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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

Phew. What a year. We helped plan and throw some pretty incredible parties, even by our own critical standards. We built tents in highly unusual places, continually surprised & delighted clients and guests alike, all while pushing our own boundaries to create celebrations that were true to our company tag line: events without equal. And this year, thanks to some really brave and adventurous clients, we did just that, over and over again.

But it wasn't just about our clients. I thought it might be fun to dedicate this, the final post of 2012, to some of the wonderful people we worked with over the last 12 months who helped us make every party more spectacular than the one that came before. Without this motley crew of friends and colleagues, our events would never have been what they were. Most of these pictures were snapped by either Gabi or I, using all we had on us at the time (our trusty iPhones), but in spite of the occasional blurry image, they do manage to tell a good story:

Here are the boys from Contemporary Furniture Rentals, meticulously polishing the white plexi dance floor after laying it down. Ladies, when was the last time you saw any man polish a floor, let alone EIGHT of them??? For those people who say CFRentals are more expensive than some other rental companies out there, consider photos like this as Exhibit A: Everything from that company --and I mean everything-- is in perfect condition when your guests arrive. That, to me, is priceless.

And here is their boss, the supercalifragilistic Peter Somers before an engagement party at Bymark, doing what he loves to do best: measuring within an inch of his life, 'murse' on hip and bossing us all around...

This would be our favourite Superhero, Dennis Large from Advanced Tent, out in his kayak on a cold spring day, measuring where we were going to float our 5000 sq.ft. tent and the depth of the water on little Lake Joe. Funny how this photo seems like years ago to me now...

Did I mention Dennis is a bit of a MacGyver? In addition to building floating palaces, he also constructs fire pits INSIDE his tents so that guests can gather 'round, roast marshmallows and warm their toes. Here he is again, with our irreplaceable Gary Rollerson, helping Dennis quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes...

Meet Gisele Sterling's crew from Sterling Kjargaard, working in the boiling hot sun in July, creating a magical ceremony space for Erin & Robert to wed a few hours later. Thousand upon thousands of white roses were put into wood frames that were later moved to become the backdrop for the band during dinner and dancing. Roses were cascading off the railings as well -- not the best angle to see that from, I admit, but perhaps I'll show how great it looked from the other side one day in another post.

And this is the other half of Sterling Kjargaard, Todd Kjargaard and his team, painstakingly putting down the moss runner that our bride and groom would walk up to say their vows later that day. For me, this detail just finished the space so perfectly. We had discussed doing a patterned moss runner at one point, but I'm thrilled we went with the simpler, more organic design in the end. It felt way more authentic given that we were, quite literally, in the middle of the woods.

While we're on the topic of beautiful things, no post would be complete without a shout out to our two favourite Event Designers, Lidia Tacconelli and Bill Fulghum. It would seem that everyone and their dog these days calls themselves an event "designer," but boy, when you play with the Big Guns, you get to see what real talent, creativity and innovation is -- and these two never cease to surprise and amaze us. What an privilege it is to get to work with Lidia and Bill, year after year.

Here are Lidia Tacconelli and her crew from FIORI Floral Designs... check her out in the second photo with the measuring tape (I seem to be attracted to people that love to measure -- what is that about?), double-checking the exact spacing between each arrangement, leaving nothing to chance. Love that.

Oh yeah: Our Favourite Diva and Perfect Gentleman, all wrapped into one crazily-creative man: the one and only Bill Fulghum. This is him setting up at the AGO for a Sikh wedding ceremony. I wish I had more of the gorgeous and understated background in this particular photo... but alas, his expression is worth more than a pretty backdrop.

How could I forget our lovely A/V and all-round-go-to-guy Alan Bisson? Poor Alan -- we threw just about every challenge we could dream up at him this year: he was dangling in trees rigging chandeliers, cableling all power through the ceiling for that tent that was literally on the water (electricity + water = scary), dealing with diva demands from fancy big-name performers, fixing staff washrooms that were on the fritz, appeasing cranky carpet layers & exhausted draping people, all while making this planner happy -- no small feat indeed. Seriously, this is one person who singlehandedly made the impossible possible. And, while I realize we drove you to distraction repeatedly, know that we love you Alan!

