Thursday, October 21, 2010

San Mateo County History Museum

The Rotunda
Have you been to a public event at the plaza in Redwood City? The Plaza is the central square in downtown Redwood City (across from the Fox Theater) from where free music and many special summertime events emanate. It also happens to be the front entrance to the San Mateo County History Museum which is a very special space for an event. The building is easily recognizable with the large domed roof, and served as the former San Mateo County Courthouse building.

The Rotunda of this historic building is capped off with the most beautiful stained-glass dome, and the floors are covered in gorgeous mosaic tiles. It is simply breathtaking to stand in the center of the Rotunda and look up. Many a wedding ceremony has been held in the Rotunda, and after you take one step into the museum, that won't surprise you.

The main event space is on the second floor (so is the kitchen!), and is located in the former courtroom. It is astonishing how the right caterer can transform this space into a gorgeous event. The museum provides a list of preferred caterers with whom they regularly do business for events. There are many little details about using this space because of its age and historical importance, so working with the perferred caterers makes things easier for all the parties involved. A renter can also pay a fee for using a caterer not on their list.

Looking up at the stained glass dome
I was extremely impressed with the different exhibits and the history of the building and its former operations. These additional components included with renting this space are valuable extras that will have a big impact on your guests. The museum currently has a rotating exhibit dedicated to surfing at Maverick's, and as a part of the exhibit the public can climb onto a real surfboard that looks straight out a window onto the plaza from the second story of the building. When standing on the board, you are able to get a perspective of the height at the top of a wave out at Mavericks — very, very cool!

Did I mention that their rental rates are very inexpensive? If you are a high school aged group looking to host a teenage-focused event, you will have to look elsewhere because those events are not allowed in the space.

One last point about using the museum for an event. The schedule of events held in the plaza is not controlled by nor coordinated with the museum in any way. If there is an event on the plaza on the night of your event at the museum, you will have work around that disruption (like noise or partially obstructing the entrance/frontal view of the museum).

Visit EventCounselor for more information on historic and museum-focused event sites in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Undiscovered event space gem in Redwood Shores

There is a great, little restaurant tucked away in Redwood Shores that may not be on your radar, but it should be  especially if you are hosting an event soon.

Mistral is located on the same lagoon as the Sofitel in Redwood Shores, and has an outstanding all-seasons patio. The patio wraps around the entire lagoon-facing portion of the restaurant, and comes complete with a giant outdoor fireplace and an adjoining fire pit with hangout space.

The Wine Room at Mistral
After dining at Mistral, I thought the subsequent site visit would be all about the patio, and as great as it is, it wasn't the star of the day. The Wine Room was the space that really surprised me!

This private dining room is decorated like a wine cellar and has its own private entrance. The decor feels rich with beautiful finishes and walls of wine racks, and it can seat up to 42 people. This room would be perfect for a small business meeting or a special occasion meal. Guests can use the separate sound system for this room to customize the music. A luncheon business meeting would be tough in this room because it is adjacent to the kitchen and there is residual noise during their busiest service hours.

The Chalk Room is a second, smaller private room that opens onto the fire pit area on the patio. This room would be perfect for an event that was one part meeting and one part social, renting out the fire pit area too. Such a great match for an event under 20 people. The food was good, and when someone in our party asked for a vegetarian, gluten-free option, the kitchen whipped up a vegetarian risotto that was greatly appreciated.

Visit EventCounselor for other undetected event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking for a fun Redwood City location for your company holiday party?

Outdoor bar and patio at Milagros
Company holiday parties are right around the corner, and if you haven't locked in a location yet, consider Mliagros located in the heart of the downtown Redwood City. Milagros is one of three restaurants in the Avenir Restaurant Group, parent also to Town in San Carlos and NOLA in Palo Alto. The restaurant is Mexican-themed, has a very fun interior with five large-screen televisions and a big open-air patio bar.

Milagros has a private dining room at one end of the restaurant that seats 50 people, and has a built-in buffet line. Not surprising because if you have more than 25 people in your party, your menu will be served buffet-style. The food is average, but this venue is about merriment and drinking, not haute cuisine. Larger parties can rent larger portions of the restaurant, and restaurant buyouts are also possible.

Milagros offers a cute, semi-private space for 12 people seated that would be a great fit for a baby or bridal shower or a special birthday dinner. This is a venue that is focused on good times. They have a killer Happy Hour, awesome food and drink specials during Monday Night Football and the banquet pricing is quite affordable.

Visit EventCounselor for more fun places to party this holiday season in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We have an Urban Winery in our neighborhood!!

Have you ever heard of an urban winery? La Honda Winery is an urban winery in Redwood City that turns out not only to be a very cool, wine-making operation, but also a gorgeous space for events. The winery owners (husband and wife team) partnered with a landscaping colleague to house their winery operations in his warehouse space in Redwood City. The landscaper used the warehouse space to showcase his hardscape product and skills, and the outcome is a large open space with beautiful finishes.

The owners not only rent out the warehouse, but also offer wine-focused activities to groups like wine tastings, team building activities based on the process of making wine, and monthly cooking classes. The venue is a very flexible space, and all types of events could be held here, casual to sophisticated. The venue holds up to 100 people seated so the smaller the group, the better the fit.

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on where to host the perfect wine-focused event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Can you get a hotel any closer to Stanford? NOPE!

The Palo Alto Sheraton and Westin are both Starwood Hotels properties, and although they sit side by side (sharing a parking lot), they are pretty different hotels.

A banquet set in one of the Sheraton's event spaces
The Sheraton is more family-oriented. This property has the better pool, and the decor (while dated) is more relaxed. There are several different banquet spaces, and all are fairly standard.

The Westin is more upscale, and has been renovated more recently. This property is quieter, and it caters to business travelers. Every sleeping room opens to a courtyard view, and the Courtyard of the Moon and Stars was particularly beautiful for outdoor dining or cocktail receptions.

The real shining star of these two hotels is their location!! They are located at the corner of El Camino Real and University Avenue, and the guests staying at either of these properties are blocks from Stanford, great eating and amazing shopping. If you need to rent a car, Hertz is onsite. Score!

Both hotels are very busy during Stanford events  think Reunion Weekend, football games and graduation. You can book an event here one year out, so get planning!

Visit EventCounselor for more details on event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Need help with an Onsite Event Coordinator Dilemma!!

I have met so many great people that organize events for their respective venues, I wondered how to best incorporate that piece of the puzzle into my reviews for EventCounselor.

