Signature Events by Abby is a professional wedding and event planning boutique company based in Palm Beach County, Florida. This experienced team understands the importance of your wedding day, incorporating your personal style and personality to create a beautiful experience. Signature Events by Abby strives to curate an inspiring and joyous occasion that will be remembered for a lifetime.
We have satellite offices in Boca Raton and New York City. Our goal is to get to know each client on a personal level, developing a genuine understanding of their vision. We will create a Signature Wedding and Event that brings a love or success story to life. We offer coordination of an array of wedding styles including destination weddings, elopements, non-religious weddings, and eco-friendly weddings. There is a wide spectrum of services clients can avail of including full-planning, partial-planning, and event design. We aim to deliver a seamless experience, providing guest-list-creations, timelines, and to-do lists, just to name a few details in the coordination and planning process.
We love working with Corporate Partners in bringing an exceptional team together to honor employees, celebrating milestones and helping to raise funds for a special cause.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
I was hired to plan a wedding in November for 150 guests on a yacht. After planning 98% of the wedding, I received a phone call from the yacht company stating that the Coast Guard asked to complete an inspection during the same week of the wedding and asked if we could change the wedding date. I was so upset but after asking the yacht manager about options, I realized that we did not have a choice. I cannot fully explain the feeling that I felt knowing that I had to make a call and meet with the clients who had already sent out Save the Dates and were so excited about this wedding being on a yacht. Never mind the fact that 90% of the guests were coming from all over the world, and we had contracted a technology company to offer live streaming capabilities on the yacht for the groom’s elderly parents to join from the comfort of their California home.
As a professional, I have to be prepared to find a solution and to be positive and never lose my cool. Before I called the clients (since I received the call late Saturday evening), I made a few phone calls to Directors of Events of 4 different venues to set up site tours for Tuesday. I called the clients after this, and I asked to meet with them personally as we had to make a major change. They asked me to tell them over the phone, as they were about to leave on a trip in a few days. I had to tell them what the yacht company manager explained to me, and as you can imagine, they were livid. I listened intently and empathized with them. I offered a quick solution by making sure they received the return of their deposit within 24 hours.
As a Plan B, I scheduled site tours on that following Tuesday. This also meant that I had to plan all the details from the beginning, as the other locations were in Palm Beach County. The yacht was docked in Broward County (Hollywood, Florida). Fortunately, the client agreed and completed site tours Tuesday. They decided on the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. The Director of Events sent a contract within 48 hours. Deposits were paid and I started working on all the details, which included phone calls to my vendor team to explain the situation and changes that needed to take place.
I had 4 weeks to complete all required planning tasks (revised contracts), and update all final reports. In the end, the clients were happy with the new venue and the outcome of the event. Overall, it was a beautiful experience for them and their loved ones.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
I love Deco on the dance floor – integrating the design, color, and style of wedding invitations onto dance floor design.
I love surprises during any celebration. A song dedicated to your loved one and performed by a celebrity singer or a unique performance by a live band that will engage all guests and elevates their experience with you.
Aside from trends, I believe that capturing the essence of a couple’s love story, style and personality are what makes each celebration a “Signature Experience.” Your love story is unique. By incorporating a few trends that speak to you, say something about your personality and style, you will create a beautiful and engaging experience for you and your guests.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
This can be a challenge at times, especially if you have never planned a large event. Understanding your vision and knowing what your non-negotiables are is very important. Also, understanding who is paying for an event and who will be involved in decision making. Once these details are addressed, planners can help bring together resources and/or offer options such as:
Re-purposing ceremony décor elements for the reception space. Large candle holders can be placed next to the sweetheart table. Bridal party bouquets can be used as centerpieces and for the cake table. Re-purposing floral centerpieces for the Day After Brunch. Using the same ceremony chairs for the reception.
Many clients are also choosing meatless options for weddings and other social events. Edible flowers make a unique statement. Environmentally conscious clients are using electronic delivery of Save the Date cards or posting engagement on social media. Some clients are opting to purchase wedding favors, wedding invites, candy bags, centerpieces and décor items that are made with recycled materials. Using Ceremony Floral décor as a photo backdrop.
Don’t be afraid to work with a luxury hotel because they tend to offer understated elegance and exceptional event spaces, plus they include many upgraded options which means less money you have to spend on décor and event rentals. Keeping your guest count low brings the cost down too.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
I would bring my client’s vision, personality, and signature style to life using innovative production and event styling strategies. The location would be at a Palm Beach Ocean Resort or a Destination location that offers beautiful ocean views.
