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Every year, we are handling more and more milestone celebration parties. I love that people are choosing to spend their birthdays and anniversaries with friends and family, rather than fancy vacations and material objects. I think it's a true testament to our changing culture that is valuing experiences and relationships more than objects and materialism. This March, I worked with a great client who embodied that philosophy.

Genevieve Lauren Photography

When Jacqueline first sat down on my office couch and started telling me about herself and what she wanted for her birthday party, I had a venue in mind immediately... Gibson's Italia Rooftop.  Jacqueline wanted a posh location that felt polished, but not fussy.  She wanted her friends to gather to have good drinks, food and some fun music and the venue needed to be cool, but not too hipster.



Although we did look at a few venues, Gibson's Italia Rooftop ended up being the perfect fit.  This space is a private room on the top floor of Gibson's Italia, situated at the split of the Chicago river facing east. It was March, so we didn't open up the retractable roof, but the guests did enjoy the spectacular view of the Chicago skyline and the river.

Jacqueline wanted to keep the theme subtle and sophisticated, so we settled on a rose gold décor theme, based on the invitation design.  The "forty" theme, in rose gold, was added to the custom cookie favors and the cocktail napkins.  The peach and blush roses, were in bronze and gold containers, and we filled the tables with tons of candles.  The custom cake, from West Town Bakery, was an extra tall rose foil cake on a rose gold sequined table.

The guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres, from Gibson's fabulous catering, and an open bar for four hours.  DJ Akib played to the crowd as they mixed, mingled and danced in the cozy lounge highlighted by Blooming Rose light projections.  Good food, good drinks and good friends to make this a 40th celebration to remember.





Updated: Mar 21, 2019


Photo by Julia Franzosa Photography

A large part of being a event consultant is understanding a client's priorities and sense of value. Everyone sees the world in a different way and we all value relationships, experiences and materials differently. When planning an event, you really have to figure out what your priorities and values are for the event. What's the goal? Some clients are really concerned about how everything looks and if their wedding looks like a wedding blog. Some people are party animals and their top priority is having the best band and keeping everyone dancing the whole time... and having a flowing bar. Some clients are most concerned with the comfort and inclusion of all their guests. From these discussions, I am able to better prioritize their event and know where they find the most value.


What a client values should be every event planner's top priority, but lately I've been breaking down the event planning process to be fairly simplistic to remind clients that more is not always better. Many people have been getting lost in the nuances of event planning. We have blogs, TV programs, books and many opinions of friends on how we all can be a better party host. The truth is that most event attendees do not notice things at events that are often the priority of the party host. Hours are spent laboring over decisions and minutia, when really what people notice is really simple.



3 Things Make a Party

1. Food and Beverage

2. Entertainment

3. Environment


Once you gather a group of people together, add some food and/or beverages, provide some entertainment and place it in a suitable environment, you have a party. It's a very simple thing, but it is done wrong so often. You ask, "If it's so simple, how are people screwing it up?" Simple - people aren't doing these three things just well enough to be accommodating and balanced with each other.


Photo by Eric Floberg Photography

Food and Beverage

I always say, "No one remembers what they ate at a party unless it was BAD, COLD or LATE". The most amazing food quality does not make a party great, just like it doesn't make a restaurant experience great. The goal is not just one area of the food and beverage, it's really about if it was well served, meaning … it tasted agreeable, was provided in a proper way and was on time with the needs of the guest. I'm not saying that I don't need amazing food at my events. I absolutely require the best and if you know me, you know my obsessions with fine dining, but it's not necessary to have a great event. When you are thinking about a grand event or a small house party, think about these three things (agreeable taste, proper presentation and timeliness) and you are set for your food and beverage.



Photo by Luara Witherow Photography


Entertainment

With our culture of smart phones and short attention spans, it doesn't surprise me that clients come to me and say that they want more for entertainment. Lots of fun stuff is GREAT, but you don't have to do a lot to create impact with entertainment. I believe that people are entertained most by each other. A dinner party can have a nice meal at a pretty table and the conversation can be the entertainment. A band that keeps guests visually entertained and on the dance floor is great entertainment. A football game and conversation for your next Super Bowl party is plenty of entertainment. Trust me, I love all the extra activities at a bar/bat mitzvah and I think that photo booths have become a standard of weddings... but you don't need it. When planning your next shindig, just think about what entertainment best serves the crowd you have and give them that. It will be great!

Photo by Eric Floberg Photography

Environment

I feel that Environment is one of the most misunderstood elements of events. When I start planning an event for my client, I look at many different variables to decide on the environment. Where you hold a party is probably the most important element and affects people the most. If you and all your friends live in Chicago and you plan a party in Las Vegas, there's a lot to absorb before they can even attend the party. Also, if you want a rustic and industrial styled wedding, you shouldn't book the The Drake Hotel. It wouldn't make sense.

Environment is also affected by the event décor greatly. I too often hear people dismiss the event décor as less necessary than the other two elements and I have to disagree. Parties are experiences and experiences make people have emotional reactions. If you don't focus on the environment and how that space makes them feel, then they will dismiss the situation or possibly feel negatively. Nothing is worse than showing up to an event with expectations and being disappointed. This does not mean that anyone has to be over the top in decorating or selecting venues, but providing a well suited environment and decorating it appropriately, is just as important as the food and beverage and entertainment for winning over the guests and ensuring a great party.



The wedding and events industry seems so large and extravagant that it can be easy to forget that it is primarily made up of small business owners. From the wedding dress, flowers, invitations, cake, catering, venue and wedding planner... all of these items are often provided by small businesses. Why do small businesses thrive in this industry? One word... personalize.

Customized floral with specialty sourced ribbons by A Stem Above. Photo by Artistrie Co.

Weddings and events are the most accessible luxury experience for most young people. Of course we would all love to get custom dresses made for every occasion and hire caterers for our next home gathering, but we recognize that would be an unrealistic luxury to have every day. When hosting a wedding or special event, we get to have (possibly for the first time) a luxury experience. Custom dresses, cakes, flowers, catering, limousines, hair and make up ... it's about spoiling yourself to the luxury experience.

Beautiful custom cake by Amy Beck Cakes. Photo by Julia Franzosa

Small business does luxury better. Luxury is about personalization, details and service. I very rarely recommend vendors that are large companies, unless their service and accessibility are needed, for example; hotels, tuxedo rentals and suppliers of rental equipment. Most vendors who provide style and service to their product are small businesses and I like keeping it that way.


I'm a small business. My personalized service cannot be duplicated in a large volume and remain the same. Hospitality and design are service based industries. They are about listening and creating experiences based on the needs of the client, not an overall demographic with needs. I like getting to know each client and make referrals specifically to who they are and what their needs are. To find people and places that make them feel unique and special.


Custom catering by Entertaining Company. Photo by Julia Franzosa.

Invitations by Momental Designs. Photo by Riverbend Studio.

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990 Green Bay Rd, Suite 2
Winnetka, Illinois
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