Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Planning with Crazy Themes: 7 Tips for Planning the Formal Event with The Difficult Theme...

We've all seen it or been there, attending a Fourth of July Themed Wedding, or a Rock and Roll themed Bridal Shower, or a Circus Themed formal...and thought what in the world were they thinking.  And sometimes, when its really good, we think, "Wow, I never would have thought that was possible."  As things become more and more customized, and people want tailor-made events that speak to their sometimes "off the beaten path" personalities, we have become more open to a variety of events as we either snicker in horror... or become inspired by a night that we never could have imagined.  This can be a challenge for someone who may not be able to wrap their minds around how to pull off such a unique theme.  FYI: choose a planner who believes in your dreams!  But here are some tips to help you make the most of your potentially cool themed event!

1. Remember the nature of the event:  The first place where it is easy to make a wrong turn for tacky is to decide that the event is not formal.  But indeed, it is, and therefore you must know that no matter what you do, the event shouldn't be turned into an informal event, like a children's party or a casual get-together.  

2. Translate, Translate, Translate: The second rule of thumb is that you must learn to translate informal ideas into formal ways.  Are there colors that speak to the event and to the theme?  Are there ways that food can be incorporated to carry across the theme?  Or, are there big-ticket items that speak to your theme?  The goal of translating is to elevate and to interpret your idea as to make it both formal and inside of the overall theme.

3. Get creative with the food: This is where you can make your theme live.  Think about the food that fits.  Popcorn for the Fair and Circus, Food Trucks for Rock and Roll, and Grilled Skewers for the Fourth.  Just make sure that it is presented with  a certain level of style and/or innovation.

4. Don't get kitschy: There is a temptation to go too literal, and thus to bring in all kinds of small elements that ultimately will end up looking tacky, no matter how it speaks to the theme.  Don't choose a whole bunch of kick knacks.  A few big items will do.

5. Bring The Big Ticket Item (and you only need 1-2):  Here's where you want to go over the top!  If you are gonna bring it, you must (and I mean must) bring one major element into the space to create the theme.  So if you are doing a circus, you've just got to have circus performers (or at the very least an upscale clown/mimer).  If you are doing the 4th of July, you've got to have fireworks (or at the very least sparklers).  If you are doing Rock and Roll, you've got to have music that invokes that theme (and quite possibly instruments).   

6. Look for Non-Traditional Venues: When seeking to host an off the beaten path themed formal event, try to use an environment that might invoke the spirit of the event.  Trying to do something that speaks to your love of the 4th, try a park.  Love the Circus, seek to use a tent.  Rock and Roll...let's head to a practice space or a green room in a concert venue (and yes they do have rent-able rooms).

7. Don't Be Afraid To Try:  Sometimes people are afraid to trust their own voice and taste; however, if you are going to experiment.  You do have to commit to it by doing your research, testing things with vendors, and creating a detailed plan.  Sometimes your idea, might be the next great idea!  So, don't be afraid of your idea, embrace it!

Wrapped Up,
I am,

Sean P.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Engagement Pictures Should Tell A Story...

Well Christmas has happened, New Years has happened, and Valentines day was a few weeks ago.  This means that we now have a bunch of couples who have just recently become engaged.  Of course, couples are creating budgets, checking schedules, looking over colors, and trying to get a handle on the big life choice to get married.  One decision is absolutely impending, and may put you in an expensive contractual agreement.  I am talking about the photographer.  Photographers will tell you that the quality of pictures is important, because after you are married, only the picture and the person you will share residence with are the only thing left after a wedding ceremony has passed.

So let's get down to it!  Your engagement shots are maybe one of the first large decisions after engagement.  If you do it right, you will ultimately find the photographer who will do the wedding...and have end up with a set of flattering pictures for all things pre-wedding.  

Most people don't think about it enough, so they take pre-determined pictures in matching shades of black and white, often times at the urge of an uncreative photographer.   In my opinion, those pictures often don't say much about the people in them.  To me, those kinds of engagement pictures lack...well...personality!

When I'm working with couples for their weddings, I often tell them to let the wedding begin with the engagement pictures by sharing pieces of their personality in those shots. Even if you aren't sure of a color scheme, there are still ways to to tailor your engagement pictures to share the story of who you are, and what friends, family, and colleagues might experience.

