First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Marc Wilson, a wedding expert who found his dream in sharing the vision of lovebirds all around the world. With years of design under his belt, Wilson founded MWD Lifestyles with a full-scale wedding and event planning and design service, a new product line and more. As much as he works with celebrities and corporate clients, he also caters to every day people who want a truly memorable experience.
Whether you’re newly engaged and checking out options for a wedding in the future, or you’re on a tight schedule and need a knight in shining armor to save your day, MWD has solutions for you. But what about budgets? As Marc Wilson tells us in this exclusive interview, you can get in some finance-friendly research and do-it-yourself time as you prep your walk down the aisle.
Read on for some insight on how Marc is expanding services in the U.S. and overseas, how legalizing gay marriage is opening minds and doors in his business, and more!
What was the inspiration for you to transition your company from event design into wedding planning and product development?
Marc Wilson: I think there were multiple reasons why I wanted to do that. When I first started the company many years ago…I come from textiles. I come from the home furnishing industry. While I was in that industry I worked in selling and developing home furnishings, textiles, curtains and, tablecloths, bed linings, mass market retail. I have that background. So when I initially started the company I thought that well what would be great segway into creating a lifestyle brand. I wanted Marc Wilson design to not be the focal point of the rebranding of my company.
In transitioning into doing a product line, I wanted my name to be taken away from that so I just used my initials. So MWD Lifestyles really represents the development of the last couple of years of me knowing that eventually I wanted to slowly create a lifestyle brand around what I do. So doing flowers, event design, event production and event planning kind of helped us move into that direction.
When the economy crashed in 2008, it gave us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves in a way that I knew would be advantageous for us and would help the company move forward in a modern time. The lifestyle brand was perfect timing. It was a horrible time; we lost over 75% of our business at that time, because a huge portion of our business was corporate and social. The social is what has kept us alive the last five years. Corporate now is starting to come back. The experiential marketing events we love doing and we’re really good at, those are starting to grow again.
I really wanted to infuse a new look and feel in the wedding business. There are a lot of young people out there and young competition, and it’s truly a buyer’s market when it comes to weddings and wedding planning.
What would you say are a couple of key qualities that would be required to get into the event planning business?
MW: I think one of the most important things as far as dealing with your clients, especially on the wedding side, is patience and being able to listen. It’s an evolution in terms of wedding and what a bride or groom may say they want in the initial conversation, but what they really want at the end of the day. I think listening is a key factor, and also being smart in terms of listening and asking the right questions based upon what they’re saying.
Also, trying to help lead them in the right direction because there are very few couples, brides in particular, who truly understand their own personal style right off the bat. Some people have the privilege of working with clients who do understand their style and the essence of what they want their special day to be, but most people it evolves through the course of the meetings and them feeling comfortable with you, and then sitting down in a second or third meeting, and start to hash out the concept, designs, style, look and feel of it and color palette. The color palette is huge.
I would tell people to listen, be very patient, and be attentive to the conversation that they are sharing. It’s your job. I think also what helped me personally was I had a corporate background, but I also was smart enough to go apprentice for a while with a number of event planning and event design teams throughout the city, and that was an invaluable experience for me and helping me understand what it was I wanted – and didn’t want – my company to be. It was really an invaluable period, and the growth in me understanding how I was going to develop a company.
We laugh in my office, because every day there’s a new planner out there. There’s a woman or man who says, “Oh I did my own wedding so now I’m going to be a planner.” So I’m like “Well you’re not really a planner.” People who are truly planners spend 24-7 of their lives working, and understand and coming up with concepts and developing resources to make sure it goes seamlessly. Being seamless and looking like it’s effortless is the hardest thing to do. We say in the studio “we never let them see you sweat and there’s never a problem” Even if there is one, we solve the problem, and we don’t exacerbate the problem.
Society puts so much pressure on women for this so called “special day” – some people really buy into it, and some have enough sense of themselves that they don’t. There are so many factors involved, so much stuff on TV, and everybody’s trying to tell you how to do your own wedding instead of listening to your heart.
Of course most people want to hire an expert, but not everyone has a huge budget to work with. What are some important tips you’d give someone for planning a memorable wedding on a budget?
· Get a good referral. No matter what your budget is, seek an established brand who has been in the industry for years.
· Allow for choices. A seasoned brand is well versed in different styles of weddings from bohemian chic to lux, LGBT to second time around. They have a wider range of ideas and may likely have solutions for couples looking for that unforgettable, life changing moment and have a dream wedding at a fraction of the cost.
· Style counts. Seek a wedding design team known for exemplary style that offers stylish solutions for unique needs.
· Flower power! Keep in mind that rare, imported flowers may have a very different price point than locally sourced, seasonal choices which can sometimes offer incredible value.
· Don’t be color blind. Choose your colors but be mindful of what is in season vs. the allotted. Here again is where seasonal flowers can play a huge part in creating a look, feel and style that suits the time of year. When designing your wedding white with an added pale shade of pink or blush is always a winner, but wonderful yellows and greens in summer or oranges, rust and red tones in the fall and winter are also seasonal favorites.
· Google is your friend. During the selection process, be sure to thoroughly research each brand by viewing their online galleries, websites, articles and social media outlets.
· Go for the Wow! Style doesn’t always reflect the cost of a wedding but don’t deprive your guests of the overall ‘wow’ factor. Choices should be well curated and don’t skimp on texture.
