By Mushira Sabry
Photos Courtesy of Sandra Assaad
In the market for 11 years, 33-year old Sandra Assaad has planned over 100 weddings. Her interest in the avant-garde, rather than sticking to tradition has made her a trendsetter in Egypt’s wedding industry. Sandra’s signature style is through creating the dream wedding that couples could not imagine possible. Community Times met with her in her Garden City office to chat about her most unusual concepts and advice for couples who want to have exceptional weddings in Egypt.
Sandra graduated from the college of Applied Arts with a major in sculpture, and she quickly found herself more interested in modern and abstract movements. She would create her pieces from unusual materials such as corrugated metal, spare parts and plexi-glass. The discipline’s focus on composition and design from sketchbook to sculpture in the form of a project inspired her to plan larger events, and her event of choice: weddings.
She began her career in an advertising agency but that did not stop Sandra from pursuing her desire to work as a wedding planner. She explained that she started working with Dina Eskander, who she describes “a perfectionist–one of the best wedding planners in Egypt” on full-time and freelance basis. Soon, she found herself consulting with clients and organizing their events entirely. Eventually, she and Eskander would develop quotations, and would create samples of their designs, until she felt ready to venture on her own.
“Being able to create a full event, from a single image or idea, to its design on Autocad, and to see it constructed and erected in less than a month is thrilling,” says Sandra. She adds that working with different couples, who aim to create an identity for their wedding, are among the many reasons why she loves her job.
Trendsetting versus Tradition
Sandra aims to become a trendsetter, and she explains that she has realized the impact of her work as she found one of her experiments almost replicated in a well-known establishment. She proudly explains that “for an 80s themed wedding I decided to create a photo booth using a wall of retro television screens. A few months later, I visited a friend’s bar and I noticed that he had done the same concept in his store’s decor!”
Even though she is an advocate of recycling, she has never “recycled” a wedding idea or theme. “Whenever a couple consults me, I listen to them attentively and try and materialize the idea that they have. I always remind them to consider their budget, and advise them on what they can do to not exceed their expectations.” She asks them to meet with her between two months or 2 weeks before their wedding, “Having less time gives us more inspiration,” she explained.
Among her many features, her weddings are unique because most of the installations are designed from scratch. She explains that one of her most challenging events was not actually a wedding, but a Christmas party. She explained that after executing an excellent theme in 2014, she was hired by the same family to recreate another one for 2015. How do you beat your on personal best? “You listen to your client carefully, and detect what their likes and dislikes are rather than what is popular.”
For this family, who loved nature, she created a countryside theme, using rustic wood for the dance floor in the garden, and roped lights to illuminate the guests as they danced and mingled. She decided to waiver from the traditional, and created tables and chairs that were made of metal, rather than wood to match the dance floor. “With my team, I was able to make a Christmas tree out of fresh flowers, and design a pergola in the garden decorated with different sheets of fabric.”
Inspirations and Mentors
Other than Dina Eskander’s input, Sandra finds that she has learned her trade by inspiration. “I am inspired by artists, such as Nam June Paik, who is a Japanese Installation Artist who gave me the idea of using the television screens in events. Preston Bailey, whom I met in 2009 in New York, who is a high profile wedding planner with a background in fashion.” She added that she also finds inspiration from video clip, set designers, interior designers and filmmakers.
After having organized several weddings, Sandra shares with us some of the most exceptional ideas she has had to create. “One of my favorite couples were ones who had encouraged me to use recycled elements for their wedding day.” So, she used suitcases, boxes, and artillery crates with sheets of glass set on them to create high and low tables. Other items that she added were islands of fresh flowers, a book wall, and ….fish tanks!!
“Yes!” she exclaimed. As one bride had insisted on using fish tanks and setting fish bowls as centerpieces. “You can imagine the hassle we had to make to find the fish, bowls, and seashells and starfish, which I had to have sent to me from Alexandria.” She had to assign one technician dedicated to take care of them and feed them. And yes, all of them survived.
Another creative bride wanted to use olive branches on any green decorative piece. After Sandra having her technicians rush around to find the branches, she confirmed that it had indeed made a difference in the design of the wedding.
Other inspirational ideas were an origami booth! One couple wanted to create 1000 origami birds to use later. At the same wedding, Sandra created a booklet for guests to fill in to give the newly weds advice about the honeymoon and what to expect after one year of marriage, in an effort to create an interactive wedding.
“I love traditional wedding marches, but I am trying to persuade some couples to select a wedding march using rock music. She explains that she commissioned “Massar Egbary” to create a demo for her to share with clients. “But couples are still afraid to try it out!” She added that other segments that can be included to create that ‘wow’ factor would be the entertainment: dancers, belly dancers, and a band. “Show business is what makes the event memorable. Actually, one of my clients wants a stand up comedian in his wedding,” she disclosed.
Fireworks, floating candles, lanterns, a photo booth with plenty of accessories are some of the activities that couples can request to make their wedding hard to forget.
“Nowadays, couples should consider some changes that can really help with their budget, and make their wedding equally entertaining.” She suggests skipping the printed wedding invitations, and having digital ones instead. She added that having food stations instead of buffets is a much more organized and can cut costs too. “Couples should also do away with the wedding cake. Most of them are not entirely edible anyway, and families no longer take them home.” Since the wedding couch or kousha has been outdated, so should the throwing of the bridal bouquet.
Aghast, we asked if there is anything else that should remain, “Definitely, the Zaffa,” she smiles “That should never change.”
Contact Sandra Assaad through her instagram account: @sandraassaad