High-end social events - Taking Event to New Heights
Think high-end events don't happen in this economy? These seven events not only broke through the economic barriers but raised the bar for events everywhere.by Aubrey Blankenship | Published in April 2010 Features | social events
Think high-end events don’t happen in this economy? These seven events not only broke through the economic barriers but raised the bar for events everywhere.
In today’s economy of reduced budgets and canceled events, it can be easy to believe that no one is doing high-end events these days—but that’s simply not the case. From birthday parties for toddlers to weddings and bat mitzvahs, these seven high-end social events delighted guests and planners alike by providing experiences that left everyone feeling as if the economic woes were a thing of the past. Here to inspire you are their ideas, planning and implementation.
Surprise birthday party
Event: A surprise soirée for a 60th birthday
Planner: Brooke Palmer, r.s.b.p. Events
Location: The event was held at the client’s home in Tampa, FL.
Timeline: 30 days
Client desire: For her fiancé Steve’s 60th birthday, Tiffany wanted to throw a surprise birthday party that blended cool event trends with her fiancé’s favorite hobby, fishing.
Event in action: To set the tone before the event, the event colors were incorporated into invitations, which were embellished with actual fly lures. At the event, the tables were named after Steve’s favorite fish.
“We wanted the guests to go to a party like they had never been to, and boy did we do that,” says Palmer. “My favorite part of the evening was the lounge I created in 45 minutes while the guests were having dinner. I transformed the front yard into a night club for a private, surprise performance by the Temptations—it just about blew everyone away.”
Entertainment: Live piano music wafted through the hallways during the cocktail hour and continued to provide the perfect ambiance during dinner on the outside pool deck. The entertainment climaxed at the end of the evening with a surprise performance by the original Temptations.
Food: A four-course, catered meal from Mise en Place, a champagne bar during the cocktail hour and desserts which included a fish shaped birthday cake and a chocolate lava cake, replicated from the recipe at Flemings—the birthday guest’s favorite.
Best advice: “The best advice I could give another planner is to listen. My client knew the business and had a sizable budget but I wanted to maximize her wishes and spend money in the appropriate places. I really advocated for her and made sure that the vendors I chose gave us the best product and service. We have become close friends and now I’m planning her upcoming wedding!”
Perfect bat mitzvah
Event: A bat mitzvah for Ali, a 13-year-old girl and her family and friends
Planner: Angela Gala of Rogers and Gala Creative Partners
Location: The Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, NC
Timeline: 5 months
Client desire: “The client, Ali’s father, wanted an event that would surprise and delight his guests every bit as much as his son’s previous bar mitzvah had,” says Gala. “He also wanted his daughter to be surprised. We were allowed to interview her and see her room but we were not allowed to tell her about any of the details of the event.”
Event in action: In the months leading up to the event, Gala and her team interviewed Ali to get a feel for what interested her.
“What struck us most about Ali was her wicked sense of style,” says Gala. “Not many 13-years-olds claim Betsey Johnson as their favorite designer. For this event, we thought a fashion show was called for and Ali’s own cool brand would be a big hit!”
As guests entered the venue, they passed through a dark street complete with breakdancers, graffiti, a palm reader, boom boxes, a magician and food vendors. At the end of the “street,” guests were ushered into a super-star fashion show through a lightbulb curtain. To set the stage for a fashion show, the room was decked out with pink, black and white—signature Betsey Johnson colors. The team designed a logo specifically for Ali and adhered it to everything from the décor elements to the menus to T-shirts and everything in between.
Entertainment: The entertainment consisted of a DJ and dancers from NYX entertainment. Actors were hired to pose as the street vendors and bums at the beginning of the event. They later changed into fashion dress to mimic famous designers such as Betsey Johnson, Karl Lagerfeld, Issac Mitzrahi and Donatella Versace.
Food: A South Beach taco bar was a hit for the teens and tweens, who also enjoyed homemade pink marshmallow s’mores for dessert.