Who says there was no drama this year? Here we are at The Carlu for our WedLuxe Style Files shoot: Luminous Lavender. Seconds after Allyson & Sarah from Bobbette & Belle arrived to deliver their cake, one of the glass shelves holding hundreds of lavender roses suddenly broke in two, shattering the containers and scattering flowers and petals EVERYWHERE. Everyone pitched in to tidy and try to salvage what we could: this is Allyson, Sarah, Gisele and myself working as fast as we could...

Mission accomplished: another shelf was found, roses, containers et al were replaced and none of our WedLuxe readers were any the wiser for the behind-the-scenes heart attack about 8 of us had that day! Here is Jackson Huang of Ikonica getting his picture: I love how he makes this look like it was an action shot, when in fact it was far more of a still life...

No year-end wrap-up would be complete without talking about one of the less glamourous (but essential) parts of our job: g.a.r.b.a.g.e. Yes readers, you would die if you saw how much refuse was generated on every single event that is thrown across this city. And nowhere is it more apparent than when we build tents on private property. Here are some beauties:

This first one is an entire 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck filled with garbage and empties that were crated away the day after Erin & Robert's gorgeous affair... Yes, the aftermath of a wedding is never pretty -- I always warn clients to stay away if at all possible; it's downright depressing, on so many levels!

And here are Gabi and I posing with one of the bins from our Caledon wedding. Admittedly, this was our biggest event of the year, but that bin was one of THREE that were emptied every single day during the build and I believe a total of five more times during the tear down. Even after all these years, the amount of garbage generated by our parties never ceases to amaze me. Not to mention the cost to haul it all away...

And now it's time to turn our focus to the SpectacularSpectacular team... because, really, without them, NONE of this would or could have happened.

Here is Gabi, standing in the middle of the pouring rain, walkie-talkie on hip, trying (uselessly) to make a cellular phone call while executing a wedding in Algonquin Park. I gather this was one of the more challenging events EVER! Not only did it rain for 3 days straight, all the power went off across the entire park 20 minutes before our bride was to walk down the mud-soaked aisle and my poor girls had to sleep in camp cabins with no heat at night. Think 3 degrees celsius INSIDE the cabin... we Canadians are pretty hardy people, but dammit, our buildings need to be warm! Thank goodness all the guests were 'camp' people who loved every minute of the experience and wholeheartedly embraced the absurdity of the situation. It turns out a little rain may not have ever hurt anyone, but it sure doesn't make for fun working conditions...

And here's our Transportation Guru and all 'round super trouper Sarah, posing with her NBF, Donna of Hammond Transportation in Muskoka this past July. When planning cottage/destination extravaganzas, the successful management of transportation becomes a critical part of the success of the event. At any given Muskoka wedding, consider these facts: let's say there will be approximately 200 guests -- all arriving in a crush for the ceremony, but leaving at different times throughout the night. Some will need to be bused from hotels, some will arrive in limousines and many will travel by boat. There will also be anywhere from 60-100 staff members who need to park their vehicles somewhere and then be shuttled to and from the property throughout the event. Sarah oversees ALL of this. The poor girl spent the summer (standing in her sexy safety vest) directing bodies in EVERY kind of condition: from the boiling hot sun, to torrential rains, to finally being able to see her breath in late September... yet she always had a smile on her face and a warm greeting for everyone she met.

Finally, on a funny note, I leave you with the smallest member of our team, my dog Jinx La Rue. This was taken during the building of the tent city that was Erin & Robert's wedding. You may recognize the wisteria from somewhere...

With that, I bid goodbye to 2012. It was a great year -- full of challenges and hurdles to overcome, for sure, but ultimately,  one that Gabi, Sarah and I look back on with great satisfaction and pride. Thank you to EVERYONE who came along for the ride. I wonder what surprises lie ahead for 2013?

