He’s London’s leading wedding planner. He’s the expert-in-residence for weddings at The Savoy. And he works with some of the world’s most elite couples, sought-after vendors and extravagant budgets.
And now Bruce Russell is planning to share his expertise (and his contacts book) with couples hoping to replicate the luxury wedding experience.
The Bridal Room, which launched last week, is a one-stop-shop for refined brides and grooms.
The new site is a carefully curated offering of experiences and suppliers for every aspect of wedding planning, from acclaimed dressmakers and elite cake-designers, to prepping with pre-wedding wellness and planning bespoke post-wedding get-aways.
Along with that, Bruce has prepared some bespoke experiences from The Bridal Promenade (a day with Bruce to get your planning on track) to The Groom’s Speech, (a planning day for grooms with everything from tastings to tailoring).
So what can you learn from the man who’s planning £500,000 weddings, that will still work for your £20,000 bash?
Well, quite a lot actually!
Claire sat down with Bruce to pick his brain, and uncovered the luxury planning tips you can apply to any wedding…
Make It Personal
From your choice of flowers to your choice of starter, Bruce says that every decision should be a personal one for the couple.
When you go to a venue, the co-ordinators take you about and show you, ‘This is the ballroom and every bride has her photo taken here, you have your ceremony here’. But if you have two brides who both have their weddings in the same venue, you’re essentially having the same wedding, just with different people.
I thought, there needs to be a way to make this personal, which is what I bring to every single wedding that I do.
My focus is very much understanding the bride and the groom and being sure that I’m able to not just put an amazing day together, but an amazing day that is just so personal for them and their family.
Photo via Karen Tran Florals
Create an Experience
Making people feel welcome, considered, and entertained are the key elements of luxury planning that can be easily transferred, whatever your budget.
I think it’s looking at the details and the organisation, and making sure that you understand the process, basically put yourself in your guests shoes and look at every element of the day, and every point they’re going to have interactions with, and how do you want that to be.
Is there anything that you can do at each of those points which will make it more of an experience. And that doesn’t have to take so much of your time or so much of your budget. It can be as simple as a little note or sign, or something you can do in advance.
Photo via The Bridal Room
Feast of the Senses
From scented candles to delicious canapés, Bruce says to see your wedding as a series of opportunities to treat your guests to fabulous sounds, sights and smells.
A wedding is a production, it’s a huge production. Look at the day, or the weekend, and every separate element is a different act.
For each act you have to look at the elements and the components that fall into play. Whether it’s the food or the entertainment, for me, it’s everything that touches the senses, look, feel, sound, smell, they all come into play.
It’s the attention to detail. Say for example the escort card experience, that people are there to greet rather than people having to pile in and crouch to find their table. It’s that touch, that element of experience that people in the luxury end want, for every single element of the day.
There is No “Most Important” Element
Claire always thought she’d splash out on the band and the photographer, but as Bruce says, nothing else matters if you’re guests aren’t happy.
When you’re planning your budget for the day, and you think, ‘Well I really want to spend my money on the main course because that’s important to me, and that will be so impressive.’
But if you’ve scrimped on the canapés and everyone’s been standing around in 90 degree heat for three hours, they’re not going to remember that that main course was amazing, they’re going to remember that they stood around waiting for food and drink.
So when people ask me, ‘Is this important?’, I turn it around, ‘If you were at this occasion, would it be important to you?’
Photo via The Bridal Room
Think About Your Timeline
Create a timeline or checklist for your wedding, but don’t just copy one from the internet, cater it for your needs, both for the lead-up and on the day itself.
If you look at the 12 month out, and you’re planning your wedding in six weeks, you’re going to go mad. So part of the service that we’re hoping to launch is a bespoke checklist, so you tell us when your wedding is, how many guests, what your expectation is, and how long you have, and we’ll tell you what to do each month and how to divide the time.
On the day itself, you have people managing and coordinating everything to ensure that every element is ready to go when it’s supposed to. Our timeline is a 25 page document, to the minute, from when the bride gets her hair done.
You need to look at the timeline and ensure there’s a flow. What you don’t want is people sitting around for an hour and a half while you’re off getting photos.
Take a Week (Or Two!) Off
We shuddered when we heard this one, but the man makes sense!
If you’re planning your own wedding, don’t schedule anything to do in the last two weeks. I say two weeks, but at least a week!