Surely my clients would like to have my opinion on such an important matter? What should the protocol be when I run across a really bad point person for a property? Do I call that out too?

If you are planning your own event then the decision where to have the event should equally consider the location and the person coordinating onsite. You can have the most beautiful location ever seen, but if the onsite coordinator isn't a professional, you can bet your event will be less than imagined, and maybe worse. The onsite coordinator is your central support person in pulling off your party or business meeting. The same standards and interview process should be applied were you hiring someone to do the planning for you. The onsite event coordinator's skills are directly related to the success of your event.

So, back to the dilemma...when I come across a venue that has poor service, poor food quality or facilities, I simply don't review them for this blog, nor do I include them in my offerings to my clients. However, in the area of onsite event coordination, I haven't been consistent when I have had a negative experience. How can I incorporate that information in a helpful way, without introducing the type of negativity that accompanies a bad review? It is one thing to omit a property, but another to call out their problems.

People rely on me to be their eyes and ears at venues. The onsite coordinator weighs so heavily into this part of the decision, I shudder to think what will happen when a reader takes my advice on a property, only to find that I have omitted that the events coordinator isn't helpful or communicative or has poor follow through. Will I lose credibility  you bet!

I need to figure out how to include a review of the onsite event coordinator when reviewing the venue itself.  Can you help me? Please let me know below how you would solve my Onsite Event Coordinator Dilemma!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sushi workshops and killer tatami rooms in Palo Alto

In case you haven't eaten at Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto, it is not "Americanized" Japanese food. The food at this restaurant is authentic, organic, sustainable where possible and delicious! The decor of the restaurant is pretty, and the tatami rooms are amazing. The restaurant has tucked-away sections that can host many types of events, social and business. Surprisingly (to me anyway), the events hosted are mostly business, not social.

The Sun Room includes the sushi bar area, and groups often use this room when there are A/V requirements. The sushi bar can be converted into a buffet station, and it can accommodate up to 35 people seated.

The main dining room has built-in booths and sectioned areas for smaller tables on the floor. All of the partitions are removable, and the entire space can be reconfigured to host a larger group of 60 people seated.

Tatami room table set for 8 people
The tatami rooms are off the hook! The rooms can accommodate from 4 to 20 people. Some of the rooms offer a great deal of privacy, which makes them the perfect place for an important conversation. The tatami rooms are beautifully decorated and would be a very special birthday dinner spot, but only guests 12 and older are allowed to dine in these spaces.

The restaurant also offers classes and workshops on sushi making and sake tasting. Many companies take advantage of the hands-on experience for team building exercises and incentive programs. Fuki Sushi can host a workshop at an offsite location for groups of 4 to 350 people! The restaurant even teams with De Anza College to offer classes to the masses.

Fuki Sushi seems to go the extra mile when working on events, and they have had experience delivering service to some very large companies and very large groups. Yet, when you are dining at the restaurant, you can also imagine a very elegant and delicious meal in honor of something special. Delivering service to both ends of the spectrum of event types is a depth of service delivery that does impress me. They serve gluten-free soy sauce upon request, which also makes them my new favorite sushi restaurant!

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on awesome team-building venues in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Unique garden paradise and friendly Polynesian village on the El Camino

Dinah's Garden Hotel is eclectic, and it has a delightful history. The hotel was built in 1957, and the current general manager is the daughter of the original owners.

Dinah's Shack restaurant preceded the hotel by 30 years, and since November 2001, Trader Vic's has made their home as the onsite restaurant and event space for the hotel.

Giant elephant sculpture outside the lobby
The property is exceptional because of its unique layout and design. The rooms are nicely decorated, and they have views of little lagoons filled with coy and a nice pool. The gardens are lush, and the artifacts in the restaurant and around the hotel were all collected by the original owners.

They have several different types of rooms, so it accommodates all types of travelers. There is a breakfast and lunch restaurant at the pool that has also been the concessionaire on the property for a long time, and it looks like an awesome place to enjoy your morning routine. The location of the property plus the beauty of its grounds should make this a serious contender for anyone visiting the mid-Peninsula.

There are several different options for hosting events at this venue, and because of that they have a great deal of flexibility. I did dine at Trader Vic's, and those of us who had fun cocktails off their extensive drinks menu enjoyed them thoroughly! A person in our party thought if one can pretend to be in Hawaii, then they will enjoy the experience, and I agree. The execution of the food was average, but the service was excellent.  I think if you held an event here and controlled the menu, you would have a good experience.

I checked my opinion against the crowd at Yelp, and it seems that my opinion and that of my party were right on target. I think we could have done better ordering based on their reviews of dishes we did not try, but all in all, this venue should be considered seriously for events like company incentive dinners, awards ceremonies or wedding receptions.

Visit EventCounselor if you need more ideas for unique locations for your next event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sofitel is a luxury hotel with some surprising spaces

Amazing glass chandelier in the lobby of the Sofitel
The Sofitel brand is elegant and upscale. The Redwood Shores Sofitel property has layers of event spaces, all very luxurious. There were several spots that evoked warm feelings worth a special mention!

The Dock is a deck located outside, next to the lagoon, and it is a very pretty place to have a 50 person wedding ceremony. It was sunny when I saw the location, and it was so picturesque.

The Red Room in Bay 223 Restaurant is a unique place for private dining. It will only accommodate up to 12 people, and it is very chic. Sofitel has some great executive suites for recruiting sessions or closed-door conversations for a small group (under 5 people). The rooms are comfortable and sophisticated.

The Fountain area is a giant circular driveway with a beautiful, huge fountain in the middle, and events can be held here with or without a tent erected. This area is tucked away from the main entrance of the hotel, outside the conference spaces and ballroom. This outdoor space is sheltered from the wind and can accommodate up to 200 seated guests. An evening event surrounding The Fountain would be stunning!

Their peak season for events is July through October, and although this property caters to business travelers and their events, it has a great deal to offer social event organizers too.

Visit EventCounselor for more places to host your next business or social event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gardens, Artists and Weddings in Menlo Park

Photo by FC Photography
Photo provided by Allied Arts Guild
Gardens, gardens, beautiful historic buildings, and more gorgeous gardens! Allied Arts Guild is so beautiful that as soon as you walk onto the grounds, it screams "get married here!" The Allied Arts Guild's 3.5 acre property was purchased in 1929, to create a place where working artists could commune with natural, beautiful and peaceful surroundings. This was the brainchild of Delight and Garfield Merner (I love her first name) and the profits from the Allied Arts Guild's gift shop and other operations (events!) benefit the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. Win-win.

