Often the stress of planning a party or event can overshadow the memories from that special day. Lili Marie Parties’ goal is to alleviate the hours you would normally spend organizing and planning, allowing you to enjoy these special milestones.
Lili Marie Parties is a full-service planning and styling company based in Chicago. We focus on birthday parties, showers, social events, and corporate functions. Our goal is to truly make you feel like a guest at your own party.
We offer a variety of services ranging from a Complete Party Planning Package that is designed to create a stress-free planning process for the hostess/host to al la carte services such as event decorating, face painting or balloon twisting. We take pride in the creativity and out of the box thinking we bring to each client’s event.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
When I first start working with a client I ask them to list in order what aspects of the party are most important to them. Is it good food, drinks, music, entertainment or decorations? For example, if you and your guests are not big eaters but love dancing, focusing on a fun band and scaling back on food is the route to take. If you are planning an event on a budget you should prioritize where you want to spend your money because you won’t be able to splurge in every area.
Another tip is to cut down on the amount of staff you have to hire. Passed appetizers require more staff than a buffet. You will need fewer bartenders at a bar that serves beer and wine as apposed to fancy mixed cocktails. I am 100% in favor of making sure your event is properly staffed, but there are areas you can scale back on the staff needed.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
I adore incorporating the party theme in every aspect of the party. This, of course, can get pricy. A party with unlimited resources would consist of themed details from start to finish. When guests arrive they would be greeted with a themed welcome drink served by a staff member in costume to match the theme. As guests leave they would be gifted a themed custom party favor. Food, entertainment, venue, cake, music…it would all be perfectly matched to the theme.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with clients who also share this view of incorporating themed details throughout the entire party. I’ve gotten to plan a science-themed party at The Museum of Science & Industry, have a Mariachi band at a Day Of The Dead party, and bring a petting zoo to a county fair themed party.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Strong relationships with vendors are invaluable. Part of the reason clients hire an event planner is to tap into their network of top venders. If you are not working with vendors you trust, it can be very hard to execute a smooth and successful event.
Maintaining a good rapport with your vendors is a two-way street. I expect top-notch service from vendors, however, in return, I always try to make their jobs as easy as possible. For example, if you are hiring a band for a party, find out well in advance what they need from you: a tent for shade, extension cords, power outlets or chairs. It can be very frustrating for a vendor to arrive at an event and not have the supplies they need to do their job well.
Another important tip to remember is things may go wrong at an event, however, at the end of the day you and your vendors are all on the same team and working towards the same goal of hosting a great party. Yelling at a vendor or throwing them under the bus to a client is not ultimately going to help solve your problem. Work together to find a solution and after the event figure out why the mistake happened and put a plan in place to prevent it from happening in the future.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
As an event/party planner, I know I’m biased, but hiring a planner is the best place to start. They will walk you through a tried and true process and help prioritize which aspects of the party should be planned first. For example, I always tell clients finding the venue should be our top priority. Most of the details of your party will be based around this. For example, if you book your caterer before you book your venue, you are going to be limited to venues that allow outside food, which is not the case for many venues. It can be very difficult if you plan out of order and you can ultimately waste a lot of time and money.
If a planner is not in your budget I would start by putting together an estimated headcount and a budget. After you have these together you can start looking for the venue. Once you have your venue you will know which outside vendors you will have to hire. Will you need to bring in outside furniture, staff, bar, etc. The venue is going to determine which other vendors you will need to bring on.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea of setting up and starting to attract a client base?
Lili Marie Parties started as a hobby of helping friends and families plan their children’s parties. It became very clear that there was a big void surrounding children’s parties in the event planning industry. I noticed that throwing a party had become more of a stressful event instead of a fun chance to celebrate an important milestone. I wanted to help make parties fun again for clients. In May of 2014, I took a leap of faith and quit my corporate sales job and started building Lili Marie Parties full time.
It took about a year to get everything up and running; designing a web page, printing business cards, setting up payment processing, etc. After a year I was consistently booking events and had found a strong foothold in the party planning industry.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
One of the best things about planning kid’s parties is seeing the genuine stress relief you bring to parents. I’ve had countless families tell me this was the first time they have ever enjoyed their child’s party. They tell me they actually got to talk to friends and family, sit down to try the food and not show up to the party exhausted and waiting for it to be over. That is exactly why I started my business so it is incredibly rewarding to get to see clients truly feeling like a guest at their own party.