Bride Club ME Meets World Renowned Celebrity Wedding Planner Preston Bailey
Oprah Winfrey, Melissa Rivers, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones are just a few of the A-list names that world-renowned celebrity wedding planner, Preston Bailey, has created exquisite events for. Recently named as one of the best wedding designers in the world by Vogue Magazine, Preston has been globally-celebrated for his unique ability to transform ordinary spaces into stunning, theatrical environments, and last month we had the honour of meeting the man himself. BCME Founder, Rhiannon, and BCME Contributor, Peta, got to spend some one-on-one time with this wedding industry legend to ask him the burning questions that we all want to know the answers to, and we’re thrilled to report, Mr. Preston Bailey is just as charismatic, fabulous and beautifully honest as we were hoping for!
Read on to find out about Preston’s design process, his advice for aspiring wedding planners and how he became Hollywood’s go-to man for weddings and events.
♡ What are your thoughts on Dubai?
Dubai is obviously a great destination, everybody knows about Dubai!! It’s interesting because I get calls from clients in America thinking about having their wedding in Dubai, so obviously as a wedding destination it’s very prominent. With that said, it does seem to be a little bit overwhelming with so many options and so much happening. But overall with what I’ve been exposed to its good quality.
♡ Have you ever planned a wedding in Dubai or the Middle East?
In Dubai no, but in the Middle East I have planned weddings in many countries. I’ve done a couple of weddings in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We are actually currently planning a wedding in Doha.
♡ Are you aware of the influence you’ve had on wedding planners here in Dubai?
Am I aware of it…Actually, no!! I am surprised.
♡ Dubai is an extremely popular destination for Indian Weddings. With that in mind, we have a question from one of your biggest Bride Clubber fans – If someone gave you a blank canvas and a blank cheque to plan a 3-day Indian Wedding, what would you do?
Oh my god how much time do you have!? First of all, I dream of that day, that somebody actually comes and says you have three days and a blank cheque to do whatever you need to do. Oh my God, I can’t wait for that, please god send me that tomorrow!! First, I would find a location that is completely empty and just build a city, literally build a city and take it from there. I would want a blank canvas to build my own venue and start from scratch. We love empty spaces to build from and transform.
♡ What first inspired you to be become a wedding planner extraordinaire?
I needed a job. It’s that simple. I wish I could say I planned it, but no, I needed a job and eventually I was led into this world. Basically, I don’t know how to do anything else, so it’s very simple.
♡ Can you pin point your first ‘big break’ into the wedding industry?
Yes absolutely. Years ago, I did Joan Rivers’s daughter’s wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and we did a Russian theme. Joan helped put me on the map, calling on Oprah and opening a lot of doors for me. When her daughter was getting married, she was shopping around and luckily enough whenever she walked into my office, we nailed it. My first book also opened up a lot of opportunities. Between the two of these things, that’s when things really got going for me in the late 90’s.
♡ We’ve watched your fabulous Pillow Talk series and we know how you’ve faced many challenges in your career. What would you say was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
PRICING. And I haven’t overcome it yet! That’s one of the biggest challenges. A big part of our business is sales and learning how to communicate to clients precisely and helping them to understand, and showing them, that they’re getting value. That is the big challenge. To be able to convey to them; listen, not only is it worth the spend but the experience that you’re creating is valuable because I’m giving you these options that are different and unique. A lot of it is sales and each client is completely different with different expectations and a different point of view on spending. No two clients are the same.
♡ How do you keep on the cusp of the latest wedding trends?
I don’t. Once in a while I see some work that I think is so amazing or other designers that I’ve worked with that are so incredible and it’s wonderful to see what I think is a different point of view. Remember, considering I’ve been in the business for a very long time, I’m looking with a different eye to most people, because options that people think are brand new, for me it might not be.
♡ Can you tell us a little bit about your design process?
