Transcript: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at noon ET

On Love: Say 'I Do' in Style

Donnie Brown, Wedding Planner and Author
Donnie Brown, Wedding Planner and Author
Donnie Brown
Wedding Planner, Style Network's "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?"
Tuesday, October 13, 2009; 12:00 PM

Newly engaged? Planning a wedding can be a big task to take on. From finding the right venue to selecting party favors, there are plenty of things to do and decisions to be made.

Get advice from a pro: Donnie Brown, wedding planner, author and star of Style Network's "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?," shares his expertise. Brown has planned celebrity ceremonies, makes appearances at bridal expos and wrote "Donnie Brown's Weddings: From the Couture to the Cake" (Abrams, Oct. 2009).

For more tips and to see how other couples have said "I do," visit our new OnLove section.

The transcript follows.


Donnie Brown: Hello there:

I am very happy to be here today. I hope everyone else is doing well. I am looking forward to answering your questions.

Let the fun begin!


Ridgeland, MS: I know times have changed, but has it changed that much that people are now sending wedding invitations by e-mail? Is that cheap, and then they have a nerve to ask for gifts? Please tell me that I'm not that old in my thinking.

Donnie Brown: I think it is absolutely ridiculous to send e-mail invitations. I realize that times are hard but you simply must send out invitations. If you cannot afford to have nice ones made, there are many you can purchase that are packaged and then print the text on your home printer. E-mail is just too casual a way to send out such a momentous announcement.


When did weddings go Broadway?: History: My grandparents got married in the 1920s and it was a BIG deal that they had a "wedding." Most folks went to the minister's house or he came to the family's home and people got married with relatives as the guests.

Do you think that the turning point of weddings was Princess Diana's wedding in the 1980s? Or was it earlier with the creation of the middle class after WWII?

Picture advice: I tell brides and grooms to get pictures of their oldest relatives. If children are at the weddings have them take pictures with these relatives. Sixteen years later our child cherishes her baby pictures with her great great aunt who is no longer with us.

Donnie Brown: First of all, I think that weddings have always been a big deal. That said, there was definitely a turning point that helped to create the modern day wedding industry. I would think that was when Father of the Bride came out in the 80s. At that time, people started focusing on the industry as a fun thing and people started to try and one-up everyone else by having bigger and better weddings. Princess Diana's wedding was certainly something that helped but weddings on television or the movies moved us into other things like "The Wedding Planner" with Jennifer Lopez which then led to shows like "Whose Wedding is it Anyway?" At that point it just started taking off even more!

I love to tell clients to personalize their weddings by bringing personal items like photos or vintage gowns from their parents or grandparent weddings to put on display.


Capitol Hill, D.C.: You are one of my favorite designers on "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway."

Due to the recession, my husband to be and I are posting our engagement to the holiday months and having a large party gathering to announce. We are going to have a very modest but detailed breakfast wedding. What should I remember in my planning?

And is this small affair worth a planner's time?

Donnie Brown: Thank you so much!

Having a breakfast wedding is a good idea. It will certainly help to cut costs with alcohol. People don't drink as much and you can get away with just serving champagne for a toast.

A planner should be happy to help you with a small event if you have the budget to hire one. The most important thing to note is that you may not really need a planner to actually help you plan the wedding. You could just get a month of or day of planner to help save money and then you will have assistance to run the day and allow you to enjoy your wedding.


Annapolis, Md.: As a 23-year-old, it seems as if everyone around me is getting married. It's very easy to notice wedding trends, especially when brides plaster pictures all over Facebook from their nuptials.

However, there is one trend that confuses me. I've noticed a lot of emphasis placed on the engagement, with everything from professional engagement photos to lavish engagement parties. As far as I know, this is a recent development. Don't the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties cover this part of the celebration? I feel like adding another party to the mix just fuels the bride and groom's appetite for gifts and well wishes, while taking up the time and money of friends and family.

Am I wrong here?

