Marc Wilson, of MWD Lifestyles, is an event producer extraordinaire, overseeing corporate events, weddings, and social gatherings throughout the world.
In the following interview, Wilson shares some important do’s and don’ts for event planning, while imparting a little wisdom and guidance for anyone looking to host a big day.
1. Tell us a little about yourself:
I’ve been in NYC a little over 25 years, and started my career in textiles working in the home furnishings industry before transitioning into becoming a floral and event designer. When the textiles company I worked for was sold, I decided to recreate my life.
Flowers seemed like a natural transition to me, as I entertained clients during my corporate life by throwing events and parties. I apprenticed for a year and then started freelancing with some of the top designers here in Manhattan. It was an invaluable training ground that taught me how to create an event design and production company.
Now, 17 or so years later, I am fortunate enough to have grown and nurtured a full-scale event design and floral company with national and international capabilities, and to have given Weddings by MWD Lifestyles, my wedding brand, its own identity.
2. What sets your service apart from others?
Each event we shape and produce has a special touch we call the “wow factor,” which is influenced by my fine arts, textiles, and floral design background.
Also, after many years of being in the event design and floral business, one of the things our clients comment on the most is how I always show up for every event and make sure that it represents the client’s vision and the MWD Lifestyles brand.
3. What are the latest trends in event management? (For example, latest colors, coolest flowers, hippest destination venues, etc.)
Trends in event design, as in any design industry, are always changing and evolving. As soon as trends solidify, they quickly become out of fashion.
But for example, utilizing tech in your event is still a trend that will continue to grow for some time.
We like to look at the Pantone colors of the year for inspiration. For 2016, we’re looking, again, at earth tones and white is going to be very strong, as it has been in recent years in the wedding industry.
Phalaenopsis orchids have been strong in recent years, and they will continue to be a strong flower as they are showy.
As for destination events, Apulia in Southern Italy is an up and coming destination with beautiful scenery of the Mediterranean. We anticipate destination events will continue to be popular with the rise of independent brands and startups and also corporate wellness programs.
4. Can you provide any helpful dos and don’ts for anyone planning a group gathering or a wedding? (For example, never have shark fin soup on the menu, don’t have a 4-hour open bar…)
* Do have a budget – whether it is a starting budget or a final budget. It gives the planner a starting point for what they can or cannot provide.
* Do have at least some idea in terms of colors and direction for your planner to start creating a vision.
* Do always create a timeline of your event, start to finish time, and stick to it.
* Do have a tasting of your chosen menu.
* Do understand your vendors’ capabilities and limitations.
* Do make sure your guests are given a firm and clear acceptance date for attending, to avoid last minute RSVPs that you may not be able to accommodate.
* Do have a plan B. Always.
* Do make sure you have enough staff.
* Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you’re unsure of.
* Don’t get carried away with your budget.
* Don’t run the event on the cheap – well produced events cost money.
* Don’t forget to ask your guests if anyone has any dietary requirements.
* Don’t run out of food, drink, or samples.
* Don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
5. Are there any tricks of the trade that you can reveal? (For example, setting the thermostat at a certain level, songs that shouldn’t be played at an event, a simple way to seat feuding couples, etc.)
Lighting is everything – it creates the ambiance, the mood, the drama, and the elegance within an event space. Amber lighting makes everyone look great, which is so important. Red lighting can wash out guests, and blue lighting can make the room and guests look too cold.
6. What should people look for when hiring an event manager?
Their longevity in the industry, their reputation on the quality of their work, and their knowledge.
7. On average, how much should people spend to throw a respectable event? How much for a wedding reception? A social event like a birthday party or Bar/Bat Mitzvah? A corporate event? How much is too much?
Every event and every client, whether they be a social or corporate client, have varied goals and objectives. Social events such as birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and weddings can be viewed as emotional purchases; therefore the price hosts are willing to pay will differ greatly. Our experience with corporate clients is that they already have a set budget and you are asked to work within those parameters.
How much is too much? It all depends on the client. We’ve worked on a range of budgets from $25K to $250K. Lots can happen in the budget spectrum!
8. What was the strangest thing that happened at one of your events? How did you solve or resolve it?
A holiday event where a homeless person got in and started to steal food and put it in her bag. It touched us; when something like that happens, it really grabs undivided attention.
We gave her a complimentary take out dinner before she went on her way.
9. What would be your own dream event? Where would it be? How would you decorate it? Who would perform? What would the room and table settings look like?
A destination event set in either a Caribbean Island or the Amalfi coast in Italy. The décor would be light and airy, yet simple and elegant, accenting its surrounding with lots of candle lights. Who would perform? The iconic Tina Turner!
10. Lately it seems harder and harder to get people to attend events. Do you agree? If so, why is that? Facebook, laziness, complacency? And how do you get people to attend an event? How do you build buzz for it?
I don’t necessarily agree that it’s harder to get people to events because we haven’t met guests yet who dislike gratis food, drink and entertainment which is usually what our clients are providing their colleagues, friends and family. I think the key is creating a buzz through social networking and direct mail about your upcoming event that gets people interested in attending your event, i.e., giveaways and promotions.
11. We think people don’t like being surprised – whether it’s a birthday or a celebratory event. Do you agree? Do you tell potential clients that you think it’s a bad idea?
I don’t agree, I don’t think people don’t like being surprised. It’s all down to the individual. We’ve had events where we’ve assisted in planning a surprise and in our experience, most people enjoy that they can be surprised in this day and age. Being honored is for achievements is not an everyday occurrence and is still an enjoyable surprise.
12. If you had to choose, what’s been the best event that you’ve produced so far, and why? Please elaborate.
Our recent event on the 68th Floor of 4 World Trade Center, The Hirshhorn Museum’s 40th Anniversary Gala.
The Hirshhorn was such a special event for MWDL, because it gave us the opportunity to be really creative in terms of utilizing everyday products, such as white milk crates that created the “HIRSHHORN” name and transformed them into visually interesting, interactive pieces that guests could walk among and through.
The Hirshhorn special events team, as well, wanted a simple yet elegant look and feel, which again allowed us to get creative in coming up with a votive wall concept using 450 various sized square graphic sconces and LED votives. These elements allowed us to create WOW factors which are crucial in event design.
13. Is there anything you’d like to add, promote, or discuss?
Weddings by MWD Lifestyles, a branch of MWD Lifestyles, is a local, national, and destination full-scale event design, production, and planning company.
We collaborate with our wedding planning partners to conceptualize and implement all aspects of a wedding, from floral design, to invitations and menus, to custom designed fabrications.
We help coordinate performances, vendors, and staff, and manage transportation and logistics so you don’t have to, and if you’re looking to have the perfect destination wedding, look no further.
From overall design and decor to transportation and lodging logistics, from budget and vendor procurement management to coordinating guest activities, we believe our couples should fly free of worry.
We are glad to now be a member of the MunaLuchi Coterie and have exciting destination partnership announcements coming soon. For more information on our wedding planning services, please feel free to visit www.WeddingsbyMWDLifestyles.com or for more information on our social and corporate services, you can visit www.MWDLifestyles.com.
Lead-In Portrait of Marc Wilson Courtesy of Photographer Carla Ten Eyck