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Wedding planner makes special days even more precious

Who can bring to life a pink dream, turn a birthday party into a gala event of epic proportions and transport guests at a wedding into a real-life fantasy?

Precious Thamaga, of course. We've seen the evidence with our own eyes.

Thamaga owns Precious Celebrations, a bespoke party planning agency in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

Born in Limpop, the planning maven had to drop out of university while studying a travel and tourism course.

She decided to move to Johannesburg to live with her sister and took on part-time jobs.

One of those jobs was a receptionist at Sun International, and that's when the PR and event planning bug bit.

"I always had such an interest in the PR department which I could see from my desk as a receptionist . I was always like 'wow it looks so interesting upstairs'," she said.

Eventually a position as one of the support staff became available and she applied for it. She never got to attend the events she was part of planning and involved with. She then decided to apply for another job and was smart enough to negotiate with the company to pay for her studies in event planning.

It took Thamaga seven years after that to start her business even though she knew she wanted to do so from her studying days. "I wanted to be sure because you hear these stories, especially of young black women who start their own businesses and most of them fail at about three years. If you go over five years, then you're lucky. It was daunting."

She spent a lot of time researching and eventually left her corporate job with Massmart after a session with a life coach where she realised that she was ready to go solo. "Owning your own business is the biggest risk you can take."

It's been seven years since she stepped out on that ledge and Precious Celebrations is a force to be reckoned with. In the beginning stages, she didn't make money, she did it for her portfolio.

She says she fears disappointing her clients on their special day. She also admits that she's a bit of a perfectionist and a "control freak". She has a hard time delegating to her staff but the growth of her company has taken that out of her hands.

A positive challenge for her is the growth of her business which keeps her on her toes looking for ways to exceed expectations.

Thamaga works with a team of three permanent staff and hires extra help when it's needed. She consults with clients and then liaises with her event manger, co-ordinator and has an admin assistant.

"People always believe that a good wedding [means], you must have had a white wedding planner." She then regales me with an anecdote about how one of her co-ordinators, who just happens to be white, is often mistaken for the wedding planner. She stresses that this type of attitude is changing though.

Thamaga is a stickler for professionalism because she feels it allows for her to advertise her business.

Weddings are a big deal on the continent and the 35-year-old says Nigerians are in the lead. She believes creativity is what makes the wedding ceremony stand out, putting a bit of the client's personality into the event.

She's adamant that she's not a celebrity planner but has worked with the likes of Bonang Matheba and Thembi Seete for their birthday celebrations and rapper Slikour's wedding. She has planned the weddings of Mr and Mrs Lebo Gunguluza and SA cricket player Temba Bavuma.

And speaking of weddings, the events maven is going to be walking down the aisle herself. The love of her life Sifiso Mazibuko, MD & creative director of Mastersuit SA, proposed in May this year.

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