Donnie Brown: This is not a new trend. Engagement parties are traditionally something that was offered by the family of blue blood families for over a century. It is just a chance to allow people to congratulate the couple on their announcement. It is not really about gifts. Gifts are more for the showers and the wedding itself. You certainly do not have to have an engagement party. I think these days only the wealthiest couples do this. Utilize the components you want and can afford and leave the rest alone. It is your wedding and you should do the things you want and don't worry about the other things. Nobody will think a thing about it if you don't add this component to your wedding event itinerary.


Washington, D.C.: Hello! I live in D.C., but am getting married next year in my hometown in Long Island. Despite my best efforts, it seems that my wedding has run away from me and is going to be an over-the-top New York wedding. Note, my fiancee and I are not big over-the-top New Yorkers by any means. I want to find ways to personalize the whole experience and make it feel like us instead of a cookie cutter catering hall wedding. To be honest, I don't really know where to start! Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

Donnie Brown: Long island is filled with "wedding factories" that have multiple weddings every weekend day and evening. In order to have a wedding that is not representative of this "cookie cutter" type event I would suggest you definitely hire a planner and have them to help you plan an event that is all about your and not really living up to all the other weddings that are held in the region. It is your wedding and it should encompass your dreams and personality. There are many ways to personalize a wedding including personal photos, personal items, etc. but moreover it should be a reflection of your personality. A good planner should be able to get to know you and come up with ideas that meld together and bring you and the groom seamlessly into it. Good luck.


Rockville, Md.: Hi Donnie! You're one of my favorite planners to watch on "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?".

I am not in the planning stages yet but know that once I am I will be working with a limited budget. There are so many little things that I know end up costing tons. What are three to five things you think we can do without? What are some things that should not get cut? I'd really value your opinion! Thanks!

Donnie Brown: Thank you so much.

You really don't want to cut any components from the wedding but emphasize those items that are important to you and minimize those that aren't. Items you can actually cut might be videography, welcome gifts, favors, etc. The things you cannot cut at all are the key items like entertainment, food and beverage, attire, decor. The things people consume and see are critical. Develop a working budget and add to the items that you really want and minimize the items that aren't important to you. However, be careful because you may find yourself determining as you go along that you want things that you might not have wanted in the beginning. The more you see and read about in magazines and on television will definitely take you in directions you never thought possible!


Washington, D.C.: We've just secured our reception space (hooray!) and we're looking for decor ideas. This is an indoor reception in the evening next autumn. We want a contemporary, uncluttered look to match the venue's warm-toned wood interior and silver/white fabrics... but we also love lots of candles and little lights.

What are some color schemes and specific details we should consider? And, any ideas for streamlining or updating the typical "long white tablecloth" look?

Donnie Brown: I love the whole "Central Park in Fall" theme. You can see it on my site at under the floral/decor section in the gallery. It is very simple, yet very fall and is not at all cluttered. As for tables and cloths, you might check into BBJ Linen at and look at the incredible array of table cloths you can rent for your event. They are just amazing.

I hope it all goes well.


Washington, D.C.: What's a better splurge: the reception food or the bridal gown?

Donnie Brown: The gown is very important, clearly. However, your guests will remember what they saw in the reception and what they consumed. Be sure to not cut back on the food and beverage. Also, make sure you are feeding the guests the equivalent of the meal they missed during your wedding. If it is from 5-11 you must feed them dinner.


Washington, D.C. (decor question): My reception is going to be held in a more contemporary space with a high ceiling and grey walls. Draping the ceiling or walls is not an option, but I am brainstorming other ideas on how to create a more warm, inviting space. So far I have thought of up-lighting the walls and lots of candles -- any other thoughts? Also, where does one get a ton of candles and other decor items when they do not have a planner? Is online the best way to go? Thanks for doing this chat!

Donnie Brown: Try utilizing draperies with lights. The draperies will spread the light more evenly. If you want to create a great ambiance, this will do it.

Purchase your candles online. You will get a better rate. Just make sure you order in the cool months. Candle makers don't like to ship candles during the warm months for obvious reasons.