One of the best technologies used to transport your guests to another location is by video mapping (Ex: Eiffel Tower or Versailles Gardens, graphics, and specialty lighting). Live streaming technologies using 4-6 camera pods at each event space would capture real-time moments for guests who cannot travel to a location. Wedding Bot technologies would be used to pre-program questions guests would ask concerning timeline, menu, accommodations, welcome reception, day-after brunch, local restaurants and so much more. 3D Virtual Floor Plan technology would show your clients the event space before the day of the event.
Creative and Personalized place card concept – behind each person’s card there will be a picture of the couple at a place they love to travel to, the restaurant they love, a favorite song or favorite charity.
Champagne and Signature Cocktails would be served before the ceremony begins.
For ceremony décor, the aisle would be a white wrapped floor with tall cylinder candle holders along the entire aisle to give this an extravagant look, along with a circular white arch adorned with colorful or white orchids. This gives the couple a unique backdrop but does not take away from the beautiful ocean views.
An orchestra would perform during the prelude, processional and recessional. A world-renowned sax player with singer or jazz trio would perform during cocktail hour and one of the best 15-piece live bands (celebrity or Top NY or Florida bands), which includes rhythm, horns, and singers, for the reception entertainment.
Surprises would be planned throughout the evening with special song performances or dancers. A wedding filmmaker and video journalist would capture amazing moments shared and a team of photographers to capture every detail of the event.
An amazing Seafood Bar, Champagne Bar, and International Cheese Bar during Cocktail Hour. During the reception, servers will enter the event space with champagne and wine bottles with sparklers to add a special touch. The dinner menu would consist of International Cuisine with an amazing wine pairing experience.
Entertainment during dinner would be delivered by a world-renowned violinist or Spanish guitarist. Centerpieces and décor would be modern, eco-friendly and creative. Integrating charger plates that match the overall style, glassware, and silverware that is modern. Menus printed from recycled paper. Edible flowers in cocktail ice cubes. Ceiling décor would be hanging white or silver orbs with baby’s breathe florals. The sweetheart table would be a serpentine style table with tall cylinder candle holders and beautiful orchids and draping in front and down the side of the table.
Deco on the dancefloor, with invitation design integrated into a custom dance floor design. Instead of cake, a sweets table with an offering of International Pastries. A latte bar with coffeehouse offerings. The Wedding Favors can be personalized with a picture of the couple or a thank you message on to-go cups or boxes to hold take-home treats from the Food Truck parked outside as guests are leaving.
The overall design has to be fluid and bring out details of each couple’s style, personality and tell us something about their love story. Music selections should have a special meaning behind each selection/scene. An integrative and engaging experience to leave a life long impression of a couple’s love story.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
I believe that we are only as good as our teams. On-going communication by email, phone or face to face meetings, networking on a monthly basis, keeping your word, being consistent in all of your interactions, and follow-up is key to success.
Our teams can make us or break us. We have to treat them as special as we do our clients. Customer service amongst us has to be elevated and this will translate into an exceptional experience for our clients.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
In any event, your vision and non-negotiables have to be clear. With fundraising, you have to be able to connect your vision with the cause. Consider your audience. Pricing will need to cover the costs of the event and meet or exceed your fundraising goal.
Use volunteer groups, college interns, and connect with associations like MPI (Meeting Planners International) and Student Organizations at local colleges to recruit volunteers for set-up, registration, greeters, event styling, video editing, creating signage, creating centerpieces or marketing visuals, and breaking down (clearing all marketing assets) of event. This will save money and help give these students an opportunity to engage in real-life event experiences that are required for their college degree programs.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
My vision from the beginning was to offer a service that elevated this industry by providing exceptional customer service, educating clients on the planning process and using technologies and Apps to make the process efficient. Concept to Completion of Events requires specialized education, experience in project management, being a visionary, being creative, having a good business strategy, working with industry professionals and having a passion for creating beautiful memories for our clients.
My goal is to hire 3 full-time team members and continue my Internship program. I enjoy giving back to the community at large by donating money to scholarships that help students in the Event and Hospitality Management degree programs at various colleges in Florida.
Success to me is doing what I love while making a difference in the lives of others. This industry gives me this opportunity. I am loving the journey.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
This love affair found me. I worked in planning various types of events for 15 years before I launched my own company.
When I started working in corporate jobs, I was asked to work with others to organize and plan employee recognition events, awards ceremonies, annual galas, and on-going marketing campaigns. Being a part of this process, I realized how much I loved it. That’s when I decided to educate myself in this industry by switching from my general business degree to a Hospitality Management degree. I wanted to learn the operations side in addition to the planning side.
I also completed a certification program through Lovegivity, Inc. to become a Certified Wedding and Event Planner. I wanted to have an overall understanding of all details that go into planning, coordinating and managing events. I decided to look for a position in a hotel while I was completing my Hospitality degree program. After working with the Director of Events at a local hotel as an Intern, I realized that I could have more flexibility in my schedule if I started my own company. This is where Signature Events by Abby was born.