The current artists working out of the Allied Arts Guild are diverse and the property has a shockingly perfect business meeting space too. The private conference room is a very spiffy, recently redecorated space that can host up to 24 seated conference-style with additional room for 20 seated participants (not folding chairs, but nice, cushy chairs lining the walls, not at the table). Cafe Primavera is the onsite restaurant and caterer for business functions.

You can try to book Allied Arts Guild gardens for photos. Yes, you will have to book a reservation to take wedding photos on the property and pay a fee, and believe me, once you see these grounds you will want to have your pictures taken there. I say try because they only allow one bride on the property at a time so if there is a wedding booked on the day you want to shoot pictures, you are out of luck. Best option if you are dying to have your wedding pictures taken on the Allied Arts Guild grounds is to have your reception there because they are booked for weddings solid through prime wedding season (April through October).

Photo provided by Allied Arts Guild
This location is unique because of the super beautiful event spaces (indoor and out), the business conference room and the property location on the Peninsula. I was inspired when I made my onsite visit by the fact that this place was purchased, developed and continues to support local artistry that is directly connected to everyday people in our community. This space is meant to stimulate art and and to provide serenity to think. If someone is able to tap into the spirit of this spot, you will undoubtedly plan an amazing event.

Visit EventCounselor to get more ideas on locations for events that will bring out the best in you in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Palo Alto's Old Faithful

Who hasn't taken a business associate to Il Fornio for a yummy and consistent meal? I keep going back because it is so dependable. The restaurant applies that reliability to their group customers as well. Host a seated dinner on the patio for a party of 80 or a smaller affair in the two private rooms for parties of 40 or 16. Whatever your size, you can't go wrong.

This location is a no-brainer if you are planning a small business luncheon or hosting a business meeting/luncheon combination. The larger space is very flexible and could easily host a great rehearsal dinner, cocktail reception or anniversary party. They also offer full-service catering and a monthly "passport" program where you can culinarily visit different regions in Italy through different tasting menus with other bonuses like a take-away gift and a chance to win a trip to Italy.

There is a lot to love about this restaurant for groups, not least of which is that there are several members of the executive team (Events Coordinator included) that have been with this location for over 20 years! This team has been hosting events in Palo Alto for a long time. That kind of longevity speaks for itself.

Visit EventCounselor to find more restaurants that would be a perfect fit to host your next business event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eating in a barn? Hardly!

The Patio at the California Cafe
I made plans to meet three girlfriends for lunch at the California Cafe in the Stanford Barn. Hearing the word "barn" set off all sorts of concerns about the meal and themes, but upon first service at the restaurant, my fears were put to rest.

The food was sophisticated and was presented beautifully on the plate. I was very impressed by the service, and the food we ordered was very good. The food was on the more expensive scale, but the restaurant delivered in all areas. I wasn't at all scoping the restaurant for event spaces, so my revisit to the space was from a new perspective   and I liked what I saw!

California Cafe has two semi-private rooms and two private rooms that would work for many different types of events. My favorite spaces at this location were the outside areas. The restaurant has a covered patio and a courtyard right off of the main dining room. The walls that surround the outdoor spaces are brick with green ivy growing up. I found it to be a naturally beautiful backdrop for an event.

The Courtyard sits to the right of the Patio
You could host a delicious sit down dinner with cocktail reception in the courtyard or a wedding reception with indoor and outdoor portions. I was surprised because this restaurant turned out to be a beautiful events location with a very flexible layout. Everyone I dealt with from the hostess to the events coordinator were all really nice and extremely professional, which does make a difference when wanting to impress your guests.

Business meetings would also be well-served in this spot. They have a ton of fun promotions (all of which I wish I could attend!), and they have a sick Happy Hour deal on Fridays, so you must pop over and check it out. If you haven't been by in a while, peek around at their event spaces and let your imagination take off!

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on fresh locations to have your next event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Need to plan a group dinner in Redwood City that is cozy, casual and Mediterranean?

The Fireplace Room is so cozy!
I ate at Mandaloun in Redwood City for a Mom's Night Out with some parents from my kid's class. The food was solid Mediterranean fare, but our placement in the restaurant was not that ideal. When I went back for a closer look, I saw some neat spaces that I missed on my first visit that would be much better for group events.

As you walk through the front door there are dining spaces to your right and to your left. These are also Mandaloun's semi-private rooms. One room has a fireplace, and one has a fountain mounted to the wall. They have glass pocket doors to serve as the wall that separates these spaces from the main dining space, and a heavy velvet, blackout curtain acts as the fourth wall to block off access from the main walkway that leads past this space and into the restaurant. These rooms are small and seat no more than 24, but are very cozy. I am ready to take my mom friends back to this joint for a second visit, and we are definitely reserving the fireplace room on a cool night (raging fire included)!

They also have a back patio that has heaters and space for up to 50 people seated. I envisioned a really fun company cocktail party with a Mediterranean buffet for dinner. This spot is a casual and inviting space for some serious after-work socializing.

They don't appear to have an onsite events coordinator, so I am unsure of how much group business they currently execute, but if you are willing to drive more of the planning and organizing, this could be a terrific spot for a company incentive event or a group dinner.

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on places to have a Mediterranean meal with a group in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Location, Location, Location

The Courtyard
Photo by Matthew Millman Photography
The Garden Court Hotel has one of the best locations in the heart of downtown Palo Alto. The hotel itself has far more event space (7,000 sq ft) than hotel rooms (only 62!), so they are very focused on events, especially business events. Hosting so many business meetings means that their peak time is during the week, so plan ahead and book this spot early!

Why so popular? If you want to host a meeting in downtown Palo Alto, this property is surrounded by great restaurants and shopping. Each hotel room has a private balcony; and most face the inner court, which is beautiful both during the day and at night. The styling of this property transports you into a more relaxed environment, when really you are in the center of it all. To make the guest experience even more comfortable, the rooms were all redecorated within the last year.

The refurbishment wasn't just for the guest rooms. The Courtyard Ballroom was completely redone as well. They have two additional indoor spaces for events, and let's not forget the wonderful courtyard and balcony spaces for outdoor events. The combination of a business meeting in one of the inside meeting rooms and a cocktail reception in the courtyard or lunch on the balcony would be a very impressive event.

The Garden Court has a long-standing relationship with Il Fornio to provide all the onsite catering, and all the food is prepared in the Garden Court Hotel's kitchen by Il Fornio chefs. This property is unique in its location, styling and design aesthetics, and you should take a closer look at it for your next event.

