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It’s all in the details…and yes, the butter matters…

It’s all in the details…and yes, the butter matters…

Several years ago, I was in a menu planning meeting for an upcoming awards dinner for a local Chamber of Commerce.  As a matter of course, I asked the catering manager how he planned to present the bread and butter on the tables. He looked at me quizzically, like I had just asked him to reveal if he wears boxers or briefs.  To my dismay, he answered that he puts the bread in a basket along with enough foil wrapped butter for the table. Ugh…. When I asked him if he could use bread and butter plates with butter florets or slices, his response was, “boy, you sure are fancy”.

Fanciness aside, my distaste of foil wrapped anything is lore among our vendors and area venues.  So much so that even our clients will bring it up during meetings with prospective caterers! During the set-up for a very high-end corporate luncheon, the caterer’s staff put out foil wrapped butter on the B+B plates.  When asked why this was done (butter wedges with sea salt were clearly detailed in the BEO), the event manager replied that the blocks of butter had been left off of the delivery and he didn’t think that what they used would matter.  I quickly instructed the staff to unwrap all of the butter pats and place two on each plate…because, yes, the butter does matter. Foil wrapped butter may seem like such an innocuous thing, but it is indicative of larger issues that we regularly see at venues and with vendors.  With so much competition in the events industry, why are so many common sense things often overlooked?

“We’ve been doing things this way for 25 years and we’ll continue doing so for years to come.”  Fortunately we don’t hear this phrase too often, but when we do, it’s a harbinger of ominous things to come.  One client hired us after already selecting a venue for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah luncheon reception. During the menu review meeting, I suggested that perhaps sliders, french fries and pasta would be more appropriate for the young adult buffet rather than roast beef, green beans and baked potatoes that were listed on the BEO.  The catering manager insisted that was what they always offered and became quite argumentative when I pushed for a change. The client was in agreement with me so he finally acquiesced and added the kid-friendly food. However, not before informing us that he would keep the other items on the menu, since he feeds his staff from the kids’ buffet and that’s what his staff prefers.  The things that went wrong at this event could fill a book…dropped trays of champagne glasses, only a dozen pigs-in-a-blanket on the buffet for the kids social hour, swizzle sticks, dirty napkins and food on the carpet leftover from the wedding the night before, just to list a few. Suffice it to say, we managed to keep the client oblivious to the chaos happening around them and they actually had a wonderful time.  Even though we will never work there again, the venue is still in business and will continue to provide substandard events to the unsuspecting masses.

Some of what we see is clearly due to venue and vendor management missing the boat on educating their staff on proper event behavior, attire and best practices.  If a server drops a tray of dinners, they should know where to go immediately for mops, brooms and buckets. If the staff is setting a table, they should know not to hold the forks by the tines.  If a guest drops a napkin on the floor, the staff should know where to find a replacement. If a guest asks if there are onions in the hors d’oeuvres, the server shouldn’t have to go into the kitchen to get a list of  ingredients. If ‘no tip jars’ are written into the contract, the bartenders shouldn’t fan out money on the bar to solicit tips. If a bottle of wine drops and breaks into the ice bucket, the bartender should know not to continue to use the ice for drinks.  Common sense you say?? Hmmm, not necessarily.

Since we’re on-site throughout every client’s event, we always appreciate it when a venue or caterer invites us to attend the pre-con meeting with their staff.  Since we know the client best, we can often add in some helpful details not always included in the banquet order. Certainly a great way to get everyone on board for a successful experience.  A few years ago, we worked with a client whose niece had a severe peanut allergy. She was most concerned about making the menu peanut-free and agreed to sign the venue’s contract when they assured her that they could accommodate her request.  ‘PEANUT-FREE MENU’ was written on the contract, BEO and every Email correspondence and again mentioned during each meeting at the venue. During set up on the day of the event, I made a point to remind the event manager that this was a peanut-free event.  Unfortunately, this was not reiterated during the staff meeting and one of the servers decided to add chopped Reese’s Pieces to the kids’ ice cream sundae station. If not for the niece’s alert brother, the reception could have ended with an emergency situation.  Mistakes will happen, but taking an extra step of posting a sign in the kitchen or having one server assigned to oversee the food set up, would have been two simple ways to avoid errors.

