Having worked with such big names as Preston Bailey, wedding organizer Tiara Josodirdjo has quite an impressive portfolio. But what stands out most is the genuine care and thoughtfulness she has for her clients, writes Clarissa Santoso.
For Tiara Josodirdjo, organizing society weddings and other high-profile events is in her blood. She discovered her passion at a very early age. “My mom was actively involved in Dian Karya, a foundation that works to provide scholarships for underprivileged children. She would take me to fundraising bazaars for Dian Karya. I was still in kindergarten when I started helping out and organizing events,” says Tiara.
Tiara attended high school in a private college preparatory and boarding school in Danville, California. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Administration and went on to earn a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University. “When I was in the U.S., I was active in a lot of clubs and organizations,” she recalls. “I was International Student Director in college, and I represented, not only the Indonesians but students from all over the world. I was also actively involved in Indonesian student organizations. One of the things I did was organizing fund raisers for charity causes. Ironically, when I was in Jakarta I never appeared in the newspapers, but in California, they covered me and my events.”
Sure enough, her discipline and diligent participation in organizational activities has paid off. Tiara now runs one of the hottest event management and planning companies in town, Tiara Josodirdjo & Associates, and works on projects with the likes of Preston Bailey, the acclaimed U.S.-based event organizer who has been dubbed “the world’s preeminent event designer”. “After I got married. I was introduced to Christien Suriadjaya, a good family friend of my parents. She’s my guru! I started following her when she was helping to plan weddings, and after a while. I was asked to follow up on quite a bit of work. My friends in the industry said I should start charging. It all kind of fell into place, maybe by luck, as if it had been arranged by a higher power. I finally established my own event and wedding management company in 1997.
“The biggest project I’ve ever worked on was a wedding in Leduk, East Java. That was incredible, a great learning experience. We were so lucky to have this opportunity. Our production team was there for more than 40 days. For the first three weeks, we had to house about 600 workers in three villages. It was up in the mountains and we had to bring all the décor and equipment there. That evening when the guests were seated, the music started, I stood in the middle of the black and white chequered dance floor, and marveled at the whole set-up. I was very proud. Everyone was smiling and in awe. That was such an amazing experience. It was Preston’s concept, but the team was able to pull it off.”
What Tiara finds most fulfilling about her job is “simply creating happy moments” for her clients and their guests. “When the guests and our clients smile and thank us, all the tiredness and commotion just disappear and they’re replaced with a heart-warming feeling knowing that you’ve given someone a moment that they will remember forever. We meet our clients often to plan their wedding, so after a while, they become our friends, and they refer us to their children and relatives. We get to know the whole family, and I’m truly happy when they’re happy.
“We don’t advertise our services, so people usually know us by word of mouth. We hardly ever turn down anyone that comes to us. When we meet the bride and groom and see how excited they are to plan their dream wedding, we get excited, too. How can you say no to them!” smiles Tiara. “This business is very fun and enriching to me. I get to do what I like, but I also get to know other people and make more friends and share their happiness. Sometimes it gets tough. Especially near the wedding day itself, there’s a lot of bickering. The stress level can be high, and when someone says something, it can escalate. I’ve really learned to be patient with people. It’s still a learning experience for me. My father used to say that we learn something new every day. And it’s true!”
Besides Tiara’s wealth of experience in the industry, what sets her company apart from other event organizers is that it has its own in-house production and entertainment team. “My role in the company is more to developing concepts now. I work together with the decorators, lighting and sound team, chefs and the creative team. Because we have our own entertainment director, we can do more extensive performances, even musicals. I oversee the whole project. When I’m developing a concept, first I’d ask my client what they want their guests to feel at the party, and then I can get a feel of the ambience – the décor, music, event rundown and food,” explain the sweet 50 year-old who recently took up dancing as her new hobby.
Although the concept is important, Tiara says that the key ingredient for an unforgettable party is the people. “If the people are not kind to each other, however beautiful the party is, it’s not going to be a success because it has no warmth or soul. Over the course of planning a wedding, I can see the love between the couple grow and mature. When you’re going to marry, you have to be ready to compromise to please each other, your parents, and your in-laws. Love is shown in so many ways, through acceptance, support each other, security wanting to see your loved one happy and being there for them no matter what happens. When a couple has faith, hope, and respect for each other, it tells me that their love will last.
“In life, we have to be balanced. I learned this from my husband, by the way. He’s the smarter half of me, so I learn a lot from him,” laughs Tiara, whose marriage is blessed with two children. “Not only should we do work that gives us income, but we do a lot of pro bono projects. I’m very happy that my team and my partners and vendors agree with this philosophy.”
Tiara loves batik cloths made by Josephine Komala, better known as Obin, a textile designer who is dubbed a “national treasure” due to her passion for and promotion of traditional Indonesian batik techniques. Like Obin, Tiara champions cultural education and awareness. Tiara has worked with Yayasan AIDS Indonesia and Yayasan Jantung Indonesia, and with movie star Michelle Yeoh on charity events. “A few years ago, I produced Bawang Putih Bawang Merah the Musical, which was staged at Balai Kartini. It turned out beautifully, and the songs made me so proud, “ says the lady who adores Broadway musicals. “I also created Kampung Anak Indonesia and picked three villages – Toraja, Java and Kalimantan – and we made a diorama so the children that went to the playground could lean about the culture and folk stories of each village. By doing these events, I hope the children in our country can have a more enriching educational experience. I’d like to introduce Indonesia to the world. We are a lot more than our gamelan and kebaya.”