Event Resources & Tips

Wow…what a spring! I still feel like I’m coming down from the clouds after the launch of my Dillard’s tabletop collab, and of course co-chairing the Symphony Fashion Show last month. It’s been wonderful, but I’m taking a moment to focus on my family and the crazy number of end-of-school-year activities (can we all agree these are OUT OF CONTROL?!).

I can’t thank y’all enough for your support this year, and I’d also like to welcome our new friends who’ve recently started following Mrs. Southern Social. At our core, Mrs. Southern Social is all about modern entertaining: I say let’s keep the tradition of southern hospitality but update the rules. We talk a lot about delegating, and to me that means creatively using existing resources to make your life easier – bringing in delicious carry-out for a dinner party, calling a florist while you handle the food, or using uber-chic paper goods to make cleanup a breeze. It’s southern charm without lifting an arm! 

To that end, I’ve compiled a chart of my go-to resources for everything from stationers to food and more. You’ve heard me talk about all these folks before, but I realize I’ve never created a complete reference list for y’all. I also have some updated event-planning tips based on takeaways from both the Fashion Show and my Dillard’s parties. These tips are geared more toward larger gatherings, but you can absolutely keep them in mind for intimate gatherings, as well. Happy hostessing!

MARY’S GO-TO EVENT RESOURCES (asterisks [*] denote local Nashville shops)

EVENT PLANNING TIPS (Also be sure to check out my wedding planning guide and my guide to planning baby/bridal showers.)

Overcommunicate. Ensure that you and your vendors are totally aligned on your vision. It’s easy to assume that something “obvious” can go unsaid, but it’s best to be explicit. An example: we once ordered several floral arrangements for an event and provided color palette info + sample photos for the florist to reference. We assumed/expected that the arrangements would all look the same, but each one was different, and we had to do some last-minute rearranging. Lesson learned!

Décor. There are so many big event trends right now – lots of color! Bridgerton-inspired décor! – and of course that’s a lot of fun. But if you find yourself struggling to nail down an aesthetic, remember that classic and elegant is always in vogue. For both the Symphony Fashion Show main entrance and my Dillard’s events + photoshoot, I chose perennially chic green and white florals – think big white garden roses, ranunculus, lilac, viburnum, etc. There’s a reason we keep coming back to the classics for inspiration – they’re never outdated and always look great.

Menu. Always inject some fun into the meal (appetizers are a great way to do this). Trust me, the mini burgers will be the first thing to go! It’s always good to marry the elevated and the familiar, which keeps things light and happy. That’s advice from the ever-fabulous Ina Garten (who’s a former caterer), and she’s 100% right. I also think when you’re feeding lots of people, it’s important to offer some variety, but don’t overdo it. People don’t need to make 12 decisions in the buffet line, which leads me to my next point…

Less CAN be more. Admittedly, my go-to motto is “More is more and less is a bore,” but even I concede that doesn’t always apply. When we were planning our Dillard’s events, we focused on two “activities:” a photo station and on-site napkin monogramming. We debated whether we needed a third “thing,” but ultimately decided against it. I’m so glad we didn’t overengineer the day, as people could shop and mingle without feeling pressure to “get through” everything. When there’s too much offered, or an event is overly-curated, it can be overwhelming – you don’t need to schedule every minute. This is especially important for baby/bridal showers. I don’t love games, but if you must include them, 1-2 is an elegant sufficiency.  

Make like Elsa and let it go. Every hostess has as vision for how her event will unfold. The thing to remember is that ultimately, your guests are adults and will do (or not do) what they want. Try not to let it stress you! Notice that someone isn’t eating the hors d’oeuvre? Don’t panic, maybe they’re not hungry, or on a new diet. Jane and Bill are only talking to each other and won’t mingle? As long as you’ve done your job and introduced them to other guests, let it go. Ultimately, we can’t control people, so don’t keep hovering or checking in. Circulate, have a great time, and let your fun energy set the tone!

Brevity, please. Larger events often have some speaking component – the chairs need to thank people for coming, or there’s a speaker from a particular organization. My advice? Keep it short. Unless the event is specifically designed to be a guest lecture or presentation, people want to get back to mingling. Again, less is more ;-).  

*All images courtesy of Kathy Thomas Photography

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