Washington, D.C.: My fiancee and I are getting married in two weeks. We've got all of the big pieces sorted out, but I'm really anxious that we might miss something.

What's your top suggestion for calming the anxious feeling in my stomach and making sure that everything will work out okay on the day?

Donnie Brown: Well, that is a loaded question. However, I would suggest you eat well and regularly. If you are dieting getting ready for your wedding make sure it is a diet that feeds you well even if it is healthy food. Protein is critical. Especially on wedding day. Eat egg whites in the morning. They will help you to go farther during the day and help you to eliminate much of the tummy issues during such a stressful time! If you are worried about your diet or your health, try getting a nutritionist that specializes in brides prepping for their wedding!


Dress Shopping THIS WEEKEND!: I am excited for my first day of dress shopping this upcoming weekend. We are starting at at David's Bridal and have an appointment.

Best tips? Like, don't eat a big meal before hand or don't listen to mom's opininions, etc?

Donnie Brown: Eat. You will have time to get the gown altered. A little food will not make you balloon up to much to be able to find the right gown. Also, listen to your mother but ultimately make your own decision. This is your gown, not hers!! Best of luck.


Alexandria, Va.: I am a "mature" first-time bride getting married in six months. My fiancee is a widower. We have our place booked and will hold ceremony/reception in the same place. We want this to be a fun, casual event (no bridesmaids, etc.). Any ideas for us as we begin to navigate the vendor process? Thank you!

Donnie Brown: Listen to what other say about the best vendors in your area. Also, every vendor that you like will help you to find other vendors they like working with. Interview them and make sure they are a great fit for you, your wedding and your personality. Definitely make sure they get you and what you want. Don't let people talk you down on your ideas unless you have reservations about how it will work anyway. Often, vendors that don't understand a brides vision will attempt to make it their own just so it is easier. Your wedding vendors are not being hired to do an easy job. They are being hired to help you create YOUR perfect wedding and that is it! Good luck!!!


Memphis, Tenn.: Can we talk about avoiding traditions? Like replacing the garter and bouquet toss with something a lot less uncomfortable and cheesy? My fiance and I are going to have an open mic at our reception -- any family member/friend can roast us, say cheers, or simply tell a funny joke about us. We're also ditching the unity candle/sand/rocks!

Donnie Brown: I strongly urge you to eliminate the open mic idea. You will lose all your guests if all they hear if people ranting constantly. I have seen it time and time again. The more people have to hear someone talk on a microphone, the better chance you have of them getting bored and walking out on your wedding. I swear, I have had couples that didn't listen to me on this and later were horrified when their wedding ended two hours early. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


Washington, D.C.: We're planning a pasta station as an entree for our vegetarian guests, as well as a side for others. I feel like the poor vegetarians always get stuck with boring pasta. What are some interesting pasta ideas to keep it from being blah? What about comparable alternatives to pasta (other than risotto)?

Donnie Brown: Why don't you try a fresh vegetable sautee station rather than pasta. Plenty of garden fresh veggies that are being sauteed to order with many seasonings, fresh herbs, etc. so the guest can have what they want. You can have some pasta there as ingredients if you like but think outside the box. Have you every been to Farmers Market and starved the whole time you were there. There is just something wonderful about fresh garden vegetables. A little olive oil, some green beans, halved brussel sprouts, a touch of cauliflower, some basil and a spoon of freshly minced jalapeno and some shaved garlic.... Oh dear, now I'm hungry!


Vienna, Va.: I am planning a Bat Mitzvah for next September, which as you may know, is somewhat similar to planning a wedding. We had planned to do a luncheon right after the service, but have learned of a conflict and will have to do an evening affair, which will cost substantially more. Any suggestions about ways to keep the expenses down, since we have twins in college right now, and money is a little tight.

Donnie Brown: Many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs I have planned have been more about the parents than the kids. Focus on the kids and that in itself will hold down the cost. Many I have been a part of have had more adults than kids and that can get very expensive.