We can all afford to up our event game.  Heat the bread, refold napkins for guests, have your staff present well, always use floor length linens, keep up with current trends, continually educate your staff, and yes, the butter matters…

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The MASQUERADE BALL themed Bat Mitzvah that UNMASKED memorable MERRIMENT for all

The MASQUERADE BALL themed Bat Mitzvah that UNMASKED memorable MERRIMENT for all..

“One day someone comes into your life totally unexpected and takes you by surprise and changes your life forever.”

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That’s how we felt when we first met the Temkins – Steve, Gayle, Alyssa and Lily. Of course, all of our clients are special, but every once in a while, the profound effect that a client has on us is beyond measure. What became quite evident after our initial meeting was that getting to the day of Alyssa’s Bat Mitzvah was nothing short of a miracle.

Reaching the occasion of becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah has been a rite of passage celebrated by Jewish families for centuries. The studying and planning for the religious service and festivities often start a few years prior to children reaching the age of 12 or 13, and is one of life’s many milestones. However, for Alyssa, who has Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD), just getting through each day is more than cause for celebration.

Gayle and I started meeting about seven months prior to Alyssa’s Bat Mitzvah, always at her cozy office located within Alyssa’s school. Because GSD affects the liver’s storage and release of sugar, it was necessary for Gayle to be near Alyssa to monitor blood levels and administer doses of life saving formula every hour or so. With this disease, there’s no margin for error and no ability to let one’s guard down. Even in the midst of discussing invitations and catering, Gayle was in constant contact with Alyssa via walkie talkie, a reassuring life-line from office to classroom. It didn’t take long for me to be in complete awe of Gayle’s unwavering dedication to Alyssa and overwhelming joy in the ability to be in the midst of planning for her Bat Mitzvah.

This would not be any ordinary celebration, oh no, this was going to be epic on so many levels!! In addition to the already extensive guest list, Alyssa wanted to invite everyone that she met to her Bat Mitzvah. Her exuberance and love of life was endearing and heart-warming. The warmth and compassion of the Temkins was so far reaching that we started planning for hundreds of guests to attend a Welcome Shabbat Dinner, Religious Service and Kiddush Luncheon and the Party Reception.

In all, we eventually partnered with over 30 various event-related companies (many are listed below) to design, plan, manage and facilitate the weekend’s festivities. Kosher caterers, florists, printers, décor designers, rental companies, entertainment agencies, photographers, videographers and more – all providing the services necessary to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Alyssa. The success of any event, this one in particular, is directly related to the wonderful vendor relationships that we have nurtured over the years.

This post would be pages long if I listed and described each and every participating vendor, so here is just a taste of some of the extraordinary elements of ALYSSA’S MASQUERADE BALL!!

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“OF COURSE, THERE WAS A FLASHMOB”: As a surprise for Alyssa, Gayle wanted to present a ‘Flash Mob’ dance, professionally choreographed to include various family and friends. The vision was to bring together the village of people who have supported Alyssa over the years and to highlight Alyssa’s endearing qualities – kindness, strength and bravery. A special shout out to DFX Entertainment for their incredible choreography and dancers and for squeezing in a rehearsal with all of the participants prior to the reception. Alyssa was overwhelmed with the show of support from her ‘nearest and dearest’.

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‘GET THE PICTURE’?: Selecting pictures for this post was a fun but insurmountable task. Get The Picture Productions perfectly captured the sheer love and joy radiating from every person in the room. Take a look at some of the photos of Alyssa smiling, twirling, dancing, laughing, beaming – just pure happiness. I’m definitely a fan of candid shots, they certainly can give you a sense of the party vibe. However, now looking at the photos of Alyssa with her grandfather, Abby, (may his memory be for blessing), posed photos can be beyond priceless.

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“WE’LL JUST HAVE A LITTLE NOSH” – To say that there was an abundance of food, would be an understatement! Abel Caterers provided all of the delicious food and staff for the Shabbat Dinner (100 guests) and Kiddush Luncheon (600 guests) while Main Event – Mauzone catered the party reception for 350 in partnership with The Riverview. Even with the storm that knocked out power on Friday night, the seamless flow of the event catering was a pleasure to behold!!

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“IT’S PRONOUNCED FLOWER” – Flou(-e)r Specialty Floral Events designed a flower wonderland that was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! The creativity, style and originality of the floral décor filled the venue with a sensory experience that just made you ‘ooh and aah’ at every turn. The pink and gold furniture, acrylic tables and mask décor provided by CERF NY, and the oversized marquee letters provided by YOUR LOVE IN LIGHTS, created the perfect atmosphere to celebrate Alyssa.

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We will be forever thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to start planning SWEET Lily’s Bat Mitzvah!!!

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Event Design, Event Décor, Coordination, Party Crew and Management: Amazing Celebrations & Events

Kiddush Luncheon Catering: Abel Catering

Synagogue Florals: Pentimento Designs

Graphic Design: DenyerDezignz

Photographer: Get the Picture Productions

Videographer: Epic Filmmakers

Furniture Rentals and Themed Decor: CERF

Balloon Décor: Amazing Balloon Décor

Entertainment and Production: SoulSystem Orchestras Production

Reception Venue: The Riverview, Simsbury

Reception Florals: Flou(e)r

Linen Rentals: Peak Event Services

Draping: Design Light

Air Brush Artists: East Coast Brush Works

Reception Catering: Main Event Mauzone

Marquee Letters: Your Love in Lights

Flash Mob: DFX

Photo Booth: Creative Event Services

Favors: Victor Advertising

Link to an article written about GSD and Alyssa:
Free to Be Imperfect

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The day that Ben Folds came to play….

The day that Ben Folds came to play…. From the Party Queen Files

A few years ago, in 2016, we received a call from a prospective client inquiring about our services to help plan her husband’s 60th birthday party. “Nothing big,” she said, “just some friends, some music and a bit of food at our home.” We scheduled a time to meet so that we could get a better sense of her vision and needs for the celebration. As we pulled into the driveway, little did we know that this would be the start of a wonderfully creative journey with an equally wonderful client.

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The property in Newtown, Connecticut, was originally owned by James and Helen Brunot, early promoters and the first producers of Scrabble, the word game invented by a friend. The Brunots manufactured the game in the home’s barn, starting in the late 1940s. According to the current owners, Scrabble tiles were still popping out of the barn walls and around the garden some 70 years later.

After a lovely walk around to see the expansive fields, barns (complete with a petrified cat, we’ll get to that later), chicken coop and guest cottage, we sat down to chat. “Sure, no problem,” was my response when asked if we could design a party that resembled the infamous ones hosted by Freddie Mercury in the 80s. Well, not exactly, phew…

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What they were trying to create was an atmosphere of something happening at every turn and total enjoyment for their family and friends. The ‘nothing big’ was going to include 100 guests camping out overnight, an aerialist in the tent, line dancing with an instructor, a DJ, an illusionary arts performance, glow-in-the-dark hula hoop dancers, dragon ice cream, a ghost story teller by the fire pit and plenty of food and drinks.

At some point in the planning process, we received a call from the client asking about adding a performance by the singer songwriter, Ben Folds. She and her son really enjoyed his music and had contacted ‘his people’. They had been optimistic since Ben Folds is ‘Capable of Anything’ (the title to one of his songs) but unfortunately, their request was denied.

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Remember the petrified cat in the barn? Well, it was in the barn when the property was purchased and our clients believed that it brought them good luck, it was their special talisman. The cat must have been sending out good vibes that day, because it just so happened that at that very moment, the band leader’s manager was having lunch with Ben Folds in Nashville. Within 10 minutes time, we had a tentative hold on Ben Folds. However, after a few back and forth conversations, our client decided to wait on Ben Folds until her 60th birthday celebration the following year.

