"Here comes my Montauk bride!" Ron Wendt interjected toward the end of our call, precisely when he said he'd need to go, just before thanking me graciously for my time and skeedadling off to show her some swatches. Known for planning and designing ultra high-end parties (for clients like Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Cartier, and J.P. Morgan), Wendt also works on a steady flow of weddings, many of which are the "larger estate, tent wedding, every girl's dream" variety that take place on sweeping lawns and gardens in the Hamptons. His words, but we all know the type.
While Wendt's team had suggested he provide some outdoor party planning tips, I wondered if those wouldn't quite translate to a backyard in Brooklyn (or middle America, or anywhere at all besides the Hamptons). What I wanted to know instead was, well, what exactly goes into planning a no-budget blowout of a wedding in New York City's most famous playground for socialites? And is there anything we could learn from it?
Wendt agreed to use the aforementioned tent wedding he's working on as a case study. Here are the six myths about big, blowout weddings that I learned from speaking with Wendt.
While on average, Wendt says, one might start planning a big Hamptons wedding anywhere from six to eight months in advance, starting a whole year out can actually make it even easier. "Once you start talking about flowers, in particular, or temperature, or the timing of the sunset, it's germane because you're in the season," he explains. "It's actually very informative." Figuring out, in July, which flowers will be around for your February wedding won't be quite as simple as going to the market.
The trends that Wendt is seeing, even in these big, high-end parties, often emphasize a greater consideration of the comfort of the guests. Brides and grooms want their tents to feel comfortable, "even, dare I say, residential, like an extension of their homes," so he finds himself calling in real furniture rather than just dining chairs.
The cost of a big Hamptons wedding might be somewhere in the realm of a jaw-dropping $1,000 to $1,500 per guest—so scaling up the guest list will obviously scale the price—but Wendt says that the details of the wedding, rather than its size alone, are where all the real expenses lie. "The last thing a bride wants anymore," he explains, "is to have materials that other brides have seen a lot." Finding flatware, stemware, and furnishings that aren't old news—and in many cases, purchasing those accessories rather than just relying on rentals—is the quickest way to blow a budget.
"The most expensive thing to do is to do something simply," Wendt recites, as if he's had to say it to many a frowning bride. "An example: There’s not a lot of rentals that you would describe as simple—but to find something that’s simple and tasteful and hasn’t been seen a thousand times?" New retailers will have to be sought out and brought in, creatively arranged, and, of course, bride-and-groom-approved.
One trend that Wendt says he's actually a fan of is brides and grooms wanting receptions of a completely different look and feel than the ceremonies themselves. On one hand, that requires "a whole new design project," but he says it's also sometimes the solution to the fact that the two people getting married don't always have the same vision or aesthetic in mind. "It's a new way to mitigate," he explains.
While a fancy wedding with a few hundred guests on the list might require "thousands" of flowers, the style of arrangements that are common has actually relaxed. "It’s no longer the big arrangement in the middle of the table," Wendt explains, "it’s more about creating a landscape across the table." When we host events in the office at Food52, we use the same guiding principle—so you can see across a table!—but I didn't realize it was an event-wide trend.
What I expected, speaking with Wendt, was to be a little shocked and appalled at the numbers (and to be fair, $1,500/head and thousands of flowers are stats that I find truly hard to grapple with). But what surprised me more was that the trends I’m seeing at far humbler weddings are not that far off from what’s going down and the fanciest fêtes: an emphasis on unique details, probably due to an overabundance of ideas on Pinterest; parties that are as comfortable and fun for your guests as they are for the couple; flowers that spread across a tabletop rather than towering above it.
The stars, of course, are not just like us, but the trends? They get to us all.