Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 24th Annual Charles Dickens Dinner

December 10, 2010 -- The culmination of six months of hard work has finally come to completion and I could not be happier about the event.  The Charles Dickens Dinner has been on my radar ever since I stepped foot into the USC Thornton School of Music as a work-study student as a freshmen in the fall of 2006.  Little did I know that 4 years later I would be in charge of making this event a success.

I don't think I've ever worked so hard on any event. Ever.  And in the week leading up to the event, I think it's safe to say my mind was thinking about Dickens 24/7 (and maybe still is -- hello 2011).  Literally.  I had an ongoing to-do list in my head, a desk that was covered with brightly colored post-it notes (If you don't know already, I love bright colors so the bright colors definitely help make the to-do lists less daunting. And putting a huge red sharpie check mark once they're done -- best feeling ever.)

I think one of the measures of a successful event planner is that way in which they react to problems once an event has begun.  There are two options -- freak out and stress everyone else out in the process, or react in a calm, positive demeanor.  One of my goals as an event planner is to treat people with respect and manage others with a positive attitude because I've found that people respond to direction better when it's not coming from a power-driven and demanding place -- and hopefully my team felt that throughout the planning process.

The best thing someone can say to me on the event day is that they felt at peace, and relaxed. My job is to ensure that everyone else involved doesn't feel stressed out. So hearing how relaxed everyone was, how relaxed the Dean was, that it was "the smoothest Dickens" from a banquet captain that's done the event for 3-4 years and my boss, that I looked so calm -- it was all extremely humbling and overwhelming.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine to have planned an event of such capacity at the age of 22. I think I'm still in shock at all that I've accomplished since graduating -- its been 6 months and I've planned two weddings and a major fundraising gala.

The Dickens Dinner was not only a success for the Thornton School of Music, but also a huge milestone in my career, and for that I'm extremely grateful.

Needless to say, this event would not have been possible without the help of an amazing team. I couldn't even begin to take credit for all the work because the reality is it was a team effort. Thank you to everyone who helped -- I could not have done it without you!

For additional coverage of the event, read this article by Alice Dubin of Biz Bash -- Crowd of U.S.C. Musicians Enlivens Annual Fund-Raising Dinner

Merry Christmas everyone!

Catering, Valet, Venue: Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Valerie Lehman -- a great wedding venue too!
Costuming: K-Gals, Jacqueline St. Anne
Graphic Design: Leslie Baker Graphic Design, Leslie Baker
Flowers: Dellarobia Design Studio, Jolene Reynolds
Lighting Equipment: Angstrom Lighting Inc.
Linens: Elegant Design Specialty Linens, Jannette Galindo
Print: Greens Printing, Janet Green
Production: Thinkwell
Sound: PRG Audio

Sunday, December 5, 2010

dickens week

It's time to take a short break from weddings and switch gears to ... fundraising dinners?

For those of you who don't know, I've been working for the USC Thornton School of Music as a Development & Events Coordinator for the past 5 months, which basically means that I help plan fundraising events, and anything related to donor stewarding -- aka making donors happy.  I love my job (which I know doesn't happen with most first jobs) but I definitely feel really blessed to have it.

Our biggest event of the year is The Charles Dickens Dinner.  No one really knows why it's called that, so just roll with it. But it's a festive holiday-themed dinner that honors individuals who have made a significant impact in the world of art and philanthropy.  The evening is highlighted by costumed carolers, a musical tribute by student performers, and the awards presentations.  This year is our 24th year, and we'll be honoring James Conlon, David Bohnett, and John C. Herklotz.

One of the perks of my job is interacting with VIPs like USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Randy Newman, and many USC Trustees. The other day I got to drive Danny DeVito and his wife to his car.  I think it's fair to say it made my night.

Dickens is by far the most challenging event I have ever worked on, but it has also been a huge growing experience. 

If I had one piece of advice to give to anyone planning an event, it's to follow-up.  Even if you trust that person completely to finish their job, it doesn't hurt to give them a courtesy reminder.  By phone, email, once a week, every day -- whatever it takes to ensure that everything get done.  I think I probably called Chick-Fil-A about every other day last week about whether or not they could donate sandwiches.  And who doesn't love Chick-Fil-A?