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The birthday celebration was a huge success and it was only a short time later that we started a conversation about booking Ben Folds for the following year. Do you know the saying, ‘lighting only strikes once’? Well, that was the case in this situation. The contacts changed and it seemed like now, there were layer upon layer of ‘people’ between us and Ben Folds. Weeks turned into months, the client’s 60th came and went, but we continued the pursuit of the elusive Ben Folds.

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Fast forward to the summer of 2018. Our son, a dockmaster in Noank, Connecticut, introduced us to an entertainment attorney who docked his boat at the marina. As we chatted, we casually mentioned the ‘had him, didn’t have him’ experience with Ben Folds. I felt like we were channeling the cat talisman again, because his first response was, “of course I know his people.”

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From that day on and for the next nine months, we planned, negotiated, organized, discussed, and coordinated the logistics to bring Ben Folds to the client’s home for a private concert in their barn, for 100 of their nearest and dearest. When the contract was finally signed, the Party King commented, “I feel like I just birthed a baby.” Well, not really, but you get the drift. When we called our client, she was so ecstatic that we could feel the excitement jump out right through the phone!!!

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“We can just do a pot-luck dinner,” our client chimed in when asked what she wanted to do for the long-awaited concert. She was so overwhelmed with the prospect of Ben Folds coming to her home, that not much else mattered. I gently suggested that having 100 guests bringing assorted casserole dishes might not be the best plan and that she needed to trust that we would come up with a great event plan.

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The concert was going to take place in the large barn behind the house. It was actually more of a storage garage for their vintage vehicles, with high ceilings and windows allowing natural light to shine in. The guest house was going to be converted into the ‘Green Room’ and the barn transformed into a lounge atmosphere, complete with staging for the piano and performer. My creative juices were flowing.

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Of course, no event can be successful without being able to partner with fantabulous vendors. We got to work putting together an ‘A-Team’ of vendors to handle the catering, tenting, photography, lighting, furniture, bar, restroom and rentals. It was truly a collaborative effort and the clients were thrilled with the outcome.

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The day arrived that Ben Folds came to play. He exceeded the clients’ expectations, even playing a bit longer than initially scheduled. Certainly, an experience that will last for years to come in the memories of the clients and their guests.

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Event Design, Décor, Coordination and Management: Amazing Celebrations & Events, Glastonbury, CT and Boston, MA

Event Production: Zaphod Productions, LLC, Orlando, FL

Event Photography: Kate Lauren Studios, Avon, CT

Furniture Rentals: AFR Furniture, Rocky Hill, CT

Bar and Décor Rentals: Averi Jade, New Hartford, CT

Lighting: CJC Lighting, Springfield, MA

Tenting: Tents Unlimited, Torrington, CT

Catering: Christie Caters, New Hartford, CT

Catering: Red Diamond Pizza Truck, Shelton, CT

Rest Room Trailer: Live Earth, Rehoboth, MA

Catering Rentals: Party Rentals Ltd., Boston, MA

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Ben’s MasterChef Junior Bar Mitzvah

We get so much enjoyment when we get the opportunity to design the décor for a Bar Mitzvah around our client’s passion or hobby. This was the case with Ben, a talented chef, who aspires to be the next MasterChef Junior champion!

Ben shared his ideas for the centerpieces, so we ran with the concept of filling glass columns with beans, rice and pasta and then topping with an assortment of cooking utensils. His logo, created by Geri Denyer with DenyerDezignz, added the perfect touch to the centerpieces and table signs.

One of our favorite décor elements was the place card display. We picked up several old cookbooks from the local Goodwill Store and folded the pages to create a fun entrance presentation. The oversized fork votive holders and the chalkboard signs (created by our own Kate Ranaldi), helped to enhance the bar, food stations and gift table.

As a wonderful take-away and a testament to Ben’s flair for cooking, all the guests were given a personalized cookbook, filled with some of his favorite recipes. The selections ranged from Chocolate Almond Torte and Chinese Scallion Pancakes to Churros and Key Lime Pie. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Chef Ben!!