A very Happy New Year to all. Over 'n out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Erin & Robert in WedLuxe Magazine

The latest issue of WedLuxe Magazine has just hit the newsstands and we are so thrilled to finally be able to share this spectacular wedding with the world. Guests were treated to three individually-designed areas in the family's backyard: the all-white ceremony space where we covered the pool in lucite, followed by the serene cocktail tent, all done in shades of soft grey and white. Finally, guests entered the pièce de résistance: the lavender and white dinner tent with the jaw-dropping 12 x 60 foot canopy of  trailing wisteria over the dance floor. I know we've done a great job when I wish I was a guest at a party!

Click here to read the online version -- there are even more delicious photographs here than what appeared in the print version. All the images you will see were expertly captured by our friend T.H. Jackson Huang at Ikonica.

Monday, November 26, 2012

There Were Signs All Along

We did the coolest wedding back in September. Our groom had a vision to get married in a clearing in the woods; and, boy, we did it up in style! Female guests were encouraged to wear their flats for the picturesque walk in and out of the forest. We hung signs along the way: Each one said one thing going in to the woods and then, during the ceremony, we flipped them over to reveal a different message as guests made their way out to the reception.

Deborah Lau Yu from Palettera Custom Correspondences illustrated 3 different versions by hand and mounted them on board that my poor team had to tie around trees at just the right height. The small army of photographers on hand that day from 5ive15ifteen Photo Company snapped these photos; they make me smile, every time I look at them.

This one still cracks me up: You're Almost, Almost There. It was probably only a 5 minute walk in the woods in total, but I thought it might be a good idea to let guests know it wasn't much further!

At this point, guests exited the main path and began the final leg in. Once they turned left, this is what they saw:

Sixteen waiters lined the footpath with glasses of festive pink champagne. Guests were able to take these into the ceremony site, where they were continually topped up until the ceremony began. On the way out, these same waiters lined up with trays of delectable hors d'oeuvre. We may have been in a forest, but our revelers were made to feel they were at a five-star restaurant. Albeit a five-star restaurant with trees in it...

This was the payoff for all their efforts: the enchanted ceremony location. I'm sure I'll write another post about what went into creating this one day, but for now, sit back and enjoy the magical setting, courtesy of the fertile imagination of Event Designer Bill Fulghum.

After the ceremony was done, guests started the walk out. Join them now as we exit the forest together... These are the 'new' messages on the signs:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Winter's Tale

Another oldie but goodie... this is the beautiful winter wedding we did in Lake Louise, Alberta, almost 2 years ago. I wrote about the skating party we threw on the frozen lake in a previous blog post, but realized I never posted photos of the actual dining room...

The dinner reception was held in the storied Victoria Room at the Chateau Lake Louise, complete with its oddly charming 'Ode to the Swiss Alps' decor. Yes, those are pastoral scenes with milk maids and men in lederhosen hand-painted on the ceiling arches... It's a big room, with fabulous, big stone fireplaces at either end.

As event planners, we are hardly ever allowed to used 'open flame' -- i.e.: candles whose flames are not contained within a glass container/votive. I couldn't believe it when the Chateau Lake Louise said we could use tapered candles --  that became the starting point for the whole design. My bride had a vision of silver candelabras running down the long tables and I must say, it was so cool to be able to do that. I don't think the rental company had ever rented (or had to assemble) so many of them at a small wedding before. There were three different sized candelabras on each of the four long tables, and boy, it took a long time to light all those candles.

I had the actual candles shipped from Toronto and was so worried about breakage that I ordered about 6 dozen extra; I could think of nothing worse than being trapped in a potential snowstorm on the top of a mountain  with no way to get more candles if needed. It turned out my worries were for naught: not even one candle arrived broken. I was so impressed!

