It takes a very talented person to be able to accommodate the incredibly extravagant requests of celebrity couples planning their nuptials. In fact, it takes a bridal industry titan with a little black book that’s bursting at the seams. That’s why in-the-know brides and grooms call Harriette Rose Katz. The iconic event planner and founder of Gourmet Advisory and The Chosen Few has been planning weddings for 35 years, and there’s hardly anything she can’t do—save for dropping you onto the aisle from a cruising altitude (too dangerous).
Here, DuJour chats with the matrimonial legend about importing couples’ favorite foods, hosting soirées at the Breakers and getting a little help from Cirque de Soleil.
What are some of the most lavish, luxurious requests you’ve ever gotten when planning a wedding?
A bride once asked me if she could enter in a bubble—like the one from Wicked—so that she could float in from the ceiling. Isn’t that ridiculous? We started planning it. We called Cirque de Soleil and were getting close to making it happen, but they ended up cancelling the wedding.
One request I dismissed was dropping the couple out of a helicopter in the Hamptons. I just said to them: ‘No. If you need to get that done, do it with somebody else.’ Frankly, I just thought it was too dangerous.
Where are some of the most exciting destinations you’ve ever planned weddings?
We did a beautiful wedding at Keswick Hall in Virginia. The property was magnificent, and the couple was able to have the ceremony outside. The Breakers in Palm Beach is a destination I simply adore. That hotel has anything a couple could ever want. We’ve also done weddings in Venice and another one in France. But it’s only exciting when it means something to the couple.
What are some of the most requested celebrity weddings that clients have asked their own receptions to be modeled after?
The Sex and the City wedding in the New York Public Library—but you don’t want it to end like that, do you? Also, a client wanted William and Kate’s fairytale wedding, something luxurious, gorgeous and decorative. And then one client wanted to do the black and white theme like the first Kardashian wedding. I told them they would be embarrassed looking back years later. So I showed her something else and of course she liked that more.
What about food—have you ever had a bride and groom ask for something that was very hard to deliver?
First of all, my specialty all my life has been food. Brides and grooms now expect a high level of creativity on their menus and we’re always thrilled to help them come up with something interesting and impressive. Our clients come to us because they know how innovative we are. Some people want entirely finger food. We’ve done three or four bite-sized items on a single plate. One of the things that I absolutely love doing is serving food family style. Even at the most elegant weddings, it looks great to have an antipasti dish nestled near the flowers in the middle of the table.
I once did a destination wedding at a beautiful property in Connecticut. The families on both sides were big foodies. They had very specific requests, which I just loved. They wanted to offer their guests all their favorite foods, which included dishes from Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters in New York City. They also loved dim sum, so we created rolling carts that went around to all the tables. It was just like what you experience at a Chinese restaurant. It was truly fun, but still luxurious and fabulous, so people loved it. The client was very specific about what they wanted, and we made sure to deliver.
Have there ever been requests that you couldn’t fill or wanted to steer the couple away from?
I will never steer people away from having their pets in their ceremonies. I featured a dog in a ceremony at The Breakers in Palm Beach, even though usually it’s not allowed. But we made it work and had him walk down on a white leash—and he was a perfect gentleman.
I would also never do anything at the expense of the guests’ comfort. I had a couple say they thought it would look too formal for their guests to be sitting during the 20 minute-long ceremony, and they wanted people to stand. But I said no, the guests would be miserable standing. You can’t do things that will make the guests uncomfortable.
How did you decide which businesses would be a part of The Chosen Few?
I’ve personally worked with and vetted each business in The Chosen Few. Being in the events industry for 35 years, I decided the natural next step would be to introduce a new measure of excellence that recognizes the best professionals in the business. Our criteria includes creativity, integrity, relentless pursuit of excellence and financial well-being. Similar to the Michelin Guide but for the events industry, we’re hoping this new society will motivate events professionals to strive to be better.
Can you describe your favorite wedding that you’ve planned? Why was it so special for you?
My favorite wedding I ever planned was a surprise ceremony. It was actually a surprise birthday and surprise wedding at the same time. The bride thought she was coming to an industry event I invited her to at Le Cirque. All her friends knew they were coming to a surprise birthday dinner for her, which I had set up with the groom. So when she walked in, all her friends were there and she was just floored. What she didn’t know was that there was a second surprise in store for her—and everyone else. This couple had actually gotten married by a Justice of the Peace already, but the groom wanted to be married now by a Rabbi. So in the middle of this beautiful dinner, I handed her a bouquet and out came a chuppah held by her son, her brother and two of her husband’s best friends. We walked them to the center of the restaurant and the Rabbi married them in front of all their guests. The bride was absolutely shocked, and of course so were all the guests. Everyone there just felt so honored to be part of such a joyous moment.