Party planner for Oprah and Ryan Seacrest reveals recipe for creating ‘jaw dropping moments’

Event planner for the rich and famous, Colin Cowie was recently in New Delhi for the International Convention for Wedding Fraternity (ICWF) and revealed a few secrets that he believes helped him achieve the OTT Party Planner status that he flaunts.


In the business of events for the last 30 years, Colin Cowie has worked with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Mary J Blige, Ryan Seacrest and similar A-Listers to create events that would most probably go down in history. Presenting the formula to creating ‘jaw dropping moments’ at events, Cowie showcased some of his finest work at ICWF that incidentally managed to drop many a jaw at the full house of event planners.

“The key is to identify the DNA because no two DNAs can ever be the same”, stresses Cowie. “I excavate the client’s needs first and try and figure out the core. This is the trickiest part, you cannot afford a misfire here. Once I have that I start adding elements for the five sense.”

But getting to that DNA is no simple task. Cowie nails this step with a little help from his two friends- psyche and crafty. “I usually schedule my meetings with clients around the 6- 7pm mark. That’s a nice time to crack open a bottle of bubbly and let the clients true personality shine. It helps him loosen up and have an open conversation. We are in the business of celebrations and it is good to give clients a taste of that early in the relationship. Once we have agreed on things, we give them a teaser of our fine taste by sending them off with some carefully curated gifts. Voila! We are engaged”, reveals Cowie with a whiff of pride.

He continues, “After heads have nodded and hands have shook, we passionately pursue our one single most important philosophy- There shall be no element of surprise other than if it is a good one!” To eliminate the possibility of unwelcome jaw dropping moments Cowie assigns a senior producer to his client who acts as a one-point-contact at any hour of the day the client wants him, till the day the event is executed and goodbyes have been said. The producer further coordinates with the other teams that include IT, creative and management.

A moodboard is then created and shared with the client based on the ideas discussed in the initial meetings. “Most times this requires multiple back and forth but we do not move ahead till we have a full approval from the client”, he exclaims.

To ensure the client is totally at ease Cowie chooses to go the extra mile and creates a mock ceremony for every single event he works on. “We usually rent a small space in a hotel or restaurant that resembles the final venue and create a mini version of the event replete with the tabletop décor, right plates, napkins and even right amount of starch on the napkins”, boasts Cowie.

Now one would wonder what the bill for such an event would look like? Cowie takes the surprise factor out of this too by presenting a breakup of the entire expense to the client in an itemized bill much before the actual event. “Our bill averages 45 pages and may appear daunting but that is because it includes even the cost of something as little as safety pins. We beleive the client deserves absolute clarity”, says Cowie.

On the day of the event Cowie and his team keep a watchful eye for the guests and prepare for their needs well before even they have a chance realize it. Cowie shares, “Get a shawl if they are cold, keep a flip-flop handy for sore feet, these are very small details that can make a world of a difference to the entire experience.”

Unlike the quintessential big fat Indian wedding, most of Cowie weddings are tailored for 300 guests, starting from 6pm and wrapping up around 1am on average; therefore personalization is relatively easier. But Cowie suggests that the element of ‘personalization’ is so important to an event that all bases should be covered to achieve it, even if it requires hiring more people for the day.

But no matter how good your event has been there will always be room for improvement believes Cowie. And true to that approach Team Cowie does a complete SWOT after each event as a practice.

In a world where ‘one size fits all’ is the normal way of life, Cowie may not be the most affordable of event planners but he sure seems to be a breath of fresh air.

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