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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Tina and Damien’s Pittsburgh Destination Wedding

Tina and Damien’s Pittsburgh Destination Wedding

We were thrilled to have worked with Tina and Damien for their destination wedding celebration in Pittsburgh. The planning faced some challenges with the couple living in London, England (visiting only a few times before their wedding) and planning a three day extravaganza for their guests in less than four months. 

The vision: Friday Welcome Reception, Multiple Wedding Events on Saturday and Steeler Tailgate Party followed by taking their guests (55 tickets to be exact) to the Steeler game on Sunday. Owner, Shari Zatman, worked mostly remotely with the couple to design this entire weekend of events. 

Tina and Damien were married civilly several years ago before they had their two gorgeous children, but with Tina being born and raised in Pittsburgh, she identified Pittsburgh as the destination where she would like to bring everyone to host her dream wedding. 

The couple hosted a Welcome Cocktail Reception at the Duquesne Club the night prior to the wedding to greet their friends and family who traveled from all over the world to be with them on their special day. In addition to local family and friends, guests travelled from Australia, England, Brazil, Hong Kong, Malaysia and all throughout the United States to celebrate with the couple.

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On Saturday morning, guests gathered at St Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the bride and her father arrived in style, traveling from the Omni William Penn in a 1940’s vintage car.  After the exchange of vows, guests proceeded to an afternoon luncheon at Monterey Bay on Mt. Washington overlooking the city. Guests were greeted at Monterey Bay by champagne, passed hors d’oeuvres and soothing sounds of a strolling violin. 

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Guests walked through the ground level entryway of white fabric draped and adorned with large floral clusters. Before boarding the elevators to the restaurant, guests selected their calligraphed escort cards that were hanging on the wall among greenery accented by blue silk. Dark Navy was paired with warm ivory tones to create a soft and romantic color palate used throughout the entire wedding, from printed materials to florals and linens. When guests found their seats, they enjoyed their delicious meals while taking in the best view of Pittsburgh. The couple was honored by many toasts from their family and friends accounting their deep love and commitment for each other.

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The third part to their day was “the party”. Guests boarded the buses once again and were driven to Perle, a sophisticated champagne lounge in Market Square, and the champagne and drinks were flowing all night. Upon entry, there was a large floral framed board with Polaroid pictures of the guests who attended the Welcome Reception the previous evening. 

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Tina and Damien started off the party by pouring champagne into their tower of glasses. In addition to an elaborate food display, guests enjoyed three cakes that were on display. One represented Tina, one represented Damien and the third was their wedding cake. The very stylish bride opted for a clothing change, slipping out of her wedding dress and into a floor length sequin gown which she wore later in the evening.
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Their talented DJ kept the music going all night as their guests had a ton of fun and got down on the dance floor. Friends and family appreciated the front balcony of Perle which offers amazing views of Downtown Pittsburgh. The Speakeasy lounge included a “Pittsburgh Cookie Table” with 100 dozen cookies baked by local family and friends. Everyone also enjoyed the photo booth. 
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The fun weekend didn’t stop there! On Sunday morning, all guests were invited to an authentic Steeler Tailgate Party outside at Stage AE prior to the Steelers VS. Cleveland Browns game. Everyone sported their Black and Gold gear and waved their terrible towels as they enjoyed a Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar, pierogies, kelbasa and other Pittsburgh tailgate favorites before heading over to Heinz Field for the game. 

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We wish Tina and Damien a lifetime of love and happiness and it was our pleasure to work with such a beautiful couple!

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Many thanks to all of our wonderful vendor partners who helped us make this wedding weekend so spectacular:

Duquesne Club, Omni William Penn Hotel, Monterey Bay, Perle, Stage AE, Aramark, Goldstein Photography, Robert Charles Wedding Films, Allison Mcgeary Florist, Nota Bene, Bella Christie and Lil Z’s Sweet Boutique, Steven Vance, Festivities, Event Source and more.

Here is a short feature film of the highlights of this beautiful weekend. It is worth watching! We’d like to thank Trillium Wedding Films for doing such an amazing job capturing this event on film.

