About 75 attendees joined renowned celebrity wedding and event planner David Tutera on the lawn of the Castle Hill Inn on Sept. 14 to kick off a three-day “experience,” mingling with fellow industry insiders hoping to secure a piece of the magic that has made Tutera a go-to guru in popular culture.
Those attending the fifth annual David Tutera Experience will be treated to educational talks, workshops and nightly events, hosted by the Hotel Viking.
Before a sit-down dinner inside a decked-out pavilion, which included a harp player and cocktails courtesy of “the cocktail guru,” Jonathan Pogash, Tutera said that while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the wedding and event industry, the need to celebrate those special days has proved a source of resilience.
“It’s been an insane 18 months,” he said. “We’ve had our challenges planning [this event] here in Newport. But because all of you stepped forward to be present and be ready, we are grateful. You can only go so far if you push yourself further. And that is what is important in life. When you step forward, there is something new. There is a door to open, and beyond that door is something magical.”
Newport has been a popular destination choice for decades, offering a seaside escape for not only the upper crust of the social stratum, but anyone looking to take advantage of the world class venues, lodging and attractions.
According to Bill Tavaras, spokesperson for the Newport Mansions Preservation Society, there were 64 weddings at Rosecliff in 2019. And, perhaps as a sign that many destination weddings in the Cityby the-Sea that were postponed in 2020 are moving forward now, there were 61 weddings scheduled at the popular venue between last June and December. Tavaras said that over 90 percent of these nuptials are for out of state couples.
Tutera, who holds networking events throughout the country, said Newport was a natural choice.
“The city is pristine. I am mesmerized by the history and charm. It is something you rarely see; it is like a movie set,” he said. “The abundance and quality of the venues is fantastic. The hotels, the cuisine; it’s all great and understated.”
Discover Newport president and CEO Evan Smith said that a total tally is difficult to track, but he estimated that the pre-pandemic average of weddings in Newport was around 1,000 annually.
Tutera said that it is a common misperception that more dollars equal success when it comes to wedding planning.
“A memorable wedding is about the emotion you evoke,” he said. “Spending a lot of money does not mean a successful wedding. A successful party is the collective experience, when everyone is feeling the magic of the surroundings. Hearing the music, smelling the flowers or tasting the food.”
Tutera touted his mentorship program, founded during the pandemic, which works to give would-be entrepreneurs an inside look at how to succeed in the multibillion dollar industry.
“The program was built during COVID. I wanted to provide a solid education to people in the industry on how to be a professional, give them the tools and foundation to … legitimately build themselves up so they could run a profitable business,” he said.
Asked what stood out to him about his own 2017 wedding, Tutera pointed to the paper bouquets and boutonnieres, an interesting choice given that his grandfather was a florist.
“We had an abundance of roses for the reception. But since we were the first same-sex couple to be married in our church, we wanted to really do something unexpected for the ceremony,” he said. “Real flowers die and paper creations last forever. It’s wonderful; our daughter, Cielo still looks at the bouquet in her room.”