Usually we meet the client and we have a wonderful meeting. Once we decide to work with each other, they trust and feel that we can certainly give them want they want, we will then ask them for a save the date to make sure we are available. The next step is we have two presentations. The first presentation is all the renderings and images, you know I LOVE designing so the idea of presenting different options is very attractive to me. Once they chose what they like, we then have a second presentation where we set up tables and show them in more detail what they’re getting. Then we send them an estimate, we negotiate, and we then ask for half of the amount as a deposit and the remaining balance is due one month before the event.
♡ What are your thoughts on setting trends and doing things that no one else is doing? And what words of advice would you give to help planners get out of their comfort zone?
It’s easier said than done. We’re all out there wanting to create something completely different, but if you really think about it, it’s the client that’s the one that’s deciding that. We could come up with something really different and incredible but as we sell it to the client and they don’t react to it, you’ve lost. So, it’s really a hit and miss venture. And it’s a trial and error venture. That’s why I usually present many designs, give them almost like a shopping list and hopefully they’ll say, ‘oh I kind of like that!’ We all want to do something different but it’s very challenging. The only advice that I have, is giving as many choices as possible and hopefully someone will relate to one of them.
♡ What’s the most unusual request you’ve ever received from a Bride or couple?
Years ago, I had a wedding that was planned in a destination island and all of the guests were invited to go the wedding, but they didn’t know it was a wedding and once they were on the flight the wedding happened! And then once they all landed on the island, it was the party. It was a small wedding for around 30 people and the couple had rented a private plane in order to make this happen which I thought was super cool. None of the guests knew they were even engaged, so that was a wonderful surprise. Another unusual situation was this couple where their parents were fighting and both of them had huge families, so to avoid this they came to New York city and we did a wedding for the two of them only with a twenty-piece band, catering, everything and they taped it all and then had a party later where they showed the tape. They loved it and had a great time.
♡ Have you ever had to plan a wedding or event that you didn’t want to?
I’m in business. Nope, nope, nope! I’m in business and I do not turn away business.
♡ How do you educate your clients, that professional designer services come at a premium?
The first thing that I do is walk them through the process and show them different images. Sometimes I will even say this event cost this much, this one cost this much and it cost this much because we did this, and this and this etc. It’s a matter of really showing them and teaching them visually. I think that’s the best way of doing it.
♡ What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received throughout your incredible career?
Preston value yourself and charge what you deserve.
♡ What’s your number one tip for couples out there currently in the process of planning their big day?
Just be very clear in their expectations. A lot of clients see what’s out there, but they really don’t understand the level of what goes into it. Everybody comes in with big expectations and I think they should educate themselves a little bit better.
♡ How do you identify that a couple is not right for you and do you turn them away if you feel it’s not a good fit?
Yes. I am very careful in how I do this, considering nobody wants to hear ‘you’re not right for me’ etc. I am usually really gracious about it and just say, listen I would certainly like to recommend someone that I think would fit within your budget, but I will give you my cell phone number and you can call me throughout your wedding if you have any questions or concerns and I’d love to give you advice. You know it has to be handled really carefully. Nobody wants to hear in the lead up to their big day that they’re not good enough, or they’re being turned down. So, I try to handle that very carefully. And I tend to find by giving them my number and giving advice is the best way of doing it.
♡ We love your saying, ‘If you make enough mistakes, you might just become an expert.’ But if you could give one piece of advice for aspiring wedding planners out there, what would it be?
Not to follow trends. I think one of the biggest problems we have is that everybody is following trends and doing the same thing. I know it’s sounds a little bit redundant, but I think it’s a very important point that as they start their journey, instead of looking out, they look within to see exactly what they have to offer. Instead of looking at other people and then deciding what they want to follow. The work of truly developing a character or personality or a design point of view is not easy, it’s hard work but it’s a very valuable one. It’s very necessary, I think.
So, there you have it Bride Clubbers, from the wedding guru himself – Don’t follow trends, always be working on your pricing and KNOW YOUR WORTH.