A-list event planner Bronson van Wyck is the creative visionary behind some of New York's (and the world’s) most memorable events. His family’s firm, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, has an array of blue-chip brand clients in the fashion, luxury, corporate and non-profit space and in addition, is expanding into their own product line. Bronson shares with us the backstory to his success as well as his top tips for the perfect event.
What does your company do?
Our family-owned firm is distinguished by innovative designs and an unsurpassed level of service. We incorporate whimsical details, natural materials and theatrical elements into every element we design.
We work with private, corporate and non-profit clients throughout the United States and the world. For private clients, we focus on age-old notions of hospitality, graciousness and generosity, and on creating experiences that share these qualities with guests. For corporate clients, we tie guest experiences to brands, seamlessly conveying key messages and creating lasting and deeply personal impressions that drive purchase behavior and brand preference.
How did you start the business? What were you doing at the time?
I sort of fell into it as part of an extended process of elimination in which I came to realize that I didn’t really have any other marketable skills. After college, I did a stint at the State Department, and then worked on sets at Paramount in Los Angeles. In 1999, my mother and I took a leap and planned a dear friend’s wedding in Maine and as we charged through uncharted waters, we knew we could do this, and in fact that we had to do it. We realized that we had actually already been doing it for years – all my life, in fact – together and singly, for ourselves and for our friends. Part of this was a simple matter of geography: growing up on a farm in a remote area of Arkansas, everyone who visited us had made an extra effort to get there. We felt obliged to make the trip worthwhile by making the welcome extra special.
You also have a product line called Arrowhead Farms…what’s it all about?
My sister Mimi and I used to create big batches of house cocktails in a bathtub at the holidays to give to family and friends. After several years, the demand was so high that we had to bottle them and forgo the mason jar – tub method. Three years later, we’ve got seven different flavors and now we are in West Elm, Anthropologie and coming soon to Dean & Deluca.
What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
My favorite is usually the party I just planned, but these three are certainly at the top of the list:
1. Bergdorf Goodman
It was their 111th birthday party and we got the keys to their window dresser’s prop warehouse. I was a kid in a candy store with lions and tigers and bears and ostriches and dragons and clocks. Wow!
2. Opening the new Whitney Museum
We’ve been working with The Whitney for years but it was especially exciting to be the first to help celebrate the museum in the new Renzo Piano space. We practically moved into the Meatpacking District since we were there for 8 events in 9 days. Each night was another party and another celebration. We got to watch the art come in!
3. Barneys/Baz Holiday Windows Unveiling
This past holiday, Barney’s partnered with Baz Luhrmann and we transformed their vision with the products and windows into a whole evening celebration. Madison Avenue came to a complete standstill as figure skaters (the sidewalk was iced!), dancers, and acapella group Pentatonix performed outside the store. Then curtains covering the windows opened, revealing tableaux of a talking owl, giant Koonsian metal mushrooms, and spiraling sculptural snowflakes. Following the show, a select group of guests walked to Central Park Zoo for a dinner and after party, where I helped bring the guests into the world of the “Baz Dazzled” windows.
Top five tips for creating the perfect event?
Make sure drinks can be served fast. There is no bigger buzzkill than waiting for a cocktail.
Remember that you are programming human interaction. The party is really about bringing together all the many different people from your life. Take your guest out of his comfort zone and allow him to make a new friend. Make sure that people meet each other and that you as the host are there in the room and not stuck in the kitchen with your head in the oven. Don’t forget that they came to see you!
I always try to change something every 20 minutes. Introduce a new drink, amuse bouche, lower the lighting, turn up the music, something savory then something sweet then something savory again. Change their palate, keep them guessing.
Use 3x as many candles as you think. A mix of votives, tapers and various heights give the best glowy, Instagram effect.
Send your guests away with a small memory or party favor of the night. A hand tied bouquet of wildflowers for their nightstand, an airplane-sized mini bottle of bloody mary mix for the dreaded hangover or even a Polaroid or two of them talking to a crush that night.
What can we look forward to from Van Wyck & Van Wyck in the future?
We just wrapped up Allure’s annual Best of Beauty event, this time at their new home at 1WTC. Next up are ongoing projects for the Whitney and Architectural Digest, and then we’re bringing our reindeer back to NYC, this year to The Standard High Line.
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