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Fans of two-time Dancing With the Stars champion Cheryl Burke know exactly what they're going to get when they watch her compete on Monday nights: a strict, dedicated coach who demands her partners give it their all and then some. Off the dance floor Burke demands the same of herself. "I'm the same person you see on [the show]," she says. "I have an addictive personality and I’m addicted to work."
That's why it should come as no surprise that when planning her May 23 wedding to actor Matthew Lawrence, Burke knew exactly what she wanted. She proudly owns up to the many sleepless nights she spent making sure every last detail was checked off. But unlike most brides who cringe at the word bridezilla, Burke says she's a proud member of the club. A day after returning from her honeymoon with Lawrence, she tells Glamour West Coast editor Jessica Radloff what she learned from the experience, and why it's perfectly okay to embrace your inner bridezilla.
Growing up, I never thought about my wedding. I was not that girl. To be honest, I didn’t believe in it. Fast-forward a few decades and I’m bringing my laptop and 200 thank-you notes with me on my honeymoon because I wanted to get a head start. Funny how things change.
I didn’t start to even think about my actual wedding until Matthew proposed. And then things really amped up when I hired the incredible Mindy Weiss as my wedding planner. But before that? Nope.
And now? I say embrace your inner bridezilla. I sure did. But there’s a way of doing it without having people hate you. A bridezilla can either be bitchy [to the point where] friends ghost them after the wedding or there’s a bridezilla like me that expected perfection from myself, not from anyone else. It’s the same thing when I’m on Dancing With the Stars. If I know I didn’t do my best, I won’t be able to sleep at night. It’s important for me to follow through with whatever expectations I have for myself.
Everyone says, "You’re going to forget something on your wedding day," and it makes me proud to say I did not forget one thing. I was like, "I deserve an award for this!" It’s so important to me for things to run smoothly and on time. I went to a wedding once that started an hour late, and I don’t appreciate that. I think it’s really rude. Honestly, now that my wedding is done, I'm pretty sure Mindy Weiss would hire me.
I knew we’d get along because she didn’t roll her eyes when I presented a PowerPoint presentation at our first meeting. She was like, "It makes my job easier because you know what you want, and I can make whatever vision you want come to life." She said it’s when clients are indecisive that the process gets frustrating. I get that. If you leave people with options, then there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.
Listen, I’m not telling people to do backflips down the aisle. This isn’t a circus act. I’ve been to enough weddings to know what works and what doesn’t. And what doesn’t work is when you tell your bridal party, "Do whatever you want or wear whatever you want," when you actually have an opinion. I think it’s rude to give people that freedom if you’re just going to judge them afterward.
But I’ll be the first one to say that choosing a dress was a nightmare. It wasn’t so much the choosing as it was working with the design companies. Oddly enough, I knew it was going to be a nightmare. I play dress-up every single day on Dancing With the Stars, so for me the goal was to feel like a bride and not like I’m about to put on a show. I just knew what I wanted.
I went through two wedding dress designers who quit. To be honest, I think some of that had to do with the crazy contracts they wanted me to sign. Who signs a contract for a dress? When the first designer quit, I was like, "That’s rude, but moving on." Also, I’m used to the turnaround being so quick with dresses, that when you don’t send me the sketch and it’s been three months, there’s a problem. Not communicating with me is the worst thing you can possibly do, whether it’s an email or a text. Just respond, even if the response is "Sorry, I can’t right now." Otherwise you leave me and my wedding party out to dry. So when it happened again, I was like, "Whatever, it wasn’t meant to be." And in the end, I’m so happy because my eventual wedding designer, Romona Keveza, was the best.
Leah Remini was my matron of honor. Nicole, my sister, was a bridesmaid, and [DWTS pro] Kym Johnson Herjavec was a bridesmaid. Prior to the wedding I definitely told them no red lips. I just needed everyone in neutral makeup colors, wanted them to wear black and a pair of heels. I picked out certain dress styles on Ramona’s website and said they can choose between these two styles. I prepped so hard-core that there was no surprises or uncertainty. But I wasn’t that person that would ever say cover up your tattoos or anything. That doesn’t matter.
Now, the guest list and the seating chart, on the other hand, was the worst part. In fact, I still walk around my house and will find a Post-it note attached to my shirt with someone’s name on it. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, though, considering I turned our whole living room into my work space. It looked like an arts and crafts table. I was like, I finally found a hobby! In fact, Leah got me into scrapbooking. I bought way too many Amazon purchases and Etsy shit and stuff from England. But it’s calming! And so is rhinestoning, which is another problem I had. I would see a little sparkle and take it to the next level.
