Cristina Verger is the giant talent behind Cristina Verger Event Planning and Production. For over 15 years, Cristina and her team have built a reputation for innovation, impeccable taste, and a keen eye for detail. Just as important, she’s a respected professional that vendors and venue owners adore.
Cristina creates indelible memories for her clients, whether it’s a destination wedding on a tropical island, a cozy dinner celebration for 10 overlooking the Hudson or a two-weekend wedding celebration spanning two continents. Her success is built on listening. She takes the time to fully understand her clients’ preferences, goals, and ideas.
Born in Rome, Cristina Verger was educated in Italy and New York City. From a young age, she learned the art of gracious hospitality from her family of hoteliers, lessons that were enhanced by her early exposure to Italy’s culture and endless charm. Prior to starting her own business, Cristina worked as director of catering and sales for several prestigious New York City properties.
Today, Cristina’s clients continue to benefit from her many event planning connections and hard-earned experience. When you meet with a vendor with Cristina by your side, you’ll know that you’re getting the very best. Because Cristina’s background spans two continents, she and her team are able to easily plan and deliver special events and destination weddings in Italy, throughout Europe, and other parts of the world. In addition, satellite offices in Milan and Rome further support any international activities. From these offices, language barriers and cultural differences are adroitly navigated to connect with the very best local wedding vendors and venues.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
When the mayor shut down New York City due to an impending snowstorm, I did not hesitate to reschedule the entire wedding for the following day. This involved re-booking the 30-people-strong music and sound team, photographer, videographer, hair and makeup, transportation, and of course the venue. I was able to have the management of the venue agree to air condition the entire building overnight so the flowers, which had already been set up, would stay fresh and beautiful for the big day. In effect, I rescheduled a 250-person wedding in two hours, in the middle of the biggest snowstorm in ages – all in a day’s work!
(Check out the amazing photos here: https://www.cristinaverger.com/event-wedding.php?e=04AmandaMichael)
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
The relationships with my vendors and partner event professionals are something I treasure. Without them by my side, I would never be able to create, produce, and deliver the fabulous events for which I am recognized. I would never be able to create all the indelible memories I have created over the years. I’ve created a very solid network and team of the best professionals, both in NYC and globally.
The professionals with whom I work have been by my side for many years, and have a proven track record with me. I often liken my role of producer/planner to that of an architect. In fact, I am the architect of my client’s events in that I learn what they are looking to achieve for their special day. Once I am clear, I move to design and present a plan (project). Once this is agreed upon, I move to assemble the team necessary to execute my vision. Everyone is very clear on their role – this is key for a team that works in harmony.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
In the last years, I have developed very strong connections throughout Italy – from North to South – connections that include unique venues, as well as any other aspect pertaining to event/weddings. A wealth of resources to benefit US residents who want to host their events in this, most fascinating, country. Being Italian, from Rome, with already a satellite office there, I have decided to create a stronger presence in the country. My plan for the near future is to, in addition to working with clients directly, expand to morphe into the local team for many foreign agencies, such as planners in the States.
Being American in my professional approach, having perfect English and Italian language skills, and being Italian allows me to understand well the different approach required to maneuver situations in Italy. I am sure I can provide unique and very strong support to any US agency planning events in any region of Italy. This approach is unique in that almost all planners in Italy only service their individual region. I, on the other had, have the capability to service the entire country.
It is a very exciting project for me, a rather natural progression for my company and, personally, it will allow me to spend more time in Italy – but, mostly, will allow me to represent my country to the industry in which I have worked for many years, in a light that they might not otherwise experience. The goal is to create a seamless experience for US agencies planning events in Italy.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
The first event I remember planning, as an independent planner, is a “surprise” wedding. The bride decided to celebrate her 50th birthday and combine the celebration with her wedding day. We created a “surprise wedding” whereby guests were invited to attend a 50th birthday.
Guests arrived and were greeted, as they normally would be, to a cocktail reception, music, champagne. Once all had arrived, and approximately half-hour or so into the party, the bride and groom took the floor and announced that everyone was actually here to celebrate their wedding. Shock and surprise registered throughout the space, guests were given a bit more time to absorb the news, and they were whisked off to the wedding ceremony at a church, nearby.
The bride changed into a couture wedding gown and, while all were at the ceremony, we moved to completely change the decor of the reception space. Guests returned to find a totally redecorated space. The evening got underway with fabulous wine and a food pairing menu, well-orchestrated music which included romantic duets during the dinner, and a full band for dancing following dinner. It was an amazing event!
(Check out the photos here: https://www.cristinaverger.com/event-wedding.php?e=06Wedding%2C+Hotel+Plaza+Athenee%2C+NYC)
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your business?
I wish I knew that it is not enough to be good at what you do. Being an entrepreneur requires much more than being good at your job. There is a big learning curve, particularly if your background is in the corporate world.
As Director of Catering in luxury properties, I had always had resources to turn to for various aspects of the business. Once on your own, there are no “departments” – the only department is YOU!
As a small company owner, one needs to learn how to navigate the multitude of situations that will arise without panicking.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
The most unusual request came when I received a call asking for me to organize a wedding for two persons. Yes, TWO, bride and groom only. Honestly, at first, I did think it was a joke, but in further speaking with my client, I understood he was totally serious. This was not an elopement but a full-fledged wedding ceremony and reception. The couple did not want a table at a restaurant, they were looking to privatize a full ballroom and have all the bells and whistles that are part of the wedding day.
It is rather challenging to produce a wedding for two persons. My challenges were:
1. to find a space that while grand would still be fairly intimate
2. to create a music program that, while offering a full range of dance music, would not be overbearing throughout the evening.
3. make sure that the four-hour dinner/dance portion would be entertaining for two people, allow privacy, and be exciting.
The wedding was planned in two months – the bride and groom lived on two different continents. The groom lived in the US while the bride was still living in their home country of Serbia.
The wedding dress the bride was interested in was a Zuhair Murad designed dress, but we did not have enough time for her to come to NYC to purchase. I arranged for a wedding dress boutique in Milan to have the dress arrive at the boutique from Lebanon, arranged a week in Milan for bride and groom, and all was purchased, including the groom’s attire, at Dolce & Gabbana.
It was a fabulous wedding, very moving. The reason for not having any guests was that their parents, in Serbia, could not get visas for the US. The bride and groom felt that if they could not have their parents they did not want anyone else. On the wedding day we had a Live stream of both the ceremony and the first dance so that all their friends and family globally could join. Truly fabulous!!!!!
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Our industry has changed over the years. It seems today being an event planner and, especially, being a wedding planner is considered to be something very glamorous. Yes, it is very exciting to be involved in planning events, in creating joyous moments for companies and individuals alike.
However, and most importantly, this is still the SERVICE industry. An industry in which we are called to serve our clients’ wants and needs. This is a big responsibility and not at all glamorous. I think it is important for all of us to remember, that the real stars of the day are the clients. We are merely the light that allows them to shine.