Confessions of a Celebrity Wedding Planner

In a Q&A with Donnie Brown, we asked this maestro how he got into the business, and what it's like to stage a reception that's scrutinized by thousands of television viewers.

Donnie-0076Renowned Dallas-based events specialist Donnie Brown has planned thousands of weddings, including those of such high-profile luminaries as LeAnn Rimes, Dixie Carter, and Emma Thompson. Brown has also appeared on several wedding-themed reality TV shows—he enjoyed a starring role, in fact, on the Style Network’s Whose Wedding is it Anyway? We asked this maestro of marriage receptions how he got into the business, and what it’s like to stage a reception that’s scrutinized by thousands of television viewers.

LWT: You got your start as a teenager, helping with weddings at a friend’s flower shop in Lubbock. What’s the first wedding you ever remember attending, and what did you think at the time?
DB: I was 9 years old, and it was my uncle’s wedding. I was the ring bearer. It was the first time I put on a tux—pale blue with this pin-on ruffle thing and a bow tie. I had no idea at the time, but when I think back now, everything was so tacky. God knows if I’d had any sense, I would have talked him out of having silk flowers.

LWT: How has wedding planning changed over the past couple of decades?
DB: There is so much available now. Anything you can possibly imagine you can have at your wedding, and that’s really unprecedented. Even 10 years ago, lighting companies were not usually available outside of the major metro markets, and now they’re everywhere. No one looks good in overhead lighting—you want to turn the house lights down and creatively wash the air with light.
Also, since NAFTA, I’ve been able to source flowers worldwide. It used to be I could only get peonies one month of the year—now I can get them anytime. Back when I was starting out, it was only carnations, roses, and baby’s breath. How tragic is that?

LWT: Do you take a different approach for a same-sex wedding versus a mainstream one?
DB: You have to be sensitive to the fact that this is all new, and that gay couples haven’t been dreaming about this their whole lives. They may not want a traditional wedding, or they may. Often they don’t really know when they first come in. Some may be afraid to go outside the box, and some may fear being too traditional. It’s a process.
We do what we do for all couples, which is provide an initial consultation in which we forensically tear the wedding down into pieces, think about everything we can possibly think of for this event, hash it out, and come up with a plan for their perfect day.

LWT: What was it like planning a wedding for reality TV?
DB: It was much more stress. It’s hard enough to plan, produce, and implement a wedding, but when you’re an actor, producer, and planner all at once, it’s very complicated. Here’s the deal: no camera crew or production company is going to follow you around for six months while you’re planning a wedding. All the filming is done in the five days before the wedding, but you can’t wait to do all the tastings and flower designing and so on. So you have to redo everything you’ve already done for the camera. And those five days before the wedding are a pretty crazy time anyway. For the planner, it’s crunch time.

LWT: But did you like it?
DB: I loved it! I’m also kind of a stress monster. I gravitate toward
those challenges.