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For Better or Worse

Celebrity planner Colin Cowie's tips for the almost perfect wedding

June 03, 2007|Shawn Hubler

"I don't do 'perfect' weddings," lifestyle guru and wedding planner Colin Cowie says in his newest coffee table book, "Colin Cowie's Extraordinary Weddings." Perfection, he says, tempts fate.

That said, the bicoastal Cowie--whose client list ranges from Oprah Winfrey to the Whitney Museum and who has written six books on style and entertaining, with another volume on weddings due out next year--is a big believer in planning. So, for the couple who'll settle for almost perfect, Cowie recently shared his favorite wedding "Do's" and "Don'ts" with West.

DO embrace your lifestyle. "If you're a casual person, don't do a formal wedding," says Cowie. "Forget the textbooks. Your wedding should be your statement of style."

DON'T be afraid to incorporate cultural differences into the ceremony. "There are more intercultural and interracial weddings now than ever before," Cowie observes. At one of his most memorable celebrations, a bride of Native American, African American and Korean descent married a French chef, and their heritage became the centerpiece of the ceremony. First, the room was cleansed with burnt sage in the Native American tradition. Then the parents ceremonially washed their children's hands, an African ritual symbolizing their last parental duty. Later, in a Korean blessing, the groom presented the bride with a carved wooden goose called a kirogi as a sign of his fidelity, as geese mate for life.

DO treat your celebration as theater, planning and rehearsing as if for a performance. "Do a trial run of your makeup and gown," says Cowie. "Do a sample tasting of your food, with the same table and china that the guests will be using."

DON'T put your bridesmaids in puffy sleeves. "Princess Di didn't look good in them and neither will you or your wedding party," advises Cowie. "Put your bridesmaids in a dress they would want to wear again."

DO buy two pairs of wedding shoes, one a half-size bigger than the other. It may sound like a little thing, but sore, swollen feet can ruin an evening.

DON'T let your reception be overrun with long, rambling speeches. "There's a lot of business to take care of between the toasts and the dancing," says Cowie. "Make 90% of the speeches at the rehearsal dinner the night before, and just keep a couple for the big day."

DO differentiate dinner music from dance music. "There's nothing worse than trying to dine when you have a band playing 'Pink Cadillac.' " And don't dance until after you've served the entire dinner, "so the kitchen isn't competing with the band."

DON'T squish the wedding cake in the bride's face, please. "This is the worst wedding tradition in America," Cowie declares.

DO keep it moving. "For me, one of the most important things is the element of timing--it can make or break a wedding." Make sure the bride walks down the aisle no more than 15 minutes after the time on the printed invitation. The cocktail reception should last no more than 45 minutes. Dinner? Two hours, max. "Then you can cut the cake--and dance!"

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