#Wanderable Tastemaker: Interview with wedding extraordinaire, Darren Allen Dunn
Staying Home is Overrated.
It’s near-impossible not to envy the carefully curated life of wedding extraordinaire, Darren Allen Dunn. This event, wedding & production designer flutters between homes in Chicago, Puerto Vallarta, and Paris, leaving his Midas touch for design, and delighting his clients, wherever the universe leads him. We can’t get enough of his uplifting Instagram because his attention to detail is unlike any we’ve ever seen. In the worlds of Roald Dahl, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you…those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Here we caught up with Darren so he could share some of his secrets for living wildly & freely.
Wanderable: What inspired you to become an wedding/event planner? Was it something you always dreamed of doing or something you just fell into?
Dunn: I’ve always been inspired by sounds, fabrics, found objects, spaces, and environments, but I sort of stumbled into the event business. While freelancing as a graphic designer, I was hired by a bridal boutique to re-brand them and lead their design. It was the beginning of the shift to digital, so there was a lot of hand-holding on my part to familiarize the owner with communicating his desired brand energy to a new and growing audience. We became friends, and meetings led to conceptualizing, designing and planning a sixty-model fashion show. From there, I became hooked. The natural progression blended all of my skills for a special, experiential purpose.
Where did your signature hashtag #LifeYourBestLifestyle come from?
By nature I am curious, and I am a romantic and an adventurer. I always hold and see the beauty in fleeting moments, and my goal is to translate that feeling into a tangible journey for my clients. I want every experience DADL creates to be an extension of oneself, only elevated. For me that means spending time discovering who they are aesthetically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually, and illuminating their most natural traits to create a cohesive whole. While some designers and design industries are smoke and mirrors, I try to keep the purity of intention alive throughout the experience. My hope is that even after an invite date has passed, an elevated energy will carry on throughout their lives.
Tell me a little bit about the process of planning an event (i.e. getting to know the couple, figuring out exactly what they want, budget, etc.)
One of the first questions I ask is, “How much do you want to spend?” Once that’s established, getting to the lifestyle core of clients really informs how I’ll work with them. I want to know what you feel, how you feel it and how that manifests itself. Why do you enjoy that particular shade of green? Where was your last vacation and why? Do you consider your friends family or vice versa? Why this wine over that? The questions can go on and on, and usually do, but the goal is to make sure the details are intrinsic to the client’s spirit. Love is in the details and this is why people hire event designers.
Have you ever dealt with a bridezilla? How did you handle it?
Luckily, knock on wood, I haven’t had any clients I wouldn’t work with all over again. Know of any? I’m always up for a challenge.
What are a few things that all brides should know before they start planning their wedding?
I can’t say that I have a list of things all brides should know beforehand. I will say, however, that a wedding isn’t only the day printed on an invitation. Brides (and grooms) should remember that the festivities are simply the culmination of time spent putting into form the acknowledgement and celebration of a milestone. Lean in during every meeting, tasting, fitting, rehearsal and embrace the moments. Love is in the details, so don’t entertain negative energy or hints of stress because that really defeats the purpose of the entire happening and will only take away from a moment where you otherwise would have been fully present to learn even more about you and your partner.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in working with clients to create their dream event?
Carte blanche is a dream come true, but that’s not always a reality. As an event designer, you’re usually chosen for your distinct point of view which is guided by a usually outrageous imagination. Bringing those ideas to fruition in a way that fulfills a client’s desires and stretches your ability all while remaining obtainable and true to vision is probably our biggest challenge.
If you could choose one of our Wanderable Experiences (we have over 2,500!) which one would it be and why?
I’m sort of living my Wanderable Experience at the moment in that this spring, we’ll be relocating flagship to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s an incredible time and an opportunity to be inspired by, experience and work in a part of the world where you’ll still find large areas of untouched geography blended so seamlessly with internationally influenced architecture, cuisine and entertainment.
What I find incredibly magical about Puerto Vallarta is that while it’s a major tourist and expat draw, its energy has remained largely unaffected by rapid growth and the authenticity of its people and history is still on full display. It hasn’t turned into a G10 rest stop, in part, because there’s a level of respect among many expats for the people and history that unfortunately I find lacking in some other destinations.
I would highly recommend renting a house or villa in the hills just north or south of Old Town because you’ll not only have full city and ocean views, but it’s easier to get around hotspots while simultaneously having neighbors who live and work right in the area. Also, I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but if you journey along the coast, just south of the city, there are tons of opportunities for relatively inexpensive boat rentals and snorkeling and some incredible restaurants that you otherwise wouldn’t know about if you only spend time in the city itself.
What’s on your bucket list?
I was thinking about this a few days ago and have actually checked quite a few things off in the last year. However, of the remaining items I can actually share (laughter), I would say that my top three would be to spend about a month motor biking and camping through the Tanzanian mountains, participating in Carnival and seeing Rio de Janeiro from atop Christ the Redeemer, and discovering someone just as curious to do the first two with.
And we are confident that they will be the coolest couple ever. Stay tuned for more forays into Dunn’s exciting life on his social media and be sure to stay tuned on his website coming soon, which will feature posts and news for other aspiring adventurers. Thank you, Darren! We are never going to look at a table setting the same way again!