“I have tremendous respect for Laine Sutten. She is by far the most seasoned professional I have seen in this business and has worked with me for 13 years across five continents. She has produced everything from a modest barefoot-on-the-beach wedding to $25 million extravaganzas. She has a Zen approach to her work that is just phenomenal, which results in her always being cool under pressure.” —Colin Cowie
PERHAPS IT WAS FATE THAT DREW THEM TOGETHER. Laine Sutten was planning her own wedding when she got the itch to learn about the planning process. It was a friend of Laine’s who knew Colin that brought them together when he told her that Colin was looking for someone to freelance on a major wedding he was producing in Florence, Italy. She did it. Months later, Colin offered her a job as a full-time producer, and today, Laine , is his most trusted producer.
“I get to travel to amazing locations and work with some very talented people. No day is the same, so you can never get tired of working here,” Sutten explains about the perks. But there is also an emotional connection with which she identifies. “Whether it’s a wedding or other milestone celebration, you get to know your client pretty well and become invested in the process. You get excited for them as the big day arrives.”
But every “big day” requires Laine to prepare with a certain mindset: “The key to every event is to be organized—compose everything ahead of time. You actually want to be so prepared that there is nothing for you to do the day of, except conduct the performance. I have never been to an event where something hasn’t come up that needed my immediate attention, and knowing I have the time to deal with a crisis stops me from getting overwhelmed.”
As a producer, Laine does the groundwork and day-to-day client communications on an event she is handling, but she carefully relays all the information to Colin to review together in scheduled meetings, whether on the phone or in person. “Colin is a busy guy,” she admits, “and so I use my time with him wisely. Again, preparedness is the key.” She is grateful for his editing skills that also keep each project from taking on a larger-than-life of its own: “While it’s true there is a lot of information you can gather out there from social sites such as Pinterest, Colin has an uncanny ability to tell a client what he or she needs based on what they like and dislike, and he’s great at paring down the options so it’s not paralyzing.” Colin taught me a long time ago: ‘Great style comes from ruthless editing.’”
While Laine hits the ground running, it is always with Colin’s feedback in mind. “We talk about the initial design angle, what the client likes, and pick out the venue together. Colin comes up with the ‘big concept’ and then we go through the entire process, coming up with a vision, and then preparing a creative presentation that encompasses everything from floor plans to linens and flowers, and every minute detail that will blow them away.” While the client might not speak to Colin every day, Colin’s plan of action is executed to precision by producers like Laine.
“Each one of our events tells a story.” She recalls a 35th wedding anniversary planned by the couple’s three daughters, who threw them a surprise renewal-of-their-vows party. “The inspiration was a photo from their honeymoon, taken at a certain spot in the Pacific Palisades on Santa Monica beach. We pinpointed the location and held the event there. All the guests dressed as if they were going to a wedding 35 years ago. We found a replica of the VW Bug the couple used for their honeymoon road trip and that was their ‘getaway’ car. And, of course, we took the same shot of them, in their original wedding outfits, in the same spot they had 35 years earlier. On the other end of the scale, I have produced highly complex, multi-million-dollar hotel openings across five continents.”
It’s easy for Laine to give examples of how the Cowie five-senses approach is applied specifically to each occasion. “For a wedding in Australia, we played up different food elements throughout the evening that were important to the bride and groom. Sushi was served during the cocktail hour, truffles were featured throughout the entire dinner menu, and we even served truffle- flavored ice cream at the dance party.” And from the actual mechanics of an event down to every detail, Laine follows Cowie protocol and keeps the party moving. “Our events are well executed because we plan everything and we keep it flowing.”
Although planning events can be stressful, Laine points out that Colin diffuses the tension by bringing the team together for fun and relaxing moments. “He always adds a fun element into our get-togethers, whether consciously or not, so that it’s not all work. I think it’s part of his nature and probably a big reason why he does what he does and loves it so much in the process!”