As an event coordinator, it's your responsibility to ensure that everything is in place when the event happens, that every detail has been thought through and every problem anticipated.  Someone "forgetting" is not a good enough excuse for a component falling through.  The challenge with new events is knowing what to anticipate.  Having never fully attended a dinner, it's hard to know what could go wrong, whereas with weddings, I've been to enough to know common mishaps (i.e. forgetting the rings -- trust me, its happened).

So as I prepare for this huge milestone in my event planning career, I will be tested emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it is my hope that I act with grace, patience, peace, and joy in the midst of probably one of the most high-stress, pressure-filled environment I've been in yet.  Part of the reason I'm in this profession is to help minimize that stress for everyone involved and to create a positive environment that enables people to perform their job with ease.  So this week, instead of complaining, demanding, or yelling, I will smile, laugh, and enjoy and take advantage of the opportunity to showcase this supernatural peace I've been given.

Stay posted for pictures and a post-event update!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

nicole + seth

I met Nicole and Seth through my community group with Reality LA.  As with every wedding I've coordinated so far, it always starts with an offer to help.  Little did I know how much of a blessing I could be to the both of them and it was such a privilege to serve both of them on their wedding day!

It's always so special for me to get to work with couples whose relationship is centered in Christ, and it is so apparent how much God is present in Nicole and Seth's relationship and I'm excited to see the ways He is going to work through the two of them together.

Of all the weddings I've attended so far, theirs was by far the most unique.  Set in a random warehouse in downtown (Seth found it while scouting locations for his job), it was awesome to see the place transformed into an elegant rustic environment with mason jar centerpieces, handmade boutonnieres and headbands made by the bride, and lots of other details that made their day true to the couple.

The cupcakes and appetizers were graciously provided by Sanaz of Fixa Catering.  She did an amazing job, and I loved the use of bricks and empty pictures frames for the display.  Food was provided by Crepes Bonaparte, a fun and cost-effective alternative to the typical banquet menu!

Of course, no words can ever describe the beauty of each wedding, so thank goodness for excellent photographers like Jenny and Joseph Llanes of Llanes Weddings who captured their wedding day amazingly.  Check out these photos belows -- be sure to check out their blog for more pictures!

On top of everything, they had the sweetest getaway car EVER!

Thanks Seth and Ziza for letting me be a part of your special day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

vic + jake

We prayed for sunny days, but got a light mist instead.  But even the weather could not even dampen the joy that was surrounding Jake and Vic's wedding day.

I was so excited when Jake and Vic asked me to help coordinate their wedding!  I never expected to be fully coordinating a wedding so soon -- I had every intention of putting wedding planning on hold because I just started a new full time job, and for me, well, weddings could wait.  But I guess God had different plans in mind.

I met Jake and Vic through Athletes in Action.  From the start it was apparent how much Jake and Vic desired to glorify God through their relationship, and I feel so blessed to have helped them on their wedding day.  I loved that in moments where Vic and I both felt stressed out or overwhelmed, we could stop and pray for peace -- because the only reason I have peace in stressful situations is because of God.

With every wedding or event I coordinate, I always learn something new.  I learned a lot of "somethings" at this wedding that I'd like to share with you!  After all, this blog is a way of documenting my journey.
  1. Double check who's going to have the rings on the day of the weddings.  And ALWAYS check to make sure the rings are on-site.  They happen to be one of the most important parts of the wedding ceremony, but even the bride and groom tend to forget about them on the wedding day.  Entrust them to either the best man or maid of honor.
  2. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate -- even when you feel like you have all your bases covered, keep looking for ways to over prepare.
  3. Rain doesn't ruin everything. Okay, well it does create some difficulties, but the overcast sky can create some really awesome lighting (so check out the amazing pictures below!)
I still have so much to learn about this industry, but I'm excited to continue to grow in my abilities as an event planner. 

Now for my favorite part -- the pictures, graciously provided by Michael JT Photgraphy and Montana Dennis.  They're both awesome photographers with great energy and enthusiasm to their work -- I had so much fun working with them!  Be sure to check them out if you're looking for a photographer!

Clearly, we had lots of fun! (Montana, Me, Mike -- L to R)

For more amazing pictures, check out his blog!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

inspiration: stop motion

Photographers and videographers have one of the hardest jobs. It's up to them to capture every special moment that happens throughout the event.

