Owner / Publisher Sue Hodgson Chats with Tara Keeping, Founder of Tiger Lily Events
You grew up in the family business, a private retirement home named “Keeping House.” You also spent many years abroad as a preschool teacher and flight attendant. How did this background prepare you for your career in event planning?
I think being a flight attendant at a prestigious international airline really shaped my attention to detail and the ability to multitask within time and space constraints while always presenting with elegance, style and flair. Spending most of my career in the first class cabin helped with executing a world-class service.
My family business helped in the business development and it was there that I first started planning events: I would plan the celebration of life for many of our clients. I really enjoyed it and decided to take an event management course. I then became a certified wedding and event coordinator.
My experience as a preschool teacher helped with ongoing patience and keeping things fun!
Hiring an event planner used to be mostly relegated to weddings and large corporate events, but now we see them used for everything from baby showers to birthday parties! Why the change? What are some of the more unique events you have planned?
I think many people now do not have the time to plan their own events, so planners are hired more for smaller events. Also, in the Pinterest era, people want those stylishly beautifully and uniquely designed events, and realize there is no one to better execute them then a professional planner.
Some of the more unique events I have planned include an Alice in Wonderland themed fundraiser; a winter wonderland wedding with a snow maker, snow and trees; a wedding where we had to outsource 1,000 peacock feathers from Seattle and New York City; and a convention with 3,500 delegates that was very media intensive – a whole different world! We had several gobos (a stencil placed in front of a light source) designed with the client’s name and used a lot of different lighting as the décor.
When you’re hosting your first event, doing everything yourself is a very big job and it can get very stressful! But even going through the process of hiring an event planner might seem a bit daunting – can you share some of the benefits of doing so?
I think first off is the peace of mind that you have hired someone to take on the responsibility and pressure of handling your event. You don’t need to worry about any of the logistics; you can just sit back, relax and show up looking fabulous!
When hiring a planner you aren’t spending any time organizing or agonizing over the details.
A planner has knowledge of budgets which are key, relationships with many vendors and a timeframe and checklists of when tasks need to be completed while organizing all the different details and aspects of the event.
Given that over the years you have had to deal with everything from a panic-stricken bride-to-be to the micro-managing leader of a large corporation, what have been some of the most challenging aspects of doing this job and how did you overcome them?
Some of the most challenging aspects are those last minute things that just pop up despite all of the extensive planning. An example: the AV (audiovisual system) is having some hiccups, in other words: not working! For me AV is always a challenge as I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned so much in that area!
I always have my contingency plans and prepare for the worst, but it’s the “move fast, think slow” that has helped me in those challenging moments. I find as I keep moving, I can figure things out and the solutions come.
Back in the ’90s we’d often see disposable cameras on all the tables, then with digital advances we saw photobooths at every event – what’s happening at events now that’s taking advantage of current tech-trends?
Photo booths are as popular as ever. I think they are here to stay as we are a smartphone/photo/selfie culture – always wanting to document our experiences.
Face filters, GIFs, green screen and boomerang are some of the newer ways of engaging guests. Using hashtags and photos from a shared gallery instantly on social media is popular too.
With the holidays around the corner, can you offer up some tips on how to plan a holiday party to end up with a really special event, but also keep costs down without impacting quality?
I really believe that simplicity is true elegance and allows for quality to shine.
Your guests will most likely remember the ambiance of your event and how they enjoyed themselves.
Food and drink can capture this nicely while being beautifully displayed with simple festive greenery and florals; Mason jars filled with holly and greenery can add to your decor and is budget friendly. Adding lots of candles can make the atmosphere more inviting.
A buffet is efficient and can easily be put together. It can also add to your décor – a beautifully decorated food table where your guests can mingle around.
I would also think ahead by organizing a way home for your guests who have enjoyed some extra festive cheer.
Adding your own photo booth can add to your entertainment and can be inexpensive. You can purchase glittery photography backdrops online for under $30.
Incorporating a signature holiday cocktail is also fun. You can’t go wrong with good food and drink, simple elegant décor and a good mix of festive music. After all: it’s the guests that add the true sparkle to any event.
Your tagline is Timeless Elegant Planning. Can you expand on this a bit?
I wanted a tagline where people would associate what I do with three words.
For me elegant says it all when thinking of weddings and events.
Timeless – because wedding and event planning should be.
And planning had to be there, as that is what I do!