I made everyone, including Leah, and [figure skater and former Dancing With the Stars winner] Adam Rippon, come over to my house and rhinestone. I think they thought I was joking about it. We did it on everything from the hangover kits to Tic Tac boxes. I mean, who the hell does that? But we had a great time, and they enjoyed it even though they thought I was fucking nuts. What was so great was that we put our phones away and could actually talk. It’s therapeutic and it helped keep my attention, so I was focused and not fidgeting.
Matthew even helped too. He put stickers on the Tic Tac boxes. I realized that if he could put up with me during all of this, then we’re going to be together forever. But he wanted to help. And if he didn’t want to help, that would have been okay too. My whole thing is that I’m not going to ask for help because that’s not who I am. But if you offer it, I will take you up on it. And that follow-through means so much to me, because I always follow through. Just be honest. Don’t do something because you think you should and you’re afraid I’ll be upset if you don’t. My friendships and my relationship are better off because of that honesty. I respect people that know themselves well enough that they don’t want to take on other people’s stress and that’s fine.
And know your role. If you don’t think you can be in the wedding because you’ve got lots of plans beforehand, then say that instead of saying yes to everything and then not following through. Know your boundaries as well. People are so scared to say no sometimes, but that’s better than saying yes and then not being able to give it everything you have.
Speaking of knowing yourself, this next statement might surprise people, but here goes: I hate dance floors. And I don’t like weddings in ballrooms because I was basically born in a ballroom. Whenever anything looks like a dance competition with a wooden floor, it seems like you’re in a conference room at a hotel. And think about it: Why is a dance floor—with its wooden square pieces—always the centerpiece of a room? Instead, why don’t you make it into something? Well, that’s exactly what Mindy and I did. We decided to make the dance floor circular and have it mirrored so it would reflect the twinkle lights from above in the tent.
It’s all about the details, and I’m very detailed (if you’ve watched me on DWTS, then you’re like, "No kidding"). Anyway, I didn’t want rows of seats at my wedding that look so military-like in presentation. Everything needed to be circular, or curved, for me. It just gives off a feeling of unity.
But I did things that nobody has done before. Mindy and I had our venue, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, build a floor over their fountain. The fountain is normally the backdrop of everyone’s pictures, but I wanted to flip it and have Matt’s wedding party and mine meet in the center of the arch with the quartet as our background. So we got married on top of a fountain, which was very unique.
For me, it was all about challenging myself. I joke that I’ve never been a wedding planner, but now I think I should be. That’s the hardest job, even more so than Dancing With the Stars. But regardless of what I’m doing, my goal is to think outside the box and get creative. I think that’s truly been the key to a successful career. It’s what makes me feel accomplished.
I don’t think a bridezilla is necessarily a bad thing. As long as your intention is in the right place and you aren’t hurting your loved ones or becoming egotistical or selfish, it’s fine. I wasn’t going to expect Mindy Weiss and her team to rhinestone my hangover kit. That was my own thing, and as long as you’re ready to do it yourself, there’s nothing wrong with it.
It’s about working hard for yourself. You can tell when someone is working hard for the reaction they’re going to get, or working hard because they want to prove something to themselves. For me, it comes from a sincere place of just wanting to make something that is very impressive to myself. I’d say it was my dream wedding, but I never dreamed of my wedding. I dreamed of a vision I had once I got engaged, and it was amazing watching that vision come to life.
I learned a lot about myself through this process and learned that maybe I need to figure out what life after DWTS is going to be. I never tell myself that I did a great job, but this time, I did. Even after winning the Mirrorball on DWTS, I’m not one to pat myself on the back. But when this was all said and done, I was really proud of myself because it was so completely out of my comfort zone. This was more of a personal journey for me than trying to be controlling or outdo someone else’s wedding. This was for me.
I know that people who call me crazy may not relate to my work ethic and intensity, and that’s okay. I have to embrace it instead of pretending that I whipped up a routine or a wedding in two seconds. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the sleepless nights. It’s not something you want to brag about, but I don’t think you should pretend the results happen on their own either. Achieving your goals is not glamorous. You just have to take one rhinestone at a time.
Originally Appeared on Glamour