My grandmother used to say that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. However, growing up on the farm I saw my grandparents stretch the dollar in amazing ways and that is probably where I get my frugal nature! As an event planner with high expectations, I refuse to let the economy downgrade my events. Even if a company is not on a budget, they want to appear to be…and they still want their events to be budget fabulous. Like my friend the plastic surgeon says, “It’s the same face, just pulled a little tighter!” One effective way I have found to do that is theme saturation. Simply take the theme of the event and instill it into every possible event detail. Basically you are just turning up the volume and making ordinary things new and exciting. Lost on how to get started, look around you and relate the mundane to what is hot and relevant today. By using event basics and incorporating the latest trends in fashion, lifestyle, television or even the latest celebrity gossip, you can give your event a Hollywood extreme makeover!
Rob’s Biker Bar Buffet
You can rock out one bad ass buffet with the current biker trends. From graffiti tee shirts to leather, you can make the dress code for servers and guests a huge part of the look. A visit to the Harley-Davidson store in your area can provide a wealth of inspiration. For one recent event, I found cool red graffiti t-shirts at Target and had the staff wear them with jeans and boots…I let them personalize the look with silver jewelry, cuffs and scarves. Think black pleather linens or metallic spandex, chrome serving dishes and novel names for food items like “Back Warmer Beef Cake or “Born to be Wild Brownies”. Inexpensive “Bar Food” is suddenly a delightful surprise and even the standard chicken wings take on a new look. For a dictionary of biker slang, go to www.totalmotorcycle.com. Use auto and bike parts on the hors d’oeuvre trays and bike tires as risers on the buffet. Duck tape, black electrical tape and chrome paint can embellish name tags, place cards and invitations. Light up your space with garage clamp lights. Ask your local dealership to loan out a bike for photo opportunities and have a representative on hand to share information. He or she might just make a sale! A temporary tattoo artist can indulge even the most straight laced executive and may unleash his or her inner demon. Have a local punk rocker with multiple piercings greet your guests at the door. Rock out with a local garage or bar band or play a little Ozzy Osborne on compact disc. This is the one event when I would serve beer in a bottle but you would probably find me sipping a “Metallica Martini” in a glass rimmed in black sanding sugar with the stem of the glass wrapped in leather twine. Peace out.
Rob’s Soprano Supper
Add one part Tony Soprano with 2 parts “Godfather” and shake with a dash of “Casino”…and you have some zesty Italian old school.
Italian cuisine is universally loved and always a good choice for events. Today, there are several wonderful gluten free pastas for those with allergies. A simple lunch with a spaghetti and meatballs or a grilled panini is fun when themed out. Marinated vegetables, risottos and vegetarian pastas are also good choices for the calorie and carbohydrate conscious. Resurrect the red and white checked table cloth and add the Chianti bottle with candle. Cruets of olive oil with good bread can be preset on the table for enhancement. I love a good tomato or minestrone soup year round, but a tomato and basil bruschetta or caprese salad first course is wonderful in summer and fall. A marinated olive bar is also a fun and interesting culinary experience. These can be served in giant martini glasses with containers of picks and plates next to each one.
Vases filled with dried pastas or potted herbs can lend themselves to the theme without going over budget. Italian Cypress trees from the nursery look beautiful on a buffet and can later be planted in the yard. Indicate that the dress code has a Sopranos or mafia theme and you will be amazed at the suit sporting, cigar smoking, hair gel headed men that walk in the door. Track suits and multiple gold chains are always a favorite. Ladies can think along the lines of leopard, lame, liner and lip gloss!
After dinner drinks with cigars are the perfect way to enhance a simple Italian meal. Have a cigar expert on site to explain the nuances of the smoke or a match girl to light up their lives. And for the non-drinkers, an Expresso or Cappuccino machine with cannoli can be the sweet finish to the day. Gaming tables and casino equipment are easy to rent and make a colorful night for all. Light up your event with strands of white or red market lights strung above the guest’s heads. Play the “Godfather” sound track or have a violin or accordion player serenade your guests. They will love it! A great photo opportunity is your CEO dressed like Marlon Brando or get a huge muscle guy from the local gym to be the bouncer /doorman…have him ask for the code word before guests are allowed in. Although wine is the Italian’s drink of choice, you will find me having a “Cement Shoes” Martini made with Limoncello….ah…la dolce vita.
*Bright light interrogations and decapitated horse heads are highly discouraged.
Go Modern Country
Country music is hot and it is a genre that has reached every age group. 20 year old performer Taylor Swift alone has re-defined country music. It is as American as American gets and its message relates to all the highs and lows of life! Say what you want, but southern, home-style cooking tastes delicious. However, do not make the mistake of identifying country with cowboy. Western décor and Modern Country décor are different entities. Leave the stage coach, branding irons and saloon signs in the shed and opt for a look that mixes glamour with down home. Dixie land bands, a guitar or fiddle soloist or even the latest (or earliest) country music can give an event a charming, warm feel. Country line dance instructors could be on hand to teach the basic steps and cause social interaction among the guests.
Lanterns, homemade candles and oil lamps give dining tables a beautiful glow. Go with country ginghams, floral, or denim as table linens. Layer your buffet with burlap or rough cotton cloth but give it the juxtaposition of candelabras blazing with candles or high style floral studded with rhinestones. Mix country store boxes and crates with silver trays and crystal. From iced tea to catfish fritters, there are endless possibilities with comfort food. Is your culinary budget tight, have a chicken wing or rib-let station with various glazes and preparations. Mini BBQ Brisket sandwiches or pulled pork martinis with a baby biscuit garnish are fun, fashionable and easy to eat. Angel food cake and sponge cake buffets with fresh berries and whipped cream, as well as chocolate sheet cake, are a hit as dessert. A staggered display of warm cobbler and homemade pie are a treat in the winter months. Allow the guests to select their favorites and have a server slice and plate it for the guests. Incorporate the guest’s attire as part of this look by encouraging them to wear stylish jeans and boots or a sassy country dress…even a cowboy hat if they like. Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Steve McGraw, and Keith Urban are all stars that one wouldn’t mind emulating. Need a fun photo op, think urban cowboy. A working mechanical bull can still be rented for parties. And a mechanical bull prop can help create great photos and laughs. A whiskey bar, mint juleps, spiked lemonade and hot and cold cider can make your beverage station fun and affordable. You will find me sipping a “Missouri Moonshine” poured out of authentic Ozark jug.
Please see that I get home safely.
An Inspiring Person and St. Louis Wedding Professional Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductee