Her forehead creases as she dabs a handkerchief across her face. With few words, she gives direction to her team. Everywhere is buzzing with delight. Guests seem to have come out from a movie scene or fairytale storybook. The laughters are infectious as the hall reeks of delicacies and assorted drinks. The faces are radiant in dazzling attires and jewelleries –two people stand out –seated in front of the well-mannered crowd of guests. They grin from ear to ear and they whisper one or two things in each other’s ear. They cannot resist the temptation to wave at the woman who is making things to happen on their day –their wedding day. She’s the wedding planner. And her name is Funke Kuyoro.
From the United Kingdom to Nigeria, she has invented her own brand in wedding planning and sundry enterprises. Arguably the most famous wedding planner in the country, she graduated with combined honours in Computer Science and Chemistry in the United Kingdom. Confidence, intuitiveness and creativity are qualities that stand out Kuyoro, the Managing Director of the Wedding Company. She speaks to Adedayo Adejobi about her extensive event project management experience spanning over 20 years across the corporate and government arenas, her marriage of 28 years, children and relationship with God and Pastor Tunde Bakare
How did you become a wedding planner?
I have always loved to offer a helping hand to people in all spheres of life. Even before I started this as a business, I would help anyone who is planning their wedding or any other occasion. This happened a lot while I lived in Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom and also when I relocated to Nigeria. When I got back home to Nigeria, I took my time to process my thoughts on what I would like to do as a career. It took nine months to the eureka-moment when God spoke to me. I wanted to do something more as a ministry to God and at the same time earn money. That same week as a confirmation from God I got my first wedding planning job.
When did you realise that your creative talent and professional experience could be offered to individuals who want to organise the wedding of their dreams?
My objective when I help in planning a wedding is always to turn the dreams of a bride to reality. Most brides, even before the guy pops the question, have dreamt of how their wedding day would be like. Unfortunately, a lot of the parents take over and turn it into their own reality. After all, they are the ones spending the money.
What’s the best part about being a wedding planner?
It is seeing the bride and groom enjoy their day as their dreams come true.
What’s the most unusual wedding you’ve organised?
A destination wedding in Abu Dhabi for a very small guest of 100; it’s intimate and cosy –the environment had lovely décor. Not the typical run-off-the-mill Nigerian wedding, but emphasis was on the couple enjoying their day.
What’s the most popular type of weddings you organise?
Popular types of weddings are wedding receptions that follow the same normal route as a typical Nigerian wedding. Reception usually holds in one of the popular events places with typical wedding décor, with guest of between 600 and 1000.
How do you think couples can most effectively use a wedding planner?
A lot of couples, especially the brides, hire planners and still do most planning themselves. They should let their money work for them. Ideally, a wedding planner is meant to do all the work for a couple intending to wed. Negotiating with vendors is usually a powerful skill planners have. This is because they deal with the vendors more often than a one-off bride/groom getting married. Vendors will defer to planners for business because of the volume brought to them and are more amenable to discounts to them. You will save money and time using a planner. In fact, total discounts saved might be more than amount paid as your planner’s fees. It is always a win-win situation. Brides usually research wedding trends in their journey towards their day but having a planner will help design and determine how best to actualise those trends giving the peculiarity of the Nigerian environment, traditions, etc.
How do you ensure a couple’s personality is reflected in the wedding rather than that of the planner’s?
The planner’s personality is not supposed to feature in a planned wedding. In most instances I get to meet and know the bride and groom to understand their personalities. This then informs choices made which must be ratified by them before contract agreements are drawn up. Something that I think holds couples back from working with a wedding planner is the perceived cost.
What would you tell brides and grooms about the cost?
Experience have shown that services are the most underrated when it comes to fees payment. In initial discussions with clients once I get the feeling that a prospective client does not really understand the need for a wedding planner and even after trying to educate on this still do not have an appreciable understanding I tend not to push further.
Can you talk about the most difficult wedding you’ve handled so far?
