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the wedding planner
Story by Susan O'Connor, Photo by Dero Sanford

As a wedding planner and all-around retail guru of all things related to getting married, Christy Hinson is in her element.

“I was lucky I found the career I wanted in my first job,” she said. “Some people go through dozens of jobs before they find what they love to do.”
A native of Paragould, Hinson began working at a flower shop at age 16. It was a job she loved, and one that translated well to her current business, The Wedding Gallery, located on Southwest Drive.

“I fell in love with everything about flowers – the smell, the colors, the way people act when they get them. I have good stories, bad stories, funny ones.”
After 10 years of working as a florist, Hinson attended college, but never found a niche she enjoyed as much as flowers, so she went back to her first love. In 1996 she joined her mother-in-law, Joy Cook White, at The Wedding Gallery. In 2001 she purchased the business.

“The dresses are just as much fun as flowers,” she said of her new business. “Helping girls find ‘the dress’ is so exciting. In this job, we really are blessed to share special moments with people.”

Hinson said her business offers everything but photography – wedding attire, décor, flowers, candles, catering, full service at receptions – really the gamut. “We’re the only store in Jonesboro that does that. We’re there from first thing in the morning until everything is done. The couple is long gone when we leave.”

And Hinson said she couldn’t do without her right-hand helper, Rhonda Byford, an employee of 11 years.

But connecting with the brides is Hinson’s greatest source of pride, and the source of her success.

“We’re not the biggest store, we’re not the fanciest store, but we connect with our brides,” she said. “We’ve helped generations of brides.”

As far as the latest trends in bridal attire, Hinson noted color on wedding gowns, such as on the train or bodice, fitted dresses, prints for bridesmaids’ dresses and a comeback of lace. Other trends include: no veils, just a few small flowers in the hair; feathers on combs; pleating on gowns; and tuxedos without vests, simply a tie to match the color scheme.

What are some of the most unusual requests you’ve had from brides? We’ve had many different requests. One of the more memorable is when a bride brought us a strand of pearls in a bag. They were her grandmother’s, and she had broken them as a child. She wanted us to incorporate them into her bouquet. We wired them and scattered them throughout her bouquet. Another bride brought us a small Bible she wanted in her bouquet somehow. She was the third generation in her family to carry it. Another bride had lost her mother. The mother’s wedding gown had survived a fire, but wasn’t wearable. She wanted us to use it somehow, so we used a piece of it to wrap the stems of her bouquet.

Of all the weddings you’ve planned over the years, what was the most beautiful location? I’ve done weddings in a lot of different places: on a bluff overlooking Spring River; by a pond next to a cabin; and in a grandparent’s tree-lined front yard where all the girls in the family got married. Some of the sweetest places have been “home” churches – churches where the brides grew up and the whole family attends. Some are large, some are small, but there is a certain charm to a home church you don’t find anywhere else. One of the prettiest weddings may be yet to come.

Do you watch wedding reality shows? If so, which one is your favorite? I really only watch Platinum Weddings. The weddings have unreal budgets, but some of the ideas can be borrowed and done on a less expensive version.

How has your husband learned to deal with your stress level during busy periods? He has a business of his own, Gladish Marine in Paragould, so he knows about long hours and not getting off on time. His mother owned the Wedding Gallery when he was younger, so he kind of grew up around it. He never complains if the house is a mess or we have take-out again during a wedding week. He knows the day after just to let me sleep. When I’m working late and feeling tired and overwhelmed, I’ve called him for a pep talk. After that and a little prayer I find the energy to make it through.

After all the years of helping brides plan one of the most important life events, what key pieces of advice can you offer? Relax! Have fun! Don’t stress over every detail to the point of making yourself miserable. You can stay within a budget, but sometimes you might have to trade something for something you want more. When I sit down with a bride to start planning her wedding, I tell her to look through magazines and the Internet for pictures. The more of her vision she can share with me, the better I can help her expand on it. This way, we both know we’re on the same page.

If you could have a second honeymoon, where would you go? We have both always worked so much; we haven’t had time for many vacations. I would love to go to Israel, Hawaii or Charleston, S.C. I think a trip we would both enjoy would be an Alaskan cruise. We could go whale watching. We both like to fish, so salmon fishing would be great. Just enjoying the quiet and peace there would be so relaxing.