Green Resource: SWANNC

December 4th, 2017
Photo by Ryan Timm Photography.

Photo by Ryan Timm Photography.

Okay, so technically this is not just a resource for weddings, events, and parties.  It’s for everyone, all the time.  And it’s not glamorous.  I’m talking about the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (or SWANNC).  Even for people who don’t live in Northern Cook County, this website has a huge amount of information that is useful.

There is a directory of resources for reusing and recycling that covers everything from Appliances and Automobiles through Fire extinguishers, Make-up containers, and Shoes to Wood recycling and Yard waste.  Many of the resources are local, but many can be found regionally or nationally.  My favorite discovery so far is places you can take polystyrene (Styrofoam) to be downcycled into other materials.

If you look under business resources, you will also find a Green Meeting Guide and a Zero Waste Event Guide.  They are designed for use by businesses and mostly for corporate events, but there are some good tips that would also be useful for social events.  Check them out if you’re planning a party and want to go green.

If you have questions about recycling, about donating goods, about composting–about pretty much anything that has to do with disposing of things–check out SWANNC and make them part of your next party.

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.

DIY Decor: How Much is Enough?

March 2nd, 2015
How much is too much?  Photo by hannahelaine photography (

How much is too much? Photo by hannahelaine photography (

When you are doing the decor yourself for your event or wedding, how much stuff do you need?  Of course, it all depends on your venue, but for your typical wedding-type venue, here are some thoughts.

Table Decor

A centerpiece on your banquet tables is always nice.  There is nothing wrong with adding a few votive candles or tea lights, but three or four per table is usually enough.  Naturally, you want linens on the tables, although there is usually no need for three layers of them; one or two will suffice.  Maybe you are also having favors put out at every place.  They are also part of the decor.  Once you have this many things on the table, you just have room for a table number, bread basket, butter, salt & pepper, and eight or nine full place settings.  If you’re serving family style, remember to leave room on the table for the serving platters.

Room Decor

If your venue is already well-appointed, you may need nothing at all to decorate the room.  It can be a good idea to have a well-made flower arrangement near the entrance, on the bar, and/or on the escort card table.  It depends on how much sprucing up you think the area needs.  Candles on the bar can be tricky as you don’t want them to interfere with bar service.   If you have highboy tables anywhere in your ground plan, a very nice touch is to have your florist create small, simple arrangements for them.  Or put candles on the highboys.  They shouldn’t need any more than that.

Ceremony Decor

It’s easy to go overboard with ceremony decor:  Flowers on the ends of the rows of seats, an aisle runner, candles in the aisle, a flower arch or flowers on the chuppah, and large floral arrangements are all possibilities (and that doesn’t begin to exhaust the list).  I recommend against candles in the aisle as they can be a safety hazard.  I’m also not a big fan of aisle runners as they generally become trash the moment the ceremony is over.  I think a little restraint is a good idea in this area, as well.

Candy Buffets

If you are set on having a candy buffet, be sure to think small.  For one thing, if you’ve fed your guests well and given them dessert, only the children will return to the candy buffet more than once.  You will almost definitely have a lot of leftovers.  Also, be sure to measure both the table and the dishes and other decor that you plan to put on the buffet to make sure it will all fit.  A few well-chosen items displayed beautifully will be more effective than an enormous spread that is visually overwhelming.


My recommendation for DIY decor is to remember the mantra, “Less is More.”  You don’t need to overwhelm your guests with your decor ideas.  Keep it in the background because the party is really about you, not about the decoration.

Catering Staff

February 23rd, 2015
Servers make all the difference to your guests.  Photo by Happy Buddy PhotoArt.

Servers make all the difference to your guests. Photo by Happy Buddy PhotoArt.

This is not the first thing you think about when you are planning a wedding or other large event where you are hiring a caterer, but it is surprisingly important in how well your event runs:  How much staff has your caterer hired?

Caterers tend to fall into two categories with regard to staffing issues.  On one side, you have caterers who reduce the number of staff in order to give you a bid with a lower price.  On the other side, you have those who won’t compromise their level of customer service and charge accordingly.

Why does this matter to you and how can you tell the difference?

The service staff at your party or event are the people who have the most direct contact with your guests.  Really, the quality of the service staff determines the quality of the experience for your guests.  The unfortunate things that guests remember are that no one offered them wine or they got the wrong entree or they could never find a server to refill their glass or bring a fork when they needed one. Inadequate numbers of servers can contribute to all of these types of incidents that leave a bad taste in the mouth.

For restaurant service, it’s pretty standard to have one server for every 40 guests.  For exceptional service, such as at a wedding, a higher number of servers is needed.  The best wedding caterers hire about one server for every 10 guests.  This ensures the best service.  When you get a quote from a catering company, divide the total number of guests by the number of servers and see what you get.   If it’s around 10, the price will certainly be higher than if it’s 40.  The service is also likely to be much better.

It’s a trade-off:  If you pay less for service, you are paying for a less-than-exceptional experience for your guests.  I think it’s worthwhile to pay more to ensure that your guests are enjoying themselves.  There are places to cut corners at a wedding or a party, but this isn’t one of them.