. Ideally I would love to see a show in all corners of the US as well as lot of states in the middle. I like to see the shows to grow. I would like our following to grow to 100K to 150K. Our goal is to have a steady growth overtime. I don’t think you ever really get there. I just think you continually set new visions and bigger goals. You try to be better than last year.
Kunal: I think your events are phenomenal. Everything you do, your website, presentation, your brand. Everything looks amazing. Can you give people an idea what is it to come to one of your shows?
Sadaf: We gather a team of people in each city we have a show. Say we are doing a show in LA, we will recruit and try to partner up with the best decorater and the best event planner, so on and so forth that knows that community and create a show based on all of that as a team. When you enter the show, we work really hard to create a really beautiful entrance. It’s not just a 6-foot table with a drape over it. We create a theme. We create that “wow” factor when we create our show entrance. We try to give an experience from getting your nails done to a massage to then walking through the show. We also try to avoid doing fashion shows at our events because we don’t want attendees that are not really necessarily there to meet the vendors. I feel like fashion shows take up a lot of room and brings in a lot of people that have nothing to do with getting married. The show is concentrated on the bride and the vendor and they have enough time and space to interact with the prospective brides.
Kunal: I’ve attended shows with and without the fashion show. And I agree it’s a huge difference and I definitely think the brides get a lot out of event if they attend the event without the fashion show.
Sadaf: I just don’t want a family of 15 coming and 10 of those are just there to support that person who is walking the stage. I find that as soon as the fashion show is over, everybody leaves. It is a false sense of attendance. They rave about 400-500 guests there. I feel like just getting a number of bodies there is a false sense of attendance because when that fashion show is over all those people go away. From outside perspective, yes it looks like it was well attended. My goal is how many of those people were there to interact with those people who paid to have a booth there. My goal is to make my vendor happy. My goal is to make sure is to make sure brides get what they need. My goal is not to create a show. Our goal has always been to focus on the bride and the vendor. Kunal: What does your typical day look like working on a SAB project?
Sadaf: Chuckles…I’m a full-time mom. I have a teenager and a toddler. So my day actually revolves around them. When he goes to sleep and he will start school soon, I work. Once he goes to sleep at 6pm or 7pm, I work till about 1am in the morning. My day is actually night time. When we have calls scheduled, then I make sure I take out time for that. I try to manage as much as I can and have a very supportive husband. When the show time comes around and my days and weeks get insane. I don’t have a routine. Everyday is different. Somedays I work for 8 hours and some days I can manage 2-3 hours. Somehow I miraculously get things done. Whether it’s in between lunches and dinner and I am doing social media promotions or if it’s 1am in the morning and we are putting together pages for the magazine. Somehow it all comes together. It’s different everyday.
Kunal: I see all these beautiful photos on your instagram feed. Is there a way for people to share their work.
Sadaf: Now that we’ve gotten fairly large, people know to tag us on Instagram. On a daily basis, I go through tagged images. There are is no shortage of amazing work ever. When people tag us, I go through companies or brands I’ve never heard or have heard of and look at their picture. If it matches our feed and goes with what we do, I re-post them. We have brides contact us privately on direct message saying, “I’d love to see my pictures on there” and they’ll send the picture to us and we will post it. We want to inspire and make brides happy. As long as the photography is good and pictures are up to par with what we feature, anyone can send in stuff for us to post.
Kunal: Planning a wedding can be quite overwhelming for some brides. What in your opinion are the pillars in successful wedding planning?
Sadaf: A good planner. I feel like, even to this day, brides don’t realise the work that is involved in putting together an event of this nature. A typical Indian wedding around 450-500 attendees and there’s a lot of details that are associated in putting a wedding together. Having a good solid planner is key to having run things smoothly. If that is not within the budget of a bride, I still suggest a day of coordinator to have things run smoothly. A planner normally has a large database of trusted and respected vendors that they can refer out out, whether it’s the photographer or cake. A lot of work is cut out by hiring a planner. You don’t have to cold call people, you don’t have to search through vendor guides and see if so and so is right for you. That’s what the planner gets paid for.
Kunal: How would someone find a planner?
Sadaf: We have spent a lot of time and effort curating our databases, we have well respected, well known, experienced planners or any vendors that are in our database. Creating a brand such as ours, we try to create list of people to take the legwork out of searching through google. If you find a planner within our database, then you can easily find other ones as well. You will want to start with a planner and then they can help you or you can easily go through our website and type in photography and you will be presented with 30-40 options of portfolios and you can look through to see what is right for you. And that information is available for free on our website.
Kunal: If bride feels comfortable planning their wedding, can they get all the other suppliers through your website and do this by themselves?
Sadaf: If someone is experienced and not overwhelmed with the thought of creating and planning a wedding on themselves, then “Yes”. That’s what we have our databases for. You know what you are doing, then let’s find yourself a photographer, cinematographer, jeweler etc. We have so many resources. You can go through our publication and be inspired by dozen of style shoots and every single vendor is listed on there. You can go through our Instagram feed. We tag most of the people that we know, respect and trust. There are so many different avenues to look for vendors that we’ve created where there is no shortage. You can find it on your cell phone, you can find it on your desktop. You can find it on Facebook. We’ve tried to create many different outlets for brides to feel comfortable and being inspired and then reaching out to the vendors that inspire them through SAB.
Kunal: How is your magazine is accessible to the brides?
