Essential Tips From Celebrity Wedding Planner Colin Cowie
As the person responsible for creating parties and events around the world for clients like Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Ryan Seacrest and Kim Kardashian, Colin Cowie is one of the most highly sought-after wedding planners of all time. As part of our Summer Bridal Experience, one lucky couple will have a virtual appointment with him to gain expert advice for their own big day. But we couldn’t resist sitting down with Colin ourselves to get essential wedding tips from this world-renowned celebrity wedding planner.
What do you love about wedding planning? What drew you to it as a profession and what keeps you going?
I believe in love, and there is nothing better than being the storyteller for a couple in love. Helping a couple plan a wedding that is personal and tells the world who they are as a couple is what drives me to do what I do. Not to mention, weddings are exceptionally happy occasions.
I left South Africa in 1985 at the height of apartheid because I did not believe in the political system. I started a small catering company in LA and was teaching cooking classes on the side. One of my students was the wife of the president of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. She asked me to consult on their wedding menu. I took a meeting with their team and walked out as the designer/producer of the entire wedding. That wedding got me labeled as ‘Mr. Wedding,’ and my career took off!
I love what I do. We are in the business of making people happy, and we make dreams come true. That is what keeps me going.
Part of what you do is think of the details or special touches that most couples overlook. Can you give us one example of a tip you give that always surprises a client?
What makes or breaks a wedding is the least expensive item on the entire budget: TIMING.
The biggest mistake of all is to keep guests waiting. I have a pact with every bride that the ceremony starts 15 minutes after the printed invitation time. Cocktails last 45 minutes. By the time people get moving, it’s an hour. I try to serve a three-course dinner in a concise 90 minutes so guests dance the whole night. When you keep people waiting and everything is drawn out, guests go home tired, bored, and drunk.
Timing is absolutely essential. It can make or break any wedding—and guess what? It does not cost a single cent.
What should a couple start with?
An epic, unforgettable wedding starts with the couple – who they are as people, and as partners.
I always begin with the couple’s DNA. Once I truly understand who they are as individuals and as a team, I go through my process of using the five senses to tell their unique story. As I pull together pieces of their narrative, I continually add details, looking for opportunities to make things more appealing - better, smarter, chicer, and sexier. From start to finish, I seek out points to engage people in meaningful ways, ultimately evoking powerful and unforgettable emotional connections with the guests.
That said, first thing to do is to confirm your date, venue, and officiant. Then comes the gown [most girls don’t wait this long], then the décor/color scheme, menu, and entertainment.
When it comes to weddings, what are classic elements that never go out of style? What are a few trends that you’re enjoying seeing?
Some of my favorite timeless elements are neutral color palettes, cream and white florals, clean lines, classic invitations, and calligraphic details.
I am loving the Bridgerton trend! We recently designed a Bridgerton dinner on a Manhattan rooftop, and I'm seeing so many couples incorporate these romantic elements into their weddings: dreamy color palettes, empire waists, opulent furnishings, live classical musicians playing covers of pop songs, etc.
Where does sustainability fit into your planning process and how can couples incorporate sustainable elements into their wedding?
Sustainable weddings are on the rise! There are many ways to incorporate sustainable elements into a wedding. Select vendors who work towards a greener production; select a caterer who is ‘plastic-free.’ Use online save the dates and invitations, and after the wedding, recycle the flowers by donating them to a hospice.
One time in lieu of escort cards, we gave every guest a small reusable glass—each personalized with their name—for their drink(s)of choice. The glasses were not only practical but they doubled as fun keepsakes from the evening.
We are also seeing more couples want greater vegan options, and some prefer an entirely vegan menu, which is another way to make your wedding greener.
What’s the best way for a couple - and a wedding planner - to stay relaxed leading up to and on the big day?
Never lose sight of the fact that a wedding is about love and not about the perfect party! Enjoy the journey!
This is also why it’s so important for couples to make their wedding their OWN – an event that aligns with their unique DNA. I always say, “Think of your wedding as an opportunity to create a distinct celebration together; this is your first joint statement of style to friends and family as you begin your life as a couple. This is YOUR day! Forget about what society and tradition dictate and make your wedding totally your own.”
When couples are aligned with who they are—and what they want—it makes their big day not only more relaxed but also far more special and memorable for everyone.
I also suggest that couples plan their honeymoons well in advance. It keeps costs down and prevents them from having a nervous breakdown if they end up honeymooning in their apartment because their favorite resort in Playa del Carmen had no availability. Let an expert handle it if it becomes too much; the reward is peace of mind.
When it comes to bridal jewelry, wedding party accessories, and gifts, what do you recommend?
Everyone loves jewelry. Start there. A pair of earrings for the bridesmaids, cufflinks for the groomsmen. Personalize the pieces by engraving the recipient’s initials or the wedding date. I think this also depends on the person and the budget. That said, you are asking your friends to show up for you and this is a good way to say thank you.
And remember, a sincere thank you note goes a long way!