Event Planning

Introducing: Perfectly Planned by Shari’s Video Blog Series

January 30, 2018

We are excited to announce a new video blog series featuring Shari Zatman, Owner of Perfectly Planned by Shari. Shari is an award winning Event Planner and designer with more than 20 years of experience in the industry.

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.


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.

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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Best Practices for Planning a Kids Birthday Party

Planning the party can be an exciting time. Your child is getting older but you can make their day amazing. It does not need to be elaborate, your child will be happy as long as they feel special on that day.


Getting Started

Start with creating your guest List and selecting a party date. These two are very important because activities, location of the party, food all come back to the guest list and date.
When creating your guest list, ask your child whom they want to come to the party. Children typically want to invite everyone they know but you can always narrow down after you ask them who each person is. It is best to consider age when creating your guest list. The older the child gets, the less family members and more friends are typically invited.
As for the date, if there is someone that is important to be there, you can ask them what works for them. If that person is open or if there is no one that you need to ask, schedule the party for what works for you. If it is going to be at a birthday facility, you may have to consider changing the date based on availability.

Birthday Theme

Involve your child. Ask them what they want for their party. Kids know what they like and they are not scared to let you know. Once you decide on a theme, research it. Whether it is a TV show, movie, comic book, game, etc. – learn about it. The more you know about it, the better the party will be.


Once the theme is picked out, it’s time to finalize the details. Design or pick out invitations that match the theme of the party. Be sure to put start and end times, date, address and if there is anything the child should bring (swimsuit, etc.).
Always find mailing addresses for the kids and do not hand out invitations at school. Kids who are not invited with have hurt feelings. It is also best to ask your child to minimize any in-school discussion about the upcoming party so as not to make anyone feel left out for not being invited.


Decide which route you want to go with décor. Do you want elaborate or to keep it simple. Are you renting, purchasing or making items?
You can always purchase items at your local party store retailer, but you can find much of what you need online these days. There are many DIY tips, themed websites and don’t forget about using and for inspiration. If you are crafty you can replicate much of what you see by either purchasing directly from the site or trying to recreate it locally by a professional or on your own.


Kids must be kept entertained. They is the key to the success of a child’s party. Setting and keeping a steady pace at a party is also important. Whether you hire an entertainer, organize games, have food, or open gifts it should all be planned out as to what will happen in order from beginning to end. Keeping the flow going and keeping the kids entertained will make for a great party.

Do not be afraid to go “super” theme-oriented. If you’re having a Super Hero party, have the kids spray the bad guy with silly string. Rather than hitting the piñata with a bat, have them “Hulk Smash” it.
If there is no particular activity you can relate to the theme, then keep it simple. Play kick ball or relay races. As long as the kids are engaged and having fun, whatever the activity is will be a hit.
For older children, there will be less structure to the party. Older children know what they want and typically it is not Mom and Dad planning activities for them and their friends. If they express this, don’t worry. They will make their own fun and you can sit back and relax. Just be prepared to offer suggestions in an unstructured environment so kids don’t become bored or destructive.

Party Food

When it comes to the food, the one thing is very important and timeless- birthday cake. You have to decide will you bake one or buy one? How will you decorate it? What flavor should you get? There are so many choices when it comes to the cake, plan early so you can make sure the cake is done on time.
Offer more than just cake to avoid sugar rush. Provide snacks or a meal. Popular selections for kids include sandwiches, chicken tenders, pizza, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, burgers, veggies and dip, and fruit. Make food fun by putting it on a stick. Kids love corn dogs and fruit kabobs.

Don’t forget the drinks

Soda, lemonade, juice and water are all pretty standard selections. If the party is outside, a cooler filled with these drinks would be greatly appreciated as well as easy to get to. Make sure to keep the kids hydrated, especially if they are doing something highly active like playing a sport.

Have the cups (generally plastic cups) displayed where the kids can see them and easily get to. Be prepared for lost cups – have the kids write their names on their drinks. Also, have back up cups just in case. A favor cup or drinking bottle can be a great way of providing something to use as well as something for the kids to take home as a keepsake from the party.

Party favors

Often once a child leaves a party, the favor gets played with for a few minutes then quickly discarded. Be creative with your favor. Whether you make the favors yourself or have the kids make the favors at the party, make it something the kids look forward to and perhaps is reusable long after the party is over.

If the children are making the favor, you could have this as your first activity – typically when they start to arrive to the party. Keep the favor related to the party. For example, if the theme is a Super Hero party, have the kids create capes with each of the children’s name on the back for personalization.

Plan the goodbye

If you are hosting a drop off party, make sure that the host parents have parent phone numbers. There might be a chance they’re running late or need to send someone else to pick up their child. Establish a plan so that every child stays safe in your care.

