Image: John Nassari
I first met high-end W-day planner, and ‘wedding whizz kid’ Bruce Russell last September at the launch of his latest project, The Bridal Room, Britain’s first ever online luxury bridal destination. I was bowled over by his ideas, creativity and charm, and we have since connected many times, at the Wedding Blog Awards and Brides The Show; over breakfast in Marylebone, and through his work at London’s iconic Savoy where he is the hotel’s resident wedding expert.
Being quite the ‘wedding entrepreneur’, I wanted to get the inside scoop on Bruce, and find out about the man behind the brand. I discovered that he treasures his end-of-day swims at The Four Seasons Hampshire, he greatly admires Anna Wintour, Hilary Clinton and The Duke of Cambridge, and that being over the top à la Kim and Kanye can sometimes be just fabulous! Let’s get the full story…
Images left to right: Amara / John Nassari
So Bruce, what’s the ‘Bruce Russell’ story? How did you build up your business, and what made you become a wedding planner in the first place?
I have always wanted to build a business – and a brand – working in the events sector, but from a very personal perspective. Given my love of the bridal industry, this naturally led to weddings, the By Bruce Russell brand and, ultimately, the launch of The Bridal Room.
The Bridal Room is a partnership with my good friend – global luxury brand and marketing specialist – Jo James, who has a great deal of experience in the travel, hospitality, events and bridal industries. The two of us met during our time working at COMO Hotels and Resorts, and it was during a business trip to Cocoa Island in the Maldives that ‘By Bruce Russell’ and this exciting new venture were first discussed. Serenaded by the sounds of the Indian Ocean we scoped out the bare bones for the project on paper napkins – international entrepreneurialism at its best!
Having noticed a gap in the industry as to how top London venues managed their wedding clients, I approached The Savoy with a proposal to manage their wedding enquiries. This ultimately led to the ‘By Bruce Russell’ brand and the growth of a brilliant team at The Savoy that I still manage today.
The Savoy partnership has undoubtedly helped raise my profile in the industry and led me to work with some of the industry’s best suppliers, experts, artists and craftsmen — most of which form part of The Bridal Room. From my early days at The Savoy, the ‘By Bruce Russell’ brand has expanded internationally and I am delighted to have a wide-reaching global client base.
Do you have a signature aesthetic or personal style that you put into the weddings you’ve planned?
I think what I bring to every wedding is a sense of uniqueness and very personal approach which allows the couple’s vision and personalities to be visible in the detail. After all, it is their day; not mine! The structure and organisation I put into each wedding makes everything look seamless and effortless — this, I think, is the crux of my signature style.
Images clockwise from top: John Nassari / Steve Poole / Jez Dickson Photography
How do you get the ideas out of brides so that they describe to you effectively their vision for their wedding day?
It’s about linking all the details together: their likes and dislikes, how they dress, who they are as a couple and the activities they enjoy. I gather all these elements and piece together a general concept which we then fine tune together. It’s a process!
What is a ‘regular’ day for Bruce Russell like?
No two days are alike. I usually start my day at 5am — I live in Hampshire so, in order to avoid a day spend in London traffic, I leave early. Breakfast at Aubaine is my favorite way to start the day and an ideal place to run through emails. Most days involve a series of meetings – catching up with the By Bruce Russell team, The Bridal Room team, The Savoy team and suppliers (I think it’s vital to meet everyone I work with face-to-face). My ‘office’ is The Club at The Ivy. I tend to hold meetings here, as it’s central, and has a lovely atmosphere — not to mention a great menu! Evenings often involve industry events — the bridal industry is a close-knit community and I like to see friends and keep my finger on the pulse.
If I don’t have meetings in London, I work from home and do my best to squeeze in an end-of-day swim at The Four Seasons Hampshire. Perfect way to unwind!
Tell me more about ‘The Bridal Room’, your new online venture.
The Bridal Room is the first British luxury bridal online destination. My hope is that it will transform the wedding market, marrying discerning and style-savvy brides and grooms to uniquely sourced and exclusive products, destinations and experiences, unlocking the world of bridal elegance.
Designed to simplify the wedding planning process, The Bridal Room offers a carefully curated marketplace of the ultimate luxury products, services and suppliers, meticulously sourced from the ‘best of the best’ – from Great Britain and around the world. Bruce Russell’s innovative, new concept satisfies couples with an unrelenting pursuit for perfection — from the moment of proposal to choosing the right couture and covetable gifts, creating the perfect wedding day to planning the honeymoon of a lifetime.
Images top to bottom: Amara / Jez Dickson Photography / Jez Dickson Photography
Something that I think holds back couples from working with a wedding planner is the perceived charges. What would you tell brides and grooms about the cost?
Each planner charges differently and, as a bride or groom, you need to understand these charges and what services are (and aren’t) included. Understandably, clients want to know costs upfront.
It’s important to have a clear budget in mind and, as a general rule of thumb, most planners will usually charge 10-15% of the value of your wedding.
I sit down with couples and go through – in detail – what my fee is, what it includes (travel, staff etc) and also any ‘extras’ that may crop up depending on the logistics of their wedding (multiple days, destination travel etc).
Clients are buying a service, a brand, an experience, piece of mind, and overall a perfectly orchestrated and executed wedding day which they can simply relax and enjoy.
Can you give some examples of celebrity weddings that you’ve loved?
– The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – a Royal affair but they kept it real!
– Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – sometimes ‘over the top’ is just fabulous!
– George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin – a very ‘celebrity’ wedding, but still very personal
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know about you… preferably non work-related
Interesting question! My background is in education – I studied to become a school teacher, but just couldn’t contain my passion for travel and ended up leaving the small French coastal town in Eastern Canada, where I grew up, for the bright lights of the hospitality industry! Perhaps it’s rather fitting that the first event I planned was my high school prom!
Images left to right: Pippa Mackenzie Photography / Jez Dickson Photography
If you could be trapped in a lift with any 3 living people, who would they be and why?
Anna Wintour, Hilary Clinton and The Duke of Cambridge. All amazing individuals, whom I greatly admire…and who better to discuss fashion, business and politics with?! Plus, I am convinced that one of them would get us out of that lift in minutes!
How do you let off steam?
I swim to clear my head, indulge in a spot of retail therapy for some ‘me time’ and I also love cooking for family and friends.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Bringing a couple’s vision to life. For me, the best part of any wedding is that moment towards the end of the night when I can stand back and observe the party in full swing, and think ‘this is what it’s all about’!
…And the worst bit?
The admin that comes with running your own business.
Finally, what’s next?
Plenty! Launching the next few phases of The Bridal Room — there’s much more to come — growing the ‘By Bruce Russell’ brand and a handful of other exciting projects which I hope to share with you very soon.