As one of the most sought-after wedding designers in the country, Aashna Saran, the founder and creative director of Aash Studio — a leading wedding design company in India — creates intimate and special setups for her clients. Think actor Karishma Tanna and businessman Varun Bangera’s nupitial; and actor Dia Mirza and businessman Vaibhav Rekhi’s sustainably-designed wedding, to name a few. In conversation with Travel + Leisure India & South Asia, the creative mind tells us how she started her wedding design studio, the tricks to designing a green wedding, and more.
Excerpts from the interview with Aashna Saran:
T+L India: Tell us about Aash Studio and how it all started? What inspired you to start a wedding design company?
Aashna Saran: As a child, I would spend countless hours with my mother redecorating our house. That sparked my interest in art and design.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have always had an inherent inclination towards becoming an entrepreneur myself. I started my first venture at the age of 15, and with minimal prior experience, I learned on-the-job. I then studied Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins, London, which further helped me create the foundation for launching Aash Studio in 2016.
As for the wedding industry, it was a natural attraction given my culture and ethnicity. Being brought up in a Punjabi family in Mumbai, I attended several weddings and was always in awe of the two people about to spend their lives together. [I loved] every little ritual that took place!
T+L India: Which is the most memorable wedding you’ve designed?
Aashna Saran: I’ve been fortunate enough to work on so many beautiful weddings that it’s hard to choose just one. But if I had to, I would say the most memorable wedding I’ve designed was in Manali. Being surrounded by nature added an extra layer of beauty to the celebration [and allowed me to showcase] the mesmerising landscapes that run through our country. It was truly a unique and unforgettable experience.
T+L India: You’ve also started a sustainable project ‘The Flex Project’. What was your inspiration behind this?
Aashna Saran: We generate a lot of waste in the wedding industry, and it was something that had been weighing on my mind for a while. Around the same time, my brother, Krish Singh, was also intrigued by the idea of bringing about a change; one that would reduce our impact on the environment. That’s when we came up with the idea of The Flex Project. We wanted to give back to the community by upcycling the flex material used at weddings designed by Aash Studio and creating sustainable products like tote bags and raincoats for the underprivileged. I believe that every little step we take towards sustainability can make a difference, and I’m proud to have started this initiative.
T+L India: You recently designed one of India’s first sustainable celebrity weddings for Dia Mirza. Tell us how the concept came to be.
Aashna Saran: When it comes to weddings, I believe it should be an all-around experience for everyone attending. But as times have changed, it’s important to ensure we do that in an environmentally ethical way. The pandemic made families host intimate events, which automatically reduced waste. When we did Dia Mirza’s wedding, it was one of India’s first sustainable weddings. She’s extremely concerned about the environment, and as the brand ambassador of UNEP, she made sure to keep the wedding sustainable from the get-go. We used materials that could be reused or recycled and didn’t harm the environment. We even sourced our raw materials from the local markets to reduce our carbon footprint.
Dia loves everything natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly, so we chose her garden as the venue. Her favourite mango tree was the highlight of the evening, and we wanted to create an Indian garden vibe with an old-world rustic charm. Since it was an intimate wedding, we also wanted to involve the guests, which is why we had personalised bells for the pheras, flower petal cones made of banana leaves, and personalised letters. Every detail of the wedding was hand-woven together to create a surreal moment for the couple and their guests.
T+L India: What is your creative process of planning a wedding?
Aashna Saran: While planning a wedding, our creative process always starts with getting to know the couple and their families. We want to hear all about their story, how they met, and the little details that make their journey special. Once we have a good understanding of the couple’s vision, we move on to step two: understanding the hotel or venue location. This is where our design process really takes off. We find inspiration in a variety of things and always strive to make each wedding unique and different from the rest.
T+L India: Often, a wedding and its aesthetics are personal to the couple. How do you strike a balance between your creative vision and the couple’s?
Aashna Saran: We are fortunate and blessed that almost all our brides and grooms are aligned with our creative vision from the get-go. However, I believe that weddings are a collaborative process. In fact, a wedding is an extension of who the bride and groom really are. So, it’s important to understand their vision first, and then work to enhance it and create something magical. Our job as wedding designers is to understand the couple’s aesthetics and bring their unique vision to life. We do this by listening carefully to their ideas, understanding their personalities, and then using our experience and expertise to create something that’s both beautiful and meaningful.
T+L India: What are some aspects you consider when planning a wedding design?
Aashna Saran: A few key aspects that we always consider include the overall look and feel of the event — that is crucial! We strive to create a beautiful and cohesive atmosphere that reflects the couple’s personality and style. But we also think about the impact that the design will have on the guests. We want to create an experience that is not only visually stunning, but also engaging and memorable. This can be the layout of the space, the way the lighting is set up, or even little details like place cards and favours. Ultimately, we want the design to be a reflection of the couple and their love story, while also creating an experience for everyone involved.
T+L India: How does travel inspire you as a designer?
Aashna Saran: Travel has always been an integral part of my life and design inspiration. It’s the time when I switch off from the daily hustle and bustle, and tune into a different frequency. Travelling allows me to take a step back and reflect on my life and work. I’ve stopped looking at travel as a means to constantly seek inspiration and capture photos. Instead, I see it as a way to relax and rejuvenate my mind, so that when I return to work, I’m able to approach it with a fresh perspective.
T+L India: A destination where you would love to go to and design a wedding?
Aashna Saran: I would love to design a wedding in Zanzibar. It is an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, and is known for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture. The island’s architecture is a blend of Arab, Indian, and European influences, with intricate carvings, vibrant colours, and ornate details. Even the hospitality of the locals is renowned for being warm and welcoming, and the island is home to several luxury resorts and boutique hotels that cater to destination weddings.
T+L India: What place comes to your mind when you hear “Travel As You Are” ?
Aashna Saran: It reminds me of Bali. It’s a destination that encourages a laid-back and free-spirited approach to travel. It is a perfect destination to unwind and be yourself without any inhibitions. The culture there is deeply spiritual, and it’s impossible not to get lost in its energy. I feel like Bali is one of those places where one can truly embrace their individuality, and that’s what makes it such a special place to me.
T+L India: Your favourite wedding destinations?
Aashna Saran: My favourite wedding destination has to be Udaipur. It is always a pleasure to be in the city. The city’s timeless charm draws me in every time. It has such a rich cultural history, beautiful architecture, and stunning landscapes that make it a perfect destination for a wedding.
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