Key decisions early on: date, venue and number of guests. When, where, who!
“I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress; they say ‘I do’. I was wrong. that’s getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition.” So said Steve Martin’s character despairingly in the definitive 90s wedding film, Father of the Bride, which most of you will know is funny, heart-warming, nostalgic and, actually, ridiculous at times because of scenes involving Franck, the flamboyant wedding planner with an accent of indeterminate origin. Thankfully, if you got engaged over the Christmas and New Year period (the most popular time of year for proposals), London has a rather less eccentric and much more confidence-inducing alternative to Franck and this man goes by the name of Bruce Russell.
After spending an hour in his company, we can confirm that Bruce is everything you’d hope a wedding planner would be; immaculately turned out, impeccably polite, extremely experienced in the wedding planning arena and, most importantly, he just gets ‘it’. He also only deals in superlatives - the prettiest, most beautiful, the best - so whether you’re an ‘over the top, luxurious, extravagant’ or ‘low-key, beautiful, elegant’ kind of couple, if you want your dream wedding to take shape before your very eyes, without having to stress over details and planning yourself, Bruce is your man.
What is your advice to anyone who just got engaged?
Have an honest discussion about what you both want, whether it's a particular venue, or type of entertainment, or time of year – decide what’s important to you. From there, you can have the conversation about what is a realistic budget. That’s the first thing you need to work around to be able to start the process. You don’t want to get halfway through and say – oh, we’ve spent all our money… Couples sometimes get so caught up in the emotion that they can forget to think rationally.
What are the key decisions early on, apart from budget?
Date, venue, and, ideally number of guests, because that can dictate the venue. So when, where, who!
What’s the ideal amount of time for planning a wedding?
We’ve done a week and we’ve done a year. It’s really about understanding how quick the couple is to make decisions, whether they need to save up for certain elements of the wedding, and that the shorter the timeframe, the fewer options you have. Is it realistic to think you’d like a June wedding in the South of France if you just got engaged? Chances are the venues will be booked. Although...we can make anything happen!
What personal details have you particularly loved?
For one couple, who had an outdoor garden at their venue, we created a tree hung with individual roses for each guest, which had a laser-cut leaf with their name and table number on it, in memory of the bride’s grandmother who was named Rose. All the girls in family have the middle name Rose too, and that kind of details comes from having conversations with the bride and groom, and getting to know them.
Do couples tend to come to you with a clear vision of their dream wedding?
It’s a mixture. Many of the couples don’t have time to think and they want us to provide sound-bites and threads for them to pick up and inspire them. They normally know what they don’t like! I try to understand why someone really wants something – they might love street food and vendors as a concept but if you’re in a London ballroom it doesn’t really work – and make sure that everything works together.
What are the main considerations for a destination wedding abroad?
Relinquishing control a little bit – if you’re having a panic moment at home, you can meet the supplier, but for a destination wedding, you can’t always do that. We manage the process – it can take people lots of time to come back to you – and it does involve pre-trips to the destination together to meet vendors, and check the ceremony is going to flow as you wish. Then there’s a clear visual understanding between everyone of what’s going to happen.
What are the common elements in the best weddings you’ve seen?
If a couple has a clear vision of what they want and it flows – and when they trust me to produce an almost theatrical production that flows seamlessly between acts. As long as people aren’t waiting for anything, we’re good! At the end of the day, it’s about the guest list – make sure you’ve got a great group of people. We can throw the most amazing party and celebration but the guests have to really feel that.
How do you handle last-minute requests?
At a recent wedding we did, the mother of groom approached me and said she wanted to do a surprise for the bride and groom, with ten days to go. By that point every moment of the day is planned and orchestrated to a tee. I suggested fireworks, as it was in a marquee with a clear roof, and she was set against it to start with, but I explained it and she loved the idea. Then I realised that the wedding was on Bonfire Night so finding someone to do it was a... challenge! But we did it, and it was incredible. We aim to make the process seamless from start to finish; it's about us understanding where to focus the budget, going above and beyond, and making sure it's just perfect!