Best Advice: “So many clients are really concerned with budget,” says Gala. “As we plan in this new climate, try not to plan to a budget and instead let your imagination know no limits—then scale back. You won’t believe where your mind will go.”
Double the celebration: birthday and anniversary party
Event: A 10-year anniversary party and double 40th birthday party for a New York couple.
Planner: Jennifer Pate Gilbert, president and chief visionary officer of Save the Date
Location: Glass Houses in New York, with views of the city skyline and the Hudson River
Timeline: Two months
Client desire: The clients wanted to have a fun, cutting-edge, sexy event to celebrate their marriage and their 40th birthdays.
Event in action: As the guests approached the venue, they passed through a red-carpeted entrance surrounded by mock paparazzi behind velvet ropes. After an elevator ride up to the top floor, guests were greeted with a video slideshow of the family on the wall ahead of them. A custom gobo projected “Avi and Marci 10” on the floor and dramatic lighting created the perfect ambiance. The venue was sleek with floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed for spectacular views of the sunset and the city. Gilbert opted for bright white lounge furniture for a crisp, clean look and placed mirrored tables, green orchids and bamboo throughout the space.
“We wanted it to feel exclusive and original and for every person to walk out at the end of the night saying ‘wow,’” says Gilbert.
Food: To avoid buffet lines and a sit-down menu, guests were served courses such as short ribs, Chilean sea bass with potato root, mozzarella salad and more on small plates throughout the night. This allowed guests to circulate and socialize while still being fed. A pink cosmo for her and a yellow tequila drink for him were the featured drinks of the evening.
Entertainment: The entertainment consisted of stilt performers and “human disco balls”—people covered head to toe in mirrors. They brought entertainment and intrigue to the crowd throughout the evening.
Best advice: “Events take on a life of their own, they live and breathe and you have to go with the energy and not try to plan it to death. Yes, have a timeline, but be prepared to change it if guests arrive late or cocktail hour is cocktail hour and a half. If the dance floor is packed, play another song; if it’s dead, start dinner earlier. You have to feel the pulse and go with it—that creates the best events.”
Sweet 16 in black and white and pink
Event: A Sweet 16 birthday party for Ali Jackson, daughter of country singer Allen Jackson
Planner: Donna Hollie, executive director of Plan it Nashville
Location: The party was at Alan Jackson’s home in Franklin, TN. The space transformed was the indoor tennis and basketball court on their property.
Timeline: 1 month
Client desire: The client wanted a sleek and chic, fun and funky party with lots of dancing and great music.
Event in action: With an emphasis on fun and funk, Hollie and her team decided on a South Beach/Flamingo “club” ambiance. The colors were black and white with accents of bubblegum pink and the guests were asked to wear black and white to make the pink elements pop even more. Ali, the guest of honor, was dressed in a pink party dress so she stood out as the center of attention wherever she was. White feathers, lighted spandex, sequins, boas and white leather furniture provided the ambiance with a black and white dance floor at the center of the room sporting a mirror ball above and a gobo projection of “Ali’s Sweet 16” on the floor in pink.
The highlight of the evening came as the cake was rolled out; Ali blew out her candles, and to the surprise of everyone, 300 pink, white and black balloons fell from the ceiling.
Entertainment: The entertainment was Ace from 102.5 The River
Food: The menu was geared to teens and consisted of mini pizzas, nachos and mini-burgers and other teen-friendly foods. Two fountain stations set up, one with chocolate, the other with Red Bull.
Best Advice: “Be a professional problem solver,” says Amber Sanders, creative executive officer and founder of Plan it Nashville. “Your client is counting on you, no matter what is or isn’t easy to order, no matter if the weather cooperates or not, or if your vendors mess up. Figure out how to make it work, always!”
Fairytale wedding in a castle
Event: A fairytale wedding for a New York couple
Planner: Melisa Imberman of The Event Of A Lifetime, Inc.