Make note of each child that leaves. Make sure that the birthday child says their goodbye and that the child departing gathers their belongings as well as their party favor. Make sure that the child is with an adult that you recognize.

Mary Pat and Lee’s Rustic Chic Wedding

Mary Pat and Lee’s Rustic Chic Wedding

Mary Pat and Lee were married on September 7, 2013.  The couple had a morning ceremony at Duquesne Chapel followed by a luncheon reception outdoors at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  The Catholic ceremony was made even more special by having Mary Pat’s mom serve as her Matron of Honor.  The couple worked very hard on all of their wedding details with their wedding planner, Shari Zatman, owner of Perfectly Planned by Shari.  Their biggest request for the ceremony was to have specific musical and vocal arrangements which were artfully performed by a male and female vocal duo with piano accompaniment.

The reception included cocktails in the garden followed by a shabby chic tented outdoor luncheon.  All 179 guests dined at long continuous tables.  Guests found their seats by circular place cards handmade in calligraphy and placed at each place setting beneath a clear glass plate.  The elegantly rustic décor included crystal chandeliers which were elevated over the tables, tables adorned with lace linens, garden flowers and wooden farm chairs.

Guests were served a four course luncheon starting with fruit and cheese platters, followed by shrimp and grits, and finished with their choice of three different entree options.  Dessert concluded the luncheon with wedding cake, mini fruit pies and a donut cart with freshly made donuts made onsite alongside a coffee and cappuccino station.

Popular light tunes by artists such as Jason Mraz, Michael Buble and Adele were performed during the reception by Protégé.  Guests enjoyed an elegant and memorable wedding that was “perfectly planned” to each detail.

Many thanks to all of our vendor partners: Hens and Chicks, Big Catering, Mosaic Linens, Create Studio, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Duquesne Chapel, All Occasions Party Rental, Food Glorious Food, Bella Christie Sweet Boutique, Studio-E Entertainment, Rhaina Taylor Photography, All Pro USA, Steven Vance Strolling Violins, Pittsburgh Transportation Group
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Rachel and Kate’s B’nai Mitzvah

Rachel and Kate’s B’nai Mitzvah

Rachel and Kate celebrated their b’nai mitzvah on September 28, 2014 at the Pittsburgh Field Club. These two sisters are not twins, however close in age and chose to share their special day together. Of course with two different people, tastes and personalities coming together, we had to come up with an event that was a reflection of both of them. I am thrilled to say we succeeded in doing so.

There was no particular theme; however, at the beginning of the planning stages I was met with a few requests for incorporation- photos of the girls, shades of purple and silver. What developed over the course of planning was to turn the club’s ballroom into a photo gallery of the girls. This was created by draping the entire room in fabric and hanging more than 40 enlarged poster size photos of the girls around the room. The photos were up-lit with white light that had a mix of ambient purple light interspersed.

Perhaps the most impressive décor element was the ceiling of dripping balloons above the very large white dance floor.  There were reflections of Rachel and Kate in the details of the centerpieces and signs throughout the party.  Kids and adults alike enjoyed the DJ entertainment, airbrush tattoos, photobooth and elaborate sweets table.  Adults dined in the nearby sunroom and were able to get away from the kids activities during their own sit down dinner.  The kids enjoyed a buffet of all of their own favorites and when the time came everyone came together on the dance floor!

Many thanks to our numerous vendor partners: Pittsburgh Field Club, Festivities, Gray Phoenix Designs, Mosaic Linens, All Occasions Party Rental, Bella Christie Sweet Boutique, Entertainment Unlimited, A-Z Entertainment, Allison Mcgeary Florist, Jeff Swenson Photography, Soundwaves

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Bridal Brunch Sneak Preview

Bridal Brunch Sneak Preview

The Perfectly Planned Bridal Brunch produced by Perfectly Planned by Shari would not have been a success without the participation of our fabulous vendors and the beautiful brides and guests. The event was filled with exquisite food by The Omni William Penn Hotel, sweet treats by Bella Christie Sweet Boutique, lovely sounds of violin and piano by Steven Vance Strolling Violins, models in gowns by Bella Bridesmaid and Glitter and Grit, vendor displays by Chapel Hills Jewelry, Glassworks and Cheeks, Arbonne, Nota Bene, It’s Your Day and Studio Booth. The floral decor by Allison Mcgeary Florist, linens by Mosaic and rentals by All Occsasions Party Rental created stunning tables. During brunch the guests enjoyed an informative and inspiring presentation by award winning Wedding and Event Planner Shari Zatman, about personalizing and customing your wedding. Here is a sneak preview of this unique bridal experience. Stay tuned for more photos by Goldstein Photography and video from All Pro USA from the Perfectly Planned Bridal Brunch!

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