“The Parent Trap” Meets Indian Weddings: A Tale Of 2 Wedding Planners
by Raj Desai | 12/7/21
3 weeks ago, I signed up for MasterClass to learn writing from the greats.
One of my favorites so far features my fellow North Carolinian, the biting and HILARIOUS David Sedaris, who said one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard:
“You’re so privileged to be a writer.
Normal people, something bad happens to them and there’s nothing they can do with it except feel bad or complain or press charges.”
And so here I am with one of my wedding horror stories, because I still feel bad about it and want to press charges, but the best I can do is complain. In writing.
This is the story of how Romil and I hired the wrong wedding planner.
Not wrong as in wrong for us (he was), or wrong taste (which he had), or wrong people skills (oy VEY, were they wrong).
Wrong as in The Parent Trap wrong. The Princess Switch wrong. Freaky Friday wrong!
Here’s how it went down.
I got a lot of recommendations for wedding vendors from my future in-laws. And as any sane, red-blooded engaged person does, I ignored them.
One of those recommendations was for a wedding planner, who heretofore shall be known as Jafar (not trying to get sued. He would definitely sue me).
Weeks after I dismissed him as a potential planner, I asked a vendor we just hired if he had any planner suggestions. “Oh, you know who’s good? Jafar!”
The First Meeting
My mom and I are probably the 2 worst people to interview someone. So naturally, we were the ones who interviewed Jafar.
It was a brisk fall evening on a Tuesday at the nearby Caribou Coffee. Mom and I sat down at a table, drinks in hand, and waited.
Maybe he’s here already? I thought as I looked around the tiny room, having no idea who to look for or what to expect.
And then the tiniest Indian man I ever did see bounded around the corner, bouncing toward us confidently in a 3-piece suit and bouffant-styled hair.
Smiling from ear to ear, he outstretched his arm for a handshake a good 5 steps before he reached the table.
“Hi! I’m Jafar!”
Over the next hour, he regaled us with stories and pictures of the weddings he’d planned and decorated, answered our questions, and assured us that he was here to save the day.
Energetically nodding his head in that characteristic Desi way, he exclaimed, “Don’t worry! You can relax, I will take care of everything!”
What a relief!
As an introvert who is also a control freak who was ALSO failing Biostatistics at the time, I felt the weight of managing a thousand tasks, personalities, and opinions being lifted from my shoulders.
Now I could just enjoy being engaged. That, and the Biostats tutoring sessions that were about to take up all my free time (ugh).
Once I got home, I excitedly told Romil that our troubles were gone, emailed Jafar my Excel spreadsheets and checklists, and closed my laptop with a smile.
1 Month Later
“Hi Raj! The deposit was due a few days ago, you can go to this link to pay it.”
I quickly scanned the email while power walking from the public health building to the parking lot 3 streets over.
The hell? Did I forget to send Jafar the deposit dates?
When I got home, I checked the master Excel spreadsheet I sent him a month earlier. Sure enough, I had included a complete list of payment dates and deposits.
Slightly annoyed at Jafar’s hiccup, we paid the deposit and pushed it to the back of our minds.
1 Month After That
“We need to talk about Jafar.”
Groan. I felt that familiar ball of anxiety (hello, old friend!) start to form in the pit of my stomach.
“Well, I was talking to him about the budget. I told him the amount that we feel comfortable spending on decorations. He said he was used to working with families who spend $200,000 on weddings.”
The gall of this guy. Who did he think we were? Beyoncé?!
I started to doubt my decision to hire Jafar. But then I remembered all of the positive things my husband’s family and other wedding vendors said about him.
Maybe this is how it is with every wedding planner, I thought.
Besides, at this point we were 5 months into wedding planning and had already paid him a $5,000 non-refundable deposit for his services as a planner and a decorator.
So…let’s hope for the best?
It Got Worse
4 months later and only a few short months before our Memorial Day weekend wedding, I was on the phone with a different decorator.
Romil, our families, and I were all at our wits end. We’d barely survived a bleary winter of Jafar, who had now become the most stressful part of wedding planning.
My in-laws were shocked when Jafar complained to them about my divorced parents. I was exasperated with his vendor referrals who were based 6 hours away from our wedding venue. And our other vendors (thankfully) jumped in to pick up the slack.