Visit EventCounselor for more information on the best centrally-located places to hold a meeting or event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Party with Rodin!

The Cantor Arts Center is a very special event space. It is only available to individual or corporate sponsors for rental ($10,000 and $15,000 respectively), but if you have the extra cash around, it is so exquisite  this museum has the largest collection of Rodin bronzes outside of Paris. Hello!!

This venue is about art in its highest form. It is a venue for attendees who will appreciate the space and the art. An event held here would be absolutely sophisticated and elegant.

Interested? First, go to the Cantor Arts Center and take a free to the public docent-led tour (check the schedule here), and if you want to schedule a group guided tour, click here for more information. While on your tour, imagine seminars in theater style seating in the auditorium. As you walk past the large windows looking out onto the green space, imagine a tent with white lights and passed hors d'oeuvres. Imagine a company holiday party amongst the rotating collections at the museum. Whatever you host here would be an affair to remember.

If you are looking for a place to have a wedding ceremony, look elsewhere because they do not host any religious or political events. A very special anniversary dinner or a corporate dinner would be amazing.

Need more ideas for sophisticated and art-centered events? Visit EventCounselor and find your special event location in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An upscale Northern California ranch in our own backyard

Having worked at a Rosewood property in the past, I knew some things about the Rosewood Sand Hill before I even arrived. The hotel would be luxurious, the food and beverage top shelf, the grounds would be impeccable, and the services would be spot on, and they were.

I wasn't expecting a sixteen acre property or only 121 rooms. The "theme" of this property is a Northern California ranch and while there is nothing thematic about this hotel, the Northern California ranch feel is woven into the decor and nomenclature ever so slightly. With that much acreage and so few rooms, you won't be surprised to find that this hotel has the largest hotel rooms with the largest bathrooms on the Peninsula.

The pool is gorgeous and
a poolside event would be spectacular!
Madera is the fine dining restaurant on property, but does not seat parties larger than 12 people. You can have larger parties (depending on your numbers) in any of their boardrooms, conference rooms, ballrooms, or a myriad of outdoor spaces, including poolside which is really breathtaking!

The average price per person for a dinner event is around $100 so an event held here will be upscale, elegant and on the more expensive end of the spectrum. They are experts at providing high-end service and if you plan an event here, you won't be disappointed with the level of service your group receives.

Located right across the road from most of the VC offices on Sand Hill, they are finely tuned into that market and have many supportive services like an onsite A/V company to serve their business clients. While most of us won't have an opportunity to stay at this hotel, the Rosewood Spa, Sense, is world-class and can be enjoyed by locals. To make things even easier, you can even book online.

Visit EventCounselor to get more ideas on where you can find an elegant location to have your next business meeting or poolside cocktail party in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Me, The Living Room and Project Runway!!

This is not my Living Room!
Luckily, I was paying attention the other day while visiting some possible event locations in Redwood City  otherwise I would have missed a little wine bar that changed its name to The Living Room. I don't even want to call it a bar or a lounge because it is so much more!

Picture this vignette — a soft, plushy living room sofa and chairs set, an electric fireplace and an ornate mantle, a flat screen television on the wall, a coffee table, an area rug, a glass of wine, some snacks, your four besties and the remote. No this isn't my house on a Thursday night, but you will find five of these separate, cozy arrangements at The Living Room in Redwood City. You will also find a bar pioneering wine kegs and working toward having the lowest carbon footprint of any bar on the Peninsula by not using any bottles or cans (not currently including champagne). The only wines served are those made within a 50 mile radius of Redwood City for all you locavores!

The special, neighborhood bar has a Nintendo Wii console and board games should your television viewing become boring. You can reserve the living rooms in advance and order food into the bar from any restaurant that delivers. They have even struck a deal with the cafe next door to deliver food to their patrons on real plates and with real silverware. Not too shabby.

Another scene at the Living Room
This amazing concept was developed by 2nd and 4th generation Redwood City folk. They seem like the people you went to high school with, and speaking of which, they are all graduates of Sequoia High so you can imagine the locals are loving this spot. You must check it out, and if you go on Thursday nights, we can sip local wines and judge the designers together!

Visit EventCounselor to find the best local wine bars and hang-out joints in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three Seasons in downtown Palo Alto is off the beaten path

Three Seasons is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Palo Alto, even though it is located right in the middle of it all. I didn't see the restaurant at first, but I was pleased when I did find it. I loved the decor and the place smelled yummy.

The food did not disappoint! The scallops were cooked perfectly, and the green beans were delicious. They serve small plates as a part of their menu so you can try a bunch of different specialties  it is like Vietnamese tapas.

You will love dining on the outdoor patio
The restaurant has a giant bar, which is the centerpiece of the space. There is balcony seating along three sides of the restaurant, and they have wi-fi (a customer working in the bar area was looking very comfy!) and a super cute outdoor seating area. Three Seasons can do all sorts of configurations of the restaurant for events (group reservations v. section rentals v. full or partial restaurant buyouts) and customized menus. There is a new manager, and he is devising some new ideas for leveraging this space even further.

There isn't an enclosed meeting space, so it is difficult to imagine how effective a business meeting would be here. Focus more on hosting a group dinner, cocktail reception or buffet-style dinner in the upstairs balcony or outdoor patio. This event space would be a blast in which to host your holiday office party. They have a built-in DJ sound system in the balcony.

Visit EventCounselor for ideas on the best spaces for your next holiday party in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Secret Garden in Palo Alto? You bet!

Talk about a well-kept secret! The Elizabeth Gamble Garden is in the heart of Palo Alto, and I have passed this event space many times rolling down Embarcadero and never even noticed it. That made seeing the property all the more spectacular.

It is a small venue (maximum attendees for a wedding ceremony is 50), but the gardens are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The garden surrounds a beautiful historic home. The home's first floor can be utilized for parties or meetings, and there are two additional event rooms on the property for the same purpose.

Picture a bride readying herself inside this grand, historic house and just a few steps from there, she walks out onto the back porch to an enclosed garden space that is so picturesque I actually got goose-bumps when I saw the doors open.

Picnic at The Gamble Gardens for Ed's birthday
The gardens are lovingly cared for by volunteers. They have an intergenerational garden which is worked on by senior volunteers and kids from a local school. All the flowers for the house are cut from the flower gardens out back. There are a couple of picnic tables in one corner of the property. I was so inspired by the grounds that I rode my bike back that same week for a picnic with the kids.

