When it comes to wedding planning and décor, Emma Corrie takes the expression, “love is a beautiful thing” to a whole new level. As one of Barbados’ leading players in the events industry for the last 30 years, she has spent two decades of that time dedicated to creating stunning and unforgettable wedding experiences for countless couples who reside on the island, and those who choose Barbados for their dream destination wedding.
Attention to detail, creative out-of-the-box approaches to design, and the ability to go beyond the expectations of her client’s visions of their special day, have earned the owner of the bespoke design house Emma Corrie Designs a reputation for excellence that reaches beyond Bajan shores. Emma was selected to design and create settings for a number of high-profile weddings, including that of world-famous golfer Tiger Woods; and she also had lead responsibility for the production of a celebrity wedding which was produced in association with Martha Stewart Designs.
No matter the size or budget of the wedding, Emma puts her heart and soul into the planning.
“I think it’s an exhilarating fulltime career and people underestimate the amount of work and the intensity of the industry. When it comes to destination weddings, I think being a wedding planner in Barbados is probably even better than being one overseas. You are helping destination clients have something that is unique for them. They are stepping out of their own comfort zone and bringing their guests away with them to have a vacation/wedding experience.”
Bringing Your Dream Wedding to Life
Emma fully understands that when it comes to destination weddings, her role is multifaceted as she is the person on the ground who is helping the couple navigate the production of a special event far away from home.
“Tips on wedding websites, where to stay, the best time of year to have a wedding here, the ideal location for what they are trying to achieve – there is a lot of information that you have to give your clients,” she says.
“A destination wedding planner is essential because we have to guide our clients from A to Z. We have to help them decide whether to have a welcome party, work out details for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding ceremony and reception. They have to look at which flowers hold up best in a tropical climate; it’s also down to the food, what kind of cuisine are you looking for and then finding the right chef that can tailor the menu to suit; it’s designing creative lighting; getting the right band that suits the couple’s taste. And if a wedding is going to be in stages in different areas, taking them and transitioning them through the entire day, booking hair, make-up, the transportation and then overseeing their vision and ensuring that it is of the standard and quality of what they are expecting. There is so much more that goes into a destination wedding, and sometimes most couples are entertaining their guests for more than one function.”
By the time many of the couples have contacted Emma, they have already done their research on her and a fair amount of homework on the direction they want their wedding to take. Over the years, the themes and requests have been wide and varied. Emma has planned weddings with as few as 10 people and a double wedding with 630 people. A Cadbury chocolate-themed wedding, a beachside Disney-themed wedding, garden weddings and weddings with grand floral designs are among the many in her portfolio. Every couple’s needs are different and through meetings via Skype or Zoom, she gets a clear understanding of what their needs are.
“It’s important that we get to know each other, and I get information based on what the couple is looking for, to understand a little bit about the personalities; even something like how they met is important. My ideas and designs are inspired by the couple, we share photos and ideas, I listen to what they are saying individually, I listen to how they speak as a couple. It could be something as simple as the groom saying ‘I love hot chocolate’, so at the end of the evening you serve hot chocolate and s’mores. I pay attention to the little things that make a difference to people, things that will make the wedding unique and about them. It’s about including a bit of their personality at a level that I think is tasteful and affordable. The design is based on all of these elements, I render visuals and send them so that the couple has a clearer picture of what they are getting and what their day will look like.”
Finding the Right Balance for your Barbados Wedding
Emma reminds all her clients that there needs to be a balance between budget and vision, and that while Pinterest is where many brides go for inspiration, the reality is that most designers show their best and most expensive examples of their work on that platform.
“No matter what type of wedding you want, you should always think about what you can afford; don’t get into debt when you’re now starting your life together. Decide what your priorities are and look at your number of invitees. The rate of response for Barbados as a destination wedding is much higher than other wedding destinations. If a couple invites 200 people, I never tell them expect 120, they should expect 150 or 170. One of my earlier weddings, the couple invited 150 people but decided to choose a venue that was smaller since they were sure only 70 people were going to come. They ended up with 140 confirming and they were shocked, and we then had to figure out how to make it work.”
Emma believes that what makes Barbados such a popular wedding destination is that people feel very safe and comfortable here.
“Barbados is multicultural and very cosmopolitan and has the comforts they would expect back at home, and the people are exceptionally friendly. It has a fantastic reputation as a phenomenal wedding destination, we have a high standard of vendors here. They travel and are exposed, they understand that people want quality – from deejays to bands, to flowers and especially food, it’s all available here.”
Having a destination wedding means that there is a limited timeframe within which everything must happen. As a wedding planner, having a great team and being able to think on your feet are two invaluable assets.
“You can’t just think of the ideal scenario on the day. You have to have an alternative in case something goes wrong, you have to know that you can trust the people that you work with to have your back. I had one instance where I had to move an entire wedding reception in two hours, due to heavy torrential rain. This was complete with the chef and the food we had to move and find a completely new venue and set up all over again. But knowing I have vendors and partners I can trust, having a team that you know are going to put their best foot forward no matter what, makes all the difference in the world. You can’t fall apart when things start to turn.”
Always Be Prepared for the Unexpected
While Emma was once able to turn around a wedding for 400 people in just four weeks, after plans with the couple’s original planner fell through, she recommends starting to plan at least a year in advance. Her advice is to send out Save the Dates as soon as you have one and then follow up with the invitations. This is to give your friends and family ample time to make plans getting here.
“One of the things that is also important to know is that, in terms of legalities, it is an island that is recognized worldwide…. You can arrive in Barbados with your documentation and go get your marriage licence and be married 24 hours later. What I do recommend is that if you aren’t coming here on a cruise ship, give yourself an extra day or two in case of any issues that may arise when traveling. But it is an island that is easy to get married in; they will accommodate you.”
It may not always be easy and it’s a lot of hard work, but Emma is passionate about planning and designing for love.
“I love doing weddings because nine times out of ten I like the people that I am working for. I have developed very special relationships with most of the brides that I’ve worked with and a lot of them have remained in touch, with some even becoming close friends. Getting to know and understand clients, giving them the best experience they can possibly have, seeing how pleased they are in the end, is really gratifying.”