In my planning life, I advise couples to let their engagement shots have a point of view.  In the past, I've done a bunch of different shots. For an early morning, I had a couple take pictures intimately sharing a morning cup of coffee.  For a couple who met in college, and had planned a wedding during their homecoming, the shots featured their alma mater.  For the couple who loved church, we had to do their shots in a church.  For my wedding, we decided on a few settings but the pictures from our carousel shoot really shaped what people would experience at our reception.

A note of caution: make sure the shots aren't cheesy or inappropriate.  I've seen quite a few ridiculous shots, particularly involving sports activities.  I do believe there is a way to do sports well, so I would tell that couple to ere on the side of iconic or romantic, rather than a little league football game.  It may be appropriate not to make the pictures so very literal.  Instead of wearing jerseys of your favorite sports theme, why not use the colors in either a casual, preppy or upscale set of pictures...even if you choose to take them on the field, track, or court.

Seek to tell a story about your love creatively through the visual media.  That way, people are more likely to connect to your vision.  Too, creative visual media make it easy to be used

Share your passions, tell your story, and start with your Engagement pictures!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Black History Month Events Don't Mean Tacky Events...

I love Black History Month!  Every year, I discover something I didn't know I need to know.  Also, in my line of business, there tends to be tons of programming and events.   I love that too.  However, what I don't love is how many people plan events related to Black History.  Too often, event organizers, either throw a ton of mismatched African fabric on tables or they pull out a tried and true black table cloth.   All of this is terribly problematic because it doesn't seem to embody one of the major principles of Kwanzaa...Kuumba - Creativity!  I don't understand why people with so much "swag" would just handle Black History Month without the nuance or class it could have...and ultimately deserves.

The solution isn't to throw all the African fabric, mudcloth, kente cloth, and cowerie shells on the table.  The solution isn't to dust off the one black table cloth.  The solution is to consider who fabric shells or heritage can be a metaphor for your events.  

For me, this starts with a color scheme.  I don't abandon my good tastes because of Black History Month...I infuse them into Black History month.  So, I will often pair patterns that are similar in nature to provide for me a genuine color scheme.   One time I used peach, purple and tan to for a reception after a talk.  I based the color scheme on one of the multi colored fabrics I had at my disposal.  Rather than pulling out all of its' 'cousins,"  I chose to use simple colors that played on the rich fabric.  As you can see here, even the flowers spoke to fabric.

Another time I used Red, Black and Green.  Rather than being literal in translation.  I sometimes approach an idea by deconstructing it.
In the case of the red, black and green, I asked could I use the colors in interesting ways that would both provide a black aesthetic, but also show nuance?  I think the metaphorical X in red fabic (alluding to Malcolm X), the use of bright lime florals, and black water in vases at several sizes create the necessary elements for alluding to the Black National Flag without saying it.

In any case, when using African fabric or a common Black history month theme, seek to make the element live in a way that is artistic and unexpected.  This way, you'll never be short on ideas when it comes to literally using Black Heritage as a way to see the world...and plan events.

Besides, people of African descent have made much impact on the world culture!  Let's not reduce our people's contributions to the "one black tablecloth!"

Wrapped with a Beau,

Sean P.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Planning for a Valentine's Day Mixer...

So my wife's favorite color is pink, and when we were dating, I surprised her with an epic birthday party that I remember now.  The color scheme was classic Valentine's day colors...Pink and Red, and I used the metaphor of a high heel as the object to carry the theme across.  Needless to say, everybody loved it.  And, I think my wife loved it the most!!!!!!

As I think about Valentine's day, I'm reminded that you can have a lot of fun with these two colors, Pink and Red, without being so literal with the holiday.  So let's put up the hearts and mushy stuff...let's leave that for the kids.  And, let's take this upscale birthday party, and translate it into a great Valentine's day mixer.

First, think about the metaphor?  Do you like shoes? Dresses? Lingerie? Ties? Jewelry?  Seek to use that as the way to tell the story of the event!  Before you ask, yes, your event is a story!  It will be a story...and it ultimately will become a memory!  I used red shoes...thinking about what one might find in a women's wardrobe or house.  So I also used pink coffee books, martini glasses, shoe boxes, and bags filled with tissue paper as props!