They seem to be governed by oodles of committees that "handle" all sorts of things and they don't use email for communications, but the location is so pretty, it would be well worth that inconvenience. You can use the house and event rooms during the work week, and rent the gardens and event rooms for weddings on weekday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit EventCounselor for more ideas on beautiful outdoor spaces for events in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Rengstorff House

I stopped by Rengstorff House a couple of weeks ago to take a closer look and as I drove up, I was reminded of a day almost 13 years ago when two of my closest friends were married there. On that sunny, August day I remember admiring the lush grounds overlooking the water and an awesome, historic house, and luckily those attributes have not changed.

Rengstorff House, located at Shoreline Park, is Mountain View's oldest house (1864!). It was lovingly restored for years by the Friends of Rengstorff House and moved from its original location in 1991. The Victorian refurbishment of the interior is so beautiful that if you haven't been on one of their free public tours  go now! Gorgeous, really. There is a piano from the original home that is tuned and can be played during an event. So cool!

The Rengstorff House has updated the kitchen since my previous visit, but it is a smaller kitchen so there are some restrictions to having a wedding and reception there. My friend chose the Rengstorff House because it was inexpensive (still is!), beautiful, and located close to where they wanted to have the reception (offsite).

You can also rent the space inside the house for dinner parties or meetings. I would love to attend a dinner party there which is catered and themed. It would be such a cool fundraising item for a school auction. Note to self.

Visit if you would like more ideas on how to utilize this amazing location for your next meeting, wedding or dinner party.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Pacific Athletic Club is changing things up for events

The Patio will become more enclosed and private.
The green space to the left will be lost to the renovation.
The Pacific Athletic Club is planning on renovating its outdoor event space (slated to begin this fall) and losing a gem of a green space next to the tennis courts where most of their wedding ceremonies are currently performed.

The existing outdoor event spaces (the Patio and the Courtyard) are gaining a great deal of privacy from the general club population in the redesign, in addition to some updating. I think the renovation has a great deal of potential and I am looking forward to seeing the transformation of the space.

The indoor banquet space, called the Dining Room, flows out to either patio and also has a cute foyer area which doubles as the Bar/Lounge and has a great spot to put a cake on display.

Aside from weddings, PAC hosts quite a few bar and bat mitzvah parties, but look elsewhere to host your child's birthday because that wouldn't be a good fit for this venue. They offer an extensive catering menu and no longer have a full-service restaurant on the property, so you won't find conflicts in scheduling around a meal service.

They also host business meetings in two executive board rooms (which can open into one larger business meeting space) and meetings with a larger number of attendees can use the Dining Room. They are conveniently located in Redwood City in the Redwood Shores area right off of the 101.

Stop by for more information on the ever-changing face of wedding venues and meeting spaces in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tied House Brewery

This is the side patio event space
The Tied House is a microbrewery in Mountain View that has been brewing beers since 1988. It is the quintessential brew pub in beer, food and atmosphere.

They call their menu "pub grub" and that is exactly what it is. That said, this is a space where you could have a fun company incentive party or a great office Happy Hour or some good old-fashioned team-building. No one will have high expectations about the food in a brew pub, but their beer is pretty darn delicious  and that is the star of an event here!

They have two event spaces and both are conducive to a beer bash. One is slightly more private and covered than the other, but both would be great for this type of event. Their busiest times are during big or local sporting events (think Super Bowl and Sharks games) and when there is a concert at Shoreline. They have an events calendar on their webpage that notes those types of things so check there first if you are thinking about planning something here.

Visit for more ideas about where to hold a team building event or company incentive party in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alana's Cafe in Redwood City is Bridal Shower Heaven!

I recently had breakfast at Alana's Cafe in Redwood City. Talk about precious! The restaurant is located in a Victorian house, serves a fine breakfast, and has the cutest outdoor patio and grassy area! It is perfect for a homestyle celebration of any kind.

You can rent the entire restaurant with the outside patio and the grassy area included or rent out either of the two parts very inexpensively. As I walked around the outdoor space, I immediately thought it would be perfect for a bridal shower, baby shower or graduation luncheon. I am envisioning croquet on the grassy area, outdoor tables set with vintage linens, and tea and scone service set up on their adorable front porch.

Visit for more ideas on perfect spaces for a bridal shower or any special family celebration in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Zen Hotel

I was pleasantly surprised by The Zen Hotel in Palo Alto. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the rooms are nicely done and they have wi-fi. I recently stopped by for a site inspection because my Mom and Dad are headed to town soon and needed a place close to the grand-kiddos.

I was surprised to find the rooms in really nice shape, a free breakfast, and a hot tub for unwinding. They have a couple of suite rooms that are quite large with separate sitting areas and fully functioning kitchens (one (1) bedroom and one (2) bedroom). I immediately booked for my parents (best rates for this hotel are online) and thought that a company sending someone on a recruiting trip or a local company with someone coming in from out of town, but needing a space for small groups to meet, would benefit from this room type as well.

Need more ideas for places for small groups to meet in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City, please visit

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Try The Fish Market for Group Dinners - they are so FLEXIBLE!

I could hardly believe it myself!  I have dined at The Fish Market in Palo Alto so many times and enjoyed my meal there every time.  I had no idea how great it is to have a group meal there too!

After speaking with the General Manager (also the group dining guru), I was amazed to find out what is possible and what isn't, and guess what, not much that isn't possible here!  Their "back room", which sadly doesn't have doors to make it more of a private dining experience, does have the ability to accommodate up to 80 people seated for an event.  All the dividers that create "sections" in the space for normal diners can be removed and most table configurations can be accommodated!

Your event menu will be customized from The Fish Market's ginormous daily menu. Menus can be crafted with a low per person price or you can present a menu to your guests that looks like the actual daily menus with limited choices from each section. Basically, anything you can think of for a menu offering can likely be arranged. The food is dependable and fresh. They do fish very well and their cheesy garlic bread is outstanding!

They also create platters of food from their menu that are available for pick up.  The pricing varies and a small platter charge is applied (less than $9/platter to cover condiments and the like) but you can have a platter of anything off the menu.  Some things translate better than others, but even their hot food can be served at home or the office by popping in the oven and rewarming to temperature. I especially like the idea of their smoked fishes on a platter for any occasion.  The Fish Market smokes their own fish and it is so tasty, and works in some capacity for any meal - a spotlight for your brunch table to hors d'oeuvres for your dinner spread.

