"We never say no to a client. We always make it happen."
How important is it to have a wedding planner?
Bronson and Mimi van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck
- Photo by Brad Paris
It's important to the degree that things happening on an exact schedule are important to you. Some people want the ceremony to finish and the guests to turn around and find sixteen waiters in a line, each with a tray of signature cocktails, the recipe for which was developed for this particular event. That kind of precision is fabulous; it's dramatic. But is it necessary for it to be a great party? No, of course not.
How does a bride decide that she's the type who needs a planner?
I think she already knows. It's for the people who dream of having a party where every detail is perfect. But perfection is so subjective. You can have a buffet, and it can be the most generous Tuscan feast, just full of graciousness. And ultimately, that's what a party is about. It's about cocooning your guests in grace and hospitality. In some ways, I think when you're having a party, you're offering people the opportunity to return to the womb. You're giving them a sensory experience that is modulated to be only pleasing; you're providing them with physical, social, and emotional sustenance, and a safe environment where they can let their guard down, develop relationships, and interact on a stage where they don't have to worry about the reaction of the audience.
You're saying it's all about the guests. Isn't your wedding supposed to be about you?
Weddings are two things. There's the sacred and the profane. The sacred is the ceremony, the joining of two people's lives, their families, their worlds. That part is all about the couple. After that, it's theater.
How does a wedding reception differ from other kinds of parties?
Ultimately, it needs to be looked at as the same thing. The wonderful wedding receptions that people remember are the ones where the hosts treated it like the most fabulous party that they were ever going to throw in their entire lives, with—and this is the most important part—the people who are most important to them.
What, specifically, takes the fun out of wedding receptions?
Being formulaic. It's like, "Okay, this is a wedding. We'll have the ceremony and then cocktails, then we'll call dinner and have the first dance, followed by the cake-cutting." It becomes all about performing six hours of rituals. As far as I'm concerned, the rituals occur during the service. If you don't like wedding cake, don't have a wedding cake. Know what I mean? You make meticulous time lines for the day of. Do you stick to them? The time line is a guiding document. Every single thing will happen differently. If you have a good person working, he'll know how to deviate from the plan.
How many weddings do you do a year?
We really limit ourselves. If we've done ten in a year, that's a lot. It's a huge commitment, and we take it very seriously. You're getting involved with the most important day of somebody's life—to date, anyway—and you have to respect that commitment all the way through the process.
How should a bride determine her budget?
There's no formula. The most important thing is to never go into debt for your wedding. No party is worth that.
What are some specific cost-cutting strategies?
Get a band that's versatile enough that you can have a few players doing atmosphere music during cocktails and strings playing during your ceremony. Try to find a venue that is self-catering and that has glassware and a kitchen. With the flowers, stay in season. And rather than have big traditional arrangements, float flowers in water or submerge them. Keep the guest list small. That's obvious, right? Every guest is more wine, more tables, more chairs, more everything.
What should the couple expect you to do for them on the day of?
If they're coming to us, on the day of, they should worry about how great they're going to look and how much fun they're going to have with their family and friends. And that's about it. If you're coming to a company like ours, what you should expect is to have a wonderful day.
224 W. 30th St., nr. Seventh Ave., thirteenth fl.; 212-675-8601; vanwyck.net.
From the Winter 2006 New York Wedding Guide