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!