They don't allow restaurant or cocktail lounge buyouts, but they can put together a large sit down meal with a cocktail reception component too. My favorite find in this space is the front patio. Although it does face the El Camino, the sound isn't too overwhelming and is often a lovely, sunny spot. The perfect start to an event would be a cocktail reception on the front patio and then move into the group space at the back of the restaurant for the meal portion.

If you have an office luncheon or a need to bring a party platter to an event, The Fish Market is a great choice.
Should you need more help choosing a location for your next event, visit for more ideas and the inside track on event space and entertaining in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cascal and Tapas and Friends!

I originally stumbled upon Cascal with my bestie in a mad dash on a weeknight away from our regular duties.  We chose the restaurant because the decor was so cute and they were slammed.  

Cascal serves tapas which are Spanish small plates of appetizers and snacks. This style of eating is so fun with groups because you get to try bites of so many different dishes and their tapas menu has a variety of options. If not tapas, their entrees are nicely portioned. Basically you won't leave hungry. They also offer a gluten free menu which always kicks it up a notch for me.

The outdoor patio seating is lovely, under heat lamps for cooler nights.  The inside decor is warm, rich, and lively to match the food.  Nicely done!

Cascal limits the size groups they will serve on Friday and Saturday nights when they also host live music.  Plan your group events on their slower nights when they can accommodate it more easily.

They book small cocktail receptions in their outdoor patio space with limited food and beverage service. On a warm summer evening (remember those?) it would be really fun. One other option for event entertaining with Cascal is offsite catering.  They will send one of their chefs to your party location and he will prepare dishes off of the menu. Very doable and very styley!

Highly recommend a reservation for your next group dinner at Cascal or go to for more ideas on great locations for group meals in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Super Find! John Bentley's Quiet and Sophisticated Bar

Have you ever needed a place for a quiet conversation in the afternoon during the work week?  Something more sophisticated than a coffee shop? Maybe you needed to hammer out the final details of an important business deal or need to have a strategy session away from the office for neutral mind space? Well, I found an old friend who offers just that. John Bentley's in Redwood City.

The bar is cozy and quiet between 2 - 4:30 pm
John Bentley's serves lunch and dinner and has two event spaces that they offer up for business meetings and for special occasion dining, but their bar is open for service in between their two meal seatings.  It is a beautiful, fully stocked bar with super comfy chairs. It is that quiet, private and elegant place to meet in Redwood City while their kitchen is closed.

I was able to dine anonymously before visiting with their events manager and as usual, I made some initial assessments of their food and service.

1. I think their food falls into the fine dining category and was also very creative. Both the appetizers and entrĂ©es were pretty on the plate and tasted good. Wine list was nice. I believe a guest at an event hosted here would be impressed by the food.

2. The service was good, but our server was a bit chatty.  He was overly friendly, but well trained.  I think it was just this person's way in the world, but it seemed that the other diners were being provided with a level of service that matched the food. Also on subsequent visits the staff was helpful and appropriately friendly.

The event space on the dining room main floor is small. It holds 15 people comfortably and 24 tightly. They do have doors to close off the room from the main dining space, but I remember the main dining space as being full of voices and conversation when I dined there. I suspect that the noise level in that room even with the door closed for a business meeting would be a bit of a challenge. However, that space for a family celebratory meal or an incentive or holiday business meal would be super.

There is a dedicated space upstairs that is perfect for many types of events. Especially set up for business meetings and larger celebratory events, there is a full functioning bar upstairs, along with a bathroom and built in A/V screen and projector. The events manager seems very flexible in terms of how things could be set up and how the space could be utilized for different functions and needs. Not a great space for a cocktail reception, better for a sit down meal.

Book your next group meal, business meeting, or business meal at John Bentley's or contact for more ideas on great event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Palo Alto Bachelor Party Dinner - Sundance the Steakhouse

Not that much is still the same in Palo Alto's Food and Beverage scene as it was 35 years ago.  I suspect from their loyal customers that Sundance the Steakhouse has always served a good meal.

It has a very warm decor with historic and interesting touches, but it is dark so make sure you download a flashlight application before trying to see what treasures are on the wall or on your menu!  The dark woodwork, paneling, and artifacts immediately inspired the idea of a bachelor party dinner. Hearty food, done well, yet not what I would consider fine dining or stuffy. Menu pricing is on the expensive side, so definitely more of a special occasion spot and the service was outstanding!

I always dine at a place anonymously before meeting with the person who handles events because I really get a sense of the place and get to see its operations. So valuable! Here what I saw that this place does right:

1. Their decor is designed with their menu in mind and when you walk through those doors, the atmosphere readies the customer for a serious meal. Your meal will arrive handsomely placed, but the decor suggests a certain robustness to the meal and the plates don't disappoint.

2. What a following this place has! Their loyal customers have a special meal deal from 5 - 6 pm. Speaks volumes to the quality meal they produce.

3. Their award-wining Prime Rib was outstanding! It is special and if you want to have an event where prime rib is going to be your chosen entree, this is your place.  We ate appetizers, salads, desserts, all different cuts of meats for our entrees - all delicious. They also have a kid's menu!

4. Their wine list is extensive and has multiple price points.  They advertised a "famous" Lemon Drop Martini and they were as delightful as the wine we had with our meal.

5. Probably most important is that they had spot on service start to finish. Service counts for so much of the equation when deciding where to hold a group event and they delivered on that end. My guess is that they will exceed expectations on service when hosting an important birthday celebration or a business meal.

They have three semi-private spaces for group functions. A business meeting that required A/V or private, quiet spaces would not the right fit for this space. Family celebratory functions, a business meal, Happy Hour in their bar with hors d'oeuvres stations would all rock in this restaurant. Christmas and Stanford graduation are very busy times at Sundance, so plan ahead!

I learned so much more during my site visit at Sundance, so if you would like more information on event spaces in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City, please visit

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 5 Tips for Destination Planning for Groups

George Baggott
Canyonlands National Park
When I turned 40, I wanted to be in one of the most beautiful places I knew...Moab, Utah.   I had visited there with my husband shortly after we married and we have returned many times.  We have spent our most memorable family vacations with the children there, and so there wasn't much agonizing over a choice for me. I had planned a killer event for my husband in Yosemite the summer before so people were jazzed to join in on this trip too.

We had the best time!   Having now done a couple of successful trips, I was thinking that people might benefit from my top 5 tips for destination event planning.