Here's a super creative way to capture every special moment of your wedding day in 4-7 minutes. I'm so in love with this idea!

Check out these Stop Motion Wedding Videos by Bayly & Moore. They're based in New Zealand (unfortunately) and have taken event documentation to another level. Here's one of my favorites! Thanks to Emily Benfield and Devon Feldmeth for sharing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sweet, sweet reunion.

You know one of the things I love most about weddings?

The way it brings people together.  Old friends.  New Friends. Family.  And it's not just a huge reunion for the couple to see everyone again, it's a sweet sweet reunion for the guests as well.

In the past couple of years I've been to a few "reunion" weddings.  The first was for my friends Tim and Laura Garmey.  I went on a summer project with them to Yellowstone along with 30 other students from all over the U.S.  Tim and Laura met on the trip, so naturally, we were all invited to their wedding.  Although not all of us made it, it was so much fun coming together for Tim and Laura's big day, and to catch up on our lives.

A few weeks ago I attended another "reunion" wedding of sorts for my friends from home, Joe and Deb.  Being in Los Angeles, with a majority of my friends from home off at college, it's rare that we get the chance to all be in the same place in...October.  Thanksgiving, and definitely Christmas, are the times where we spend day after day hanging out, watching Elf, and eating at Denny's -- but October -- this was truly an exciting weekend for everyone involved.

It's just another reason why I love what I do!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

june mountain isn't just for snowboarding

So in light of the upcoming (not quite soon enough) snowboarding season, I thought I'd share a sweet location for all you snowboard lovers.

Last year I finally learned how to snowboard.  The whole carving thing didn't come quite naturally -- let's just say that one of my friends was patient enough to spend the whole day going down the same slope.  And it didn't come without massive bruises, well, everywhere.  Even laying down in an extremely soft bed hurt a ton.  But it was all worth it, and I'm excited to go back (and hopefully land a jump)!

June Mountain was our choice for many reasons --
  1. It's cheap -- $125 for a college season pass (I'm definitely wishing I was still in college...)
  2. It's never crowded. Yeah, we all hate those long lift lines. And it's super awesome when you're just starting out -- you don't have to worry about running into people.
  3. It's got a great half pipe (I'm not that advanced yet, but those that are appreciate it).
  4. It's beautiful.  Really beautiful.
The last part is the most relevant part to this post because...during the summer season June Mountain becomes a venue for, yeah, you guessed it, weddings!  And it's just as beautiful.  Check out these awesome photos.

In short, June Mountain is awesome.  Snowboard in the winter.  Get married in the summer.

Or if you're not getting married you could also host an event, or just go to appreciate the beautiful scenery.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Together we D.R.E.A.M.

I had the privilege of helping out Central City Community Outreach with their 1st Annual Fundraising Event.  First events are always a little scary -- there are so many uncertainties. Who's going to show up, how much money are we going to raise, will people like the event?

One thing I loved about this event was how much every aspect of the night reflected the heart and mission of the organization.  So much planning went into helping guests experience first hand what goes on at Central City instead of simply putting together a nice sit down dinner. 

The event took place at the French Garden Restaurant, a small restaurant located just east of Skid Row.  The meal was served family style with salads, sandwiches, and cookies.  No fancy glasses or linens.  The centerpieces were interactive games and toys that the kids play with after school.

Right from the start, the event introduced guests to just a snapshot of the environment that Central City creates.  The guests entered through an alley decorated with canvas paintings and small lights.  Kids from Central City were present -- some participating in a drum circle, others playing jump rope.  The guests had a chance to interact with the children before even reaching the check-in table.  Check out some pictures below!

I'll admit -- planning this event made me realize how limited my ideas can be sometimes.  When I think of "fundraising dinner" my mind automatically jumps to a nice venue with 66" rounds, satin linens, and a prix fixe dinner.  But what this event accomplished was so much more than just a nice evening in exchange for a donation.  The event was a experience -- it got the guests involved and more importantly, invested in the organization because it clearly portrayed the heart of Central City and what it truly stands for.  For a non-profit organization, it's crucial to form long-lasting relationships and partnerships with your donors.  And I know that the success of this event can be seen not only by the amount of money we raised, but the impact that the event had on the guests who attended.