Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Celebrity Planner, a TV Show, and a Conflict of Interest?

My family has the "extended basic" cable package. We TV is not one of the channels we get, so I don't see We TV's wedding shows unless they become available on On Demand. One show I'd never seen before last week was My Fair Wedding, starring celebrity wedding planner David Tutera.

The basic premise is this: Some hapless bride with questionable taste needs help pulling her wedding together. Three weeks before the wedding, Mr. Tutera is given carte blanche to plan a wedding that will reflect the spirit of the bride's deepest wedding desires. The wedding the bride ends up with is far more beautiful and lavish than anything she could have designed or afforded, and she and her groom are thrilled with it.

I have to admit, David Tutera does gorgeous work. And he seems really nice to the brides he works with.

I think his wedding philosophy, however, is a bit misguided. Well, more than a bit; I think it's unhealthy and unkind.

David Tutera hates fake flowers (though he's not above having faux landscapes painted to mimic a vineyard window view), and even fresh flowers are unacceptable if purchased from a grocery store. The idea of a medieval joust, thrown out in jest by a bride, made him shudder.

Now, my problem is not with his taste (I've already implied that it's excellent), but with his seemingly narrow vision of what weddings should have and be. The colors (not too bright, by the way) and the centerpieces can vary from one couple to the next, but his weddings follow the same template: closely (if not exactly) matching bridesmaids glide down the aisle followed by a glamorous bride. Dinner and dancing in a lavishly decorated space follow.

It's fine for David Tutera to prefer what he prefers. It's quite another matter entirely for him to label something wrong simply because it is not what he prefers. He has quite a public platform and quite a bit of influence, after all. Many people believe whatever he tells them to believe. (Don't believe me? Check out Yahoo! Answers Weddings and read the responses to almost any question about nontraditional wedding elements.) Therein lies the problem: just because David Tutera calls certain ideas and products tacky doesn't make them so.

Why are fireworks displays acceptable, but jousting tournaments unacceptable? Are they not both simply forms of entertainment? Does Mr. Tutera really believe we should mold our entertainment preferences to his? And don't think his choices are concerned with guests' comfort; more than once he's told a bride the wedding day was about her.

Most couples will never be able to afford the kind of wedding David Tutera plans. Fine linens, professionally designed floral arrangements, and stunning cakes cost a lot of money, more money than many couples have. Certainly more money than most couples should be spending; how many times have we heard about the financial stress of couples planning their weddings, stress which becomes generalized and diminishes the joy the partners take in each other? The wedding trappings a couple can afford are not tacky simply because they are not the wedding trappings David Tutera likes.

Should Tutera really continue to convince couples that their best efforts aren't good enough? That their very interests mark them as inferior? Does he need to encourage the spread of these ideas through society, thereby encouraging wedding guests to mentally grade the expressions of love and commitment to which they've been invited?

No. Of course not. So why is David Tutera so comfortable with perpetuating the unhealthy societal attitudes so many hold about weddings?

Well, I cannot speak to Mr. Tutera's deepest thoughts. But I can say that the adage follow the money has served many in good stead throughout the years when they've needed to assign weight to the opinions of others.

David Tutera's own website reveals that he is a paid speaker. And although the website no longer says he has been hired by wedding magazine publishers, his talent bio on the All American Talent and Celebrity Network website does. Wedding magazines make a great deal of money from the sale of advertisements. The companies that advertise in wedding magazines tend to be bridal wear designers and retailers, floral designers, jewelers, and the like. To direct people away from their services by suggesting that it's perfectly acceptable for couples to engage in budget shopping and do-it-yourself projects might make them unhappy; unhappy advertisers sometimes decide to spend their advertising dollars elsewhere.

Tutera's professional interests go beyond keeping publishers happy, however. He himself owns Stem, a floral and gift company with locations in the Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal. He and the fashion house Faviana also produce a line of wedding dresses, David Tutera by Faviana.

I don't know about you, but I refuse to let the face of an industry trying to take my money grade the purchases I make.


  1. Why can't there be a show about Weddings on a Budget- instead of Lavish, sky-high unaffodable ones like he plans. I know for sure I will not have the money for a wedding like he customizes. It is sad really. And he gaffs at home-made anything really.

  2. Wouldn't that be awesome? I would love to watch a show like that!