As an award-winning events planner, entrepreneur and bridal fashion designer, David Tutera has mastered the art of bringing dreams to life. He has become a household name in the wedding and planning space. His highly esteemed clients have included Nancy Reagan, Prince Charles, Elton John and The White House, among others. Tutera is also a renowned author and speaker and is well known for his television programs: My Fair Wedding, David Tutera’s CELEBrations and My Great Big Wedding. Tutera has created a name for himself by taking his passion for designing spectacular events and transforming it into a lifestyle. He continuously exceeds expectations with an unmatched level of imagination and innovation creating long lasting memories.
Methodically planned and passionately executed is the theme behind Tutera’s story and his specialty. At the age of 18, on his path to go to law school, he stumbled on his passion. Working out of his parent’s garage, his first small event was a bar mitzvah that brought him immense joy: “Suddenly, I understood I had the creativity and the ability to design. I embraced it and have never let it go. We must absolutely love what we do because, if we do, we can make a difference.”
In this exclusive, the enthusiastic celebration planner shares his secrets to success and how he turns dreams into vibrant realities. He credits his grandfather, a successful florist, for helping him discover his gift, recalling, “He first noticed my artistic ability at an early age and encouraged me to pursue my destiny.”
With a life that includes marriage, two children and “ bringing joy to every celebration,” Tutera feels completely fulfilled. He says, “My family means everything to me.” Tutera lives in Los Angeles with his husband Joey, daughters Cielo and Gracie and their dogs Lucy and Teddy.
FINDING MY CALLING
DAVID TUTERA: It took about five years to find my calling.I had no idea that event planning was a possibility. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I stumbled upon it. In my schooling, I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do. There are no accidents, but I considered this to be an accident at the time.
I was going to Fordham University with full intentions of becoming an attorney. I was commuting between Port Chester and New York City. During the second year of my schooling, I felt that maybe it was the wrong decision. I took a break, which turned out to be a break for many decades.
I started seeing notices to make some money at 19 or 20. There was this woman who owned this little company in Scarsdale, New York. I’ll never forget her, Emily was her name. She was retiring, moving to Florida and offered to sell it to me. I borrowed money from my grandfather and I bought the small business. I ran it out of my bedroom and my parents’ garage. It did well for the first six months, and we opened up a store in an affluent area of Westchester.
I knew the business wouldn’t have been successful in Port Chester. I knew it needed to be in a place where there was wealth. This woman came into my store one day. It was nothing special, but I had decorated the windows. She asked if I would decorate her son’s bar mitzvah. That was my introduction to the world of celebrations. I said yes, and it ignited my love for the business of celebrations.
I come from a lower-middle-income family. [I saw] people were spending astronomical amounts of money on parties. When I did this first party, it was a coming of age celebration for a 13-year-old child. I was 19 or 20 years old. I kept wondering how I could get paid to organize a party for this child. Not too long after, I realized I was in a business that brings happiness to people. There were challenges to achieve it, but it’s remarkable when you get there.
I began to go to these conventions with or by professionals that do this all over the country. I listened and I learned. I was asked to do little speaking appearances for like 40 people. And I just started talking about what I do and why I did what I did. And that was sort of the next step into success. That’s where I really started to parlay. I started to get the big, big calls in 1998.
In ’98, there were three calls in one year. The first was the call from the National Academy of Arts and Science for the Grammys. And then I did the official post-Grammy party for 4,000 people. That same year, I got a phone call from Nancy Reagan, and the same year I got a phone call from Prince Charles of the Royal family. So, there I was in 1998, doing these three events for these people that I was out of my mind surprised that I’d be the one that they were calling on.
SHARING THE EXPERTISE
David Tutera: The “David Tutera Experience” was incubated from the best of beginnings. We thought of the concept about five years ago with the abundance of keynote speaking that I do around the world for the celebration industry. I wanted to bring professionals together, give them a safe place to learn and an experience of a lifetime. We developed the concept and thought we’d do it once and it did well. The 40 attendees were blown away. It changed their lives. We are now on our fourth “David Tutera Experience.”
David Tutera: My favorite wedding is my wedding to my husband. People wait for me to list a celebrity wedding. I’m grateful for those moments in my life, but my wedding with my husband was incredible because I adore, love and respect him. I create magic for people around me, but this was an opportunity to create magic for ourselves. It was so rewarding. It was probably the most stressful thing I’ve done, but it was so much fun doing it.
David Tutera: I would tell the younger self to not allow anyone to break me. I would also tell my younger self to not try so hard to be perfect and to allow myself to be silly, to play more and to always laugh. I would tell myself, “Just be you and make sure that every day you make someone smile.”
Interview by Tricia Love Vargas
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