Ask an Expert: The Event Maestro

Photo: Brad Paris

David E. Monn

How many weddings do you do a year?
Of the 100 events we did this year, 12 were weddings.

Do you have any specific venue suggestions?
Most of the time, we create our own spaces. For one fall wedding, we built a solid-glass tent twenty feet in the air in the middle of this extraordinary field; sitting inside of it, you felt as if you were floating. I also love spaces like Skylight Studios because it’s a white box that has a lot of flexibility. I can turn it into an ultracontemporary space or something romantic and old-world.

What needs to be in place by the time a couple approaches their event designer?
For a David Monn production, picking the venue is not where you start. That is the old-fashioned way of doing things. What has to come first are the answers to these questions: What do you want your event to do? How do you want the event to flow? I steer my clients clear from multiuse spaces. Changing the ceremony area into the dinner area during cocktails never works. I don’t want guests to see where they’re going to have dinner until they’ve gone into that space, and I want their breath taken away.

How do you guide your clients in terms of music?
You want to be inclusive, but true to who you are. Recently, I had a bride who was adamant about wanting to just dance, dance, dance. It was a big wedding and half the people were her parents’ friends. No one her parents’ age wants to dance all night; even when they say they want to get crazy, they don’t. I couldn’t persuade the bride, so we had an amazing band and D.J., but half the guests were shouting across the room to hear one another. The bride realized the mistake, and we changed gears very quickly.

What do you disapprove of?
I’ll never do a napkin ring. Ever. I would probably never do a wooden dance floor or chair covers or bows on anything. Bows are for packages. If you have monogrammed napkins, it’s because you would have them at home; but monogrammed-this and monogrammed-that is ridiculous. Your guests know where they are; they don’t need signage.

Surely videographers make you cringe.
Actually I am a big fan as long as they aren’t visible. Also, I always have a minimum of three photographers capturing different moments at different times.

What’s perfect timing?
No one is interested in being at any party for longer than three hours. Period. Cocktails are always 45 minutes to one hour. Also, speeches should be no more than three minutes each. No more than four people should speak at a wedding. Two fathers, a groom, and a best man. That’s it.

How would you throw a wedding-scale celebration for yourself?
It would be in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, in April, in a glass tent, in the center of the cherry alley. I would have 110 members of the St. Luke’s orchestra, like in the party scene in the ending of Meet Joe Black. Well, that was a 60-piece orchestra. For me, the ratio would be 110 guests to 110 orchestra members.

Where do you get all your ideas?
My imagination. What people consider art today does not move any of us; we just scratch our heads and say, “I don’t get it.” The true fine art that we have is in the making of these romantic experiences.

Each of Monn’s events is a sensory journey that unfolds in a particular order, starting with the all-important sense of smell. For his first Met Costume Institute Gala, he used 7,000 gardenias; the following year, he re-created the olfactory magic of an English garden by spraying a customized white hyacinth fragrance throughout the event space. To bring back memories of your big day, ask a nose at CB I Hate Perfume Gallery to blend a personalized scent based on your bouquet (from $250).


Ask an Expert: The Event Maestro