“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” the late great Benjamin Franklin once said. So if you want your function to be a success, you’ll need some expert help. Julian Hall speaks to the event planners who will supply just that

Your barmitzvah, your wedding – two of the most special days of your life. The memory of smiling faces will stay with your forever. But the planning! Don’t underestimate what it takes for everything to run smoothly – and what it takes to keep everyone happy.

More and more, event planners are helping people to shoulder the workload. But how much difference do they make and how do they add that something extra?

Hollywood themed props for party or celebration

Hollywood themed props take the stage for a big party

“Every event has a minimum of 10 items that need to be sorted out” says Idit Ginsberg, director of events at Dash of Sparkle.

“There’s venue, invitations, catering, decorations, photographer and entertainment – to name a few. That means lots of phone calls, emails, contracts to read and people to meet.”

Israel-based Revital Azulay of Revital Events, who arranges events for clients coming over from the UK, has her ‘Ten Commandments’ list to illustrate just how much there is to do for your special day. They include: Saving time (by vetting suppliers), saving money (through negotiating deals with suppliers), saving relationships (self-explanatory!), advising on unique events, representing the clients to suppliers and always being on their side, creating schedules for supplier meetings, handling crises, responsibility from rehearsal through to reception, “minimising stress and maximising fun” (very much her philosophy), and dealing with suppliers the day after the event.

As Debbieann Robinson of Diamonds and Garters further explains: “Event planners will meet their clients on a number of occasions, first to find out everything about the event and how those clients see the events going. Then they will go away and find everything you will need and make a note of all the prices and suppliers they have. Once a planner has spoken to her suppliers, she will streamline and simplify everything for that client so the client doesn’t get overwhelmed with all the new information.”

Clearly, there is a lot to think about and it’s easy to see why one lynchpin for all of these concerns is better than having too many cooks! Speaking of quantities, it’s also important that your planner doesn’t make too many hostages to fortune! “I’ve heard people promise X, Y and Z to win a job” says Michelle of MA Events, “ but they don’t end up delivering it.” As for what a planner can do, and recording what suppliers are asked for, “it’s best to have everything on paper and on an email” Michelle adds.

Your event planner is your guide through various hurdles and those hurdles are higher the more you have let your imagination loose. And golly, do some clients let their imaginations run riot!

Debbieann Robinson recounts some of the more unusual wedding requests, including fire-breathers, living tables (servers within tables), servers with hotpants on, an Alice in Wonderland theme with outsize board games in the garden, acrobats, a petting zoo with chickens and goats and so on. “We had an event at London Zoo where we held a ‘meet the meerkats’ attraction!”

Revital Azulay, meanwhile, has a client who is a fan of numerous Israeli TV celebrities who he remembers from his childhood. His mother wants to surprise him by recording them giving their blessings to him. “Right now I am working on filming these celebrities and editing it to a short movie for that wedding.”

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Idit Ginsberg, of Dash of Sparkle

The specialness of the occasion isn’t always about added extras – extraordinary as these are – but about putting the memorable within people’s reach. Idit Ginsberg explains one example of this – the kosher package.

“Through working with lots of clients, I realised that many couples and/or families where not opting for a kosher function because it was so expensive. They all wanted to go down that route, but with venue hire, catering and all the other elements to a Simcha, it became unaffordable.

“So I took it upon myself to come up with a solution. By partnering up with a Beth Din supervised caterer, who is amazing, and combining our talents, we created a package which makes it possible for anyone who wants to have a kosher gorgeous function to do so.”

The forensic approach of planners extends both to events planned at synagogues, event rooms and so on through to home-based celebrations.

“When organising a function at home, there is a lot of co-ordinating involved” says Idit Ginsberg. “You may need to hire a marquee, you certainly would want someone else to cater the function so you can relax and enjoy yourself. You would want to brainstorm ideas on choosing a theme and then how to bring it to life. Not to mention the moving around of furniture and, at the end of the function, making sure your home is returned to its original beauty.”

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Revital Azulay, of Revital Events

Revital Azulay adds: “When someone wants to organise a function at home, we meet the client on-site to understand his or her vision. We then customise the house according to the event and expectation of the client. We bring furniture, decorate the site according to the chosen theme and completely transform the home. We advise the client on different styles of food and we match the chef and catering accordingly. We make sure the music chosen for the event matches the style of the event, the permitted sound level, and the size of the potential stage.”

“Sometimes the private event is held outside in the garden, including eating and dancing outdoors. In these cases, we use our lighting specialist to paint the garden with different colour lights. We can also provide a dancing space (for example a stage) and a bar in the garden. We decorate the garden according to the theme of the event and match the correct furniture.”

One of the key roles of a wedding planner is troubleshooting. Samantha Mills, senior consultant/director of Harrisons Weddings and Events, describes her ‘on-the-day co-ordination’ role at a wedding last year. “Numerous things seemed to go wrong. The generator failed in the marquee and the venue was supposed to provide Manhattans, the bride’s favourite cocktail, while the couple had their pictures taken, but unfortunately didn’t make enough of them and soon ran out, leaving the guests with nothing to drink but beer until more ingredients were bought from a nearby supermarket.

“Also, the back of a bridesmaid’s dress was trodden on and ripped, and a few other minor things happened throughout the evening. I had to draw on all of my skills – including sewing! – to ensure the couple weren’t aware until after the event what had gone wrong!”

Given the amount of work involved, it’s a wonder how these event planners keep going. But when you talk to all of them, the sense of rising to a challenge is clear (“anything is possible” says Debbieann Robinson), as is the desire for the planners to reflect the character of their clients in their event.

“My philosophy is to get to know my clients” says Idit Ginsberg, “so that I can create a day that not only they can enjoy, but that is also really special because it incorporates their personalities. It could be centrepieces that have something to do with their hobbies, or those little extras like a booklet with photos and quotes about the couple or the bar- or batmitzvah child. The more we focus on the family that is celebrating, the more the moments that take place become memorable for years after!”