David Tutera is the go-to guy for celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey or Elton John when they want to throw one-of-a-kind, unforgettable parties.
After four seasons hosting WE TV's "My Fair Wedding," he's also built a reputation as the wedding planner who needs only three weeks to transform ceremonies from drab into fab. Even Disney hires him to put the magic in its Disney Fairytale Weddings.
Reality television's popular wedding planner will be the featured guest on Sunday, Feb. 19, when Formal Affair fills the Chattanooga Convention Center. Formal Affair is the annual bridal expo sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It offers brides-to-be the convenience of visiting with vendors from all aspects of wedding planning in one location.
"I love talking to brides and fans wherever I go. It's one of my favorite things about doing appearances," Tutera said in an email interview. The wedding planner said he plans to take questions from brides-to-be attending Formal Affair.
His appearance at Formal Affair is in response to popular demand, according to Jason Taylor, Times Free Press president and general manager. Taylor said that in surveys completed by brides-to-be attending Formal Affair 2011, Tutera was their most-requested celebrity guest.
"David's popularity with brides made him a logical choice for this year's Formal Affair. He specializes in making a bride's wildest dreams come true," Taylor said.
"I love him, and watch his show often," said Emily Broyles, who will marry Will Healy on June 30. "I like that he listens to the brides he helps and tries to take into account all their needs and wants."
Breaking into the business
Although his father runs a funeral home, Tutera said his parents realized when he was young that he wouldn't follow them into the family business.
When he was 19, he said, his grandfather, who was a successful florist, recognized his artistic ability and encouraged him to pursue a career using that talent. A window display he designed helped him break into the event-planning business.
"A mother walked by [the window display] while waiting for a movie and inquired about my decor services for an event she was throwing for her child. One event led to another, one recommendation to another. I began handling the planning and decor for larger and larger parties," Tutera said.
He said the first weddings he coordinated were on a small scale, and often he was only involved in one element.
"I love to look back on a very special first, which was the first wedding for a family member, my aunt. The wedding took place mostly outdoors, with the ceremony itself on a small floating dock on the middle of a little lake. As the bride walked down the pathway to her groom, all the guests were holding candles lining the way. It was breathtaking," he said.
Building a brand
Now the 45-year-old's client list includes more than 50 national and international corporations in addition to celebrities such as Barbara Walters, Tommy Hilfiger, The Rolling Stones, Shania Twain and Nancy Reagan.
He has marketed his talent for stylish ceremonies into a successful brand of wedding needs.
He has written seven books on party and wedding planning.
His David Tutera Bridal Jewelry Collection, sold at Sears, is a line of engagement rings and wedding bands. He's partnered with Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores to create Down the Aisle in Style wedding accessories and embellishments.
This spring he will launch his newest addition: David Tutera for Mon Cheri wedding dress collection. Tutera said he worked closely with Mon Cheri designers to create a style for every personality. Gowns will be priced between $750 and $1,575.
"The collection provides today's stylish brides an assortment of fashionable designs to choose from, ranging from traditional ballgowns to modern dresses, couture fashions to more informal designs.
"It was important to me for the collection to have high-quality fabrics, hand-beaded Swarovski crystals and impeccable fit, so we can provide the perfect dress for every body type at an affordable price," he said.
Tutera said from meeting brides-to-be in his travels and those he helps on "My Fair Wedding," he has found one of the biggest challenges couples face is "finding a way to make their theme fit with their venue."
"Choosing the right atmosphere for your wedding is just as important as finding the right dress. Your venue is the foundation of your event. You should love it just as much as all the other elements of your wedding," he said.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...