“Hey, haven’t you had a hard time getting a hold of Jafar lately?” Romil asked as he walked into the living room, iPhone in hand.
“My parents just saw him at a restaurant he owns downtown. He stopped by their table to say hi and they asked how everything was going with us, and he said great.”
The guy who refuses to meet with us in person unless we pay him for travel expenses, who’s radio silent and won’t return my calls or emails, is currently 20 minutes away from us sweet talking Romil’s parents?!
“He has a restaurant?”
There's ANOTHER Jafar
“So how’s wedding planning going?”
It was a few weeks before the wedding and we were hanging out with Romil’s sister, Kinjel, and her husband Maulin in a crowded Mexican restaurant.
“Great,” I said. “We hired someone else to do the decorations. All the parents are afraid Jafar will do something to sabotage the wedding weekend or sue us, so we’re just going to put up with him until it’s all over.”
“That’s so crazy, I really liked him when we interviewed him for our wedding,” Kinjel said. “I’m glad we didn’t hire him. I knew his kids and everything.”
Jafar is someone’s dad? I scrunched my nose up at the thought.
“There was all this drama with his family back then, which was the only reason we went with someone else,” she continued, taking a sip of her jalapeno margarita. “We felt like he’d be distracted and drop the ball.”
“Yeah. He’s definitely distracted now. You should listen to this voicemail he left me. He has no clue what’s going on. We’re so close to the wedding and I feel like he doesn’t even know who we are.”
Kinjel put my phone to her ear. This time, she was the one scrunching her nose.
“Wait. This doesn’t sound like Jafar.” She handed the phone back to me and grabbed her own.
“This is the Jafar that I’m talking about. Jafar Patel.”
“No…” I slowly said as I stared at the Google Image of an entirely different person. “The Jafar Patel we’re working with looks nothing like that. Here, I’ll show you.”
But of course, thanks to his zero internet presence, I couldn’t find a single picture of him online.
“You’re positive that isn’t him?” Romil asked. He had only talked to Jafar on the phone.
“Yes, I’m positive. That’s definitely not him.” I gave my head a little shake and put my hands up. “Wait, so there are 2 Jafar Patels, planning Indian weddings in the same state?”
My mind started to race over everything Jafar-related that confused and frustrated us.
The fact that he wanted to charge us for travel expenses to attend meetings in Raleigh, when we thought he lived in Raleigh.
He sucked, but had great recommendations from local friends, family, and vendors.
And Romil’s parents. They did see Jafar at a restaurant that night. But it was the other Jafar, not ours.
It finally dawned on me. We hired the wrong guy.
We hired the wrong Jafar Patel.
Because apparently, there are 2 OF THEM. Older Indian men. Planning weddings in the same part of the country. Without social media accounts or websites. With identical business names.
Wide-eyed, we all looked at each other and started laughing.
Predictably, the (wrong) Jafar that we hired was a frazzled mess during our wedding.
Everything started late. He was missing when we needed him. And just visible enough to network with our guests.
He even fudged the only thing we asked of him the entire weekend.
“Can you please bring our lunch to our hotel room? Since the ceremony ran late we can’t eat with everyone, we have to go up and start getting ready for the reception now.”
“Sure! Sure!” he said, with that enthusiastic Desi head nod of his.
An hour later, we ordered room service.
Wedding planning is unlike any other phase of your life.
Crazy things will happen. Things that’ll make you want to, in the words of Mr. Sedaris, “…feel bad or complain or press charges.”
Which we seriously considered, by the way. Pressing charges. But cooler heads prevailed, and we were happier to wipe our hands clean of Jafar once and for all.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband’s great aunt passed away and we gathered together at his uncle’s house to pay our respects.
Romil, Kinjel and I were on the couch, catching up and chatting when lo and behold, guess who walks in? Jafar Patel #2 (the one we were *supposed* to hire).
We stared up at him, frozen and quiet, with smiles plastered on our faces. He offered his condolences to Romil’s uncle before making his Irish exit minutes later.
“Wait, did he leave?” Kinjel asked, scanning the living room and kitchen.
Romil and I looked around and confirmed that he was, in fact, gone. The three of us locked eyes. And just like that night at the Mexican restaurant years ago, we laughed.
Two Jafar Patels. What are the odds?
Content strategist and UX writer who’s been researching and writing about weddings for 5 years. Addicted to Netflix, dirty martinis, and naps.