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The Method to the Madness of Event Planning and the birth of the S.M.I.L.E. method

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

As I sit here one week before my very first public paid event, I look around the room at the complete madness that scares my little dog, much less a guest. However, what I see is a system that is a result of what I see in my head. I never realized how much of what I do is so different from others. I know I put in hours and hours of planning the tiniest details to my events, but I never thought it wasn't the norm until I wasn't enlisted to help some friends plan one of my best friends big birthday party. Wait what? Who wouldn’t want me to get involved in their party planning – I live and breathe the details until the big day. So, I came to realize that my OCD in details might be a bit intimidating to others trying to plan their own way.

People used to always tell me after a party of mine, that I should do event planning. My instant reaction was, “Oh no, I am not David Tutera”, that’s way above me. Then my next statement would always be…I don’t really want to be hired to do someone else’s party unless they were able to just give me a theme and a budget and say GO! I know that sounds like I am not a team player, and that’s because in this area of my life, I guess I’m really not. Yes, I love working with people and I need people to survive and succeed as the Libra I am. But when It comes to my creativity, I just don’t know if I could see it through someone else’s eyes. I would finally reply by saying what I want to do is throw my own parties. I live for theme parties. I actually don’t think I can throw a party without a theme. I went to do my daughters Sweet 16 party, and of course, it needed to have a theme. But she wouldn’t give me one and said “Mom, it can just be a party”. For the love of God, child, I hope you’re joking. That’s like posting on a Wednesday and it not being #WCW or Wine Wednesday. That’s just not right.

And that’s what I have been doing for years. It started with holiday parties in my 20’s, and then I always made sure my besties birthdays were planned out and executed to the 9’s. I was a CFO in a former life but instead of Chief Financial Officer, they called me the Chief Fiesta Officer. I was determined to bring joy to the office so I planned events all the time. The best one was when I turned the Accounting Department into the company’s lunchtime Happy Hour spot. I decorated the office like a movie theater, with popcorn, and a full concession stand. With the help of the IT department and a flat screen TV, I played an hour-long comedy stand up show. Yup, it was ‘happy hour’ but this time it was done the non-alcoholic way (Yes, there is a way to do it).

As time went on I started realizing the connection with my girlfriends was getting strained. We all seemed to have less time to spontaneously get together. I was recently divorced and this left me in a place of loneliness that I didn’t like. I started thinking of new ventures I could develop. I went on a whole tangent about opening a modern-day women’s club, like a country club for women but way more hip. I needed girlfriend time and going to sit at a bar and find a girl to talk to just isn’t the same like the men can do. It seemed even in the nail salons we kept to our phones - nothing like the scene at a barbershop. Where could I find a place to go?

I decided okay maybe I need to get on my tribe’s schedule. I started by creating a girl’s night in at my house. Scheduling it in advance seemed to work. I just couldn’t have them over - we needed a theme for heaven’s sake! And the madness grew from there. We had an awesome Breakfast at Tiffany’s party, where I told the girls to bring me their best Audrey Hepburn look and I would supply all the bling accessories. That night was so much fun. I decorated the entire house like you were walking into the Tiffany Flagship store in New York. I had a caterer, decadent desserts with an artistic Tiffany blue box cake, signature drinks, a fabulous backdrop with props and a party swag bag filled with my favorite things.

I went on to do several more theme parties, even removing complete rooms of furniture so I could turn my lower level into an old school night club. I found my creativity flourished - still not at the David Tutera level, but way above the average party throwing level.

I developed a system to planning all my parties and realized what works. The women’s country club dream was starting to evolve into a deeper level of passion and finding its’ purpose. I started to dream about not doing these events at my home, but doing them in a fabulous venue instead.

The planning of these events became my stress reliever to my crazy career and family life. My motto would be “Oh, you can’t make this shit up”. I realized that the ‘girlfriend therapy’ feeling that during my events with the girls was the prescription to all my pain. I know if I was thriving because of it, that other women would, too.

