David Tutera Talks Trends, Challenges and More for Planning Your Wedding

The celebrity event planner, who will take the stage at the Columbus Weddings Show next month, shares insights on preparing for your big day.

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
David Tutera, who will make appearances both days of the Columbus Weddings Show

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced a yearlong hiatus, the Columbus Weddings Show returns next month! (Jan. 15 and 16 at the Ohio Expo Center; find more details and purchase tickets here.) Headlining both days of the show will be celebrity event planner David Tutera, who will take the stage in between the two Runway Shows each day. Columbus Weddings caught up with Tutera via video chat to talk about his participation in the show, upcoming wedding trends and more. The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Let’s start with the Columbus Weddings Show itself. In the past, when you’ve been our celebrity guest, you’ve done an audience Q&A that’s always really popular with our guests. Can folks expect something similar for your 2022 appearances?

Yes, absolutely. I think Q&A is one of the most key things to do when people are in the audience, trying to learn as much as possible. It’s great for me to talk about my experiences, but for them, I think having the opportunity to ask these specific questions will be really helpful.

What are the most common types of questions you get when you do Q&As?

It’s typically often about fashion and also the dynamics of family issues. The majority of the time, it’s budget. What are the most important things I need? What are some of the things that I don’t necessarily need to have, that won’t make a difference if I don’t do it? It’s interesting; as much content as there is online, they are still struggling with the direction of how to get from A to Z, so I love to answer all of those questions to get them to the final endpoint.

So to maybe answer a lot of folks’ questions before the show even arrives, what are some of the biggest budget items to consider?

Now more than ever, I think because of the pandemic—which I don’t want to talk about too much, I think people are exhausted from it—but what has come out of it is that people now have to be very aware of their guest count. And not because of the pandemic, but because now they have to really be thinking, who do I really want at my wedding? A, is there room at the venue? B, is there enough money in my budget for me to have 100 guests versus 75? And I don’t think people were thinking in that direction. I think people were always going, What’s the style of the party? What are the flowers going to be? What’s the DJ or band going to play?

Now, I think we’re leading with, How many guests are they going to be having? Based upon, legitimately, budget and space. And sometimes space overrules budget, because you can’t fit more people into a space that doesn’t have the accommodations.

How do you break down your budget after you figure out your guest list?

We always lead with the same things. You always lead with food, and food can sort of break down into two categories depending on whether the venue is providing the food or if it’s a venue separate from a caterer coming in—that’s two separate components. So that falls under the equation of intake of food and venue.

Secondary is, of course, visual. A great wedding always is because of the way it looks. That might be from the tablecloths to the rentals to the flowers—your room décor.

The second-last thing is entertainment; great entertainment is obviously what’s going to keep your party alive.

And the last thing that people leave out, which is still sort of shocking to me, is that people don’t hire a lighting company to illuminate their wedding. You spent all this energy and money, and then you’re looking at a space that’s dimly lit or over-lit by the venue, and it doesn’t really create an emotion.

Past Columbus Wedding Show attendees have loved David Tutera's audience Q&A.

Let’s turn to trends. Looking ahead into 2022, the industry is predicting a massive boom, the highest number of weddings since the 1980s. Dates are booking up really, really fast. What are your thoughts on Friday or Sunday weddings for those who can’t snag that Saturday date?

I actually kind of like having a Friday wedding. Friday’s fun! Don’t assume it’s a bad date just because it’s not that predictable date that you expected. I mean, I got married on April 1st, and everybody thought that was a joke, but it wasn’t. It was just sort of a great day for us, because we thought it was fun and funny and would be memorable.

How do you think that sheer volume of events will affect trends?

We are seeing it play out now, and I think what’s happening is everybody has stalled, everybody has waiting, and now what’s happening is, the vendors don’t have enough supply. I think trends, as in visual trends, is going to be a little challenging for 2022 weddings because they may want something that they simply can’t get.

