By Jordan Rhodes
It’s every girl’s dream to have a gorgeous wedding, but only the most fortunate brides get the privilege of hiring renowned event planners Van Wyck & Van Wyck for their big day. Personally, there’s nothing I’d love more than to hire them for a future birthday party or even my own daughter’s wedding – I can only imagine the epic results of a stunning soirée by the country’s most coveted design and event production planners. That is, if they aren’t already booked, throwing say, a Chanel party in New York City, a black-tie fundraiser for a large non-profit organization, a dinner for the President of the United States. The list of exclusive events Van Wyck & Van Wyck have helped plan is never-ending, and their clientele is a who’s who of some of the most interesting people in the world (you can find a selection of their clients and services here). Known for bold ideas, meticulous attention to every luxurious detail, and extravagant designs, the firm also has a personal motto to never say no to a client’s requests – such as a recent three-ringed circus-themed birthday party in Connecticut, complete with an elephant, contortionists and fire eaters. According to one bride,
“If you want the most creative minds planning your event, look no further than the Van Wyck’s. For my wedding, they transformed a driveway into a jungle with walls of boxwood hedges, garlands of tropical fruit, palm fronds, topiary monkeys, and a few colorful macaws thrown in. It was fabulous, fun, and one of a kind.”
Could there be a better job out there? Or a better firm to hire? I highly doubt it.
So I was delighted when partner Mimi Van Wyck agreed to be my Charleston interviewee, as I knew her answers would be sure to give readers a chic insight into the charming world of this gorgeous Southern city. She and her brother Bronson were born in my home state of Arkansas, and like myself, migrated to New York City at young ages. Using the experience they had acquired from years of entertaining their parents’ East Coast friends down South, Bronson began planning his famous events in 1999, and Mimi soon joined him in 2003 after working in DC at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and at the College Board in NYC. What started as a small operation that also included their mother, Mary Lynn, quickly grew into THE event planning company in the city – and these days quite possibly the planet. As Mimi says, “for over 16 years we have gotten to work – alongside the best team in the business – with the absolute most fantastic clients in the world to create the most beautiful and memorable celebrations…I love what I get to do everyday.” And their clients love them, as well. According to Susanna Johnson Shannon,
“Mimi, and her team at Van Wyck are nothing short of dream makers. Their creativity and talent knows no bounds. We remain forever grateful for the passion, beauty, and sheer fun they brought to our wedding weekend.”
While another client, CeCe Villere Colhoun (whom I interviewed on New Orleans, which can be found here), not only loves them, but also now counts them as close friends. “Mary Lynn van Wyck, the matriarch of the operation, was an old friend of my mother, Mimi Robinson” says CeCe. “They used to go out dancing and plan parties together in their youth. My mom, in her own right, is exceptional at the art of entertaining, becoming well-known in her life in New Orleans for throwing the most decadent parties with much attention to detail and elegance. When it came to choosing who would help her orchestrate our wedding, she knew immediately to turn to Mary Lynn. It was no surprise that her children Mimi and Bronson came chock-full of grace and class, and with the ability to work as a team, each bringing in a perfected interest to the table. Immediately they became family to us and it made the experience that much more warm and surreal. The event itself was pure magic, the truest expression of the two sides collaborating, with the results being profoundly over the top with equally as much restraint. We have remained close with the whole family and have had the pleasure of attending other events of theirs in New Orleans and elsewhere. They nail it every time!”
While still a full-time planner and partner at the company, Mimi is now based in Charleston where she met her husband, Ham Morrison, in 2004. Together, they have 2 year old Mary Lynn and 7 month old Hamilton. And while Mimi travels extensively for her job, the family seeks out time to explore the surrounding areas of the place they call home, making her an expert on all things in the Lowcountry. Below, is Mimi van Wyck’s Charleston.
What is it about Charleston that makes it such a desired travel spot?
It’s endlessly easy & there’s something for everyone to enjoy. To start the geography is so interesting – the peninsula of Charleston is framed by two rivers and lots of shallow water ways home to Lowcountry birds, dolphins and marsh lands. It is filled with natural beauty. Between the ocean and the rivers, the climate is always so pleasant.
The city streets are all so charming, lined with historical homes, hidden gardens and smiling faces. It’s fun to peek through the wrought iron gates to see the most enchanting gardens. Neighbors are hosting cocktail parties on their verandas.Charleston hosts amazing festivals throughout the year - SEWE, Wine + Food and Spoleto.
Our former Mayor Joe Riley – who was the longest serving mayor in the US – just stepped down. His forward thinking vision has helped Charleston find a great mix between preserving the old & celebrating the new.
There’s also great stimulation with what’s new; we have an explosively competitive culinary scene. New restaurants are popping up by the week. The artistic scene is growing. Several beaches are a stone’s throw away. Non-stop flights are increasing. Real estate is booming. The word is out.
Where do you like to dine with your children, and where do you like to dine without them?
WITH – Monza, Taco Boy, Leon’s and Mex 1
WITHOUT – any restaurant by the Indigo Road group
It’s easy to go for wine & cheese at Bin 152 Wine Bar
When not planning your famous parties, how do you like to unwind? What do you do with your children on the weekends?
The children are up by 6am, so we have full days in our household. On the weekends we love to walk to the Marion Square Farmer’s Market for lemonades, gyros and the jump castles, or hop up to the Children’s Museum, followed by Paolo’s gelato across the street.
At some point over the weekend we are usually enjoying a water sport – swimming, paddle boarding, inner tube floating or riding a boat.
I also enjoy contributing to our community through work with Friends of the Lowcountry Low Line and the Charleston Parks Conservancy fundraising events, both of which are committed to creating a greener Charleston for future generations to enjoy.
Charleston has great boutiques and art galleries. Which ones are your favorites?
My friend Cindy Hayes always has beautiful collections at her gallery – Horton Hayes Fine Art
I am a big fan of Ann Long’s gallery, Rebekah Jacob’s gallery and The George Gallery
My dear friend Janet Gregg designs fun jewelry at her studio on lower King Street. Can hardly stay away from downtown boutiques RTW, South of Market & Alexandra Designs. Sugar Snap Pea.
When friends come to visit, where do you suggest they stay?
IN TOWN – The Spectator
JUST OUT OF TOWN – Inn at Middleton Place
If you had one last day in Charleston, what would you do?
Start off simple & end with a bang!
My family of four would start off early on foot for a crepe at the Queen Street Market before strolling down Legare Street in the Battery area. Mid-morning head out to Sullivan’s Island beach followed by fish tacos at Poe’s.
Pick up coconut cakes at the Peninsula Grill for a sunset boat ride with friends followed by a surprise outdoor gypsy themed party at my house with Shrimp City Slim grooving behind his keyboard.
Any travel advice for families?
• Book morning flights, or flights that overlap with naptime
• Travel time is usually not the time to teach kids lessons
• Bring favorites treats – goldfish, dried fruit, pirate booty, Annie’s bunnies, sippy cups
• And favorites books and games – Dr. Seuss collection, dolls, cars, chew toys
• In the airport I need to be hands free so a portable body carrier is a must. Portable high chairs also make a world of difference during
• Right now Mary Lynn’s favorite toys are the magna tiles and a micro mini scooter
• Bring loads of wipes – the saline ones for hands and faces
• Always travel with a large tote; Misela makes lightweight & attractive ones
• Pack a soft wrap – I tend to get chilly when flying and it doubles as Mary Lynn’s pillow
For more information on Van Wyck & Van Wyck:
VAN WYCK www.vanwyck.net