Sadaf: We publish two magazines a year. Each of those issues is available. We only supply them through our bridal bag. If you are a bride, you attend our shows, those are given to you for free. If you are unable to attend one of our shows and it’s not in your vicinity and there is a link to our store. We do have magazines available for purchase through a link on our website. We are also working with Amazon to make it available on Amazon Prime starting next year so they can get it through that. We don’t offer subscriptions per se. If you don’t have to have a hardcopy in your hands, then the magazine is available free of charge on issuu.com. Every single publication we’ve done thus far is available for free front to back. You can view that for free on your phone or website. Every single advertiser that’s in there is linked. If you like a venue in Puerto Rico and you want to learn more about them, you click on their ad it will take you straight to their website.
Kunal: How do you shortlist vendors. Say you have 10 vendors for jewelry or photographer, how do you come up with that one vendor. Do you interview each one of them?
Sadaf: Every vendor and bride has to have a connection. This is a long process, you will be dealing with your vendors several days before and after your wedding. Out of the 10 people you interview and look through portfolios, you want to make sure you have a good personality connection with them. The communication you desire is there and that you are not left hanging. I’ve heard horror stories of vendors disappearing after, just not being available to communicate after the wedding is over. You have to make sure you are comfortable and that the contract is comfortable. You are not paying everyone upfront. Just like any person you hire to do any work for you, whether it is a contractor for your house. The same goes for your wedding. These people are working to make your vision come true. You want to feel comfortable. After looking through your portfolio and eliminating the obvious, this is the person’s work I like and how you feel of working in the long run with that vendor.
Kunal: If there is one thing about the change about the current wedding planning process, what would that be?
Sadaf: I don’t know because culture isn’t changing. The nuances then within the culture are not going anywhere. I don’t know know if anything can be change. People have to be flexible that during the process things can change. Planning is a difficult process in itself. As long as you are hiring who has done it, ton of time will be saved.
Kunal: This is good. Yes, the key is to be flexible and trust in the process. Be ready to adapt when things do evolve. If I had a magic wand, if I could grant you a wish, what would you wish for?
Sadaf: If you granted me that wish Kunal, I think my unrelenting goal is to have SAB to attain the respect and the reach that I am working towards. I would like to have a show in every major city. I would like for it to be the only brand that south asian brides that look to get well-respected vendors and get the inspiration they can relate to living in US or Canada. It’s not to have 20 million dollars in revenue. I’ve strived hard to make this brand. That’s why I’ve been growing slowly at a steady pace because I want to understand each market, I want to understand the mentality from each vendor from that market. The vendors in the west coast are very different and the ones I deal in the Southeast or NY. I’d love to be a household name in South Asian American homes, households that are looking for any sort of help with their coming up weddings.
Kunal: I think that is a great vision and it completely seems doable. When I attended the Atlanta show, there were people that had driven 4 hours to attend your show. I can see this analogy work for Boston and NY. If you had a show in NY, and if you also had a show in Boston, that person would not have to drive to NY.
Kunal: Where do you find your inspiration?
Sadaf: There is no shortage. I’ve been married for 20 years. In the past 9-10 years, I have been doing SAB there has been never been a day that I am not amazed at the inspiration that vendors put out there. Every single time I open my Instagram or Tumblr, there is no shortage of creative and talented folks all over the world. I’ve never been not amazed at the quality of the weddings, the details, the clothes, the jewelry. Everything is astounding to me on a daily basis. And all of that comes from the vendors and from the photography. And seeing how every single photographer has their own eye of capturing details or capturing the shot of the bride. How each designer is so different in the way they work their clothes, their embroidery. How jewelry is nowadays is just mindblowing. Every detail in decorating from flowers to lighting, all of this can be accomplished from the smallest budget because there are vendors for every price range. As long as the aesthetic is there, you can accomplish a beautiful budget from a small budget to a million/ multimillion dollar budget.
Kunal: Talking about a small budget wedding, what’s the smallest amount of money could someone spend on a wedding.
Sadaf: I have seen a wedding that was done a small budget, maybe about 2 years ago. The couple got married in their parents backyard. They had their mandap handbuilt with wooden planks. They got flowers that were wrapped around the pillars. They had their reception dinner outdoors. And the bride was naturally beautiful. She did not have a sabyasachi lehenga. It was a beautiful, very well put together ensemble. The groom looked handsome. It was a very small budget. I can’t quote you the price. But the reason it looked so beautiful because they hired the right photographer. This particular photographer does not do weddings anymore. I printed this wedding because I was so in love with how simple and elegant it was. You can be mesmerized by people who spend $100,000 just on florals alone or you could be mesmerized by someone who spend literally a few hundred dollars creating their mandap. I was just in love how beautiful and how simple and how memorable that wedding will be for them. Spending more more money is not necessarily the best thing. The best investment they made was that photographer. She captured the true essence of that wedding. That’s what they are going to remember.
Kunal: That’s a mistake we’ve made for our wedding as well, not having the right photographer. Once that event is gone you can’t really get it back.
Sadaf: Memories do fade unfortunately and all that is left is pictures and videos. I can also say the same thing. 20 years ago, if I showed you the samples I got from photographers, you would laugh. We had family members take pictures. The industry has changed dramatically.
Kunal: The two takeaway would be (1) Have a good photographer and (2) hire a wedding planner. What are you working on these days?
Sadaf: In January we have three major shows coming. We just released our first issue of the year which was shot in LA by a really well respected wedding photographer. We’ve got our beautiful shows to look for. For the first time we are going to be in Orlando this year. And hopefully we will bring about a separate fashion show event in NY later on next year. SAB Shows | SAB Facebook | SAB Instagram | SAB Magazine