5 Local Event Planners Share How They Design Custom Events
From weddings to special celebrations, these Brandywine Valley-area planners take the stress out of parties.
If you’re one of the millions of women in the world who want a wedding, you will most likely feel two emotions after the love of your life proposes: joy and panic.
Where do I begin the planning process? What flowers should I have? Do I need to make arrangements for my out-of-town guests? All of these questions—plus the hundreds more that pop into your head—can be answered with one solution: hire a planner.
Samantha Murphy hired Wayne, Pa.’s Pine Hill Events for her big day. “Wedding planning is fun but can be stressful, especially in those last crucial weeks leading up to the big
day,” she says. “I needed an organized, detail-oriented individual to be available to handle challenges and questions that arose, so hiring a coordinator was a no brainer.”
Hosting a fundraiser? Looking for a creative way to say “thank you” to your staff ? Tired of the boring dinner party you throw your clients every year? Hire a planner. Cher Przelomski, founder and CEO of Wilmington, Del.’s Planning Factory International, plans with a purpose. She asks questions like, “How will this event achieve your business goals?” then crafts the event around those objectives.
Kathleen Matt, dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware, hired Planning Factory for an event at UD. She praises Przelomski’s holistic approach. “She thinks of the big picture and how your event will fit into it,” says Matt. “She has contingency plans for every possible scenario and takes a personal interest in the entire staff, incorporating their ideas into the planning process.”
Every planner has moments that stand out. For Barbara Bater, president and founder of Penncora Productions in Phoenixville, Pa., it was designing and installing the florals for the Pope’s main stage on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. For Pine Hill’s Jean Kintisch, there was a wedding where the bride and groom both had cancer. Another was an anniversary party for a couple struggling with ALS; the wife wanted to celebrate with her husband while he could still eat and talk.
In her 35 years with Planning Factory, Przelomski has witnessed numerous memorable events, notably “planning and choreographing extravagant fireworks displays” and getting a guest who needed medical attention airlifted out of Mexico (he survived).
What makes an event memorable is different for every host. Kathy Wa rden, owner and creative director of TableArt in Wayne, Pa., dedicates her efforts to the atmosphere, not just the logistics. “We take a holistic approach to event planning,” she says. “Our goal is to create a sensory experience—what do the guests taste, see, feel? We design events to awaken all of the senses, creating lasting memories.”
Kristin Donohoe hired TableArt for her big day.“I received so much feedback on how magical the night was and how the wonderful the food and music were,” she says. “The environment they created through design was unbelievable and something that was pretty unforgettable for all guests.”
For Przelomski, it’s about using creativity to help make her events memorable. She once designed a cocktail party for a real estate company that wanted brokers to attend. Guest each received an ornate box filled with gold coin chocolates and a note stating the date and time of the event. Przelomski was confident the extravagant invitation would make an impression. She also knew that the box of candy would sit in the office, grabbing the attention of anyone who saw it.
Imagination is a must for creative designers—especially when the hosts have interesting requests. Sara Murray of Audubon, N.J.’s confetti & co. recalls a particularly fun event, “We’ve had clients ask for so many cool things, but I think my favorite was the couple who had us put them coming into the reception to a WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] entrance song with a giant blow-up Philly pretzel.”
Bater was once asked “to make it snow in the Bahamas for New Year’s.” Coordinators take on the nitty-gritty jobs, too, like working with hotel staff to ensure every guest has a room for the night. In Marisa Rebecca’s case, she said confetti & co. went above and beyond, “[Murray even] worked her magic to pause construction that was happening right beyond the tree line so our vows weren’t ruined by jackhammers.”
Even with the help and support of an expert party planner, there are bound to be trials and tribulations. “I think there are always challenges with what you initially envision versus what may be within budget or available during the time of year,” says Donohoe. “But once you get past that barrier the team [TableArt] was great in offering a lot of options to make sure we didn’t feel like we were settling.”
While perfection isn’t always possible, Murphy was thankful to have the team from Pine Hill on her side. “One thing I learned from my wedding was that no matter how hard you try, a wedding will never go exactly the way you expect or want it to,” she says. “But with the help of a coordinator, I didn’t have to sweat the small stuff and I enjoyed every minute of my day.”
Sites like Pinterest have changed the way the clients gather inspiration. With such a large selection of ideas, it’s easy to see what’s popular, what’s possible and what will set your event apart from the rest. However, what it doesn’t show is the price. The photo of reclaimed wood farm tables with custom lace linens, handwritten menus and centerpieces made of driftwood, succulents and peonies could cost thousands of dollars. And what about the team who put this gorgeous scene together?
Planners’ rates depend on the scope of the event and the time commitment required. Prices could start at a few thousand dollars for day-of help and extend to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a personally crafted event executed from start to finish. Confetti & co.’s packages start at $3,000 for six-week-out-services and are customizable from there. Pine Hill Events only charges for its time—day help is $75 an hour. For Donohoe’s wedding, “Kathy and team were on-site days in advance until late into the evening overseeing light installation and tent setup, paying attention to every detail and making sure nothing was left undone.”
If you’re on the fence, take it from the clients’ testimonies. Murphy says hiring a coordinator “meant that I got to spend more time with my guests instead of giving attention to the vendors, and it was very important to us that we spent meaningful time with the people who were there.” In Rebecca’s words, “Our wedding was completely gorgeous and stress free! Having a planner allowed my husband and me to relax more and just be in the moment.”