The most difficult wedding planned was a wedding where the couple’s family insisted in doing an invitation-only wedding. But the necessary directions in issuing those invitation cards were not followed –both families had a large number of families and friends. At the end of the day not everyone got the invitation cards even though they had bought aso-ebi. Thus, restricting guests without the invite became a very big challenge. At the end of the day the wedding turned out to be a jamboree. I will always tell my couple and their parents to ensure that they let me know what plans they do outside of me as their planner. Every uncoordinated plan can make or mar the day.
In Nigeria, weddings have always been a big ‘family business.’ How do you manage mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc?
Because of my years of experience and grace the Lord has given me, I don’t have problems dealing with any family members. One gets to deal with every kind of parents in the course of planning weddings. You have the parents who respect that it is their children’s day and as such will respect the wishes of those children, or those you feel that they are the ones spending the money, so they must be in total control of what happens on the day. Even things as personal as wedding colours are decided by the parents. In a nice way, I will remind the parents that they are not the ones getting married and jokingly offer my services for wedding renewal if both parents are alive if they would like to actualise their own dream concept. In majority of situations with cooperation from principal actors in a wedding there are items that I steer decision to solely the couple or parents. For instance, décor details, colour scheme and theme are usually discussed with the couple rather than the parents.
How many weddings have you planned in their entirety?
I have lost count of how many.
Is wedding planning your full-time profession?
Yes, it is. But, I also supply ushers and hostesses for weddings and other events. I have a gift and souvenir sourcing service which I run with my partner.
If not wedding planning, what would have been your job?
I am not sure. I’ll probably be a full-time marriage counsellor because I have a passion for seeing homes staying together as one. I believe that is the ministry God is calling me to.
Do you feel fulfilled being a wedding planner?
Yes, I do.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about weddings and my children.
What is your relationship with your children and what do they remind you of when you see them?
My children are my world and I also am theirs; at least, till someone comes to take them away. I am blessed with three ladies and a gentleman.
What are your strengths and your weaknesses?
My strengths are my organisational skills and passion for marriages, the Lord has given me. My weakness sometime is being intolerant with people who don’t have similar passion working with me. Lately, I have started taking up the challenge in motivating my staff to working very hard in achieving results and developing a good eye for details. I am learning not to give up on people.
What defines success for you?
Success to me is not all about money or the making of it. Success to me is the number of lives I touch while I do what I do. Success is a smile of fulfillment in my bride’s face as her wedding dreams have been actualised, and she has had a most enjoyable wedding day. Success is seeing that so far all my wedding couples have stayed married and enjoying their homes –meaning no divorces. Success is seeing my children go on well in life to live and achieve the maximum God has given them.
Describe a situation where you had to think on your feet?
As a planner thinking on one’s feet is always part of the job description. It is a daily occurrence.
What motivates your staff?
I carry my staff along with every decision made in the organisation. I try to relate with them beyond office work.
Where would you be in five years?
In five years’ time, I see myself reproducing the skills and talents God has given me in others. The Wedding Company will be a conglomerate beyond Adefunke Kuyoro, but still offering the same satisfied and fulfilled clients.
Tell us about your marriage?
I am happily married to my husband, Mr. Olusesan Kuyoro. We have three lovely daughters and a son. We have been married for 28years.
What kind of a husband and father is your man?
He’s a very loving, caring husband and father.
Describe him in a few words.
Pillar, strength, completes me, lover.
Have you at any point thought of a divorce?
What lesson has marriage taught you?
One must be determined to stay in a marriage no matter the challenges faced. With the help of God you can overcome them. Once abuse (physical, mental or verbal) is not prevalent you can overcome any situation.
Do you feel fulfilled in marriage?
Yes, I do.
What inspires you?
God inspires me. I take all my directions from him. I don’t exist without him. In him I live, I move and I have my being.
What is your philosophy about life?
In all one does, integrity must be one’s watchword.
Who is your mentor?
It’s my pastor, Tunde Bakare.
What is your relationship with Pastor Tunde Bakare?
He is my spiritual father, mentor and my pastor.
Are you a fashion label freak?
I am not overtly obsessed with fashion labels. I always dress to look good. I am just as comfortable wearing labels as I am wearing cloths sewn by my local tailor. My only labels I don’t compromise with are the perfumes I wear.
What accessories would you not be caught dead without?
My Jewelleries, make-up and perfumes (favourite pastime).