1. Pick a place that is easy for your guests to reach.  Find places that are centrally located, that you can travel to by car, a place close to home or close to airports.  The more remote the location, the higher the hurdle for your invited guests to join you. When I chose Moab, I knew that its location would make it more difficult for my friends to join.  I tried to make traveling there easier by pairing up people who had similar travel dates, helping them to reserve airfare, and by reserving rental cars and organizing the drive with people arriving at the airport at the same time.  One central person helping with the travel arrangements made a big difference for the folks who were attending.

On the road to Moab, Utah
2. Pick a destination that has something for everyone.  Outdoors activities, shopping, kid entertainment - not everyone wants to do the same things so some advance preparations will make for an awesome trip.  You don't have to actually arrange different activities (although that can kick things up a notch for your guests), but just gathering information and availability will make your guests' decision-making tasks easier.  If there isn't going to be things of interest for some of your attendees, tell them up front what to expect, so that no one is upset with the destination's lack of a particular activity.

3. Chose a location that has a large array of accommodations.  Some people want something cheap and some people are going to want something high end with a hot tub.  Everyone needs something different and so having a location that has different accommodations within the same area or complex is perfect.

Miguel's Baja Grill
Moab, Utah
4. Plan group meals in advance.  Trying to figure out where to eat at the end of the day is more difficult and having one daily pre-planned event where the group comes together is so fun. Even if you aren't making group reservations every night, it makes sense to have a list of the restaurants that can accommodate larger groups so quick group decisions can be made.  I also like to plan one special meal for the group and think that if people are traveling to honor you, it is appropriate for you to host a group meal to thank everyone for coming.  That meal can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, or anything you can dream up - don't limit yourself!

5. Start planning early!  Destination events take a long time to arrange.  If you are planning to be at a location during its peak season, start planning one (1) year out.  Start with reserving accommodations because those tend to be harder to secure than any of the other details.   Keep good records of who has paid you. Keeping the money portion easy for your guests will make this trip easy to attend.

Let me know where you end up going with these tips, and if you are planning a destination event in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto or Redwood City, please go to for more information on where to stay and where to eat.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Passage to India and Public Transportation - Perfect Party!

My son loves all things transportation - trains, buses, trucks, cars, airplanes. Very boyish and very cute.  For his second birthday I planned a Touch a Truck Treasure Hunt via Public Transportation.  The key to this little boy birthday party was advanced planning.  We actually did all of our travel from Menlo Park to Mountain View with a small journey into Sunnyvale so feel free to swipe our path!

The itinerary was built with stops in between and a large group to herd.  I cut it a bit close in the beginning, so my recommendation is going to be adjusted slightly from the schedule we kept that day because the first leg of the trip really required more time.

We biked from The Willows neighborhood to the Menlo Park fire station on Middlefield, through Linfield Oaks to the Menlo Park CalTrain Station.  We took the train to downtown Mountain View and stopped in for Gelato.  It was delicious but not a quick stop.  We then hopped the light rail to the Lockheed Martin Station where we caught a bus which ultimately led us to Passage to India in Mountain View.

I had forgotten how awesome their Indian buffet is on the weekends.  They take reservations for groups, online through their own website, and they do have a "banquet room" off their main dining room to accommodate big parties.  This room was reserved the night that we were there for this party so we were accommodated to the left of their main bar, which meets you upon entrance to the restaurant.  We were split between two tables, which worked for us because we had adults and kids, so we had an instant kids' table!

Their food is really tasty and the variety of the buffet is always amazing. They have mini dosas and a large variety of vegetarian options, and they serve Indian "Chinese" food which is delicious too!  They never seem to mind parties bringing in kids and when they are busy, the turn over tables. The drinks came to the adults in a timely fashion and they kept our dirty plates moving off the table.  Children under 4 ate for free, children 5 - 7 ate at half price, and kids 8 and older at the adult price.

The place is decorated very casually and that is how I would describe the atmosphere as well.  I started to write that had I planned an adult birthday dinner at this restaurant and had our party been split up I wouldn't have liked that, but the truth is that if you are planning to bring a large group to Passage to India on one of their weekend buffet nights, you come knowing the atmosphere is casual and so will be the meal.  My friends would have naturally split between the two tables, only briefly to drop their sweaters and get in line for some serious Indian cuisine.

After dinner, we walked back to the CalTrain at the San Antonio Station and rode back to Menlo Park, where we biked home.  Plan to be at the train station 30 minutes before your train me it won't be enough!! We were home by 9 pm and we caught the 3:15 pm train out of Menlo Park. I used the websites of both CalTrain and VTA to figure out or routes and schedules.  It was an awesome adventure, beloved by adults as well as kids, and our group meal at Passage to India was a great fit for this event!

Need more ideas for kid birthday parties or restaurant recommendations? Please visit for more information

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Joan Fried, 1914 - 2010

My grandmother was the ultimate party planner and social connector. She always knew someone who knew someone wherever you were going.   She never forgot an occasion and usually insisted on celebrating it. She passed away today and I am thinking of all the events and parties that she threw.  She loved to get together and socialize and I admired that in her.  She taught me so much from just watching her go. I am so grateful.

She entertained with fine china and linens, always.  She laid out a table days before the party and placed a tablecloth over the table to keep it all perfect. She would awaken early the day of the event to start the cooking and preparations.  Her bar was well stocked.  The coffee and condiments ready. Everything well thought out, every time.

She had a small space in her condo, but she had all the right pieces to make room for her entertaining when necessary.  She was ready for company at a moment's notice and had her bridge group over days before she entered the hospital for the final time.  I am sure she had some snacks out on the table early that morning in anticipation of their arrival.

Her critical eye was impeccable when it came to throwing a party - her attention to detail was masterful.  She never, ever served anything out of the bottle at the table and the salt and pepper were married - always traveling together.  The table was set for breakfast and she always served it in a special way.  Eggs in the nest were the grandkid favorite and they were served beautifully.  Her fridge always stocked with items you liked.  She was the consummate hostess.

Every party I plan will have a bit of her style in it.  Every family dinner I arrange and prepare for will have a bit of her attention to detail that will make you feel special.  Every time I hear of someone headed to a town in which I know someone special, I am going to recommend they get in touch and have a drink.  Every time I see a white orchid, I will think of her.   Their beauty, their elegance, and their exactness speaks to who she was and will always find a spot in my design plans.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

5 vital things to remember when planning an event for fundraising

Planning a fundraiser is likely to be done by committee or at least you and a few girlfriends, which is how it was for an event which was thrown for the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund by me and three other women in Spring 2009.

