Written by
What is “Event Design”?

What is “Event Design”?

Have you ever wondered what the difference between “event planning” and “event design” really is? While both aspects are very important to a quality event experience, there are very real differences.

Event Planning pertains to the organizational details of the actual event. This could even be considered an aspect of “project management”. This would include venue selection, logistics planning, scheduling, vendor contracting and coordination, transportation, security and so on. These are all of the elements to make the event feel like it is running seamlessly.

Event Design encompasses the look and feel of the event itself. Most people have a hard time “designing” an event themselves because they often feel like they know what they like, they collect pictures of pretty images, but they have no idea how to translate that into an event. We take a vision and make it a reality.

Most events are “branded” with design elements. We are able to look at images you like which represent room decor, tablescapes, print materials, home decorating and fashion and can access like elements that ultimately formulate your event vision. The event design incorporates fabric, furniture, lighting, props, tabletop and hard goods. Because we want the design to affect all senses, that includes smell and taste in addition to the visual elements. We carry the design through the food and beverage experience as well.

The event design is carried through from the beginning of the guest experience. Often the tone of the event is set by a branded look on the save the date and invitation. That might be with color combinations, style (traditional, modern, ornate, chic, etc.) logo/monogram or even a feeling that the print material evokes that is representative of what is to come.

We know that most people are visual and don’t really know what they like, what feels right, and what represents what they want until we can actually let them see it. We will typically use real samples of items we want to present and set up a full table with chairs, China, glassware, linens and centerpieces at a sample meeting for you to critique and approve. This way you can provide input on the design prior to the actual event.

If you don’t want full service event planning, we often offer design consulting on its own as a service to help create and develop an event vision and pull all of these visual aspects together.

Check out these before and after photos of an event we designed and planned which show an empty office lobby and the same space designed for a branded corporate event. What do you think of the transformation?

11 Stanwix Lobby- before

11 Stanwix Lobby- after

The Benefits of Hiring Your Own Wedding Planner Versus Using The Venue’s Coordinator

The Benefits of Hiring Your Own Wedding Planner Versus Using The Venue’s Coordinator

Many engagements have recently taken place and there are couples currently looking in droves to book their wedding venues. During this time, we wanted to offer some important advice about the benefits of hiring your own Wedding Planner versus being swayed into believing that the coordinator provided at the venue will provide the same assistance for you.
While not all venues are the same and they vary from place to place in terms of the experience and service level of their coordinators, we have compiled the following list of what many Venue Coordinators DO NOT do for you. We hope this is helpful as you are navigating through the beginning stages of planning and trying to make the decision about whether hiring your own Wedding Planner is the right fit for you.

What your venue does NOT do for you as your “Wedding Planner”*

  • • Create a decor plan from your vision and provide creative direction
  • • Review Pinterest photos with you and design your ceremony and reception based on your visual interest
  • • Help you create and manage your overall wedding budget
  • • Handle negotiations and contracting with vendors- most venues just provide a list of recommended vendors and let you do the rest
  • • Accompany you to your offsite vendor meetings to convey your vision and provide direction
  • • Provide consistent vendor management through the entire planning
  • • Handle transportation contracting and management
  • • Contract and manage hotel blocks (if not a hotel venue and using their own sleeping rooms)
  • • Stationery materials- save the dates, invitations, ceremony programs, etc.
  • • Be your advocate for all aspects of planning without bias
  • • Review all vendor contracts
  • • Manage your planning timelines, keep you on track and on task with planning deadlines
  • • Manage vendor payments
  • • Plan anything pertaining to your ceremony if it is not at their venue
  • • Create order and structure of wedding ceremony
  • • Direct ceremony rehearsal
  • • Provide one on one attention and attendance during entire wedding set up
  • • Do anything with you that takes place offsite of their property

*This list does not reference any one particular venue or venue coordinator. It is an generalized list based on a variety of event venues.

Designer Table for Braddock Feast

Designer Table for Braddock Feast

Click the photo above to view the gallery.

The first Braddock Feast was held in the town of Braddock, PA on Sunday, September 27th. It was a community event with area restaurants, caterers and businesses being showcased with samplings of food and beverage.

