Photo by Thuss + Farrell
Award-winning wedding planner and author Matthew Robbins will speak at this year's Artful Wedding show, hosted by Richmond Bride on June 24 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Register for the event here . We sat down to talk about his amazing events, his work with Martha Stewart on her wedding and lifestyle publications and TV show, and the wedding trends he is seeing now.
RB: One thing I noticed on your website was your use of long tables. Is that because brides and grooms requested them, or was that your idea?
MR: It's a mix of both; I tend to promote them with my clients because I like trying to make a room feel like a really beautiful dinner party instead of just a crazy, over-the-top wedding. We attract those clients that like that look, like the most fabulous dinner party you've ever thrown. The long tables tend to work well with that kind of thing.
RB: What about some of the elaborate altars? You have so many different kinds of altars, often with flowers or streams of cloth, even inside churches. Do you have to get special permission from churches?
MR: It varies from sanctuary to sanctuary. Some have very tight rules, and others are more flexible if you give them a lot of lead-time. In one church recently, they had hooks along the ceiling on the sides, and they had these hanging plant baskets, so we had them removed and hung these beautiful floral arrangements, which led your eye up to what was happening at the altar.
RB: What are some of the color trends that you're seeing?
MR: It's a little all over the map, but what I see people doing a lot of is using color again —I think people were a little afraid of using color for a while. Pastels are really popular, really muted pastels, almost vintage pastel palettes. So, it's a pink, but they add a little gray to the pink to mute it. That, and a lot of intense color is coming back: orange and green, or orange and white, so there's a lot of contrast.
RB: Are most of the weddings you do in New York, or do you go farther?
MR: They're everywhere. I just got back from California, and I'm going to Denver in a week. Sometimes out of the country, depending on the client, Italy or the Caribbean.
RB: Do you see differences geographically of what people are willing to do?
MR: Yeah, the trends are really different on the different coasts. When I go out to California, it's amazing how different the market is from the East Coast. On the West Coast, people are very much loving the kind of super-rustic, chic, vintage, eclectic, all of that wonderful stuff. Whereas on the East Coast, people have suddenly moved away from that. They've moved to classic, old-school, black-tie — less of the whimsical, vintage stuff.
RB: One of the pictures on your website that really made my eyes pop out was the bride who had her bridesmaids wear white.
MR: That's a huge trend these days. I see it a lot.
RB: Do you do many weddings here in the South?
MR: We have had a handful. I've worked down at the Greenbrier [in West Virginia] several times; that's an awesome place, as you know. What I love about the South is the natural environment; it's so lush. People are willing sometimes to have a little more fun with design, going more casual and less fussy. Of course, there's a lot of classic, old-school stuff that happens down South as well. I would personally like to work in the South more. I miss it.
RB: Are you from the South originally?
MR: I am. I have family all over the Carolinas; my parents are in Florida. My grandmother's from Virginia. I definitely have Southern roots.
RB: How do you keep brides' anxiety from affecting you and your work?
MR: Our job is usually focused on keeping everyone else calm. I just think you have to have the type of personality and constitution that allows you to deal with a lot of drama and deal with it well. I'm a very even person and very patient. I think patience is key in this business. Normally, if the stress gets high, I try to refocus and remind myself what the goals are, and the goals are for the day to be magical and the client to be thrilled and happy. And to not focus on all the things that can go wrong.
Like in California recently, the entire wedding we were doing had to be reinvented in two days because the weather went really nasty. And the poor bride, I thought she was going to have a meltdown, but then when she saw how positively I was approaching it — you know what, this gives you the chance to blow your guests away with things we never could have done before because now we're indoors.
If you can keep that spin on it and always remind people there's a bigger picture. Yes, it's your day, but it's also about a lot of people, too. It's about your friends, your family, your history, your guests. Just try to remember it's not all about you.
RB: What's the most outlandish thing you've done for a wedding reception?
MR: One was in a cave, a series of caves in Italy. That was pretty awesome. We had tables set up down these dark corridors and had a piano moved into the cave for music. It was insane but really cool.
RB: That's nuts. [Laughter]
MR: And then we had a tunnel in Mexico. Normally it's like a tunnel passage that leads onto the property, but we turned it into a dining room, so it was one long table for 150 people. It was so cool.
RB: You must have had to get a lot of lanterns.
MR: Yes! Lanterns, and we had carpet running under the length of the table.
RB: Most of our brides have a budget, but what do you think is the most important thing to splurge on or make sure it's done all the way?
MR: I feel like, when you're looking at your budget, there are so many places where you can cut. Where do I start? Remember that you're inviting a lot of people, and you're hosting an event, so as much as you want to spend all your money on your gown, remember you need to take care of all these people who have traveled or spent the day with you.
I always say, A: Don't skimp on the food, and B: Don't skimp on the music. And if you can, try not to skimp on the décor. But it can be budget décor. If you do something on the inexpensive side of things, make sure you're doing it right. If you're doing bowls of fruit for centerpieces, take it to the level where it looks great. Don't do five pears on a tray, but do a beautiful big bowl of pears. Anything can be beautiful when you take it to the right place.
RB: I have to ask you about Martha Stewart. Was there anything about her that was really surprising to you when you started?
MR: She has a really fun sense of humor. I always saw her as a very serious person, and I never would have guessed that she had this really crazy, wild sense of humor. That was good for me, because I learned that someone that successful, that powerful, can still be insanely light-hearted and fun, and nobody ever sees that side.
The other thing that was great about her is to see that she actually follows through with things people say about her. It's true that she's insanely detailed, and it's true that if she has somebody on her show, let's say, that has built the coolest fountain for your garden, she'll actually learn how that thing is put together. She's one of the most curious people I've ever met. She actually lives what she preaches.
She loves a good party; she loves a good joke.
RB: What's something that you'd like to do that you haven't been asked to do for a wedding?
MR: I've been craving going somewhere in the Far East or the Middle East, or go to Japan or even China and do something over there.