Heather Simms from The Nosegay in Calgary did a lovely job with the all-white flower vision: each glass vase held a single kind of white flower: tulips, ranunculus, amarylis, anemones, hydrangea, roses and, honestly, it was so long ago now, I can't remember what else!! But, as you can see, there were a lot of them... Heather and her team were real troopers -- they drove up to us in a ferocious storm with all the precious cargo on a drive that should've taken 2.5 hours and instead took 5. Ahhh... the joys of destination AND winter weddings...

I love this photo... it shows a close up of the table setting AND the million-dollar view in the background.

This is a close up of the menu that carried on our winter-wedding-themed stationery, created by Julie and Christian of Pantry Press. Everything we did represented 'tracks' pressed into fresh snow: The invites themselves had ski and dog tracks (taken from a real photo my bride and groom took after they skied down a run, accompanied by their black lab, Fernie). The weekend activites card showed footprints going to and from snow angels and the travel detail insert showed skate tracks in the ice. So very, very Canadian of us!

These photos are kind of fun... showing the room once all the guests sat down for dinner. "Sat down" was a relative term, as there was a whole lot of shakin' going on that night.

Finally a couple of shots of my wonderful couple. Baby, it might have been cold outside, but inside it was cozy and warm and everyone felt the love radiating from them, all weekend long.

Thank you to our friend Michael Greenberg for coming along on our Rocky Mountain Adventure and preserving the memories so beautifully. It was magic, pure and simple, and you captured every moment of it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Inaugural Friendship Ball

The new Four Seasons Hotel opened in Toronto yesterday; and weirdly, that got me feeling nostalgic for the old ballroom that hosted many of the city's greatest parties in it's 30-odd years of existence. One of those parties was a couple of years ago -- I never blogged about it, but it was one of those Great Ones, mostly because of it's purpose to celebrate friends & family and the journey that you take with these people over the course of a lifetime.

Our hostess, aka The Queen, was thinking about her friends and realizing that, as most of them were in their late seventies and early eighties, it was high time to throw a big bash to honour them and what they've meant to each other. In fact, many of the guests had been their friends for more than sixty years... and if that isn't something to recognize and commemorate, then what is?

So The Queen starting thinking about her theme and came up with The Inaugural Friendship Ball. She then set to making it as big and grand as she possibly could, with a decidedly English-take on Royalty. This included the Royal Crest she had designed for all the stationery, shown here on the menu. "Vive, Ride, Ana... or Live, Laugh, Love."

We had such fun thinking up ridiculously over-the-top clichéed takes on all-things-British. We had Bobbys (policemen) greeting the cars in valet, Beefeaters in the hotel lobby, Palace Guards at the top of the escalator, butlers in tails announcing each couple to their Royal Highnesses as they sat on their thrones. Here are a few of those details:

To interject a bit of Canada in there, we had to have Mounties, of course, and even had a Parade of Nations! The Mounties carried in each of the 12 different flags that represented the various nationalities of the guests in attendance.

The room was decorated with chandeliers and gold and crystal at every turn. Not exactly what we would do at a wedding, but it suited the theme and the purpose perfectly.

Did I mention that all the guests were told to wear their tiaras, tails and and ballgowns? It was wonderful to see everyone get into the spirit of things. 160 people in full and formal regalia was a great sight to see.

Some of the entertainment included Minuet lessons (swear-to-God) and a tango demonstration. We also had an Elton John impersonator...

Even the SpectacularSpectacular girls got into the theme! Sarah and I both dressed in maids uniforms and diligently carried our feather dusters everywhere with us that night! Here I am with The Queen: our Master and Servant Moment, if you will...

Lastly, a shot of the Royal couple with their kids and grandchildren, pretty much summing up the warm and fuzzy feeling that everyone had all night long.

Here's a list of the people that helped pull the night together:

Photography: Hudson Taylor
Decor: FIORI Floral Designs
Venue: The (old) Four Seasons Hotel
Invitations etc: Terri Kirshenbaum at Invitation House
Band: Anita Rossi
A/V: Visual FX
Staffing: Everyone is an Artist
Costumes for Staff: Malabar
Backdrops: Emerson Design