I think if you’re in the mindset of, OK, I’m getting married in 2022. Great, congratulations! It’s going to be wonderful, but you might want to leave yourself open with a slightly bigger blank slate, because your idea that you may choose to have may not be possible. As in, legitimately not feasible to execute. I was just dealing with this with a client on the East Coast and their stuff was sitting on a barge, waiting to be unloaded onto land, and it never made it. That’s the challenge.

I’ve heard of that same issue in bridal gowns, too—shipments being delayed, or supply chain issues. Do you think that will drive a rise in consignment or off-the-rack gowns, simply because getting a gown ordered may take too long?

That’s a great point, and I think the answer to that question is a yes and a yes.

Visually, are there any trends we can look out for in the next couple of years?

I think it’s hard right now; I don’t think people have any clarity. Before, consumers were pretty clear with what they wanted. But with this abundance of time, just this lack of ability to execute their weddings, people have become more chaotic. There’s been more chaos in their mind because they’ve had too much time on Pinterest and with magazines and online, looking for ideas. Too many opinions has shipped us backwards. Because consumers were actually catching up, because we were smart enough to show them what to do.

Now, they’re just like, “Oh my god, what do I do? Do I want a boho chic wedding? Do I want a contemporary wedding? Do I want a rustic wedding? Do I want a modern wedding? Do I want all of it?” Some people are so all over the place right now that we’re spending more time trying to home them in, so they understand that there has to be a look. A very clean, concise look that people understand when they’re arriving and when they’re there.

I see some of that on our end, too. We ask folks to describe their wedding aesthetic when they submit them for consideration in the magazine, and sometimes people will write that it was classic and contemporary with a boho-rustic twist, but still very elegant. And one wedding can’t be all of those things!

No, it can’t. I think people right now don’t know what any of those descriptions are. If you ask, “OK, boho, give me an adjective, give me a description,” I don’t think they might know what goes into that. The know the topic, the word—boho chic, contemporary, modern, rustic. But if you have all four of those in one wedding, it’s, to me, a hot mess.

So how can people refine their vocabulary a little or better understand how to describe the look they’re going for?

I think there’s two versions: The obvious No. 1 is that you have a planner who guides you. Not everyone can afford that, so the other version is, there’s so many websites and Pinterest and PartySlate. If you don’t spend a decent amount of time on all of them and self-educate on what is what and what it means and the descriptions and the adjectives, then you’re not doing your proper pre-work.

Go on Instagram—I mean, Instagram is the savior for everybody—and when you see something, you screenshot it. You isolate what you like and start to begin mentally putting together what you think your wedding will look like.

What are some of the biggest challenges you think people will face in the next year or two as they plan weddings?

Time. I think we are struggling with time. We have to give our professionals more time to execute their services for their clients. You can’t just call us up and say, I have a wedding in six months or nine months. It’s probably not doable, or it probably won’t be the best it could. So it’s about being prepared; a couple being organized before they meet with someone or before they even decide to begin speaking to potential vendors.

Again, with wedding dresses, they need to be ordered far, far in advance. It’s almost to the point where you need to get one now, before you’re engaged! I’m joking, but it’s almost really where we are. Because depending on where the manufacturer’s coming from—a majority of wedding dresses, at least in the United States, is coming out of China, possibly Indonesia, possibly parts of Europe. Well, Europe is locked down right now, and at various locations, it’s hard.

It goes back to the importance of being open. That sets up the consumer to realize, wait a minute, that’s actually a better idea than the idea I had wished for.

Finally, what’s one parting thought or idea you want folks to keep in mind as they’re planning?

Today more than ever, it’s making sure that you are paying homage to your guests, making sure they are incredibly welcomed and feel very special. They should feel that this is a moment that you chose to make them part of, because you love them and care about them.

When making a speech and thanking guests—which often does not happen, by the way—it’s this inclusivity of making sure people understand that, we’re honored you’re here. Or there are other ways to do that; it could be written on printed materials, and it certainly could be written differently in the invitation. Don’t just ask them to come; tell them how honored they are, that you’re inviting them to be here because you want them here.

That’s a new shift, for me, that I hope I can translate over to the consumer. Because I do believe that that’s really now more important than ever.