Not Your Standard Graduation Luncheon… But It Could Be!

Graduations are one of the most exciting life cycles, and typically, the parents and the graduate are on completely different planets. Graduates are concerned with seeing their friends for what they feel might be the last time while the parents are concerned with family members who have travelled great distances to celebrate the graduate. Whether you are graduating from elementary school, middle school, high school or college, the most important thing to remember is that this event is a celebration of the graduates successes (the ones that the parents provided the structure to happen:)). There is a delicate balance of the emotional pendulum that must be carefully tended to.

When I produced Brittany’s graduation luncheon last year, it was important for her mom to be able to feed the family after they sat through the ceremony with as little ease as possible. She preferred to have it at a location that did not require her to be “busy as all get out” hosting her guests. Brittany wanted a mixture of “sparkle meets outdoors using midnight navy and petal pink”. It is always important to me to do an event that reflects the personality of the client, so I got to work.

Reservations at their favorite restaurants were available at times that were not convenient to the grandparents. After much research on my end, they opted for a private room at 7Co. This allowed me to set up while they were at the ceremony and for them to enjoy the ceremony with piece of mind. Yes, planners providing piece of mind is one of our superpowers.

The private room allowed the guests enjoyed a video while sharing stories of Brittany’s life. Parkside Projects provided Brittany’s favorite dishes for the guests to dine on. Lee Warth Designs provided garden inspired centerpieces while we added a personal touch of 8×8 canvas tiles from Brittany’s senior photo shoot for the guests to take home as favors. The menu cards provided some whimsical fun by using the schools she attended instead of “first course, second course etc.”. It was sparkly, outdoorsy and magical.

Brittany has completed her first year as an equestrian at St. Mary’s at Notre Dame.

Draping. | Draping? | Draping!

To Drape or Not to Drape? This is always a big question for couples to answer. As an event planner, there is really not a simple answer to this. There are times when draping is essential. We may need to cover up an industrial wall because the flowers that were planted for a rooftop wedding did not bloom as we thought they would (welcome to Texas weather:)), or an unappealing focal point that greats guests as they enter into the ballroom, or perhaps there is a cavernous tent with support poles that the bride feels is an eyesore. Regardless of the reason, draping does add to an event. It provides an ethereal atmosphere that when seen, takes the breath away of the viewer.

Over the years, draping has evolved significantly. The fabric is just not black poly or velour, but elegant illusion. This is a decor addition that is not typically provided by the venue. It is sourced through a rental company and needs to be assemble by that company (not a good idea for your friends to offer to do it). It is rented per foot and when you have a large area, you most likely will be sticker shocked at the final estimate (sort of like when you change out hardware on doors in your home. The hardware costs $15 per door. That does not seem terrible until you count the number of doors in your home. They you rethink your brilliant plan and decide if it is worth the addition. (side note: yes it is:)).

Draping can also be used to separate a ceremony area from the reception area so the guests are surprised when the walk to the reception. If a couple plans on this, they will need to make sure there is staff prepared to take the draping down during the ceremony.

In the event that a couple is not a “flowey fabric kind of couple” but are looking to cover up existing murals or artwork at a venue, they might entertain the thought of a backdrop. This can be done with florals (which is simply breathtaking) or for more of a rustic look, a ship lap wall can be made.

5 Tips for Being a Great Guest

Being a guest is not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes you are invited and only know one other person or couple going. Perhaps you don’t know anyone else at the event. This can provide anxiety and I would like to say “you are good. make sure you enjoy yourself:)” Here are some tips I have found helpful when I have encountered an experience like this. 

