Reality shows are a dime a dozen in 2009, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight. But one new reality series has captured our interest for its refreshing take on one of our fave pastimes: weddings! However, this newbie isn't about saccharin sappy fairytales or embarrassing cat fights. TNT's "Wedding Day," premiering tonight at 8 P.M. EST, gives deserving couples a helping hand to ensure the most important day of their lives is also the most magical. The show is hosted by none other than veteran celebrity wedding planner Diann Valentine (diannvalentine.com), who sat down with ESSENCE.com to discuss her exciting new venture into television, how a wedding planner can actually save you money, and working with Grammy-winning artists Toni Braxton, Usher and Boyz II Men.
ESSENCE.COM: Congrats, Diann! You have worked with so many fabulous clients, from Lela Rochon and Antoine Fuqua to DeLeon and Gary Sheffield. You're also the author of the popular book, "Weddings Valentine Style" (Atria Books). Why did you accept TNT's request to work on a reality show at this stage in your career?
DIANN VALENTINE: This is the one wedding show on television right now that is positive, inspiring, uplifting and unique. For years I've been approached to host other wedding shows but they simply didn't live up to the Diann Valentine standard. For "Wedding Day" I had the opportunity to really bond with the brides. The couples featured are incredibly selfless. Every time they think of their wedding, they will think of Diann Valentine and how I helped them plan one of the best days of their lives.
ESSENCE.COM: What was the most challenging part of the show and why?
VALENTINE: We literally had four days to work on a wedding from start to finish. We did a lot of work on and off camera. We get no rest for five days and work like mad men and women to get it done. We hustle. But the entire crew is so dedicated because it's such a good show. It feels good to do good.
ESSENCE.COM: Who's your most memorable celebrity client and do you only work with celebs?
VALENTINE: Toni Braxton has such a sexy and sultry stage persona but she's really a traditional southern girl. She was so sweet. Usher and Tameka Raymond. Usher is one of the nicest men I've ever worked with. He also has so much style and taste. His mother did a good job; he's a gentleman. Kelis and Nas--I love Kelis because she's such a chameleon. She doesn't buy into the pressures of trends. Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman--he had the fish tank in the dance floor. That goes down in history! They're singing in the premiere episode. I called in a favor for them to do it. They were busy but wanted to be associated with something so positive. And I absolutely do not solely work with celebrities. I work with whoever has the right budget.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you have to say to those reading who might think that a wedding planner is a luxury and that they cannot afford a one for their own nuptials?
VALENTINE: I have been in this business for over ten years. A wedding planner is actually cost efficient in the long run. One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a wedding is wasting money. I have relationships with people all over the world. I know what I can negotiate. The job of a wedding planner has become so popular. People have a business card and claim to be a professional but they're really not. Nothing beats experience. I help guide the client on the most effective way to spend their money. For example, favors are a big, big waste of the budget. Baby, as excited as you might be, no one cares to have a book of matches with your name and wedding date on it but you. (laughs).