Name: Sid Patel
Where did you grow up? Wembley, north west London
Where do you work? Wembley, north west London
Role: Director, Jay and I Events
I am second-generation Indian. My mother was born in northwest India and my father was born in Kenya of Indian parents. They both moved to the UK before I was born, where they met. The family business was founded by my parents and is called ‘Jay and I Events’ after them – Jay is my father’s name and the ‘I’ stands for Indira, which is my mother’s.
I have been involved in the events and wedding industry from a young age as a result. When people ask what I did growing up or what hobbies I had, I always say going to weddings! Although there was a job to be done, my two brothers and cousins would also often come along and help as well, and we had a great time together. The colour, noise and smells of Indian weddings made it really exciting.
As I grew up, the company expanded and the size and scale of our jobs increased enormously. Clients wanted new approaches, tastes evolved and people got more ambitious. Even if a client had loved something we had done previously they often wanted to put their own twist on their event . You have to learn on the job – people ask for things and you learn how to do it, and that’s how we started to incorporate a lot of floristry into our work, which is what we are probably now most known for. My younger brother, Hemant, works with me in creating many of our flower displays and is a very talented florist as well.
Through the experience that we gained we were able to learn how to use and manipulate flowers to show them off to their full potential. We now create all sorts of structures and displays incorporating a variety of props. One of our most popular creations involves the use of elephant figures made out of wire, which we decorate with different seasonal flowers and create entrance or aisle-way arches.
I studied in Wembley and did the normal academic GCSEs and A levels, then went to university and did a maths and computer science degree. After university I did a PGCE and taught mathematics for a short time at secondary level. Coming from a typical Indian family, I had to have a profession to fall back on if weddings didn’t work out. Luckily people have always wanted to get married! I also had a short career in the City as a computer programmer before I joined the family business full time.
Even when teaching, I was always working in the family business in parallel. You can always use the skills that you’ve learned in different fields of work across different areas. Having a social media presence has become ever more important and my previous IT skills have proved very useful.
I oversee all the roles within the business and manage a small workforce, but fundamentally my core area is managing sales and meeting clients. It’s about understanding what they want, presenting them with ideas, seeing what’s feasible within the venue space (and within their budget) and really helping them to decide what they want for their wedding, because everyone wants it to look good and unique. They want their event to look a bit different and to incorporate their personality so that it’s reflective of them on the day. I help them with that design process.
Finally, I also deal with the logistics, planning and execution of the events on the day (I use the phrase ‘events on the day’ because often in the peak of summer my crew will have more than one event on a single day!). So the breadth of my work is quite extensive but I think that is typical of any small business – you always take on more than one role, sometimes simultaneously.
What is the best thing about the job?
I’ve always liked being creative, and I’ve always really enjoyed coming up with new ideas. I like to see them come to life – that’s very special. When you’ve been planning for many months and working alongside the client and then the day comes and you put it all together, and then your client comes in and they’re just blown away. That’s what makes it all really worthwhile.
But it’s a lot of hard work. There’s months of planning, lots of meetings, lots of discussions and conversations. The conversations are obviously with the bridal couple but often with their parents as well. Sometimes there are generational difference on taste and scale and we want to make everyone happy at the end of the process. Then you have to deliver on the day and we usually have to deliver the event within very strict time frames. Many venues (especially central London hotels) have tight turnaround times and we have to work very quickly within the window we are given. We have to be very organised to be able to do that. But then once we have all the hard work done, we can look back and really see what we’ve achieved – it’s really rewarding. And the icing on the cake is the client’s reaction and – touch wood – so far its always been positive, which is great to hear.
What is the biggest challenge?
We have to work anti-social hours, and within a strict time frame. Weddings and events are usually at the weekend when most people have time off. And for us to be ready for a certain time in the morning we have to start very early – sometimes at three or four o’clock in the morning – and we have to work very late at night, taking down and packing away the displays. But when you love what you do those you do forget about that aspect, especially when you see the results of your hard work.
Obviously over the last year, Covid has been a unique challenge. Like many hospitality businesses we have had to cope with ever-changing restrictions, especially with regards to wedding numbers, lockdowns easing, lockdowns being reimposed etc. Brides and grooms have had a very difficult time and part of my role has been to support them through the emotion of all that.
What advice would you offer to newcomers?
If you really like being creative and working with your hands it’s a great industry to be in, because everything you create is different for each client. No two days are ever the same. And you’re not stuck behind the computer, you get out to see people and it’s really dynamic. It helps to be a ‘people person.’ So if you are that type of individual, I’d really encourage you to go into floristry. And there’s so much inspiration these days. And if you can bring that to our industry, it’s really good thing for clients. Everyone’s always looking for something new. And it’s always good to have new energy in the industry.