interview | colin cowie

Good style comes from ruthless editing – Colin Cowie

The day I was introduced to Mr. Cowie was a big one. Someone I’d been wanting to meet for (no joke) almost 18 years, was somehow in front of me flashing a mega-watt smile. After first reading about Colin Cowie in the pages of InStyle magazine, I was so completely dazzled by this celebrity wedding planner that I wrote him a letter. I asked if I could intern with him during a summer off from university studies. I got a note back (classy!) thanking me for the inquiry, but there was no internship program at the time. Shattered. In any case, I managed to move on with my life which, to this point, has been wedding-planning free. Not so for Mr. Cowie, who hails from South Africa. The man has been busy crafting his empire: which includes a web site that absolutely anyone can use to plan their special day; regularly contributing to NBC’s Today Show; appearing on HSN with home and lifestyle collections; and his 9th book just hit stores. All this while organizing parties for the likes of Oprah Winfrey (he orchestrated her daytime TV farewell extravaganza) and Jennifer Aniston. Of course, loads of travel is involved as he’ll not only go the distance to plan an event, but he’s got design projects going on with airlines and hotels internationally. I caught up with Colin at Toronto’s Thompson Hotel, where he presented ways to spruce up a home for the holidays on a dime.

please tell me about your current projects and where they are taking you? My biggest project is Our strategy is to revolutionize wedding planning – doing it in a different way. As opposed to trying to be everything to everyone, I’m bringing curated options. We are very proud of the site and its functionality. We launched on Valentine’s Day and, 10 months later, we are #1 on Facebook. I think I’ve found a way to approach a large audience the same way I approach a privileged audience. Next steps will be an e-commerce platform. I’ve also just put out a book that augments the site.

are people supposed to use the site and the book together? They can be used independently, but better together.

is this what you always wanted to do? It’s interesting because I did want all these things. All the things I dreamed are coming true. Dreams cost nothing…if you can dream it, with a bit of effort, you can manifest it.

out of all the things you’ve done, and are involved in, what is your single greatest accomplishment? I would have to say myself. I came here 26 years ago with $400 in my pocket and a limited skill set. I’ve worked and grown, and continue the progress of how to become the best version of myself.

do you have a spiritual anchor of sorts? I do meditate, when I know I can’t get distracted. I’ve got self-diagnosed ADD (laughs). I don’t follow any organized religion… I just love the fact that I can really make people happy doing what I do. It’s the best gift.

favourite vacation destination? Any safari in Africa. My favourites are Singita and Molori. I’ve traveled 11 million miles to almost 100 countries…I’ve seen a lot, and there is nothing like being on safari. It’s so humbling.

last real vacation? That would have been my birthday. I turned 50 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and had 220 of my favourite friends from all over the world come and join me. Some people collect cars or jewellery…I have the greatest collection of blue chip people. They all showed up at the Playacar Palace.

makes for a good party. Absolutely.

i know you’ve eaten at so many places, but what was your best meal ever? The food is incredible at ABC Kitchen in NYC.

your destination wedding packages with Palace Resorts look fantastic. how did that collaboration come about? I went down [to Mexico] and saw these gorgeous sandy beaches…I love Mexico. It was important for me that the [hotel] service was there, and I always found sincere service at Palace Resort’s properties. We designed Colin Cowie Wedding packages that included hand-beaded  fabrics…it’s pretty amazing what you can get.

i thought the prices were quite reasonable. are you working with other hotel chains? We are talking and planning some things that are on a much larger scale. It’s only the beginning.

where do you predict Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux will wed? Cabo San Lucas. One & Only Palmilla.

amazing! i included that resort in my predictions for I’ve a feeling they will do it there.

what is the wildest request you’ve ever had for a party or a wedding? Well, those sorts of things have gone out of style because people don’t want to draw attention to themselves when others have lost so much. However, we’re starting to get some interesting requests again. I’ll tell you the craziest thing that I never did…a bride wanted life-size ice sculptures of her and the groom on the cocktail reception table. I said [to myself] if that is how we are starting, then I better get out now.

Colin’s table top (and tree) tips:
1. Decide on a theme and carry it through the house. Choose a colour, a flower or mix metals.
2. Pick up mirrored tiles from Home Depot and use as the base for tabletop decor display.
3. Use candles. They are essential to creating vignettes around the home. Toss your favourite candles amongst votives, roses and pearls.  Note: keep strong exotic scents, like vanilla, away from the food. Pine scented candles can replace an actual tree.
4. Add flowers to that faux tree. Put flowers of choice in test tubes and position them between the branches.

Want more of Colin’s stylish advice? Pick up one of his books.