As part of the event, several Event Designers were asked to design display tables to represent Braddock businesses. Shari Zatman designed and installed this 4′ x 8′ tablescape which represented Freestore and Red Lantern Bike Shop These stores collect new and used items such as clothing, home goods, school supplies, bicycles and more and donate every item back to the community. Many people have and continue to benefit by the generous work of these stores.

Our table was colorful and whimsical and represented the bright and cheery feeling you get at FreeStore and Red Lantern Bike Shop. The focal piece of the table was the bicycle that sat right in the center. On the spokes of the bike were photos of several children who received free bikes from the store. The centerpiece also included actual red lanterns lit with twinkling LED candles. Fresh flowers and stuffed animals filled the bike basket and around the base of the bike were vases of flowers and picture frames with encouraging words such as “You Are Loved”, “Pay It Forward”, “Laugh” and more.

Rather than using actual place settings at the table, Shari drew settings in chalk on chalkboard table runner paper and placed “bow tie” napkins on the “plates”. The chair backs on the chairs were actually long sleeve tee shirts ties with the sleeves of the shirt and accented with a fresh sunflower.

All of these prop items were donated to the stores by Perfectly Planned by Shari after the event.

Book a 2016 Wedding + Receive a Luxury Gift Package!


Perfectly Planned by Shari is offering a Luxury Gift Package to Brides who contract full service wedding planning for 2016 weddings with us between now and the New Year.

The gift includes the following:

  • – Complimentary Engagement Photo Shoot with Rhaina  Taylor Photography
  • – Complimentary Hair and Makeup Trial with Studio Booth
  • – Complimentary Fitness and Massage Package from Extreme Fitness

The value of this gift totals $800.00.

Availability is limited, schedule your consultation with us soon.



7 Things You Need to Consider When Planning A Wedding At Your Home

Weddings at home are lovely and some little girls dream about having their own wedding on the property where they grew up, but there are many factors to consider before being certain a wedding at home is the right venue for you.

“Adequate Space”
Measure your property or use a rental company to do so. If you are going to be outdoors hire a rental company for tenting and make sure they confirm that you have adequate level space for all of your needs. Additionally, make sure you have all the extra spaces you will need for getting ready, photos and more.

How many guests are you having? You likely don’t have enough items of your own to service the number of guests attending for a wedding. You will need to rent practically everything- glassware, dishes, flatware, linens, tables, chairs, etc. This can add up so make sure you consider all of this when budgeting.

“Catering Facilities”
Will the caterers be using your kitchen? Do they need you to build them out in a catering tent? Either way you need to have the caterer do a site visit and make sure they have what they need or they will have to set up the proper facilities temporarily onsite for them to use by renting everything they need. Again, this can increase your rental budget so you will want to find this out early.

Do you want all of those people walking through your house to use the bathroom? The answer is “no”. You will need to consider renting portable restroom trailers. These are actually very nice. You do not need to use Porto Potties. The restroom trailers are air conditioned, lit, and look like an actual bathroom.

Where will all of those cars park? Even if you hire valet parking you need to pre-determine the location where the cars can go nearby and make sure the valets can quickly get to that location and back.

“Trash Removal”
A wedding will generate a lot of trash. Make sure you have plenty of waste receptacles placed properly for trash then discuss trash disposal with your caterer. Have them remove it from the property or place it in the proper pick up location for you.

“Being Able To Enjoy It”
Consider how you will be able to be a guest at your own event if it is your home. We suggest hiring a good Wedding Planner to handle all of the planning and manage every detail onsite for the wedding. Trust us, this is the only way you will really get to enjoy it.

5 Things You Need to Consider About Planning an Outdoor Wedding

So you are planning to have an outdoor wedding. They sure can be beautiful, but whether it’s just the ceremony outdoors or all events including the reception, here are 5 things you need to take into consideration.

