I've known Donna Smith for a long time, first as an interior designer-extraordinaire in our hometown in northern California. Then she transferred her talent into designing gorgeous weddings and receptions, and when I saw her Instagram pics of her creations, I was blown away (click here and see for yourself)! Having almost as many children as I do (she has nine), she's had a few weddings of her own to put together, which makes for a balanced perspective, having been both the mother of the bride several times and the designer/wedding planner for many other weddings as well.
When my daughter Christina told me that Donna was going to be her wedding planner, I was thrilled. I knew she would make it an event fit for a princess, and that I could trust that all the millions of details that make up a wedding were going to fall into place beautifully. And they did!
Donna and Christina at the rehearsal dinner, clearly relaxed and ready for the big day!
I caught up with Donna recently to get her thoughts, reflections and advice on wedding planning in general, with some specifics about Christina's wedding.
1. What exactly does a wedding planner do, and how do you go about planning such an important event?
The wedding planner is like an interrupter. She talks with the bride and groom and then gets the expectations and vision of what they want from their wedding (every bride is different). The planner then uses her resources to find the people that are needed to create what they want, while avoiding the unpredictable events that often happen with inexperience. I manage all the vendors, visual details, scheduling, budgeting, and logistical details for the event. Its important to have a funnel that all the information is running through. There are thousands of decisions that go into a wedding, and it can be stressful. The planner is a shield to the wedding party, to keep them from unnecessary stress during such a pivotal change in their lives.
2. From where do you draw your inspiration?
My inspiration comes straight from the bride and groom. This is their moment to celebrate with their family and friends. I want to create their vision. Once I have that vision in my head, I work it backwards and deconstruct the vision so I can see the individual pieces, and then I rely on creativity and instinct to guide me to the right people and places.
3. You designed a number of the elements for Christina’s wedding. Which ones did you design, and how did you go about doing it?
I started from the invitation and designed every visual aspect of the wedding, working with different professionals in each category to insure that every detail was cohesive. Christina told me that she had saved a flower from every bouquet that Nick had given her over the nine years of their courtship, and she loved color. I asked watercolor artist Kathryn Freley to paint different flowers, which I had digitized, and then I arranged them to design the invitation. They became the theme that I used on each element of the reception. The cake, the cookies in the gift boxes, the water bottle labels, the S’More tags, etc, were all tied together by that beautiful flower theme. I also designed the venue layout and vignettes, as well as some last minute lighting needs, to ensure pictures would be beautiful.
The beautiful and very clever wedding invitation Donna designed using the hand-painted floral theme; notice in the next picture how the lower cards stack to make the flower design.
Custom tags designed by Donna for the individually wrapped S'mores, using the same hand-painted floral theme
Beautiful (and delicious!) cookie designed by Donna and made by Pretty Sweet Desserts that survived the airplane ride home
Custom stickers and bags designed by Donna full of Hershey kisses
4. One of the things that I loved about Christina’s reception was how you brought in all kinds of furniture and transformed the whole atmosphere by creating little vignettes. Describe those and how you envisioned those working with the flow of the reception. Did they all work out the way you planned?
My background as an interior designer comes in to play with each event, so using furniture and accessories is always in the picture. Creating vignettes allows me to control the flow of the audience. I correlate the vignette locations with the time line so I can ensure that their experience is enjoyable. Like an Ikea store, you are traveling a path that's created to ensure you experience every detail of the event in a logical, carefree pattern. Christina and Nick's event worked out great!
The happy couple taking pictures after the wedding in the rose garden where I use to take Christina for stroller rides as a baby.
5. Every event has its hiccups at the last minute. What kinds of things have you run into, and how did you deal with them so that the guests never had a clue?
We had a few with this event. LOL First I was working with a caterer that was not as prepared to handle the level of customer service that I am accustomed to delivering at my events. We did some last minute on-the-job training and brought in some seasoned workers to help set the pace. Second, we had some venue issues because we were informed the day before the wedding that the venue owner did not secure the necessary permits to allow Christina's sisters to perform live on stage. We had a Plan B in place and luckily Mike (Christina's dad) came to the rescue and assisted the owner in securing the permit the day of the event! It was very stressful! Christina was kept blissfully unaware, and it all went as she had originally planned without putting any undue stress on her.
6. What advice do you have for brides-to-be to help them plan a beautiful event?
Guests come first. Think of your wedding as a family and friends celebration party; you are sharing this moment with the people that you love! Hiring a professional wedding planner is the most important aspect of having a beautiful event. The planner is an “Event Designer”. You may be organized and know what you want, but the experience a wedding planner brings to the table is invaluable. A planner will feed you line by line as it's necessary, and you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Good experience and advise can go a long way. Having a gate keeper for all things wedding-related will ensure you enjoy the day and it looks amazing.
First episode in Christina's wedding video series called, "Here's to Us!", featuring Donna.
I know that as organized as I am, and as experienced as I am in putting together events, Donna included so many details that wouldn't even have occurred to me! Plus, she knew exactly where to go and who to contact to help pull it all together. Weddings have many unique elements that other events don't have, and it was such a relief to be able to place everything in such capable hands! Thank you, Donna!!
If you would like to see all the gorgeous exclusive pictures from Christina's wedding, be sure to click here to pre-order your signed copy of Sacramento Bride and Groom that will feature Christina and her stunning custom-made dress from Miosa Bride on the cover!
Also, if you haven't heard the new Cimorelli wedding EP called, "Here's to Us: Wedding Songs", then you're in for a treat! Featuring three beautiful new original songs that Christina wrote for Nick and four covers of some of their favorite love songs, you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music, buy it on iTunes, or you can order the CD at cimorellimusic.com
Album cover to the new Cimorelli EP "Here's to Us: Wedding Songs"