The last thing you want to do is to be stressing out about tying ribbons on something, when you could have had that done months in advance.
You want to enjoy it! I always say, the week before a wedding, completely let go.
Be reassured that anything you possible could have done, is done, and accept the fact that if any element is not perfect, (can I say that!?), the likelihood is that the only person who’s going to notice is you. But I know that’s a very difficult thing to do!
There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy
Believe or not, even a wedding that costs hundreds of thousands of pounds is nothing without the right atmosphere.
The thing that money can’t is the atmosphere, from the guests to the experience, and at the end of the day, the best weddings are not about the ones where the most money was spent, they’re the ones where the bride and groom were both happy, and smiling the entire time.
I did a wedding last summer, and it was the best wedding I ever did because I’ve never seen a bride so happy in my life.
I’ve never seen guests so happy and appreciative. Even the staff were coming to me from the venue saying that this was the best wedding they’d ever seen, when you get those comments on site, on the day, you know it’s a good event.
The bride just let go, she never asked for anything, she never once demanded anything, she just showed up, played her role perfectly and had the time of her life.
And everybody felt it.
Always Keep Your Game Face
As a wedding planner who’s had his fair share of behind-the-scenes drama, Bruce says the key to keeping calm is holding your game face, and knowing what you can (and can’t!) control.
If I’m walking around and I’m looking stressed, people will wonder what’s going on, they’ll start to look for something. I will never let on if there’s anything behind the scenes, I will smile like everything is wonderful!
Once, I had a wedding and the venue had an unexplainable power outage, to the point where I was literally five minutes away from moving the entire wedding to another venue. And the bride and groom never knew, to this day, they still don’t know they were this close to it being moved.
But when something like that happens, we go into a mode where, ‘Okay, what are the options, what can I control, and what can’t I control?’
You always have a Plan B for the elements you’ve planned for. But a florist and a production team setting up by candlelight in a venue where you don’t even know if you’ll have to take everything down again and ship it off in a lorry, you don’t plan for that. That was the closest call, I think!
Photo via The Bridal Room
Be Decisive (And Set Deadlines)
Be confident in your decisions and set a deadlines for every one, so you can move on to the next stage of planning.
I can deal with a power outage five minutes before the wedding, but I think the biggest challenge is people who can’t make decisions, or make them, then change their mind!
My philosophy is, if it’s possible to change something and we have the time to change, then we’ll do it, but at the end of the day, I clearly establish decision-making timelines, not because I’m being firm or directive, but because if we’ve said we’ll make a decision on flowers this week, we have all these other things to decide on next week, and even more the week after that.
The last thing you want to do two weeks before your wedding is be finalising flowers, or worse, changing florists.
Grooms Are Just As Important
Don’t leave your other have out of the planning, from Bruce’s experience, grooms are just as eager to join in.
I find grooms are much more interested and involved now, than they even were a couple of years ago. They make a lot of the decisions. Of my last five weddings, three of the grooms were as involved, one of which was even more involved, than the bride.
Sometimes that depends on the age, if they’re in their 30s, 40s or 50s, it’s more about the experience for them, they want to know what’s going on, they want to look good, they want a say. The food and beverage side is particularly important and so is the grooming.
Watch Out For Trends
Trends can be gorgeous, as long as they mean something to you. When it comes to wedding planning, don’t be a dedicated follower of fashion.
The thing you need to be careful with trends is that is it just a fad? Is it something you’ll want to look back on 10, 20, 50 years from now, and will you want to show your children? When they ask about it, you don’t want to say, ‘Oh, it was because there was this movie out!’
If it’s personal and it’s important to you, then go for it!
Look After Your Suppliers
One of Bruce’s top tips for planning (and something he finds many couples overlook) is to look after your vendors on the day.
That’s something I always, always stress with clients, that the people that we’re hiring, we need to make sure we take care of them. It will effect their production on the day.
Your photographer, for example, if he’s there for ten hours on the day, he needs a hot meal, and if he has a hot meal, he’ll do a much better job.
Such great advice, don’t you think? I love the idea of concentrating on the atmosphere and experience for your guests. If you focus on that, and simply let go and enjoy yourself, then you can create the most gorgeous occasion, whatever your budget.
To check out Bruce Russell’s Experience packages, find more luxury wedding guidance, and get some of the most amazing honeymoon inspiration, visit The Bridal Room.