Down to the cake cutters, I wanted to tell the story of a very girly girl who loved color (which weren't very expensive at all).  I also love when the cake you eat can go along with the color scheme.  So I had the baker make red velvet cake with pink cream cheese icing (yum)...I than stacked three cakes on varying heights of shoe boxes.

For the women who just want to mix with friends, in a season that might make you feel lonely...think about celebrating yourself and inviting friends to ditch the heart shaped cards, and enjoy the beauty of the season of love.

Celebrate the possibility of love.  Celebrate your passion.  Celebrate your friendships!

Wrapped in a Beau,
I am,


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Start With The Dream...

My wife and I are very different people, even though we share similar ideas and thoughts.  She's much more practical than I am.  For her, it always comes down to how much does it cost.  I, on the other hand, like to dream unfettered by the realities of money.  It's not that I don't think that money is important, but I don't think you should let it stop you from dreaming, even if your dreams have to be tempered by the reality of finances at a later stage. 

When we were planning our wedding, I had to stop her, and remind her that she needed to dream before she put an idea in the air.  I wanted my wife to think about what she really wanted before she began talking herself out of things before we even tried.  As the planner of our wedding, I invited her to dream with me...and then we got down to money.  Actually, any really good planner is going to tell you to dream and describe, and dream some more.  Dreaming is the greatest feeder of creativity...and creativity isn't limited by price point.  In fact, the more narrow the price point, the more you have to empower creativity.

So before you start with how much money you have in your pocket, begin with a dream or an inspiration for your event.  Ask yourself how you want to engage each sense.  Ask yourself what you want people to remember.  Ask yourself what will make you smile. 

I have had several couples walk into my office and tell me that they didn't think they could afford their wedding...but we made it happen!   We stayed in budget, we dreamed, and we worked to execute that dream.

Start there!

Never start with the amount of money in your pocket.  As a believer and minister, I'm often reminded that God can turn much water into wine.  And, God's people are capable of helping make dreams come true.

So as you begin to plan the next to dream whether or not you think it can come true.  I stand as one with a testimony of having witnessed dreams become real life.

Wrapped Up,
I am,

Sean P.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Tight Budget: Tips for the Wedding on the Budget...

The first question that is always asked by budget conscious friends who are planning weddings is "how can I reign in the costs?"  National averages put most weddings at $20,000, although, African-American weddings tend to range between $10,000-15,000.   As we all know, there are tons of people who spend a lot more...and a lot less.  I've planned weddings with couples (particularly as I was starting out) on budgets sometimes as small as $4,000.  Believe me, it can be done! And, it doesn't have to be rinky-dink or shoddy.  Here are a couple of things that will aid you in getting the most bang for your buck.

If you are planning on a budget, choose to have your wedding in off-seasons and on days that are not Saturday.  Venue costs significantly decrease when you choose an alternative season and/or day.  However, months like October (which have traditionally been considered off-season) are now becoming immensely popular.  Fridays and Sundays can be days that can work for a budget conscious bride and/or groom.

The other thing is that couples should consider having the wedding and the reception in the same location as to cut down on having to pay for multiple venues.  Also, using the same venue for both wedding and reception, typically forces couples to consider pairing down their lists.  Couples should always, always be asking the seminal question: "whose dinner do I want to pay for."

Instead of having 25 bridesmaids and 20 ushers and 15 flowergirls, opt for a small, intimate wedding party which can decrease the amount of floral arrangements needed in a wedding.  Many brides and grooms underestimate the costs of flowers when choosing their wedding party.   Add to that gifts, specialty dinners, accommodations, can find yourself almost penniless simply trying to be hospitable to a large wedding party.  Lastly, large wedding parties are extremely difficult to keep in line.  From an African American perspective, trying to accommodate sorority sisters, cousins, and close friends can be a draining endeavor that pulls your attention away from what is really important...preparing for the marriage.

