Mar

19

2013


Speakeasy Engagement Party

Geoffrey, a dapper father of two amazing kids, and Katherine, a brilliant and beautiful triathlete, found each other at just the right time in their lives, and I’ve loved watching their romance grow. G popped the question in the fall, setting their wedding-planning year into motion.

I was honored when Katherine asked me to be in her bridal party and was eager to start planning the first celebration alongside her local bridesmaids, Brandi, Brittany and Mandy. We enjoyed brainstorming, crafting and creating an engagement party for the adorable couple, and I was excited to host the evening at our place. We decided on a speakeasy theme with mood lighting, gilded boozy-bottle décor and 20s attire.



Our unique version of this Wedding Paper Divas invite helped set the theme into motion for a roaring engagement party. Guests RSVPed to our party-specific gmail address and google phone number (Great idea, Mandy!), where they could receive the speakeasy password, “manatee.” The password was selected for no reason other than the bride-to-be’s irrational fear of the gentle sea cow.


Liquid Leaf-painted jars and clear mason jars were sprinkled around the party and illuminated with a mixture of real and battery-operated tea light candles.

Beer and wine bottles from the hostesses’ homes, plus some collected from a local watering hole, were spray painted in silver and gold and placed in clusters with candles. Getting the labels off the bottles required a long soak in a soapy cooler + a Brillo pad.

Brittany’s pretty damask ribbon added a nice touch around a grouping of bottles and to a gorgeous feather arrangement (which I neglected to capture).



Guests could take their pick of flapper flair. We created complimentary hair do-dads using assorted feathers and hair clips from the craft store. A basket filled with 20s-era props was also nearby for those looking to ham it up. Chalkboard clips made easy labels and complimented the speakeasy theme. We relocated our kitchen chalkboard to the fireplace and added the couple’s names using chalk pens, mimicking the invitation font.

At the bar, a 20s drink was in order, so we did a little research and selected “the Bee’s Knees,” a gin-based drink. I’d say it was definitely more gin-based than juice-based. Lemons and fresh local honey made it a sweet signature beverage in addition to beer and wine options. The Pandora station played Jazz Age tunes until we got a little crazy with the iPods later in the evening.


At the appetizer table, we included a few of the bride’s favorites, such as bruschetta and of course the Junior League Feta Black Bean dip. The delicious strawberry cupcakes were homemade by bridesmaid Brittany – her striped cupcake liners and turquoise dessert stands were a pretty addition to the color palette.

On the patio, an overturned Jack Daniels half barrel (Home Depot) with a glass top (Bed, Bath & Beyond) created a rustic, speakeasy place to rest a beverage. The little chalkboard buckets were a Target dollar-bin find, and they looked super cute with the couple’s initials. Thankfully, the yard was in bloom, so bunches of camellias in buckets helped dress up the patio.


Guests kicked it up celebrating Katherine & Geoffrey. And most importantly, K & G looked like they had a blast. Happy engagement, you two! We look forward to your big day and every celebration along the way! We love you!

Dec

17

2012


How to: Serve Wine at Parties

When preparing for get-togethers this holiday season, or any time of year, wine is a safe and expected element for the cocktail list. Refer to these tips in your party-planning process to avoid overlooking bar elements, and set up a smooth vino spread.

Purchase Prep
As a general rule, it’s better to have a little more on-hand than what you need for a party. Take a look at your guest list, and estimate the number of wine drinkers – your guess doesn’t have to be perfect! One bottle of wine fills about four to five glasses, and you can expect an average of three glasses per wine-drinker. After a little math, you’ll be in grape shape!

A Vino Variety
Offer guests options, including both red and white wine. I like to offer at least two whites (a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc) and one red (a Pinot Noir), and more varieties depending on the size of the party. Other popular reds include Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet.

Brands: When in doubt, ask your local wine retailer for recommendations based on the number of guests and your budget. Price doesn’t necessarily dictate best taste.

Cater to Guests
If you know a particular guest will expect her favorite Pinot Grigio, make it happen. If someone loves Prosseco and it’s her birthday, break out a bottle for the special lady!