I have a formula that I have crafted for myself that works.

First, you have to have lots of glam - we ladies love sparkles,it makes us happy. Grown women everywhere stop in their tracks daily just to compliment an item I am wearing that has sparkles. It could be my shoes, clothes, purse, coin purse, or nails, doesn’t matter, the ladies always notice and it always brings a smile to their faces.

Second, the jams – great music is a must have. You don’t need to create a night club vibe, but music touches everyone’s soul, gets you moving and takes us back to happy days that makes for an unforgettable night. Think about all the songs you know from back in the day, where you know every word and everyone sings them as loud as they can.

Third, onto the food. We don’t want anyone to think they failed on their latest diet craze, so that trick is to use small bites, not pans of buffet food. The food should feel like a party in their mouth with burst of flavors, and textures. I use mini hors d’oeuvres cups and plates, so my guests can try a little at a time and indulge in each item in its entirety. I also do mini items that most would never order a whole plate of, i.e. chicken and waffles. Who doesn’t love this? But that will break the diet bank, so just a small appetizer size will leave you talking about it for days.

If those calories weren’t deceiving enough, there is always a dessert table. I mainly use a dessert

table to pull together my theme and bring it to life. I typically have a cake designed that becomes a major focal point and eye catcher, with delicious flavors and then surround it with mini decadent desserts. There’s that word again, decadent. Or as I call it, “a party in your mouth”. I always want my guests to try something new and the only words they can say it “Oh my God, that is sooooo good”.

Fourth, signature drinks are the craze. The more I did events I would order the ‘open bar” option at the hotel venue and I would also ask to have two signature drinks. First, it gave me a reason for another glam sign, and second, it really added to my theme. What I started to realize is that people really do like to participate and not be left out. If I have an Hawaiian theme and a signature blue Hawaiian cocktail, 9 times out of 10, everyone went for the theme drinks. I began to realize it was unnecessary to have a complete stocked open bar. Yes there are always a few, but having just the basics as backup, will always work out if you have two signature drinks with different alcohol in it.

Fifth, moving on to photo backdrops. We live in the social media, smart phone world and we all know how to take pictures. Photo backdrops are a MUST - they became the fun of the party. I am known for glitter so you will always find sequins in my pictures, but it is also important to have fun props. I try to be unique and visualize those perfect fun party pics, as I know everyone will love to post out a great party pic. That brings me to lighting… it is a must. The selfie light or a backdrop lights are important, but so are the lights around the room. It’s the feel and ambiance that gets people into the right mood, so I spend lots of time making sure the lighting it just right. Guests are left with the perfect pictures for their memories, so the lightening is critical.

Sixth, and last but not least, signage. I want my guests to walk In and never once have to ask for guidance. Visually they can see it all, from understanding the theme, to labels on the food, to signs about the drinks, to restroom signs. This helped me start to enjoy my own parties. I no longer have to walk around seeing if everyone has what they need, because they know where everything is and what it is for.

If all of these categories are checked off then it leaves a room full of laughter, guests relaxed for a few hours and exhaling as they end the night. They left their worries at the door and enjoyed an ALL inclusive evening out.

I might scare the dog this week while everything is spread all over the place with backdrops, table cloths, lights, vases, to props and themes décor, but I have a system to this madness and the formula leaves a SMILE on their face every time. Isn’t this what everyone does, or is it just me? Ok fine it’s just me.

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Aileen Blake
Aileen Blake
Mar 26, 2020

Modern technology is both a curse and a cure. It has pushed us into these private bubbles but also allows us to connect in ways that have never been available before. I find as I get a little further down the road, I need my girlfriends even more. I am thankful for investing in lifelong relationships that can fill the needs as only a girlfriend can. Thank you for reminding us that it is an investment well spent.


Aileen Blake
Aileen Blake
Feb 11, 2020

It is definitely just you....but that is what makes you ... YOU!

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