· Your happiness is key. Remember how freesia repulsed Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada? It’s helpful to take the time to embrace your likes and your dislikes to avoid having a lackluster event that invokes a grimace rather than a smile.
Now that gay marriage is being legalized in so many places, the weddings are being scheduled. Are there any particular differences you found with gay couples as opposed to straight couples in the way they plan their special day?
MW: I think there are many similarities, but I think some of the differences are that they know they are not a heterosexual couple. They know that there are two guys or two girls are more likely to walk down the aisle together. Where in a straight ceremony, the mother or father of the bride walks with them. Either the father or the mother or both of them.
With same-sex couples, there are no rules which actually makes it a lot of fun. I like that about them. There was one couple who wanted to do a reveal, and I thought that was a little fabulous. So instead of walking down, the drapes get pulled back, they’re both holding hands and they walk down the aisle together like as a reveal. Things like that are fun.
And the other thing is, same-sex couple aren’t interested in having a formal sit down dinner. They are looking for a celebration. A real celebration of their lives together so lots of lounges and café style looks are popular with gay and lesbian couples. For heterosexual couples it’s a formal dinner, and then they do an after party or maybe we’ll do a formal dinner sit down, and then there’s a lounge that’s built around the dance floor for them, so it’s all-encompassing things like that.
But on the same sex-side we have a lot of, “Let’s just make this a celebration of our lives. We’re joining together.” So it’s more of a casual, half night, big open bar with beautiful lounge furniture and stuff like that.
How much do you like reporting on the wedding scene as opposed to actually doing the planning?
MW: I guess that’s maybe a 50/50 question or answer. I like the writing and talking about it. The actual doing is another animal. [laughs]There’s no comparison to the actual doing. I think the writing is easier than the actual executing of a full scale planned wedding, because there are hundreds of variables and details that need to be considered and thought out and reconsidered and re-thought out. Then the alternative to that like “What happens if it rains?” We have to have a rain back up depending on if we’re doing something outside depending on the time of the year.
I guess I enjoy them both to a certain extent. They’re similar but different. Sometimes when I’m at a table writing by myself, it’s easier because it kind of flows because I’m thinking about all the variables – and it’s like I’m creating the timeline that is needed for that particular event. From the rehearsal dinner to the actual ceremony to getting them to the church on time. Getting them down the aisle if they are a little scared. [laughs]
There are so many things that are involved… and making sure that I have support staff. Like if one of the girls is with the bride and the bridesmaids and making sure that their dresses are done right, and that they’re all in line and their bouquets are correct. Then have one of the guys with the groom and the groomsmen and making sure all the boutineers are on and all the guys are brought down on time. There are so many minute details people don’t think about in the flow of the timeline.
What do like most about working with celebrities? What do you like most about working with regular people?
MW: that’s a really hard one. When we work with celebrities it’s never them in particularly, it’s the handlers who are difficult, never the clients. The handlers are the pains in the butt. But when we work with certain celebrities directly, I think they’ve done enough research on you to have suggested or given to you the job that they trust your creativity or experience; and I think having them trust us and entrusting our vision has always been a pleasure to me.
It’s been really lovely to hear, “You know what? I think you’re going to do a really beautiful job” – and maybe they’ll give me two to five bullet points they really want within the overall look of the event, and then they are good to go. So we then knock out our full presentation, present it to them including some of their bullet points in that context, and we get to move forward.
It’s never been too hard of a process with them, it’s only their handlers that start to get like nit-picky and stuff, but once I’m working with them directly it’s not so bad. It’s never stressful or pretentious, and there’s no expectations other than that the two of us together are going collaborate to create a really wonderful experience. I love that part. They’re just like you and me. They’re like “You know what? I really want to create a beautiful experience for my family and friends.” That’s what we do our best to do. There have been couples I’ve fallen in love with because they are such nice people in every sense of the word, really listened and trusted our opinions and really understood that they were hiring us as the experts to help pull their vision together. That level of respect, you can’t pay for that.
What do you see coming for your company in the next couple of years?
MW: I think that we’re really pushing our international business more. I opened a satellite office in DC about three years ago, and it’s finally bearing fruit. That part of our business is really important to me. The product line is a huge, important step for me. Being able to start to design product is something that I love doing. We’re really like a mini interior designing firm, even though our creations are temporary, when you look at our website and our level of work, I’m really creating environments and moments for people to experience. That product line in the upcoming next two years is an important aspect to try to grow the company.
What would you like to know most about you at this stage of your career and life?
MW: I think that one of the things that people should know is that I truly and wholeheartedly love the exchange that I get between the clients and myself. As I’m getting older, it’s all really about the simple things. It’s not all about the bells and whistles in my life. I kind of reflect that in my work a little bit now even more so. It’s about the understated elegance, subtle beautiful experiences, and tactile experiences. It’s the simple things in life that are more important than big flashy moments. I think that at the end of the day it’s really all about that for me – simple elegance, beautiful moments with friends.
People always think, “Oh my God, they’re inviting me to their house and it’s got to be perfect.” Look, you can throw some white bread and hot dogs on the table and I’d be fine. [laughs]I am not all that. The persona that’s kind of built around people like myself sometimes is a little bit more than who they actually are. I think that I’m very easy to relate to. There’s a level of comfort that the client and I get on that allows us to not only interact on a professional level, but also become friends, and I like that part. I think that’s a simple side of me that I like so much.