I reached out to the person who helped to plan my daughter’s wedding and he started to mentor me. He has been instrumental in helping me fine-tune my vision and define my goal for expansion. I started to market through Wedding Wire and bridal showcases, which helped me to attract a client base. Word of mouth referrals started to come.
I realize that we are in an industry where we are only as good as our last event. Keeping this in mind, I am determined to make each and every interaction an exceptional experience for each client.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
The first events I planned were at school for my kids and their friends. I was also involved in baby showers, gender reveal parties and anniversary parties.
One of the most memorable events I planned was for my husband’s retirement. He had no idea that I was going to plan a surprise dinner party and I was inviting about 100 guests which included immediate family, close friends, and colleagues.
I wanted to bring special details to this party to showcase his personality and love for his family and music. I brought special décor items from my husband’s music room (violin, sheet music and pictures of him with his band “Grand Fusion”). I had to find a way to sneak Leonard’s bass guitar out and take it to his friend, Laverne Cooper, who was staying at the hotel where I had arranged a room block for all out of town guests. I also had to sneak gift bags that I had arranged to have delivered to the hotel for our guests.
The next evening (day of the event), Leonard thought we were attending a formal dinner with a few friends that he worked with. Prior to arriving, I sent a text message to my sister and asked her to have everyone waiting at the entrance for him. When we arrived, he was shocked when we opened the main doors to about 50 guests standing at the entrance clapping and cheering as he entered. He was so shocked when he saw his two cousins there who came from Atlanta and New York, his children, grandchildren, stepchildren, and all his closest friends. He almost cried. Everyone hugged and congratulated him. It was the surprise that I had envisioned.
The ambiance was amazing – cocktails and dinner. Overall, the ambiance was of gratitude for my husband’s 37 years of service to Palm Beach State College. Friends, former students, and colleagues shared stories of special memories of working and traveling together. His son also shared special memories of times he spent going to band practice, attending football games and other special family moments.
I asked three of his childhood friends who were traveling out of the country to record video messages for Leonard: Johnny James, Darly Tookes, and Donald Cleveland. Leonard was blown away by this gesture.
As the evening progressed, I saved the best surprise for Leonard. I delivered a special tribute to my husband and then introduced Michael Bliss who was going to get the party started. Michael Bliss and Lavern Cooper asked Leonard to join them on stage as they started playing: “Brickhouse by The Commodores.” Leonard was shocked when Lavern brought out his bass guitar and asked him to perform with them. Like the good old days, this felt like home to Leonard. It was a priceless moment to witness. His initial face of shock to see his childhood friends (who traveled from Tampa, New York, and Atlanta) with all of the band equipment set up on stage and ready to perform. As Leonard started to perform, we all got up to dance. This was the first time his grandchildren saw him perform. This was the first time I saw him perform. This was a beautiful moment that he and I will cherish forever.
Planning a surprise party is not an easy endeavor, especially when you live with the person whom you are planning the surprise for. I was fortunate to work with a great team that helped me pull this off.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
The amount of time it takes to interview and work with the right teams. The importance of building relationships with the Director of Events, Social Catering Managers and Banquet Managers. Understanding how to build planning package offerings and knowing how to price each package. The legalities of contracts that need to include specifics to the smallest details of what is or is not included at each event. The liability factor associated with working with sub-contracted workers, or temporary assistants. The time and cost for marketing to prospective clients at bridal showcases, and wedding or event-specific companies. Knowing how to track time spent on each task as you are planning an event and making sure you capture and charge for your work. Understanding the pay scale when hiring a wedding coordinator or wedding concierge to work with you on the day of the event. Understanding the turnover rate at hotels and how this can impact your marketing efforts and event management process. Having a backup person to take over in case of emergencies or sickness. Learning the right organizations to join in order to expand your business and stay current with event practices, laws, and trends.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
I have not had the experience of anyone asking for anything unusual.
I hope that one day a client will ask me to charter a private jet and secure a venue in Paris for an elopement, with a wedding ceremony at the top of the Eiffel Tower in front of the Champagne Bar. Capture in photos as the couple “kisses” at the Trocadero Plaza with the Eiffel Tower as their backdrop as the sun sets. Or a ceremony in the event space of the Georgia Aquarium with sea life as their backdrop.
We live for fun, interesting, and unique opportunities to showcase our couple’s love story.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
The definition of success differs for everyone. I feel energized each day to know that I am helping to create a beautiful moment and lifelong memory for my clients. I am blessed to work in an industry that celebrates love and success stories. I love the “process of planning” and helping others along the way. I enjoy giving back to the community at large through my Internship Program and donating funds to Worldwide Relief Fund.
It is an honor and privilege that we have to bring a love and success story to life.