Cakes ahoy!

Cakes ahoy!

An event planner details her most interesting and challenging project to date.

I know that I’m lucky to have the job that I have. As an event planner, your days are never boring and the job is hardly repetitive. At its core, it’s being paid to throw parties for other people. But the difficult part of the job can sometimes be overlooked by those less acquainted with the demands of event planning.

Themed parties and cocktail events require meticulous planning and attention to the slightest detail. As clients are spending big money on their big day, they reserve the right to alter and change their event as they see fit. It can be a burden to be so close to the client, but mostly it’s taken on-board as an extra voice lending support to the proceedings.

What’s truly difficult is when an event is being thrown by the kind of client who prefers to defer completely to the planner. It can be nerve wracking as the stakes are high: the client will either love it totally, or hate it vehemently. Every planner has to taste failure before finding success, but occasionally there are events that can help build your confidence and status as an organiser.

Last month, I was surprised to receive a call from a certain mining magnate who’d been referred to me by a previous client. The brief was simple: it was his grandson’s ninth birthday and one he wanted the boy to remember forever. The two shared a love of the ocean, spending weekends together sailing and fishing aboard a luxury vessel. The boy had a love for all things nautical (maps in particular) and the dutiful grandfather wanted to spare no expense in throwing him a sea- themed birthday party. He informed me that I shouldn’t go overboard, but added that he didn’t expect it to be cheap.

The brief was not at all rigorous and there was a lot of pressure riding on my key concept. Throwing this event would be a coup for me, one that could help establish my reputation in town. With only two weeks until the birthday, I quickly got to work on my designs.

Over the following fortnight, I visited the grandfather’s famous house (a palatial estate that spread over nearly sixty hectares) and co-ordinated the space for the party. Given the size of the lovely outdoor area and the nearby pool, I decided to use the drawing room inside as a themed space for the party.

With the help of my assistant I began making the rounds, picking up the various things needed to transform the house into a sea-scape. I purchased all the ocean props (crabs, fish, starfish) from a local moulder. I bought unique pirate uniforms for the wait-staff and greeters. But the icing on the cake was the wide selection of authentic looking maps over at the Chart and Map Shop in Perth . Looking through their wide range of reproduction and original maps, a great idea came to me: the drawing room should be completely transformed into the cabin of a ship, like the captain’s quarters lived in by an old sea-dog. I snapped up a beautiful mix of old and new maps, and set to work ageing and rolling them for use in the set.

A happy birthday boy!

A happy birthday boy!

On the morning of the big day, I set all the finishing touches to the decorations. It was a gratifying experience when the grandson walked in through the front door. In awe of the scene, he began exploring all the items with his fingers: the crabs and the starfish, the tridents and binoculars, and especially the curled and secretive maps bundled into the dark desk in the corner of the captain’s quarters.

At the end of the day, the eminent grandfather approached me to express his thanks for throwing such a wonderful party. “He’s had a smile from ear to ear all day,” he joked. “It’s definitely something he’ll remember about his grandad in years to come.” I nodded and watched as the children ran about in glee. This was one of those moments that combined job satisfaction with pride, something rare and unpredictable in this profession. To this day, it remains one of my most talked about and personally regarded projects.

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