“Make Sure You Have a Rain Plan”
There is always a chance it could rain, especially in our hometown of Pittsburgh. When planning to be outdoors, you must make two solid logistic plans. One that will work if it is not raining and a second “Plan B” option that will be fully planned out ahead of time and acceptable to you if you should decide to enact it. The rain plan may involve options such as tented covering or the ability to move your outside set up to an indoor area. Make sure you have pre-designed floor plans for both options.

Even if your event starts during daylight, be sure to access whether any portion of the event will continue to be going on once it gets dark. Check the sundown time for the date of your event and know what time it will get dark. While they may not be turned on until later in the evening, be sure to have lighting in place for all areas for when it gets dark. Don’t forget lighting areas like pathways to parking and restrooms. Also be sure food and dessert displays are well lit so people can see them.

Outside, there will be bugs, guaranteed. Your guests may not think of this, but you don’t want them swarmed by bugs. We suggest having bug spray available for guests to use as needed. You can also strategically place citronella candles. Don’t forget that bugs will surround the food so if you have any food sitting out, try to keep it protected.

“Level Ground”
When deciding which outside area to use, if you are planning to be on grass, take into consideration how level the ground is. You will need to select a large enough area that is completely level to place items such as dance floors, tables and chairs. You can’t put these on sloped surfaces so if you aren’t sure whether the surface will be acceptable, have your rental company come out and look at it.

Even slight wind can blow table cloths off tables or knock over light items. Always plan for the possibility of wind. For linens, tie sashes around them on high cocktail tables, use clips to secure them or place a heavy enough centerpiece to keep them from blowing off the tables. For other items, be sure to have them weighted down in some way. And consider that it is very likely that if you place paper items like place cards on tables that they may blow over so plan for other options.

5 Top Reasons Why Venues Should Encourage Couples to Hire a Wedding Planner

The International Special Events Society Pittsburgh Chapter held an Industry Forum for the first time at their April Meeting. This provided an opportunity for members and guests to submit questions in advance which became “Hot Topics” posed to the group for industry discussion.

As the Vice President of Programming and Education for the chapter and the organizer of this meeting, I saw one question submitted several times by event planners. “Why do venues tell couples not to hire a Wedding Planner?” This question sparked a lot of conversation.

Representing the venues in attendance, the general feeling from them was either that they, as the venue, felt like they could (or should) provide all of the services to the couple themselves AND it is better to have no Wedding Planner than to be working with a bad and inexperienced planner.

There may be some additional reasons that were not shared during the meeting, but as a Professional and Experienced Wedding and Event Planner, I would like to share my opinion on this.

To all venue coordinators, good planners can work together with you to improve your life! Really, it’s true!

Here are 5 Top Reasons Why Venues should encourage couples to hire a Wedding Planner.

1. If you want to avoid working with the bad and inexperienced planners, then you can control that by referring only planners that you know are good, experienced and have a great track record. If you discourage working with a planner and the couple decides they want to hire one anyway, you may be at more risk by not referring because they will go out on their own and potentially hire someone you have to work with whom is not a professional, you have never heard of, whom is new or inexperienced making your job a lot more difficult.

2. Planners really do want to work together as a team. We are not looking to make your life harder- really. We want to see the best possible outcome for the couple just like you do. We value your knowledge and experience about your property and will rely on you to know information about all things venue related such as proper load in requirements, power, measurements, policies, payment terms, insurance, food and beverage and more. We will properly convey this information to our couples and follow your direction. You are our very important liaison and that is valued and appreciated.

3. You can’t be everywhere all the time. We know you also have to represent your venue every day which means while preparing for a wedding, while the couple is getting dressed, while the set up is happening, you may need to be showing the venue to other interested couples and giving tours or may need to attend to other things. When a planner is onsite for a wedding, the planner is there dedicated to that particular event the entire time which means you can step away and attend to other things.

4. Having a planner will lighten your work load and save you time. Just think about how many phone calls and emails you field from each couple/wedding and how many questions you are asked. Just imagine if that was all being directed to the couple’s wedding planner the amount of time that would save for you. Not to mention the other responsibilities you sometimes pick up like unexpected set up and assembly of items that you now have to take care of that turns out to take a ton of your time.