  1. Be on Time. Make sure you that you know where you are going. For weddings, most couples have created an incredible website with just about everything you need to know. Use WAZE to get you there. It will estimate the amount of time it will take you to arrive. Factor in an additional 10 minutes to park or valet, and then glide your way in stilettos on a gravel parking lot or ascend up 30 stairs to the start of the event. Late arrivals put event planners in a pickle because we have to tell them to ‘wait’ to be seated when there is a break for them and “laters” tend to get snarky. No, they should not but they do. 
  2. Be Seated: Couples go through the grueling process of assigning seats. It is not just to make your life difficult. It goes much deeper than that. This chart is then used by the catering staff so they know exactly what food needs to be delivered to what table and in some cases what seat. When you shimmy the name tags around, this causes a crazy mess in the kitchen not to mention much frustration. If you are at a ‘misfit table’ (watch the movie comedy Table 19 for the reference), embrace the new people you will be spending one hour eating with. Who knows, you might just end up with some new friends:) In addition, if there is not a seating chart or you are at a ceremony, make sure you don’t leave one seat empty. This does throw off the count terribly AND it is rare that a guest will come alone. They might, but they won’t sit there. Due to the cost of chair rentals, most couples pay for chair number of their rsvp list. The silver lining is that your fellow guests most likely have showered and smell really good- so sit right next to them.
  3. Be proactive: Take initiative to walk up and thank the bride and groom for inviting you. YES- I get that you have come a long way, bought the best gift, rented a hotel room blah blah blah and they should come to you. However, the bride and groom have been pulled in 31 different directions AND are functioning on little to no sleep. They are hungry, tired, excited, emotional and exhausted. They are not coherent enough to have a great conversation anyway. Bring them a drink, offer a smile, warm words and then dance the night away with your new friends at the misfit table. 
  4. Be Present: I have seen one too many times where guests are sitting on their cell phone engaged in what ever their phone has to offer. They are not looking for the cake frosting flying across the room, the falling off the horah chairs, the uncle who is doing the worm on the dance floor or perhaps the terribly amazing kick line for New York New York with flying shoes. They are on their phone. Time to get off and watch the amazing around you. The stories I tell my friends after weddings seem somewhat unbelievable. However, you can’t make these stories up. NEVER. My job as an event planner has allowed me to experience things I never should have seen AND it has allowed me to become the best people watching person in all parts of my life. Do it. You will be entranced with what you see.
  5. Be Creative: If being a guest is still unnerving to you, become the unofficial photographer. Take photos on your phone to help document the event. When you are present, this will allow you to see things that perhaps the professionals photographers are not able to capture because they are off doing the “photos I am contractually obligated to take (not a dig here.. they have to do it:))”. Every couple has a hashtag they share. So help them out! My one request is for you to be respectful and not share photos on social media until after the ceremony since most couples request an “unplugged” ceremony.

Go embrace being a guest!

Second Photographer: Luxury or Requirement?

Weddings are expensive. Period. They can be $107 or $1.7 million expensive. After the delectable food is eaten, the guests are in their dance coma, the bride cannot feel her feet, the tuxedos are soaking wet with sweat and someone has misplaced their phone, the thing you will have after are the photos. There are many different styles of photography and these “styles” are often misspoken about because when I narrow the photography preferences down with couple, they want their memories captured. Period. That is it. The comments I commonly hear are “traditional with candids”, ” capture the emotion”, ” not a lot of “poses” just snap”, “don’t make the photos like 10 hours long (Trust me, the photographer would get bored looking at the same faces for that duration of time. Not to mention, it is rude as all get out to leave your guests for 10 hours when they came to celebrate you)”, “make me look 10 lbs skinnier” and my personal favorite ” It is not like I will look at these photos every day (possibly, but you will definitely look at them once per year)”.

After the wedding, I always find it interesting when clients send me “memory” photos in the event that my memory deleted the day out of my mind (honestly, I forget to get the mail, send cards (amen to social media and texting) and what my family has requested from the grocery store. Forget weddings- nope. I am wired a bit differently. The photos they send with big smiles are the ones from the second shooter. Don’t get me wrong, they love the required photos (bride with attendants, bride and groom, extended family etc.), but they comment on the second shooters. These are ones like: grandma with her arm around her husband, the bridesmaids gracefully tackling the stairs, the excited flower girl who is waiting for her turn in the photos, the bride gazing at all the guests walking down the aisle with her dad seeing her as a toddler, a grandfather waiting for the processional, the detailed room shots upon completion before the room turns into a hot mess and my personal favorite- the second shooter taking a picture of the lead photographer working.  All of these second shooter photos capture the day.  Nope, they are not perfectly posed and not everyone is looking at the camera but they are extremely memorable.

Therefore, regardless of the size of your event and what used to seem like a luxury is a requirement. You must factor a second shooter into your budget. You will not regret it. Photos by Geoff Duncan Photography.


Tall Ceilings: What to do?

I LOVE tall ceilings. Clients might not like the price of tall ceilings, but it is not impossible to make a cavernous room look intimate. The Driskill Hotel in Austin hosts many weddings and social events on their mezzanine floor. The exquisite pillars, high ceilings and marble floors are breathtaking but can feel like an obstacle to decorate with. Although the floor plan set ups are not infinite and there are obstacles with decorating a historic hotel, for years couples have made this space their own. Cathryn and Chris, along with David Kurio Designs (florist), FILO Productions (lighting) and Premiere Events (rentals), created focal points in this room. The cake was centered between the four pillars (over the “D” as we say) and exquisite lush florals were suspended above the table down the center of the room in these photos captured by Jennifer Lindberg Photography. The guests were treated to a warm, cozy, intimate atmosphere, but not at the expense of the insane party that lead us into a memorable evening with DJ Gatsby. Don’t be afraid of tall ceilings or cavernous spaces. When utilized the correct way, it will be an intimate affair.