Ibiza weddings: Craig Colligan – 15 years of Cardamom
When you picture an event planner, a clipboard, earpiece and perhaps even a glass of champagne spring to mind, however in real life, the role entails so much more. From a creative brain brimming with fresh ideas and military-like organisational skills to the expertise of a psychologist and contact books bursting at the seams with all types of connections, a professional event planner is skilled at creating lifelong memories. “Event planning is proactive,” says Craig Colligan, the driving force behind one of Ibiza’s most successful wedding and event planning agencies, Cardamom Events Ibiza. “Absolutely everything should be thought through, with a plan B, C and D in place to ensure everything goes right. Executing the event should be fluid and when it’s done properly, that fluidity is a joy for the event planner on the day.”
With 15 years of experience in Ibiza, Cardamom are amongst the old guard of island event planners and remain at the forefront of the island wedding industry today. Keeping up to date with international trends and cultures is a never-ending passion for Craig – combine this with his unrivalled insider knowledge of Ibiza, tried and tested contacts, never-ending creativity, confidence-boosting and warm personality, engineer-like planning skills and persistent drive to create the best events and it’s obvious Cardamom’s longevity is well-deserved. Bringing passion, originality, cutting-edge ideas and professionalism to each and every event he presides over (around 40 weddings, corporate and private events per year), he is a true visionary. But where did it all begin?
Back in the late 90s, Colligan – who studied banking at university, only to eschew his degree in order to follow his heart into hospitality – spontaneously talked his way into a cooking course where he excelled, and within six months he had been awarded the prestigious Cobra Award for Best Newcomer in Asian Culinary Arts. “I always had a passion for food,” he says. “Ever since I was a little boy, I was fascinated with learning how to make things I could smell or taste.” He then began working in Michelin starred restaurants in London, where he very quickly had the very strong realisation: this was not what he wanted to do with his life. Being tied to a restaurant kitchen for 18 hours a day was not for Craig. He wanted a life, he wanted a family and he wanted to be constantly inspired.
Enlisted by a high-end events company as a chef – alongside his wife and Cardamom co-founder Navine, who worked on the planning and organising side – Craig was given the opportunity to expand his chef skillset to an international level. Working with 15 different chefs from all over the globe, he learnt the techniques, flavours, recipes and secrets of his colleagues, making him an in-demand asset to any catering team. At the same time, both Craig and Navine were hankering for a life in the sun. “Moving to Spain had been one of my dreams since I was 14 years old,” says Craig of the decision to make the Mediterranean Sea change. Coming from the cultural hotbed of London, mainland Spain didn’t feel cosmopolitan enough for the couple and so when a former client suggested Ibiza to them, it seemed to tick all the right boxes.
Cardamom was born during a conversation with that very same client and the name has since well and truly become a part of Ibiza’s highly competitive hospitality scene. In the early years, Craig and Navine opened a restaurant – the much-loved Cardamom Club in a beautiful ancient finca in Santa Eulalia – however their constant stream of visitors from abroad (including previous clients) were constantly requiring their organising expertise, calling on their island knowledge, or requesting Craig as a private chef, for weddings and events. While the restaurant was the ‘official’ business, it wasn’t long before the side project started to take over and Cardamom Catering was launched.
“We had to move the ship forward,” says Craig of the eventual decision to focus purely on events. “You’ve got to do something 100-percent to be on point and there was a big demand for our food.” The catering service provided the foundations for the event company that exists today, and it was a natural progression to expand. “Fundamentally, we were based in food but more and more people from all countries and cultures were asking for our help with the preparation and organisation of their events. 15 years later, we’re still here.”
Today, Cardamom Events Ibiza boasts a client base that spans the globe – from England, Holland, Germany, the USA, Canada, Russia and Scandinavia to Nigeria, India, Lebanon, South Africa and beyond. From big corporate brands, supermodels and professional footballers to musicians, creatives and tastemakers, those who seek the Cardamom touch are rewarded with a wedding or event that is high quality, smooth and slick. On the day itself, clients can rest easy and enjoy the event, safe in the knowledge that Cardamom have all bases covered. With all the correct licensing and insurances in place (those fine print details you may not have thought about), plus good relations with the venue owners, local councils and even the police, Cardamom leave absolutely nothing to chance.
“Our suppliers are tried and tested for a reason – we value our reputation and we won’t work with anyone who has the potential to let us down,” says Craig. “And we would never let any of our clients down. This mutual respect is really important – it’s what makes your events flow. On top of that, we are constantly researching new elements, talent and suppliers. It’s exciting when people bring fresh ideas to the island and it keeps our Ibiza events current. I like to know what’s out there and also what people from different countries and cultures will desire for food and decoration down to sound and lighting.”
Skilled at listening to what his clients are seeking for their wedding or event, Craig is also adept at observing people’s reactions when it comes to proposals, ideas and of course, budgets. “I think I can listen to four conversations at the same time now,” he laughs, jokingly describing some of his meetings as therapy. “And I can answer each one within ten seconds!” From the minute he has his clients’ plans devised, Craig possesses an unwavering vision to always see the bigger picture. “Organisation is the most important detail,” he stresses. “Getting everything in writing, everything backed up – all the ‘boring’ stuff lays the foundation for getting a clear picture of what somebody wants and bringing it to fruition. People have their dreams, but you also have to mould it to their budget, or they come with crazy outlandish ideas and you may have to talk them down to suit the venue they’ve chosen.”
With that in mind, Cardamom pride themselves on adaptability, flexibility and their ability to work around a challenge until they find a solution. This open-mindedness has led them to launch a new arm to the Cardamom business – a one-stop shop equipment and décor hire service. This has been designed for those clients who may not have the budget to book the entire Cardamom package, but are still looking to DIY a certain look or style. Now, tables, chairs, tableware, decoration, soft furnishings candles and much more can be hired for weddings and events in Ibiza.
Looking back at the journey that has led him to where he is today, Craig believes every last detail has contributed to the success of Cardamom. Having performed almost every job in hospitality from the ground up, he understands how things should work and what staff in those support roles need in order to make sure things function smoothly. “It’s all about logistics, detail and hyper-detail,” he explains. “We have 30-page call sheets that are organised by the minute for our events, and once these are done, we can sleep easy the night before. Everything – even the worst-case scenarios – has been planned and our clients will walk away happy.” Seeing 12 or 24 months of planning finally come to life is Craig’s favourite part of the job – that sparkle, the happiness in a client’s face and the emotions as friends and families are enjoying themselves. “It’s an amazing feeling for us,” he says.
Ibiza itself is still at the heart of the Cardamom offering. “While there has been a lot of scope to organise events in other places, and I understand the appeal of being an international event planner and flying all around the world – we are Cardamom Events Ibiza,” says Craig. “Ibiza is our home; our life is here and our work is here. Our strengths are here and our experience is here. We understand the way the island works. On-island planners with years of experience will ultimately deliver a better-quality event than someone who flies in for the occasion. You’ve got to keep yourself updated and on top of what’s going on here. People come to Ibiza because they want to show their family and friends all the things they love about the island and we know what that is, inside and out. They’re not here because they want a UK garden wedding or New York style production.” Though of course, if they did, Craig and the Cardamom team would be the ones who could make it happen.