Interview with leading Wedding Planner Bruce Russell
Bruce Russell is a leading figure in the wedding industry, with over 18 years experience in the world of events there is nothing he doesn’t know about planning the perfect wedding. His illustrious career has included dedicated tenures with world-famous locations The Plaza, New York and The Savoy, London, and he has not one but two successful Bridal based business, By Bruce Russell and The Bridal Room. One of The Wedding Journal’s most favourite people, we took some time from his precious schedule to find out more about a day in the life of Bruce Russell and what it was like to plan his own wedding…
Have you always worked in the wedding industry?
I haven’t – in fact, I actually studied to become a school teacher at university. But looking back I can see that hospitality has always been a real passion and it is perhaps inevitable that I have spent so many years immersed in this sector.
It was only when I took a casual summer job working for a hotel company that I became inspired to change track and embark on what has so far been a 15 year career working in the hospitality industry – across sales, marketing and events. Although I wasn’t planning weddings per se during this time, they were always events that, privately, I really enjoyed attending and being a part of – they’re just the most personal of events, embracing so many different details. As a favour, I planned my very first wedding some ten years previously for a dear friend back in our home town in Canada, though it was many years later that I took on the challenge of planning them professionally.
It’s also been a great platform to building my own business, first with By Bruce Russell and more recently with The Bridal Room, too.
What is the most elaborate wedding you have ever planned?
Ironically the most elaborate wedding I have planned to-date was actually undertaken at relatively short notice. We only had six weeks to plan the entire event and it was a truly international affair! We had guests jetting in from all four corners of the globe, the wine was imported from the family’s private cellar in Brussels, the diverse portfolio of musical performers hailed from Israel, Ukraine and Moscow and we hired a superstar French DJ who flew in for just three hours. All in all there were over 25 suppliers and a very small, twelve hour window to set the whole thing up. Some would see it as a heart-stoppingly stressful exercise and it was quite the logistical production, but the satisfaction that one feels from seeing guests enjoy a perfect production, the bride seeing precisely what she had dreamed of for her special day and the whole wedding a true celebration of the couple’s extraordinary love made it all worthwhile.
What is the worst thing that has ever gone wrong?
I always take plenty of precautions to mitigate against problems and where possible have at least one contingency in place – after all, that’s a key part of the planning process – so thankfully very little has gone really wrong over the years. That said, we almost had to relocate an entire wedding to a completely different venue due to an unplanned power cut – we’d had all our suppliers (think florists, production, cake makers) setting up in pitch darkness whilst my mind was racing to come up with a solution should the illuminations not return. For a while, it felt a little like I was on board the Titanic, but with luck and a following wind it all came right in the end and the power was restored in the nick of time!
Did you enjoy planning your own wedding?
You know, the truth is I really did and as I was only embarking on my career as a wedding planner at this point, I took it as a hugely valuable learning curve and one which I think has informed how I handle other couples’ weddings to this day.
I actually tackled the planning process as I would a client’s wedding and at times I made myself take a step back from my own personal feelings to look at the day from a more objective perspective which really helped with some of the practicalities and ensure it was a day to remember for both my partner and I as well as our assembled friends and family.
What was most important to you on your wedding day?
As I always say to my clients, a wedding day is a time to celebrate what it is that really makes the couple – it should be a reflection of them and I was really keen for our day to be just that, whilst offering our guests a memorable and hugely enjoyable experience at the same time.
Where did the idea of ‘The Bridal Room’ come from?
I’ve never wanted to restrict myself to using a very limited number of suppliers, but rather focus on marrying couples to the very best partner for their own specific requirements. I felt that with more and more couples adopting a more autonomous approach to the planning process, even if they had engaged a professional planner to handle the lion’s share of the work, it was a source of frustration that there wasn’t a platform that showcased the best of the best from the luxury bridal sector.
I shared my thoughts with a dear friend and trusted colleague Jo James, who is a leading light in the world of marketing and branding. Over a three day business trip to the Maldives we’d sketched out the bare bones for the project and by the time we flew back to the UK we knew that we were on to something special and our exciting new partnership was born.
We hope that we will transform the luxury wedding market, simplify the wedding planning process and satisfy couples with an unrelenting pursuit for perfection by offering unique sourced and carefully curated products, destinations and experiences that unlock the world of bridal elegance.
If you could plan a wedding with no restrictions, what would it be like and why?
This is every planner’s dream! For me, I think I would want to offer a week of unforgettable experiences – an assault on all the senses taking in a number of different destinations to offer the most memorable of celebrations. There would be a fantastic attention to detail with the emphasis on creating truly personal experiences for each individual guest. A real wedding to remember.
Explain a day in the life of Bruce Russell …..
More like a life in the day! I try to rise early – normally at around 5am – to leave my Hampshire home and head into London ahead of the rush hour. The drive often gives me time to order my thoughts ahead of an inevitably busy day ahead. Usually I am immersed in meetings, either with clients, suppliers or my team at The Savoy, from the minute I arrive until I head back in the car at the end of the day. My feet barely seem to touch the floor and things like a leisurely lunch or simply time spent at my desk are a rare luxury.
Evenings tend to be spent either at industry functions – we are a close knit community in the bridal industry and it’s important to catch up with colleagues, support common causes and ensure that I have my finger on the pulse of the latest developments within the sector. Otherwise, I tend to head home where I finally get to catch up on my emails.
Where possible, I try and clear my head at the end of the day with a restorative dip in the pool at the Four Seasons in Hampshire, which is handily located a stone’s throw from my house. It’s invigorating and a great way to unwind.
Your life revolves around weddings, what do you do in your spare time?
What spare time? I often get so immersed in planning a wedding that it can be difficult to switch off. That said, laps in the cool waters of the Four Seasons Hampshire are a great way to unwind. I also can quite happily become ensconced in a gripping TV mystery or drama series for the ultimate escapism.
Not a million miles from my ‘day job’, I also find hosting friends and family very therapeutic and we tend to have plenty of guests. Otherwise, there’s always the temptation to plan an exotic holiday or engage in some retail therapy for some much needed ‘me’ time!
If you weren’t a wedding planner what would you be and why?
I think that hospitality is my destiny and I can’t really imagine working in any other area. So, if I weren’t planning weddings specifically, I like to think that I might have a small boutique hotel or villa in a stunning, tropical location where I could play host to some fabulous guests! You never know, it may just happen one day.