MAKING BIG EVENTS FEEL SMALL

BY COURTNEY PADDOCK

Nothing makes me crazier than a fabulous gala with all of the details forgotten.  Trays that are old and don't match, paper goods that look like they were run through someone's home printer in a generic font that came free with the computer program...and nondescript chicken satay skewers with a peanut dipping sauce (forgive me if this is a favorite of yours, it just feels a little tired).  I say to myself, "did I put on a pair of heels for THIS?!"  

The advent of social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest, has done wonders for all things visual.  We are exposed to so much more and have the power to ask for what we want, simply because we can produce a picture and say "like this, please!"  We have made a few frenemies in the industry by asking a lot of questions for our clients.  "What does the waitstaff wear?"  "What do you serve your drinks on?"  "How are they garnished?"  "What does the mobile bar look like?"  "Can we bring in our own flowers or cake?"  All of these questions, while they may seem silly, seemingly tend to invoke irritation in a long-standing or well-established venue.  To me, it feels like they think, "why are you questioning the way we do things around here?  You should just do it the way we do it and be thrilled with it!".  Yes, anyone can provide food and flowers, but is that really a rocking' party?  No one wants to stand around with their feet hurting at another uninspiring event.  I, personally, would rather be home in bed with Dateline on the tube.     

Six years ago, I had no idea what Pinterest was.  I ran out of printer ink two times over, printing images for my own wedding in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I pinned them to a large piece of framed art and tried to make certain my "Ralph Lauren, American Indian" feel was working.  I spent ungodly amounts of time searching for the best wedding blogs, drug my fabulous designer friend, Laura Dalton (www.lsmid.com), to the Decorative Center to look for fabrics and in general, wasted a ton of time and energy.  If only Pinterest had been a part of my planning process!  I can now see how people are setting the table, which drinks are en vogue, which calligraphy styles are my new favorite.  It is a wealth of creatives boasting their wares, in hopes that you'll "like" their image, follow their account or what have you.  It is truly incredible!

Big events have big budgets, but all budgets are exactly that -- a budget.  People don't realize that a lot of the "details" don't have to cost a fortune.  Don't let the venue speak for itself, go the extra mile if you want to create an environment where people don't just "stop by".  Consider using anything but a black, slip resistant tray for drinks, see if you can add some special touches via fun paper goods, do the unexpected.  Chances are, you can value engineer something to make room for the details, just ask the pros (or the venue, if you are working directly with one).  So if you see something that you love on Pinterest or Instagram, ask for it.  The world is your oyster, even if your pocketbook might not think so.  All you have to do is ask.