If you are open to not hitting the lunch or dinner hours, there are some very neat and interesting receptions that can be had that can reflect the bride and groom's tastes without blowing the bank.  Consider brunch for an early morning wedding.  Consider dessert and coffee for a late evening wedding.  Consider a bevy of appetizers for the reception that begins at 3 and ends before dinner.  With food, timing is everything and ultimately shapes the expectation around what you should serve.  Sometimes limiting the number of options can be helpful.  While a gracious spirit may have you trying to accommodate everybody, ultimately no one wants you in a distressed financial state because of the wedding.  People who attend formal events should know to eat beforehand as to not appear greedy or hungry.  Thus, you don't have to order cupcakes, cookies, grooms cake, wedding cake and pie, just because your guests like options.  This isn't a buffet...this is a time to share in food and fellowship that speak to the union that God has ordained in the Heavens (and reflect your love, personalities, and special moments).

If there is one place to cut, it is here.  For the most part favors are both culturally tied to both southern and African American traditions.  Honestly, its all very nice, but nobody really listens to your CD of your favorite love songs.  No one blows the bubbles that you bought that have nothing to do with anything at your wedding.  No one is going to keep those tacky napkins from your wedding that have all of your initials on them.  Unless they are your close family or friends, no one is going to keep a picture of you and your partner on their mantle.  What they will do is change out the picture and substitute their family instead.  As such, if you have other areas where you need to concentrate funds...please for the love of our good God...let the favor go.  I promise we won't be mad.  If you are dead set on have one though...choose something that fits with your theme and might double for an escort card. 

Granted, a cool favor reflective of your passions, will always be used later and/or come in handy.  I recently did a wedding where the couple gave small bottles of coquito because it was tied to both their culture and reflective of their fun nature.

Even though we always want the best, sometimes our budgets are small.  And for you, there are always new and burgeoning vendors who may require sometime to sniff out, but who maybe willing to do your event at a discounted rate.  When I was first planning and building my portfolio, I often did things "for little or nothin.'" I know DJs, Photographers, Florists, Musicians, and Caterers who've all been willing to do the same thing.  Many times, people who are building a brand will do everything in their power to ensure your event is perfect, often times losing money on doing the event.  However, there are times when you can find an unscrupulous new vendor whose words don't come close to the product that they say they can produce.  In this case, you must have a spirit of patience.  However, for every one of those vendors, there are 10 who are willing to go the extra mile.  As such, don't be afraid to take a chance on someone, who maybe the next phenom in the industry.  And if you can, and if they do a good job, please tip!  A vendor like that, we will do more stuff for at a discounted rate.

Sometimes a theme or vision needs to be simplified in order to stay in budget.  I tell people all the time, even if you like a Luxe feel, you may need to either go much smaller with the number of guests or try to simplify the decor.  One of the best weddings that I ever attended was simple: it was black and white.  It was beautiful and memorable but the bride and groom just chose to keep it simple as to not stress their budget.  Forgo the urge to customize everything or to go overboard in the decor.  Simplicity is beautiful too.  A note of caution, simple is different from tacky or empty...and most people know the difference when they see it.

I hope this advice helps...and if there is anything I or BeauTie can do...don't hesitate to call!

Wrapped Up,
I am,

Sean Palmer

Friday, January 30, 2015

Writing To Inspire: The Purpose of My Blog

My work during the day puts me squarely into a social justice mindset, my work with event and party planning pushes me into a totally different head space, except when they collide or cross (which is actually often).  Working in a cultural center actually requires sophisticated and posh tastes, especially when dealing with jazz.

Okay, okay...that's not the point.  I'm trying to tell you why I will be writing this blog.  This is my way of helping the thrifty planner or bride/groom who may not have a Sean Palmer or BeauTie in their back pocket.  But, I'm totally available for events, weddings, showers, you name it!

In any case, the purpose of this blog space is to help you develop success in your event planning.  Consider it my own social justice effort as I seek to make it possible for you to realize success.  In many ways, I will also be sharing with you some of my secrets...and showing you how to use them to creatively address event challenges.  Lastly, it is my hope to use some unexpected inspirations and show you how I used them to plan some amazing events.

In this way, much of my interests in Black Cultural idioms and traditions will show itself.  So get ready to journey with me both in business and in passion!

I hope you enjoy it and if you have any questions shoot me a line!  Without being to proprietary, I'll try to answer your questions.

Wrapped Up,
I am,

Sean from BeauTie