"I’m not going to lie, it’s crazy,” says Mary-Frances Hurt, owner of DFW Events, reflecting on her own happily-ever-after filled with three children, two businesses and one rescue dog named Latte. “I call it organized chaos.”
The sought-after wedding planner steers brides by day while husband Wyatt sears patties by night (the pair own Fat Daddy’s Burger House). In between long and odd work hours, they juggle three kids and a slate of karate, soccer, cheerleading, saxophone and lacrosse practices. “No day is ever the same in the Hurt household,” says the Coppell mom better known as “MF.” “I’ve learned that I have to let go of control sometimes and rely on the people around me for help.”
It’s a concept she’s built an empire around. Even before it was in vogue to hire a wedding planner, Hurt sensed a need for a young professional bride on a budget to find support on the most important day of her life. She recalls running around at her own wedding and catching the eye of her mother, who wore the same exasperated look. Was everyone having a good time? Was the evening flowing smoothly? Instead of enjoying the party, they felt responsible for it.
So, while she continued to work full-time as a marketing manager at CiCi’s Pizza (where she met her husband, who was the youngest district manager at the company), Hurt began learning the bridal business on weekends by helping a caterer and selling gowns.
At the time, event planning wasn’t even considered a profession; Hurt vowed she would succeed all the more. For the first seven years she operated as a one-woman show, managing 15 to 20 weddings a year. After The Wedding Planner, starring Jennifer Lopez, hit theaters, droves of brides began saying “I do” to consultants.
Meanwhile her family life was blossoming. Hurt recalls going right back to work after her first daughter Libby was born and pumping breast milk in churches, parking garages and even at Troy Aikman’s house during his nuptials (where Hurt was assisting the caterer).
By the time Hurt gave birth to her second daughter, London, in 2002, she realized she needed help too. “If I was going to grow the company, I knew I couldn’t do it alone and be a good mom,” she says. She didn’t have time to interview candidates, but a persistent young lady named Alison Morris Baker finally caught her attention. Baker is now a partner in the firm, which employs 11 full-time people. Today DFW Events handles 100 customized affairs of all types each year, including high-profile weddings for clients such as the daughters of Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines.
While Hurt orchestrates posh affairs, her husband caters to the quick-service, highchair set with Fat Daddy’s Burger House. Geared to make kids feel at home – and parents happy about the fresh ingredients – the eatery has become the go-to place for neighbors and friends to meet and unwind.
Hurt admits their respective businesses require extensive hours, but they make it work with the help of a nanny who’s been with their family since 2000. She also credits her partnership with her husband, who “splits everything with me 50-50,” she says. “Work is very important to me,” Hurt says, “but without a doubt my children come first, and they know that I will drop anything to be with them if they need me.”
For a family in constant motion, Hurt clings to traditions to keep consistency in their lives. Every December the family treks to Chicago – through pregnancies, diapers and snowstorms. Likewise, they retreat to resort areas in Florida during the summer. “Both my husband and I have programmed ourselves that when we’re on vacation we need to take off the work hat and enjoy our special time as a family,” she says.
The Hurts, who, remarkably, have remained grounded in the same Coppell abode for 17 years, make it a priority to attend church every weekend – “even though it can be difficult for me to wake up on Sunday mornings after late wedding nights,” she says.
After the birth of son Luke in 2007, Hurt’s business growth allowed her some breathing room. Not surprisingly, the SMU alum makes the most of her time at home. She and her husband start the day with a family breakfast, then head to the gym and their respective offices. They often break away to visit their kids during lunch and special events.
Though she’s always stylishly dressed, she doesn’t take time for the mall. “I would rather be with my kids than digging through clothes racks,” she says. Instead, Hurt, a yoga buff, takes cues from the “cute young girls in my office who keep me in line by telling me what to wear and occasionally helping me shop for the perfect outfit,” she says.
The matrimony mogul maintains a “traveling closet” in her car, though “there are many days that I arrive at the office in my workout clothes with no make-up and make a quick change before my first client meeting.”
In contrast to planning a wedding, Hurt acknowledges there is no blueprint for motherhood. “I’ve made many big and little mistakes,” she says. “Parenting is not predictable. Like I learned my business, I think parents learn as we go.”
Does she hope her children take the reins of the brides and burgers trades someday? “I want them to find their passions and do that for a living,” she says. “I hope they absorb from us that success takes discipline and hard, hard work. And to never give up. Ever.”