Washington, D.C.: Hi there! I'm getting married December 5th and still undecided about having a "day of" coordinator. I have someone who will help with flow at the church and a catering manager who is going to help with the escord cards, guest book, etc. I think we are looking for someone to strictly help with timeline management. What should I expect to pay for this service and do you think it's really necessary? Thank you!

Donnie Brown: Don't expect the church coordinator or the catering manager to take the place of a wedding planner. They just don't have the expertise. If something goes wrong in the kitchen, the caterer will be busy with that which is most important to them and leave you in the dust while it is being resolved. A good day of coordinator can be as little as $1,500 or as much as $5,000 and many attach a percentage of the wedding budget to the fee with minimums. Read the proposal carefully!

Good luck.


Washington, DC.:. My partner and I are have a commitment ceremony (married if D.C. passes this law) in April. The budget is tight and we are looking for decent yet not so expensive flower ideas. Do you have any idea? And thanks for the "no wedding e-vite" tip, we are making our own.

Donnie Brown: It's spring. Try this. 22 inch tall cylinders that are five inches in diameter. Put a pin frog in the bottom and push three tulips at different levels onto the frog so they are growing up inside the vase. Cover the pin frog mechanics with gems or rocks and fill with water to the top. You can even place a floating candle on top. Even with vase and materials rentals, you will find this to be a very dramatic yet affordable option for centerpieces. We do this for budget brides all the time. And, if you have pin lighting on the tables, they look like a terrarium all aglow. You will love it!


Harrisonburg, Va.: How much do we need to go out of our way for guests who have very special dietary requirements? We will have at least one person who is on a "raw food diet" and a couple others who are allergic to everything in sight (well, wheat, dairy, eggs, etc.). I am worried about how to handle this. Thanks for your thoughts!

Donnie Brown: You simply cannot please everyone. Don't even try. If they are very close family or friends, judge how you feel about them and make the decisions on a piece by piece basis. Do not consider revamping your wedding menu to accommodate everyone. It just won't happen. If they are a guest of an invited person, it is not up to you to please them. You should always make sure there are vegetarian options for those guests who need them and be careful about items that people tend to be allergic to. The bottom line is that you need to be happy with your wedding food more than anyone else!!


Why all the emphasis on what you HAVE to do?: You HAVE to have a gown! You HAVE to have printed invitations! You HAVE to have dancing!

I'm getting married in two weeks, in front of 35 people, in a pizza place. We're having a party at our house that night. I will be wearing a casual dress I already own. We've hired a street vendor (crepe cart) and will have homemade cupcakes and some catered snacks. We sent our invitations via Facebook and do not expect gifts (we will gratefully accept them but have not registered anywhere and have let people know, when asked, that their good wishes are all we need).

A wedding is one day (though some people would have you spend all week)...a marriage is a lifetime? Why not have a fun, nontraditional, casual party, and then concentrate on the marriage itself?

Donnie Brown: If you are happy with your plans then everything is fine. It is up to you. Enjoy your wedding and don't let anyone tell you what to do or not to do. It is your wedding!!


Vegetarian station: If you can, also include hummus or other ideas that include protein. Garden veggies are great, but something more substantive protein-wise is necessary to get through the night. Blocks of different kinds of cheese and fruits are also great, but not all vegetarians will eat cheese, unless it's rennet-free.

Donnie Brown: That is why I said that you could certainly put pasta, or hummus or any other items you want in as ingredients. I was just suggesting that you put the vegetables up front and enhance these items with proteins.


Donnie Brown: Thank you all for submitting your questions. It was great fun being here with you today. We have new episodes of "Whose Wedding is it Anyway?" starting next week. I hope you enjoy them. They are great this season with many terrific surprises. Also, my book, "Donnie Brown Weddings form the Couture to the Cake" is available at Amazon. I hope you like it. You can follow me on Twitter at Wdonniebrown.

Thanks again and happy wedding planning!!!


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