Jared’s Bar Mitzvah

Jared’s Bar Mitzvah

We were thrilled to work with Nord family for the second time to plan an amazing celebration for Jared’s Bar Mitzvah. We may have returned to the same venue, Heinz History Center (where his sister’s party was held just two years previously), but we certainly transformed the space for him!

Jared’s vision was a “Night Club with basketball accents. To make the space feel unique from his sisters, we arranged the ballroom completely differently. The black dance floor with personalized logo graphic was centered in the room horizontally with a VIP Lounge on each side to accommodate seating for Jared and his friends. 

When adult guests arrived via the red carpet entry at the party, they had to check in with at the entrance by the “club bouncer” to be verified on the guest list for their table assignments. Adults were assigned to tables that were named according to renowned night clubs in the U.S.

The adults sat at elongated tables that were a mix of a high and low heights arranged in a “U” shape around a large square bar. The bar was a main focal point covered in sequin linens, adorned with arrangements on each corner and a large grouping of custom lampshades hanging overhead.

Identical lampshades were also grouped over the center of the dance floor and over the two VIP lounges. Jared’s color palate of royal, silver, black and touches of orange were carried throughout the decor. All of the table centerpieces included illuminated cylinders with basketballs and LED glow cubes were placed all over the room which rotated colors throughout the night. The ambiance was very sophisticated.

Adults and kids alike rocked out on the dance floor led by Mc Criss Cross and his crew. They enjoyed airbrushed sweatshirts and an inflatable photo booth that took pictures which could be printed as well as uploaded and shared to social media.

Jared’s party was completely customized for him based on his requests such as a walking taco dinner station for the kids, donut cart and Bella Christies incredible desserts. They were all big hits. One of the best personalizations was the film that was created and shown as a tribute to what a wonderful young man Jared is. 

Many thanks to the wonderful vendors we worked with on this event:

Heinz History CenterCommon Plea CateringBea Nylias PhotographyAll Pro USAFestivitiesBenack, Glyde ProductionsEntertainment UnlimitedBella Christies and Lil Z’sMosaicAllison McgearyAll Occasions Party Rental

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Rachel’s Bat Mitzvah

Rachel’s Bat Mitzvah

We had a fabulous time working with Rachel and her family to create a one-of-a-kind Bat Mitzvah Celebration for this very sweet and talented young lady. On August 30th, 2014, family and friends gathered for a morning service led by Rabbi Stephanie Wolfe at Beth Samuel Jewish Center in Ambridge, which was followed by a delicious Kiddush luncheon catered by Tallulah’s. The room was decorated in her color palate of turquoise, lime green and purple. Her centerpieces were baskets tied with balloons which included non-perishable food items that would be donated to Rachel’s mitzvah project, Gleaners Food Bank in Cranberry Township.

The theme for the evening party reflected Rachel’s personality impeccably as it was centered around her passion for theatre and Broadway shows. The color palate was carried through here as well. As guests arrived at Edgeworth Club in Sewickley, adults proceeded into cocktail hour while the kids were entertained by a talented magician and caricature artist in the private bowling alley located just downstairs of the club.

Instead of table numbers, the escort cards were an assortment of Rachel’s favorite Broadway shows represented as small Playbills on boards which were to resemble Box Office Window pick up. Atop each table centerpiece was an eye-catching, Playbill inspired sign which easily guided guests to their seats. Friends of Rachel made their way through a customized marquee entry in flashing lights where they found their own personalized cubbies to store all their party favors throughout the night.

After guests watched a short montage video, the kids were invited onto the dance floor to participate in various games, provided by Glyde Productions, in which they competed for prizes. Afterwards the kids enjoyed buffet-style food in the Loggia just outside the grand ballroom, which allowed the adults dine in style in the ballroom.

When the dancing began, it didn’t stop all night! Everyone loved the white, seamless dance floor which was surrounded by comfortable leather lounge seating.  MC Criss Cross and his dancers kept the excitement going the entire night by teaching impressive dance moves, handing out fun giveaways, and snapping live photos to display on the big screen. A guest-favorite that night, the Photo Booth, captured hysterical memories and the faces of loved-ones, which was printed out into an album as a keepsake for Rachel to commemorate this religious milestone. Guests also had the option of getting personalized airbrush tattoos throughout the night.