Location: Whitby Castle in Rye, NY
Timeline: 4 months
Client desire: “The bride wanted a wedding fit for a princess (that’s what her fiancé calls her) with all the trimmings,” says Imberman. “She also wanted to incorporate her Filipino culture.”
Event in Action: What fairytale wedding would be complete without a fairytale castle? A 200-year-old castle near where the couple lived was the perfect setting. Decorated in fuchsia and chartreuse with gold accents, the interior was simply magical with embroidered lace linens, gold napkin rings with gold chargers beneath the plates and gold chairs tied with fuchsia and chartreuse sashes. A horse and carriage resembling Cinderella’s was hired to give the bride and groom a royal entrance. Old-fashioned trumpeters escorted the carriage and announced the couple’s arrival.
Entertainment: A live band provided the musical entertainment for the evening and professional ballroom dancers kept guests entertained with their fluid movements while dancing with the guests from time to time.
Food: “The décor, with exquisite centerpieces and clouds made of flowers that suspended from the ceiling, was spectacular as were the cakes,” says Imberman. “The wedding cake was a castle and the groom’s cake was a replica of the groom’s ski boot.
Best Advice: “Listen to your clients’ dreams and determine the best way to interpret them,” says Imberman.
Toddler birthday party everyone enjoyed
Event: A birthday party for two toddlers who were turning 2 and 4
Planner: Sarah Lo, associate planner for Red Velvet Events Inc.
Location: The event was held at one of the client’s restaurants in Austin, TX
Timeline: Approximately 6–8 weeks
Client desire: The client wanted a whimsical birthday party with a CandyLand theme that would appeal to the toddlers being celebrated.
Event in action: From the moment guests entered the room, they were transported into a world of nursery rhymes and bedtime stories—a place that usually only exists in the minds of children. However, for this event, Sarah Lo, associate planner for Red Velvet Events, figured out how to bring that world to life. She placed life-sized gingerbread cookies and enormous lollipops throughout the room and recreated the CandyLand board game on the floor in which the children were the game pieces.
“We wanted the guests to feel as if they had walked into a living replica of the CandyLand board game,” says Cindy Lo, owner of Red Velvet Events. “We used bright colors of red, orange, blue, purple and yellow with white walls so that the 3D balloon art we selected would pop. The biggest highlight was the fact that folks who had been to the restaurant before couldn’t believe their eyes that this was the same ballroom transformed into a mini CandyLand.”
Entertainment: Activities such as a gingerbread cookie decorating table, a gingerbread house building table, a face painter, a balloon artist and a life-size CandyLand board on the dance floor kept the children and parents entertained.
Food: The food served was Chinese—straight off the restaurant’s menu, and for dessert, the children were delighted with a cake that was a replica of the CandyLand board game.
Best advice: “Really understand what your client’s priorities are and goals for their event,” says Cindy Lo. “Ask lots of questions to really understand why they ask for certain things—don’t just assume.”
Sophisticated wedding with all the trimmings
Event: A wedding for a couple in New York
Planner: Annette Babich, owner of Annette Babich Events
Location: Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, NY
Timeline: 1 year
Client desire: The client wanted a modern, chic, sophisticated event with all the trimmings.
Event in action: To give the client the chic, sophisticated feel she desired, Babich strategically placed square tables in the tented space under hanging, red square shades that popped amidst the table colors of gold, green and raspberry.
“We wanted the guests to walk into the tent and feel the magic, warmth and sophistication of the tent design,” says Babich.
The dinner was held under the warm, inviting glow of the hanging shades and the evening ended with a surprise Grucci Fireworks show that the groom planned for the bride.
Entertainment: The Hank Lane band was the entertainment for the evening with a DJ who kept things going during the after party.
Food: The usual club food with specialty drinks and after party foods of quesadillas, mini burgers.
Best advice: “Always plan for rain at an outdoor event and talk about it as if you expect it to happen, that way, a sunny day is an unexpected surprise. It rained like hell at this wedding but we never missed a beat and it went off flawlessly.”