5. We are working with couples outside and offsite of the venue. We know you provide wonderful advice and direction to couples. We also know that you can’t be with them for meetings and appointments when they are outside of your venue. A Wedding Planner will provide additional services such as accompanying them to vendor appointments to convey their vision, designing the branding of their event and working with a stationer and design team at their locations to style the wedding, ceremony direction at a church or off site location and much, much more.

If you represent a venue, I welcome your feedback and response and truly hope to work with you soon!

8 Habits of an Amazing Event Planner

1. Organized– This sounds obvious, but not all people are “Type A” organized people. Those who are make great event planners. We do what we do because we are master list makers, on top of all of the details and keep everything straight and on-time.

2. Multi-Tasker– We are not just planning one event at a time, we have all of the details going at various stages for many events all at one time. Whew! Just writing that out makes me realize what an amazing feat that is!

3. Creative– This sets apart an average event planner from an amazing event planner. An amazing event planner finds new ways with every event to make it fresh, and visually interesting while maintaining the client’s event vision and presenting it to them in a way they didn’t even know was possible.


4. “Out of the Box” Thinker– Never allow your events to get stale. Always be thinking about how a non-event related products and services can inspire you and be applied to an event. Find inspiration everywhere. For example, read home decor publications for inspiration and bring that to event styling. I make notes when I travel and get inspired and find ways to incorporate new discoveries into my events.


5. Practicality– Make sure your client’s budget matches their expectation. Pinterest can be great for sharing our visions however if what your client shows you doesn’t align with their budget, an amazing event planner can do one of several things- A. Stretch the budget. B. Find acceptable lower budget options the client is happy with. C. Accept that the planner and client may not be the right fit for eachother if A and B aren’t options.

6. Managing a Budget– Maybe you can come up with the most fabulous event concept in the world, but if your client can’t afford it then it doesn’t even matter. The most amazing event planners can meet all of the needs of the client, produce a desired result and come in within an acceptable budget. That takes true skill and experience.


7. Experience– Let’s face it, there truly is something to be said for hiring a professional event planner who makes this their full time career and comes with years of experience. There are many differences between “Miss I just planned my sister’s wedding and now I’m a Wedding Planner” and a professional amazing event planner. They include: Being able to think on your feet under pressure, making the right quick decisions, referring vendors that are also truly amazing, knowing how to answer your clients questions, keeping calm in all situations and more.


8. Creating an Experience– This is very different from the fore mentioned “being experienced”. Creating an experience sets truly amazing event planners apart from the rest. THE experience is what guests will remember and take away from the event. Always ask your client how they want their guests to feel, what they want them to remember, what is most important to them about the event. The feeling and the memories are what remains long after the event ends.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide

The holidays have arrived and I am sure you will be giving many presents and hostess gifts during this season. We put a list together of some of our favorite sweet and savory treats for your friends and family. We hand-picked a few of our personal favorite local edibles from Pittsburgh and the surrounding area that we think would make perfect gifts and we wanted to let you know about them!

Pretzel Crazy –

These hand-crafted treats are perfect for every occasion, and can surely satisfy that sweet and salty craving! They start with fresh baked pretzels, coat it in the creamiest caramel, dip it in Milk, Dark or White chocolate then top off the pretzel with any of their 20 melt-in-your-mouth toppings from candies, cookies or nut toppings. They do great seasonal colors and designs and also offer other products as well such as dipped marshmallows. Although they do not have a store front, they can be found all year long at pop-up stores and festivals around the Pittsburgh area.

Pictures from: Pretzel Crazy Facebook page at

Crave Haute Parisian Macarons –

The Crave Macaron is surely to be the favorite at the holiday cookie table, as they are defined as an elegant calculus of crumble, cloud and cream. These scrumptious macarons were created by a Mother-Daughter duo located in Belle Vernon, and artisanally handcrafted with the finest and unique ingredients. They offer these exquisite little pleasures in over fifty flavors! You can order them by quantity to serve at your own holiday event or order them packaged to be given out as party favors or hostess gifts.

             Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 1.35.42 PM       800px-Macarons_French_made_mini_cakes
Pictures from:

Patti’s Pasticceria –

Most Pittsburgher’s think of Enrico Biscotti Company when they are craving an Italian biscotti, but we encourage you to check out a lesser known hidden gem of an Italian bakery we like for their freshly baked cookies, biscotti and cakes! Head over to Patti’s Pasticceria located in White Oak, PA and taste their mouthwatering treats. Patti owns the bakery and we think their biscotti are as authentic and tasty as our favorites found in Tuscany. Their holiday cookie platters are perfect for any family function and you can order smaller quantities as gifts. They also offer these sweet treats all year long for Pittsburgh Cookie Tables.

                                             1502563_953692857991345_2340848624690408200_n       10387686_924358500924781_7019099346331049585_n
Pictures from Patti’s Pasticceria Facebook page:

Jean-Marc Chatellier’s Bakery –

This French bakery offers authentic French pastries. We recommend their chocolate mousse cake, sea salt caramel macarons and Brenton French Shortbread. The Brenton French Shortbread is a cookie-like cake which originates from Brittany, Jean-Marc’s homeland, the Northwest part of France known for buttery pastries. Cut into slices and eat as is, or top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. This item makes a great gift for school teachers, hair stylists, manicurists and anyone else you would like to thank at the holidays. You can find these delicious treats at their bakery located in the Millvale section of Pittsburgh.

Picture from:

Red Hawk Premium Peppers –

Just a few hours outside of Pittsburgh near State College, PA, this husband and wife owned company creates “Hot” products, such as hot sauces, red pepper jams, spice rubs, and dried powders. They feature some of the rarest to the hottest peppers in the world in their products. They offer gift sets for the holidays and we highly recommend the red pepper jelly mixed with a block of cream cheese for the zestiest vegetable dip you have ever tasted. You could mix and match a selection of their products and make a nice gift basket to give someone. These award winning products can be seen all throughout the year at nearby farmers markets and are able to be shipped right to your door!

                              1374813_595932920448832_1932611085_n_Fotor      1460999_625731940802263_443602277_n

Picture from:

Happy Holidays! We hope you enjoy our recommendations!

Rachel Cara and Lauren’s B’not Mitzvah

Rachel Cara and Lauren’s B’not Mitzvah

The three sisters, Rachel, Cara and Lauren celebrated their B’not Mitzvah on November 8, 2014. The set of twins, Rachel and Cara, along with their younger sister Lauren, made the decision to have their event all together on one date. For three very unique young ladies, they all merged their ideas and wishes remarkably well, which yielded a fabulous end result!

DSC_0694   DSC_0695
DSC_0693   DSC_0700

Each of the girls selected one color- turquoise, lime green and fuscia (along with black and white). The three colors were used in representation of the three girls and were carried throughout the event as their palate. The colors were also used in printed materials, linens, lighting, balloons, centerpieces and more. The trio floral motif was carried from invitations to event logo, which was displayed at the party on large plasma screens which also showed their video montage at one point in the party.

DSC_0698   DSC_0706

Their celebration was held at the Pittsburgh Field Club. Their large group of nearly 130 kids, plus adults, enjoyed a strolling magician, airbrush tattoos, photobooth with custom props and entertainment by Alex Foster of Soundtastic Enterprises.

DSC_0708   DSC_0701_Fotor

The ballroom was completely transformed by pipe and drape which was uplight in all three of their signature colors. A photo gallery of canvases of the girls was displayed on every wall. Clustered balloons dripped from the ceiling and completely covered the section above the white dance floor.

DSC_0702   DSC_0718

Guests had three boards to sign for the girls to give them wishes of congratulations. Later in the evening, all guests enjoyed a make-your-own ice cream sundae station and cookie display. Both adults and kids enjoyed the candy buffet as a late night treat and take home favor.

       DSC_0712   DSC_0717

Many thanks to our wonderful vendors:
Pittsburgh Field Club, Rhaina Taylor Photography, Entertainment Unlimited, Gray Phoenix Designs, All Occasions Party Rental, Mosaic, Soundtastic Enterprises, Sherer Video, Festivities, Pittsburgh Candy Buffet, E.L.F. Entertainment, Nota Bene