In life as well as death, Bruce Vassar was an event planner extraordinaire.
Though Vassar, who was best known as half of the Minneapolis-based bridal-fair team the Wedding Guys, had not anticipated dying of a heart attack at age 57 on Dec. 6, he left behind detailed instructions for his final mass, down to his favorite hymns and gladiola-filled floral arrangements.
“He always loved royalty, so for him, his funeral was the closest thing that he was ever going to have to a coronation,” Vassar’s friend and business partner Matthew Trettel said.
Vassar’s wedding-related inclinations were practically innate. As a preschooler growing up in a small Wisconsin town, he would sneak into the local church on Saturdays to watch brides walk down the aisle. He cut out wedding dresses from the J.C. Penney catalog to play paper dolls. He even persuaded the neighborhood girls to don white dresses or their mothers’ bridal gowns so he could counsel them on how to walk elegantly as he straightened out their trains.
After graduating from what was then Augsburg College with a degree in marketing and communications, Vassar worked in hospitality, fundraising and public relations. After Vassar and Trettel met in 2000, they formed a business as the Wedding Guys — vendors had given them the nickname and it stuck — to produce wedding fairs around the country. They also put on bridal fashion shows in New York City.
In the pre-Pinterest/Instagram era, the Wedding Guys distinguished themselves by bringing trends from the coasts to the Midwest via two major events, the Unveiled wedding fair and the Twin Cities Bridal Show.
Their expertise led to many media appearances, most memorably a live television interview with Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson outside Buckingham Palace before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.
The duo also helped develop and produce “Randy to the Rescue,” a wedding reality show that ran for two seasons on TLC and involved creating a pop-up bridal salon that traveled to 18 cities.
More recently, the Wedding Guys were asked to art-direct the finale of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress: America,” a mass wedding of one couple from each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, in New York’s Central Park.
Before the episode was filmed last July, Vassar and Trettle designed the aisle and platform for the ceremony and were on “cloud 9” when they witnessed the big event, Trettle said.
“To be able to have 52 brides all in dresses, and making sure everything was just perfect, was a highlight of his life,” he said of the show’s final episode, which is scheduled to air in January.
Vassar was known for his joyful, exuberant personality as well as his contagious, booming laugh. “His whole life was about happiness, and laughing, and having a good time, and expanding your horizons and your boundaries,” Trettle said.
Vassar relished being a father to his two children, Ryan and Stephanie; Stephanie has many fond memories of shadowing her dad as he greeted his bridal show exhibitors, or dressing up in a fabulous ballgown to be his plus-one for the Miss Minnesota annual gala. While Vassar encouraged and advised countless pageant contestants and wedding-related small-business owners, he reserved his most vocal cheerleading for his kids — especially at their basketball games. “He had the loudest voice in the stands,” Stephanie said. “He was our No. 1 fan.”
Vassar is survived by his children and their mother, Elaine Conrad. Services have been held.
Rachel Hutton • 612-673-4569