Chill Out
Be sure white wines begin to chill at least 1-2 hours before guests arrive – make use of any room in the fridge for pre-chilling, rather than wasting ice early. Before guests arrive, place white wines in buckets or tubs piled high with ice.

For Openers
Open a red and white (or two) before guests arrive, so no one has to fuss too much with the opening process. Tools to have nearby: a foil cutter (to eliminate unsightly edges that cause dribbling) and a trusted, easy-to-use wine opener.

Free the Reds!
Once you uncork a red, let it breathe. Set the cork aside in case you need it later on for storage.

At Your Service
For those tending the bar, the general rule is to fill glasses halfway, since it allows guests to swirl and appreciate aromas. Personally, I like to pour a little more than halfway!

Proper Supplies
For a more formal event, have enough red and white wine glasses available for guests. Otherwise, be sure to have wine size-appropriate plastic cups. Cocktail napkins are also a must!

Wishing you safe and successful celebrations throughout this merry season!

Oct

30

2012


Surprisingly Entertaining Tips from Joan Bever, The Breakers Palm Beach

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate as we approach the end of the year, and Joan Bever of The Breakers Palm Beach has some helpful tips for hosts and hostesses!

As director of food and beverage for catering and banquet operations at Florida’s legendary AAA Five Diamond resort, Joan Bever has one guiding philosophy: Impeccable personalized service, fueled by an intense passion for perfection.

She approaches every facet of event planning and execution in this way, leading more than 200 dedicated associates who flawlessly transform dreams into realities. Bever oversees the various departments that contribute to the effort, including catering sales; culinary services; stewarding; The Breakers’ own in-house décor company, The Design Studio; and audio-visual services, Palm Beach Staging & Production.

Bever has worked diligently to earn an extraordinary reputation for creative vision, collaborative execution and merciless attention to detail. Says Bever, “A wedding dinner for 50 or 500 is as elegant and delectable as a gourmet dinner for two.” Every detail becomes a coveted opportunity to surprise and delight guests.

To effectively engage a new generation of brides and grooms, Bever has tapped the Internet and social media with the re-launch of weddingsbythebreakers.com, a site she first conceived in 2007, to underscore the importance of modern-day wedding planning and communications. This online destination encourages interaction before and after special events, takes full advantage of social media by utilizing resources such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and engages the bridal community through the site’s own dedicated blog.

Bever has been part of the luxury hotel business since 1982, having held positions at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, before joining The Breakers Palm Beach in 1992 as catering manager. Her favorite wedding was her daughter’s, which was hosted at The Breakers in the magnificent Circle Ballroom (Photographed below by Donny Newman.)

Oh My Goodness Gracious asked Joan a few questions. Here’s what she graciously shared!

What advice do you have for the budding host or hostess?
Joan Bever: There are really no rules when it comes to selecting a menu. We like to tell our clients to think of the dinner menu as if you were having friends over your home – you can’t make everyone happy with your menu, but with at least three sensational courses you know everyone will find something they like and enjoy a wonderful evening.

Another “must do” for special events is to incorporate an element of surprise. Ensure a “wow factor” with an interactive element – like a pizza station or a candy bar – or, add fun to your event with fireworks, sparklers or unique party favors.

Are there any dos / don’ts you’d like to share? Cardinal rules your staff is expected to follow?
Joan Bever: My favorite aspect of special event is the opportunity to be a part of something so special. We get to work closely with our clients to plan a memorable event and it’s always so wonderful to watch all your planning come to fruition. We’re in the business of making unforgettable memories, and you just cannot beat that experience – my cardinal rule is to never forget that.

My “do” for all hosts and hostess: Relax! Forget the worrying and leave all the planning to my team of professionals.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

What are some of the details (which may go unnoticed) that you provide to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience to guests?
Joan Bever: When choosing The Breakers Palm Beach for a celebration or destination wedding, guests can expect a spectacular venue, extraordinary cuisine and above all, very personalized service. With a multitude of amenities, guests can also expect to start enjoying the moment they arrive on property – our staff ensures they can leave all of their worries behind as every want or need can be found on property.

