Thoughts on Style

April 10th, 2017
Classic and elegant or funky and fun--your style is front and center.

Classic and elegant or funky and fun–your style is front and center.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with many different people who all have their own ideas about wedding or party style.  As most of my clients are not obsessed with (or, mostly, even interested in) high wedding fashion, they can give free rein to their own good taste.  This has resulted in my working on weddings and other kinds of parties that have been wildly different from one another–and all beautiful.

You might wonder how a planner deals with such diversity of tastes.  After all, doesn’t the stereotypical wedding planner try to impose her vision of the “perfect” wedding on all her clients?  Not at all!!

My personal taste and style has very little influence on how I approach your event.  This is, I think, partly a hold-over from all my years working as a theatre stage manager.  In that capacity, it was my job to execute the designs of all the various designers in the service of the director’s vision.  I became quite good at adapting myself to the styles of my collaborators.

I bring this same quality to party and wedding planning.  I spend as much time as necessary learning what you like and how you think things ought to look so that when I am setting up your decor, I can make it look the way you had in mind.

All this is not to say that I don’t have definite ideas about style.  If you need guidance, I’m always happy to supply an opinion.  I don’t lack for those.  But it’s more important to me that your vision shines through.

Event Design and Event Planning

January 6th, 2014
Most events don't require a designer to be beautiful.   Photo by Peter Coombs.

Most events don't require a designer to be beautiful. Photo by Peter Coombs.

When searching for an event, party, or wedding planner, you might find some individuals or firms who come up in the search but are primarily event designers.  So, what’s the difference?  I had a conversation with an event designer recently about this subject and this is what we came up with:

This event designer said that her specialty was solely designing and creating event decor.  Her website also said “event planning,” but she told me that she does not handle scheduling or logistics for events.  For those services, she recommends that her clients hire an event planner.

An event planner may also offer design services, but it’s pretty rare that someone has large-scale artistic event design and implementation skills and also has event planner skills.  Except for elaborate or large events, most events do not need a designer, but most do need a planner.  What are those event planner skills that a designer may lack?

An event planner should be able to envision your entire event from start to finish.  She or he should be able to spot problems in the planning stage and solve them before they become real.  A planner should have a good grasp of scheduling and spatial layout, with great attention to detail.  A planner knows where to get things you need and can recommend other professionals.  Finally, the skill you want most in a planner is a calm head on the day of your event so that the unexpected is dealt with swiftly and with good judgment.

Some events require a planner.  Some require a designer.  And some really need both.  It’s important to know what you need–and what you are getting–when you hire professionals to help you with your event.

Eco-Friendly Party Decor

December 16th, 2013

Since everyone is thinking about holidays and parties just about now, I am revisiting some thoughts on how to decorate for a party and still be green.  You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, not just Christmas or “holiday,” as they call it. But since a lot of people have Christmas on the brain at this season, I’ll start with that holiday.

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season.   Photo courtesy of

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season. Photo courtesy of

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them.  If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them.

If you have plants in your yard that would work for holiday decorating, cut a few branches of fir or holly for a mantlepiece decoration. And then compost or chip them after the party and use the result on your garden next year.

Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too.  There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements.

You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table.  In Chicago, there are several organizations that keep bees and sell their products, including beeswax candles. For starters, try the Chicago Honey Co-op. Beeswax is less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice!

If you are celebrating Chanuka, beeswax Chanuka candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally. (If you know of a local source, please let me know.)

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off.  In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

For any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

A completely different approach to decorating is the second-hand idea. It is often possible to find very nice decor items in second-hand shops, especially in expensive neighborhoods or towns. Of course, if this requires many long car trips, that would offset the benefits of not buying new, so plan your shopping trips carefully. If you are lucky or live near a lot of resale or vintage shops, though, you might find vases, last year’s novelty items, theme knick-knacks, and other useful decorating items. This approach may require advance planning and some creative thinking.

Also, for eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them.  Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.  (See my exploration of that topic recently.)

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!

Wedding Colors

October 19th, 2009

I see a lot of online discussions about wedding colors, and it has gotten me to thinking.  Why are wedding colors so important?  Where did they come from?  How have they become a necessary part of wedding planning?

Wedding websites gush with statements such as this:

There’s no question: choosing wedding colors is one of the earliest, trickiest tasks a bride has to cross off the list. You can’t even talk [to] your florist until you’ve worked this out.

(From Favor Ideas.)

I’m pretty sure that in my mother’s day, there was no such thing as wedding colors.  Tablecloths were white; flowers were whatever color you liked; maybe you had an accent color for monogrammed napkins; and everything else was white.  Sometime since then, wedding colors have become seemingly mandatory.

Unity sand and contrasting flowers.  Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

Unity sand and contrasting flowers. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

I will say this in favor of choosing colors:  If you’re not having a white wedding, when creating elaborate decorations, it is much easier to come up with a pleasing decor if you are working from a limited color palette.  Choosing two or three colors and sticking with them makes the design much more likely to be successful.

On the other hand, I don’t think that it is necessary to fetishize a pair of colors the way some of the bridal magazines would have you do. puts it very well:

We should point out that overdoing it with a matchy-match look is entirely possible. (You don’t want your guests thinking, Um, yeah, lavender…we get it.)

At the same time, that same website devotes pages and pages to wedding colors.  I think it is possible to strike a balance:  Know your color scheme but don’t become a slave to it.  Above all, don’t think that you can’t get married without one.

A very thoughtful couple I worked with a couple of years ago chose their color scheme very carefully and made it unusually meaningful.  Each of them chose a color that made them think of their spouse-to-be.  They then used the colors and their meanings in their wedding vows.  And those were their wedding colors.  As the guests enjoyed the reception, when they saw the ribbons tied around the candles or the unity sand the couple had poured during the ceremony, they were reminded of their beautiful vows and the real meaning of the day.

This couple also did not use their two colors exclusively.  The cake used one of the colors and a contrasting color.  The wedding party wore the other color, mostly.  But the flowers (with the exception of the groom’s boutonniere) were all in contrasting bright colors; the place cards didn’t match at all; and still everything looked and felt like a unified whole.

The lesson here is, I think, that thinking about color is very important when planning a wedding reception.  It should not, however, become more important than the main event, which is getting married.