Near the end of the celebration, the irresistible, homemade desserts provided by Bella Christie topped off this fabulous event. From Apple Pie-A-La-Mode, to Cake Pops, Chocolate-Covered Oreos, Toffee, to Marshmallow Pops, the guests devoured the delicious treats! Family and friends also had the option of filling personalized take-out containers with assortments from the Broadway themed candy station, provided by the Pittsburgh Candy Buffet. We loved being a part of this celebration, Mazel Tov Rachel!

A very special thank you to the vendors who we enjoyed working with on this event:
Edgeworth Club, Joan Stewart, Sherer Video, The Prop Shop, Festivities, All Occasions Party Rental, Pittsburgh Candy Buffet, Glyde Productions, Gray Phoenix, Mosaic, BellaChristie and Lil Z’s, ELF Entertainment, Entertainment Unlimited, Table Talk, Tallulahs

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Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best of the ‘Burgh 2013!

Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best of the ‘Burgh 2013!

We are thrilled to announce that we have been chosen as Best Party Planner in Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best of the ‘Burgh 2013! Pittsburgh Magazine was established in 1970 as a lifestyle publication covering the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Every year the magazine comes out with their annual Best of the ‘Burgh list and this year we made it! The magazine polled readers from Pittsburgh asking everything from the best way to spend your Saturday night to where to grab the best local brew. The list was compiled by the votes of knowledgeable Pittsburgh city lovers who have made little bistros and antique parlors ritual spots. We share the list with hundreds of beloved Pittsburgh restaurants, shops, and services including Bella Bridesmaid for Best Bridal Boutique and Allison McGeary for Best Pittsburgh Florist to name a few. We couldn’t be happier to be recognized by the people of Pittsburgh as Best Party Planner and to be among so many great Pittsburgh Businesses. A very big thank you to all of those who voted for us making this win possible!

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Toby’s Bat Mitzvah

Toby’s Bat Mitzvah

On April 13, 2013, Toby, together with friends and family celebrated this milestone with a fun filled bash at J. Verno Studios on Pittsburgh’s Southside.  The night was filled with great food, dancing and even beautiful candy and dessert displays. The mood was as bright and lively as Toby’s color palate of fuchsia, purple, lime green and blue.

While entering J. Verno Studios, adult guests were welcomed into a lounge and bar area while the kids played trivia games in the ballroom, provided by Wenning Entertainment, winning prizes and kicking off the party.  Guests were also treated to a photo booth filled with a variety of costumes and hats to take pictures for the guest of honor. The photos from the photo booth were simulcast on large screens throughout the venue all night long. Kids (and even some adults) visited the airbrush tattoo artist throughout the evening to receive temporary airbrush tattoos.

The ballroom was divided into two areas, one area for the kids and the other side of the room for adult seating.

The kids’ tables were lined with pink and purple luminaria and provided open seating at long tables.  The kids had their own appetizer station of multi flavored popcorn and soft pretzel bites which later turned over to their own dinner station. The adult side of the room were seated at round tables and adults dined at a variety of dinner stations featuring a slider bar, Asian Station and more all provided by JPC Catering.  While the guests were all seated at their tables, they enjoyed a lovely slideshow of pictures of Toby through the years of growing up with her family and friends.

After dinner the fun really began with Soundtastic Enterprises getting everyone at the party up and dancing.  There was even a dance off between the boys and girls!  After dinner, guests were treated to a cookie table of homemade cookies donated by friends and relatives of Toby. This had special meaning to Toby as her mitzvah project was a bake sale held earlier in the year with all proceeds going to children’s cancer research.

As if that weren’t enough for any sweet tooth, mini milkshake shooters were passed and a candy buffet filled with goodies such as Reese’s cups, gummy worms, m & m’s  and so much more was available with personalized take out containers to fill and enjoy at the party and to take home.

This sweet night was a treat for both adults and kids. Mazel Tov Toby!

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