Keren Precel of Keren Precel Events (kerenprecelevents.com) breaks down the small things that make a big impact when it comes to planning the perfect party.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LAUNCH YOUR BUSINESS?
I was always in and around the creative arts. I studied fashion design and later became a graphic designer working mostly on music events production design. Following the birth of my first son, I was feeling professionally dormant and unproductive, and a friend I had worked with on music events asked for my help in designing a party for her baby boy. That job stirred something in me, and I decided that combining my passion for design, food and curation to kick off a decorated dessert table business would get me out of the rut.
My husband was a full-time student at the time. We were living on a single salary, and starting a company was risky, but he was my first and biggest supporter—so I applied for credit (for a sum that today might seem small but back then was considerable), bought some tabletop and decorative items, and used our son’s second birthday party as a launch pad. I designed every element, hired a photographer and collaborated with artisanal vendors to create a custom-designed sweets table. It was a small event, but every component was meticulously produced. I sent photographs to all the big blogs (this was 2012, no Instagram yet) and ended up being featured on all of them. That exposure landed me my first client, and things started snowballing from there—one client brought another, then another—and before I knew it, I had my first full-time employee.
I really just followed my guts and knew that this is what I wanted, and had, to do—at 37, I finally found my true calling. Not long after that, in 2015, I had my first big summer party in the Hamptons, and the rest is history!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE EVENTS YOU HAVE PLANNED?
The annual Challenged Athletes Foundation gala in Bridgehampton, which we are happy and humbled to be planning and designing for the third year in a row. Being able to create an event for such an important cause, and working with all the inspiring people involved with what CAF does, always fills me with joy and pride. The energy in the space is always infectious, and it’s a very special and meaningful night for me.
A recent White Lotus-themed party for one of our dear clients. We recreated, from scratch, the hotel entrance and lobby (yes, including a Vespa); procured dozens of handmade head statues to decorate with gorgeous flora; and even had synchronized swimmers to entertain guests during cocktail hour. But none of these matched the surprise rainstorm, complete with 40 mph winds, that Mother Nature gifted us, also hitting a nearby power post and cutting all electricity to the entire town. In true TV drama style, we raced to bring the party back to life with generator power and ended up making it an epic and memorable night.
A music festival-inspired party we created in our client’s backyard for 400 people. We built a stadiumsize stage (just watching that mega-tent and stage go up was an event in and of its own), delivered the biggest U2 cover band in the world for an unforgettable show and fed guests from numerous concession-style booths. That was a true palooza for the ages.
WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING A GREAT EVENT?
Exquisite decor, mouthwatering refreshments and great music—all elements that can make or break an event. But without something that connects them, they’re just that, individual components. The flow of the party and what each guest experiences (what marketers call the consumer journey) is that magical quality that ties everything together and elevates our events to make them unique and memorable, starting with the invitation and everything taking place from the arrival until guests leave and beyond. This is especially true in the Hamptons, where many guests are invited to several parties every weekend—and must be constantly surprised and delighted.
All those pesky details that are anything but fun, but make the fun—and, more importantly, the client’s peace of mind—possible. Which exact town is the event space, or client’s home, located in? What permits or coverages are required? What will the parking accommodations look like? What are the noise ordinances in the area? And so on. Being aware of every single detail or possibility and planning accordingly is key and can save considerable time, headache and money.
A lemon-themed dinner party
The wet summers of New York are especially challenging when it comes to planning events in the Hamptons, where nothing provides a backdrop to a party as the gorgeous outdoors. So, planning for any rain eventuality is a must, especially in the past couple of years, with the weather becoming increasingly unpredictable. This obviously means constantly checking forecasts and possibly providing alternate areas in the venue or setting up tents and generators to be prepared for any eventuality.
WHAT IS NO PARTY COMPLETE WITHOUT?
Clean, well-stocked bathrooms! An unorthodox choice for sure, but trust me on this. Nothing is worse than attending a chic party, where every little detail is meticulously presented, and then going to wash your hands or refresh yourself in a bland or understocked (not to mention dirty) bathroom or trailer. Invest in some nice hand towels, lights and scents; stock the room with goodies that give an extra touch of style and elegance; and have someone assigned to be a bathroom attendant if you can.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE MOST PEOPLE MAKE WHEN PLANNING AN EVENT?
No doubt, trying to do everything on their own. We love our seasoned clients, but even for the most experienced host, there is a big difference between a small dinner party hosted at home and a tented 150-person party in the backyard that requires construction, permitting, valets, portable restrooms and a slew of additional moving parts.
A successful party does not only rely on the guests, music, food and decor. The host has a key role at every gathering, and they should be relaxed and able to enjoy the event— not worry about why the catering company is late or if the bar is missing an ingredient for a signature drink. For any event that includes more than a small handful of guests, the host should hire a planner or, at a minimum, assign someone to handle the logistics on the day of the party, so they can enjoy the event with their guests in a carefree manner.
WHAT UPCOMING NEWS FOR YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD WE SHARE FOR THE SEASON AHEAD?
To paraphrase Leonard Cohen: First, we took the Hamptons, and now we’re ready to take on the world! We have been known regionally for our epic social parties and weddings, and we recently started planning to bring the same energy, and our clients’ events, overseas. Our clients—whether for social events or weddings—are savvy professionals who travel often and want the same bespoke experiences we have provided for years and not merely ‘more stuff .’ We are now expanding our operations to gorgeous global destinations, like Capri and Paris, to continue offering our clients tailored experiences that they’ll remember forever around the world. For us, the sky is the limit—and we are setting up to design, build and also fl y the plane.
An ultraluxe tablescape overflowing with fresh blooms and matching tablecloth for a 10th anniversary party.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR ENTERTAINING ESSENTIALS IN TERMS OF CANDLES, TABLEWARE, FLOWERS, ETC.?
‘Essentials’ is deceiving because every client and every event is one of a kind, and so they all have special ‘essentials’ that are unique only to them. A glass cup is not only a glass cup—it’s potentially a candleholder, a breadstick vessel or a riser for a flower arrangement. On one recent event, we used glazed plant pot bases as plates, which also had the evening’s menu handwritten on them. Any thing can be anything, and I always look at all the elements I procure from a different angle and a fresh perspective; I play with materials and shapes and mix colors, patterns and textures. Everything is an opportunity to surprise and delight the host and guests, even using mere ‘essentials.’
WHAT IS THE BEST PARTY YOU EVER ATTENDED AND WHY?
My wedding! My husband, Daniel, and I ‘eloped’ to Vegas (not really, we just chose to have the ceremony by ourselves, with our close loved ones watching around the world via satellite). To celebrate with our larger circle of family and friends a few months later, we rented a 100-year-old stone house in the old city of Tel Aviv, near Jaff a, filled with eclectic antiques and candelabras with hundreds of candles; it felt like going back in time while celebrating our future. Such a special night, free of the stress of the ceremony, surrounded by our amazing family and friends, and enjoying incredible food, drinks and music—a party I’ll never forget.
Photography by: PHOTO BY MARCELA CUSSOLIN; BACKGROUND PHOTO BY JOSEF DE SOUZA/SHUTTERSTOCK; PHOTO: COURTESY OF KEREN PRECEL; BY MARCELA CUSSOLIN