I had worked on the Peninsula School Spring Fair with two of the women for two years because their children were in my child's class. We so enjoyed working together that we decided to plan a fundraiser together independent of the school. We added a fourth woman who had mad skills in graphics and design and off we went planning.

We chose COEEF to be our first beneficiary of this teamwork because one of the women in our group was from Ethiopia originally and she knew the organizers' work through some other experiences of meeting them. She was impressed with their work and so we decided to throw an afternoon open house, serve Ethiopian Food and Ethiopian wine. There would be a speech by the founder of the organization and we would decorate with authentic pieces form Ethiopia. High level planning came together quickly.

We laid our intentions on the table with COEEF and they were enthusiastic to come out and speak to a group of potential sponsors. We chose a date that worked for everyone and had a location because one of the women on our committee opened her home to our event (which is right out of Architectural Digest) so we were already making money for our chosen organization because we didn't have to pay for room rental! Magical! The whole event was so easy to plan and execute, when it's right, it's right.

Here are the top five things that I think I learned are most important to remember when planning an event like this one.

1. The appeal for donation has to be woven into the event plan because it is the most important function of this gathering - plain and simple. Do not lose sight of the prize when planning this type of event - start with two questions a) when are you going to ask for the money?, and b) how are you going to ask for the money? Build out your event from there. We knew we wanted something more casual for our first foray into fundraising events and the open house seemed to be a perfect pitch to our friends and colleagues, who were our demographic for this event. Come eat, hear a short speech, and visit with people over a glass of wine with a spectacular view. We planned the speech when we thought the most number of people would be at the party and we planned the whole event from that central point.

Invitation image created by
Robin McCloskey
2. Everything you can get for free or for a discount is money in the hands of your charity - get someone on your team who isn't afraid to ask for discounts. Case in point, when my friend had finished these amazingly beautiful invitations we wondered if they would give us a discount since we were doing a fundraiser. She immediately shied away from that task because that wasn't her comfort zone. I was not at all shy about asking. We used Jungle Digital Imaging in Palo Alto and when I walked in and explained what we were doing to Adam, the manager, he gave us a deep discount off the price of the invites for a small byline on the back of the card. We were thrilled!

3. Learn about event underwriting. People or companies can underwrite or "sponsor" an event. Why would someone want to underwrite your event? They want access to your guest list from a marketing perspective or they may want their name associated with your cause. They may want a booth or a banner at your event or may want advertising space on your publicity or event materials. Best to try and figure out an angle of how a company or individual might connect to your event and what they are going to get in return during the early planning stages because you will likely need some underwriters to get your event executed.

4. Who you invite to this event directly relates to how you plan this event to meet your fundraising goals. The guest list couldn't be more important for these types of events. Know your demographic and how to get them to the party. These days there are many ways to invite people to events - use the method that attracts your target audience. Remember point #1 - this is about raising money and you have to customize a fundraiser to make it as easy to give as possible. There are different levels of givers and different expectations and approaches and that information affects every plan you make, so give it thought!

5. People give money to organizations with whom they feel connected and trust. You can't expect to raise money from people who haven't connected to the cause or the organization. There has to be a relationship between the giver and the receiver, and putting on an event like this makes you the matchmaker. A good match is one in which the event creates the opportunity for the organization of honor to connect with each donor. That is quite a bit of responsibility, but you're hosting a fundraiser, so planning from the heart shouldn't be a stretch for you.

If you need more information on event planning, please visit

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's the small touches that really make for a beautiful event

Just returned from my brother-in-law's wedding this past weekend and although I had a nasty cold, I was able to take enough acetaminophen to make it to the wedding ceremony and reception.  Having been the wedding coordinator at Caneel Bay Resort in the U.S. Virigin Islands, I have held weddings in gorgeous surroundings, but this weekend's event at Deception Pass State Park in Anacortes, WA was truly spectacular.

Gorgeous scenery aside, I was once again struck by the little touches that push an event to another level!  The color scheme of the entire event seemed to be based off of the bride's gorgeous Carolina Herrera bridal gown (Love Cage is the name of the dress) and it was so exquisite.  The awesome little touch here was that you couldn't tell if she bought the dress to suit the wedding location or if the beauty of this place inspired her to seek out this particular wedding dress.  It was elegant and sophisticated, but whimsical, and if you can believe it, the dress even had an "outdoorsy" touch.  It was seamless!

The colors pulled out of the dress were recreated in every slight touch and they were in concert with the surroundings.  The reception was held in an outdoor space and rustic pavilion in the state park which was a 3/4 mile walk on a spectacular cliff side path with views - well you know - incredible.  Millions of smoothed stones line the beach coves along the walk and the reception site.

The rocks are pulled off the beach and into the event by writing each guest's name in metallic paint pen and then placing the rocks on a large graphic number representing their table number.  Each table number is printed on canvas and burlap material (also within the color scheme) that would also be laid on picnic tables with the opposite colors as runners.  Stunning.

One of the bridesmaids had bought unprinted prayer flags and had written a word on each flag.  They were words of wisdom, hopes, dreams.  They were hung around the edge of one of the tents so there were likely a 100 flags hanging down.  Such a heartfelt touch and sweet gift to the bride and groom.

Paper lanterns and little white lights were the perfect touch!
The rustic structure that held a huge fireplace, which was kept well stocked throughout the night,  was lightly decorated in white strung lights along the beams of the ceilings and paper lanterns in opportune places.  The fireplace had a huge mantle which held odd shaped glass candle holders and mason jars filled with white candles of all different sizes and shapes.  Not fussy at all, but so pretty.

The bride also had a Seattle purse maker  Crystalyn Kae design pleated clutch purses for her bridesmaid gifts and as a gift for her mother and mother-in-law.  The purses were beautiful and each purse was slightly different in that the colors were customized.  I grabbed her card (out of my mother-in-law's purse) and I intend to get one of her purses as soon as possible!  Just beautiful!

Cannot leave this wedding post without mentioning the bride and groom's invitation - very unique idea that I thought rocked - they mailed out a cd of music that they hand selected that arrived in a brown (likely on 100% recycled paper) casing with their wedding invitation printed on the front. Super cool!

What seemed to work for this event was that the bride and groom kept their theme in mind with every decision that was made.  It also seemed as if the people around them that were helping to make decisions kept their wishes in mind too.   Some of the most stylish parties are the ones where the little things get executed with the same thoughtfulness that goes into the big decisions.

Those things are hard to think of when planning an event yourself, so visit to see some resources and ideas for your next event.