Woman on top – Precious Thamaga
PRECIOUS TUMISHO THAMAGA, 35, stages luxury events and bespoke weddings. The businesswoman gives us a glimpse into her life as the country’s sought-after fairy godmother.
it’s a scorching hot day at the scenic Green Leaves Country Lodge & Venue in Hartbeespoort. Precious Thamaga is busy setting up for an intimate wedding. With beautiful mountain views and lush greenery serving as the perfect backdrop, I get why Precious and the bride chose this venue.
“The theme is ‘timeless and romantic’. I did a mock-up for the bride and she was happy. She knows exactly what she’s going to get on her big day. It’s an indoor wedding, which will happen at this chapel. The floors are covered in a red carpet, but we will put white flooring over it. Then the guests will see the spectacular views outside after the formal ceremony,” she tells me in-between the prep.
Behind the scenes, there’s lots of activity: staff is setting up while contractors drop off props for the event. Precious excuses herself to have a Skype call with the new bride. The conversation is straightforward yet sweet: the planner is updating her client on the progress. I ask Precious how she goes about creating someone’s big day. “It takes a lot of communication; you must ask every possible question. I also involve the groom because the wedding isn’t just about the bride; you want him to have a great experience too. The guests are next on my plan because how they’re treated affects everything. I cover all the bases and then create a mock-up before getting the client’s approval,” she explains.
Precious the Planner, as she’s popularly known, has planned many unforgettable weddings across the country, as well as in Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe. She’s also the brains behind events for SA’s crème de la crème – the businesswoman staged Bonang Matheba’s 30th birthday; Minnie Dlamini’s traditional wedding; as well as Boity Thulo’s Limitless product launch. Yet, Precious doesn’t want to be dubbed ‘the celebrity planner’. “That title made me hit a low. Yes, I do celebrity weddings and functions but it feels like I’m shutting out my regular clients. I don’t want people to think I’m out of reach. I’ve lost one or two clients that felt like I’m too ‘big’ for them. So being called a ‘celeb planner’ has its downsides. High profile clients are great but I still want to be accessible to anyone who wants the opulence I bring to events.”
The planner keeps making phone calls: she’s trying to find out how far the driver is as she’s expecting extra napkins. But she’s surprisingly calm. “I do get frustrated, especially when things aren’t coming together. But I’ve learnt to let go of suppliers if the relationship isn’t working.”
Authenticity and attention to detail are important to Precious. “I think the finer details set me apart – I love luxury and timeless beauty. That’s my signature style. I don’t follow trends – I don’t want there to be a difference between a cheaper or higher budget wedding or event. The distinguishing element must be how bespoke and luxurious the function is.”
The most expensive wedding she’s done cost about R2 million. But, she says, a wedding of about 100 guests will cost R300 000. Precious works with her two sisters, which is a source of comfort for her. “I love being at the venue all the time and seeing the final touches come together. I’m a control freak! Last year I had to plan two weddings but I wasn’t present – that frustrated me. This is not just a business for me. It’s about putting my personal touch. Now that I have my sisters by my side, I can let go a bit.”
Before the 35-year-old became Precious the Planner, she was a village girl who hails from Limpopo. She never finished her studies and went on to hustle her way through life. “I didn’t complete my diploma because I come from a big family. There were six of us. When I was doing my second year of travel and tourism at the then Pretoria Technikon, my parents couldn’t cope with the financial demands. So I offered to drop out and find work in 2000. That allowed my older sister to complete her studies.”
“I used the little knowledge that I’d learnt from my diploma in travel and tourism to get into the industry. While I was working as a receptionist for an architectural firm, I got access to the Internet and found an opportunity to be a receptionist at Sun International in 2003. There, I got to experience a little bit of everything – I saw how the PR world worked. I was promoted to PR assistant, which I did for a year and a half. I did all the hard ground work but never got to see what I’d planned come to life. So I decided to study further and see where I could go.”
This go-getter attitude saw her climb the PR and events coordinator ladder. “Whenever I applied for jobs, I’d make it very clear that I expected the company to pay for my studies. I left Sun International in 2005 for CC Africa, which is now called &Beyond. They do luxury safari experiences and host corporate functions. I worked during the week, and attended classes at Damelin during weekends. I enrolled for an events management course.” It’s while working for Massmart as a brand manager that the company hired a life coach for staff. “That’s when I knew I wanted to branch out on my own. I talked with my boss to ask if I could implement my business plan while working. She said yes.” And so Precious Celebrations was registered in 2010. “Corporate events were saturated so I chose to do weddings for black people. I used my savings to start Precious Celebrations. I didn’t want to use Google images so I did free weddings so I could grow a portfolio for my website. I soon secured two paying clients. ”
“I love seeing the satisfaction on couples’ faces. Weddings are so personal, so being a part of them and making it a dream come true is amazing,” she adds.
“I’m blessed to have a growing business. I’ve put systems in place so that when I’m not around, the business doesn’t die. I’d love to own a venue, and make my mark in this industry.” I know Precious’ dreams will come true. Witnessing how this venue transformed, it’s no wonder people love Precious the Planner – she has the Midas Touch.