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Why We Love Preston Bailey

Preston has planned weddings and events for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Hudson and Ivanka Trump. We caught up with the global jet-setter on his top tips for a fabulous event.

Photo: Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography/Getty Images and John Labbe

Watch our exclusive video interview with Preston! >

Give Your Guests Drama

"For me, any wedding or any event is about transporting the guest into a very dramatic environment -- having them escape in this world of beauty and real lusciousness," says Preston, who grew up around the rain forests of Panama and uses that rich background to inspire his designs today. He recommends using larger-than-life design elements (like live trees and elaborate floral sculptures) to achieve visual grandeur. "A lot of people think my work is over-the-top. I kind of like that. Nature is over-the-top, and my goal is always to bring nature in," he says. "To me, ‘over the top' represents generosity, and I think that's what events should be about. You are going to spoil your guests with every single luxury, food, music that you possibly can." He says your goal as a host should be to create an atmosphere that your guests will never want to leave.

Wow Them Right Away

"Capture the guests' attention from the moment they arrive," Preston says. Even if other aspects of the wedding are more subtle, he says that a strong first impression (like a striking escort table arrangement) will set the right tone and create lasting memories for your guests.

Don't Disregard the Ceremony Decor

It's easy to get caught up in the themes and details of the party, but Preston believes the ceremony should get equal attention. "Ultimately, that is why people are there," he explains. "You want to create an emotional environment that moves everyone to tears." Think candlelight, flowers, and romance.

Get Creative With Your Tablescapes

"When designing an event, it's important to have variety. Gone are the days where the centerpieces all had to be the same," he says. But it's more than just alternating between high and low levels. Preston recommends trying unique arrangements on each table. "As long as it all works together, I think it's much more exciting," he says. "And then guests have an opportunity to go to each of the tables and enjoy the other pieces. They actually get that wow moment more than once."

Relax and Enjoy!

"I think the greatest mistake that most brides make is that they're so tense the day of their wedding," Preston says. He suggests hiring people you trust so that even if you tend to be a bit obsessive over details, you'll know they're taking care of everything. That way you can actually enjoy yourself and your guests. "You should be at your best on the day of your wedding," he says, "so let go, and have a great time!"

-- Susan Waits