We are delighted to share with a wonderful and insightful interview with Joe Blackman, CEO, of Collection 26 on how they create stylish luxury weddings.
Collection 26 are much more than wedding planners. They plan timeless weddings with a beauty that is centered around the experience of their couples and their guests. They plan the couples journey, by combining art, style and design with exceptional technical and production expertise to produce stylish weddings like no other.
5 Star Weddings: What significant changes have you experienced in the wedding industry over the past decade?
Joe Blackman: Wedding planning is certainly becoming taken more seriously as a profession, rather than as a hobby. This has always been the case in other countries, like the US, but until recently, the industry lacked people entering with professional event management experience behind them.
One of the reason’s Collection 26 is unique as a wedding and events planner is that we have not only a professional planning team, but also in-house designers to work on the conceptual design of weddings. Styling of weddings has also changed dramatically over the past decade.
I think people are far more likely to dare to be different, to perhaps modernise the more traditional wedding ceremony and change the traditional format of how a wedding always has been – and that’s the same through many ceremony types, from Asian weddings through to more traditional Church ceremonies.
5 Star Weddings: Do you find big celebrity weddings influence what your clients are looking for from the design of their special day?
Joe Blackman: It’s actually quite rare a couple comes to us with a celebrity wedding as inspiration – as I think even when people are inspired by another wedding, they still really want to make it their own, and we would always encourage this.
People do use inspiration from other people’s wedding in general though, and there are some fantastic blog’s and websites full of ideas and inspiration to help people along the way.
5 Star Weddings: Why do people come to you to plan their wedding?
Joe Blackman: People who work with us usually have larger budgets which allow us to fully use the experience of our creative team to produce stunning, unique weddings like no other. We are highly experienced in marquee weddings, production, entertainment sourcing – and our weddings are often highly complex with many different things to plan, organise and consider that our clients would not be able to achieve themselves.
5 Star Weddings: Can you tell us about one of your favourite weddings?
Joe Blackman: We produced an absolutely stunning wedding last year in a marquee, where we were able to be really creative – and that challenged our planning skills. The wedding was in a large 15M x 70M marquee.
As guests arrived, they were greeted by valet parking staff underneath a beautiful marquee pagoda, to walk down to a lantern-lined walkway through to a reception in the garden.
As guests made their way into the outside terrace, overlooking a lake, large abundant arrangements of delphinium filled the area, with clean white seating. As guests moved inside through to dining, we created a bespoke duel level dining area, and the dining room was all black – which is extremely rare in a wedding, but gave a really modern impactful feel that the couple absolutely loved.
We built bespoke toilets inside the marquee, which were exactly like you would find in your home, and the dancing area was ultra modern, with mezzanine areas containing designer furnishings and a panoramic window looking out over the house grounds, it really was stunning. However, the thing that made it my favourite, were the clients – they were such wonderful people, and made the whole process enjoyable from start to finish, and they still remain friends to date.
5 Star Weddings: What would you say is one of the most important factors for getting the mood at the evening party right?
Joe Blackman: One of the most important things to think about, is how you make the evening a theatrical, evolving experience. You need to look at how the entertainment fits in, when it starts, and what type of atmosphere you want to create.
The evening area needs to look visually stunning, which is a combination of how you use design through furniture, floristry, lighting and other mediums to make the space come alive, and also make it feel comfortable for guests.
5 Star Weddings: What do you find particularly challenging when planning a client’s wedding?
Joe Blackman: I would say managing expectations is one of the hardest jobs a wedding planner has to contend with. There really are so many wonderful ideas and inspirations that are available freely on the internet, and on social media and blogging sites.
Sometimes people can set their hearts on ideas and concepts that don’t match people’s budgets – and it’s always hard to tell people they may not be able to have what they want within their budget. There is always a solution though, you can be creative on less money, it’s just a matter of prioritising where the best value for people’s money comes from, and focusing spend on those areas.
5 Star Weddings: What is one of the biggest misconception people have of wedding design agencies such as yourself?
Joe Blackman: I think sometimes people underestimate the amount of work we have to do, and the amount of technical skill that is required on producing a larger more complex wedding. When we are looking at marquee jobs, we are looking at floristry, catering, bar, structure types, internal marquee linings, generators and power requirements, security, vehicle trackway for grass, toilet cleansing, arranging HGV lorries and logistics, installing drapery, furniture…. We then have all the paperwork, production schedules, planning timelines, budgets, health and safety and risk assessments, delivery schedules and other planning documentation to produce to ensure the wedding runs smoothly. It’s a big job!
5 Star Weddings: How do you make sure the couples personality and style is reflected in the design of the day rather than your own?
Joe Blackman: The key is to listen. During our very first planning meeting, we find out everything about a couple, their hobbies, interests, fashion style, music taste. We always feel through understanding as much as possible about our clients we are better able to try and draw out their style.
We then take clients ideas, absorb everything they want and looking for, and then use our advice and experience to help channel their ideas to be coherent and cohesive – ensuring they consider all aspects surrounding their ideas, and we bring our own ideas to the table too which may complement the style of the day. We use mood-boards a lot to try and illustrate suggestions, and to visually show a style or scheme which we are planning to use throughout a wedding.
5 Star Weddings: What advice would you give to brides who are starting to plan their own wedding?
Joe Blackman: If you don’t feel that a wedding planner is affordable and you are looking to plan the wedding yourself, the most important thing we always tell people to do is budget properly, at the outset, for the wedding – and set your expectations to what you can afford. This ensures from the very beginning you are absolutely clear on everything that you want and your expectations are set correctly.
Once you have done this, then you can start to think about the experience for guests, how you can orchestrate a journey for them throughout the day and how the story unfolds. This comes by thinking about how the day unfolds, minute by minute, what do people see, feel, experience, hear – think about all of your senses and how you can bring in different elements to the wedding to invoke them.