From the first meeting with one of our catering managers, to the menu tasting, through every aspect of the planning process and throughout the event weekend, our staff combines experience with sensitivity to ensure all of our clients’ dreams become reality and their guests enjoy an incredible experience.

Is there a Breakers staff motto / tip from your culture of excellence you’d be willing to share?
Joan Bever: The Breakers stands alone with unmatched quality and versatility in cuisine, presentation and service. Our working environment is characterized by teamwork and dedication, while consistently providing a high level of personalized, sincere and engaging service to all guests at all times.

As our president, Paul Leone says, “We believe that to achieve our goals, the most important element of our strategy is to attract, retain, and develop the best and brightest talent in the hospitality industry.” That extraordinary emphasis on our team clearly benefits our clients.

The Breakers Palm Beach – Photograph Courtesy of Lila Photo

Is there anything we’d be surprised to know?
Joan Bever: It’s really all the little details that can truly make a tremendous impact. You might be surprised to know the amount of people or departments involved in a special event (hundreds), or the amount of flowers used on a wedding “chuppah” (a traditional canopy used in the ceremony) or even the number of lights needed to illuminate a performance.

Is there a signature drink or recipe you’d be willing to share with us?
Joan Bever: Certainly! We have many fun and delicious recipes perfect for a signature cocktail. Here is a link to the recipe for our Flirtini Cocktail.

Thanks, Joan! Cheers!

Oct

25

2012


Free-wheeling

I’m convinced the open space along one of our living room walls can only be filled by a bar cart. In fact, I believe the original owners of our 50s pad likely enjoyed their own bar cart regularly in just the space I have in mind. Whether vintage treasures or new beauties like those below, bar carts are such happy, welcoming and versatile little pieces of furniture.

My well-appointed beverage station will one day include glasses, cocktail napkins, garnish of sorts, a killer ice bucket, a smattering of liquors and maybe a bowl of lemons. I’ve also seen bar carts styled with accessories like books, plants and lamps – the possibilities are endless! Dear Santa, these are the bar carts on my radar:

  1. Mrs. Lilien Bar Cart by Society Social, $550
  2. Sedgewick Bar Cart by Society Social, $515
  3. Becket Bar Cart by Williams-Sonoma, $999
  4. Emory Bar Cart by Arteriors, $1,399
  5. Libations Bar Cart by Crate and Barrel,$599

Sep

11

2012


No Celebration Penalties Here!

Tailgate season is in full swing, and inspiration to spruce up your spread can be found just about anywhere…no matter what your team colors.


During a recent tailgate, a few yards of burlap plus some orange and blue bandanas made for a casual-yet-colorful table dressing. The bandanas ended up being quite versatile, and at just 99 cents each at Hobby Lobby, quite a deal. A couple of clothespins, and presto!

I had to improvise on the location of my flamingo friends. They wouldn’t stand in the gravel but showed perfect posture perched inside the drink bucket.



Daytime cocktails included Bloody Marys, sweet tea vodka with lemonade, and gin and tonic. To hold a smattering of garnish options, including pom-pom drink stirrers, I used some sturdy orange and blue hand-blown glasses.

Customized cups – No celebration penalties here! – were a hit with our tailgate visitors. Visit the Oh My Goodness Goodies section for a coupon code on your own cup orders, plus some fun tailgate tagline ideas!



Extra bandanas helped decorate the food spread, which included the winning pepper jelly-cream cheese-and-cracker combo, sugar cookies, and salmon and herbed cheese pinwheels made from a Williams-Sonoma recipe.


Tailgate tips: A pop-up cooler lined with a trash bag makes a great collapsible, easy-store trash bin for tailgates. Add a paper towel holder to your tabletop for when a cocktail napkin will not do.

Aug

15

2012


Oh My Goodness Garnish: Pom-pom Stirrers

I love garnish. From mini mermaids to mammoth olive skewers, it’s fun to dress up your drink! These little pom-pom stirrers are easy to make at home, and they are fun for almost any occasion.

Grab a glass of wine, get settled with your favorite cocktail-themed movie, and start preparing these festive little fluffies for your next gathering. All you’ll need: sparkly 1-inch pom-poms in you color(s) of choice, wood craft sticks and a hot glue gun.