EVENT

Ben’s Bar Mitzvah

Theme: MasterChef Junior

Date: May 20, 2017

VENDORS

Event Design and Décor: Amazing Celebrations & Events

Venue: The Riverview, Simsbury, CT

Graphic Design – Logo, recipe books and Place Cards: Denyer Dezignz, Cromwell, CT

Chalkboard Signs: Amazing Celebrations & Events

Place card and recipe book printing: Minuteman Press, Glastonbury

Entertainment: Powerstation Events, Cheshire, CT

Favors: Victor Advertising, Middletown, CT

Sign In Board: David James Gallery, Glastonbury

CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs CT Bar Mitzvah Planner and Event Decor Riverview Simsbury Master Chef Junior cooking theme chalk signs

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The Party Queen Says…It IS Easy Being Green!

Even though we’ve all heard the Muppets song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” pulling off a green, eco-friendly wedding can be easier than you think! In many ways, most couples are not aware that they have already included ‘green’ components into their wedding plans.

green wedding ideas chalkboard sign seating chart calligraphy Love the idea of a chalkboard seating chart or menu sign? That’s a great way to save on paper and printing and the boards can often be wiped clean and repurposed as a message board for years to come. Wedding programs can be a lovely memento, so think about printing on recycled paper and perhaps ask guests to share copies to cut down on the quantity. Better yet, display the information on a large chalkboard at the beginning of the aisle so your guests can have something to read before you walk down the aisle. Relocating it to the reception venue can be a great conversation piece as your guests mingle and enjoy the celebration. Engaging the services of a local artist or art student to create these pieces can be a wonderful way to support the local economy.

If your budget allows, provide shuttle transportation for your guests staying at hotels. This will cut down on excess emissions from multiple cars traveling to the same location for the ceremony and reception. In line with this, use as many local vendors as possible to cut down on the distance that they are traveling to your wedding.

Use ‘home grown’ as much as possible for your floral bouquets and centerpieces. Ask your florist to partner with a local flower farm to create seasonal floral décor. Succulents and plants used in your event design can be given to your guests so they can enjoy memories of your wedding long after the last dance. There are several flower-repurposing companies, such as Random Acts of Flowers (randomactsofflowers.org) and Rebloom (rebloomflower.com), who will pick up floral arrangements and redistribute them to hospitals and hospice care centers or resell them with proceeds benefiting various charities. If you are not able to locate such a service in your area, select a local nursing home and ask a family member or friend to handle the delivery after the wedding.

Bottles and cans from the bar often end up in the dumpster during off-site and backyard weddings. Set up a recycle area near the caterer’s cook tent or behind the bar so bottles and cans don’t end up in the landfill. If the caterer is not able to handle the returns, contact a local community organization to pick up the bins or bags following the reception – they would certainly benefit from the return deposit.

Let’s be serious, no one really needs a personalized Koozie imprinted with your face and wedding date. If you feel that favors are a must, think ‘GO LOCAL’ and find a state-made product such as honey, chocolates, candles or soap, as a way to support a local small business. Better yet, choose a charity close to your heart and let your guests know that, in lieu of favors and in honor of your wedding, you have made a donation in their names.book donation at wedding green wedding ideas

You may be planning on preserving your wedding gown for all eternity, but if you’re like me, your wedding gown will end up in the back of your closet for the next three plus decades! A far better fate would be to donate your gown to an organization like Brides Against Breast Cancer (bridesagainstbreastcancer.org), who has helped thousands of women buy affordable pre-owned wedding dresses and has donated millions to cancer-related charities. If vintage or second-hand is more your style, there are an abundance of shops around who carry an assortment of gowns and often provide tailoring services on-site. Want to make your mother cry? You may be able to wear your mother’s wedding gown by simply updating those poufy sleeves with just a few alterations.

Looking for wedding rings? Engage the services of a jewelry designer to create rings from recycled gold or with fair labor gems. Does your photographer offer an actual printed proof album? Ask for an online version so you don’t have to be wasteful and throw out the prints of your Aunt Shirley doing the Cha Cha Slide. Have an abundance of information to pass along to your guests? Forego the printed invitation inserts and set up a wedding website to tell your guests about accommodations, transportation and local spots of interest. See? It IS easy being green!  

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Glastonbury, CT 06033

(860) 659-2927

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(617) 913-6522

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