At Sapphire Events, our team of expert destination event planners and designers do it all! Our philosophy is rooted in our mission to educate our clients in industry best practices, realistic expectations based on our years of knowledge and experience in the industry, and expert advice on a wide range of possible topics unique to each client’s specific event goals. We want our clients to feel empowered with as much knowledge they need in order to be set up for success at every stage of the event planning process. We will continually update this resource for you to explore many of the common questions we have been asked over the years. Our event planners and designers are continuing to hone their skills and better serve each of our clients, and we are committed to sharing with you the information you need to make the right decision in hiring your event planner.
What does your design process look like?
How we work is different from most any other planner or designer you’ll interview. Our process-driven design is key to making the most of your time investment, and increasing your enjoyment of the planning process overall. Watch to find out more:
We work on behalf of our clients to communicate effectively with each of the vendors on their creative teams to come up with a cohesive, beautiful design under the leadership of one creative director. Find out how we go about doing this in the video, then contact us to discuss the possibilities of your event design with our team!
Do you offer partial planning services?
Since Sapphire Events’ singular focus is planning events in great detail from start to finish, we do not offer a “partial planning” service per se. If you are looking less than full service planning, our sister brand, Ruby & Pearl Events, has a selection of other services to choose from. Watch to discover how our solutions-based service offerings present a little something for everyone:
Partial planning with any other company is a big gray area for clients – how are you to know exactly what your planner is working on and responsible for? What should you be doing on the other aspects of planning? The service offerings of our sister brand, Ruby & Pearl Events, extend a very clear delineation of responsibilities and a division of labor that is clear from start to finish.
What kind of events are your specialty?
Our team of expert wedding planners are at our best when we are building an event from the ground up, whether that be at a private estate, on a beachfront property, in an historic venue with lots of rules and regulations protecting the integrity of the building, and at a private club with limited access. We can transform any space imaginable, from a grand hotel ballroom, an empty warehouse, a loft space and even the interior of a marine vessel. We specialize in events with particularly challenging logistics, near-impossible accessibility, and completely blank slates.
We imagine greatness where others find little to dream about. We have moved an event an entire day earlier to avoid a hurricane. We’ve built an improbable inverted garden over a dance floor in the oldest building in the Mississippi River valley. We’ve seated an impossibly long 150’ dinner table in the grand hallway of an art museum with an extremely limited amount of time to set up. We’ve presented our designs in virtual reality for our clients that wanted to walk through their event space and see all the details we put together months before the big day arrived. We’ve planned an elopement in a sinking European city with few available resources and limited time. We’ve planned and designed events of grand scale in buildings under construction that finished completion less than a month before the event day.
We make the impossible possible. We love a hard-hat tour, the smell of fresh lumber, and the sound of power drills and nail guns. We know more about electrical panels and distribution than we ever thought possible. We’ve dealt with flash floods, lots of wind, and tons and tons of rain. So much rain! Pretty much anything mother nature can throw at us, we are prepared for. We’ve paraded in the streets, we shut down traffic on the regular, and make friends with law enforcement ahead of time so we can bend the rules when we need to (without breaking the law)! We’ve never stopped learning and loving what we do, and every single event is unique unto itself. I’ve never met a challenge I couldn’t overcome, and there’s very little that surprises me anymore. With the support of my team, we can make anything happen!
How many years have you been in business? How did you get started?
I founded Sapphire Events in 2011, after a year in the event industry working for a venue. I came into the event planning business as a result of unemployment – I had graduated from law school at Tulane and passed the bar in 2009, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis (remember Bear Stearns?). It was a wild time, and I knew a lot about weddings having just planned my own. I decided to start an event planning company by building a brand that I could sell one day when law jobs picked back up. Luckily for me, I found that I had a real passion for running the business, and I was very good at it (and, perhaps most importantly, I realized I enjoyed my work much more than any of the law jobs I’d had before). My clients felt I had something to offer that other planners and coordinators they spoke with didn’t; I enjoyed connecting with people and using my skills to bring out the joy of life, celebrating important milestones.
Planning and designing events, as well as owning my own business, have both afforded me the opportunity to exercise my analytical and critical thinking skills every day, and also come up with innovative and beautiful event designs using my aptitude for artistic expression. My background in the law has helped me structure my business practices and faithfully advise my clients and other creative entrepreneurs alike. I’ve also really enjoyed tapping into my creative side, having been an artist from a very young age (and let’s be honest – there isn’t much room for creativity and art in the legal field). It’s really the best of both worlds for me, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I wake up each day and really love what I do! I can’t imagine spending my days doing anything better!
What is your experience planning destination events?
Nearly all of the events we plan are destination celebrations! Our clients hail from all over – mostly New York City, Los Angeles, and also the Bay Area (and everywhere in between!) – so we are very adept at juggling the tasks and communication needs of our clients across all time zones, around very busy work and travel schedules, planning events abroad from afar. I’ve personally built an amazing network of the most superb creative vendors around the country and also in Europe and Mexico, so in any market we work, I know exactly who we can trust and where to source suppliers and resources for an event in any location, no matter how remote. We also have an in-house travel concierge handling not only all of our hotels for guest accommodations, but also coordinating flights, ground transportation, and water travel. The possibilities are endless.
We’ve been all over the globe, and love working in places we’ve never planned an event before! We love to travel and understand the tremendous value of having a knowledgeable resource at hand who understands the big picture of moving a group of people all at once, from point A to point B (and back again). A sample of places we’ve worked include Venice, Italy; Sea Island, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Highlands, North Carolina; Houston, Texas; all over the Gulf Coast and of course, New Orleans. We will plan a spectacular event wherever your celebration takes you.
I’ve talked to other planners and find that everyone charges differently. How does your pricing structure work?
This is my favorite question! Our fee structure is a three-part structure that compensates us for the three elements of what we are building for you over the course of our engagement together: planning, design + production, and event management. Our clients pay a retainer to us at the time of signing the contract in order for us to begin working right away on the planning. We are then paid the design fee after the design presentation (which happens around 6 months prior to the event date) and our client has approved both the design aesthetic and the financial commitment to each of their team of creative vendors and suppliers. Our event management fee compensates us for the actual physical labor and number of Sapphire Events team members who will be on site on event day, and for each day of load-in and load-out (depending upon the extent of production involved for a given event).
We understand you have many choices when it comes to a planning and design firm. The investment you make in our company is one we take very seriously, and as such, I am heavily involved in every single aspect of the planning and design process, as well as the overall production and especially on the management of the event itself. As the owner of the company, I take great pride in the fact that we have a strict policy of transparency and clarity with our clients especially when it comes to finances. I want our clients to know exactly where every dollar and cent of their money is being spent, and my process is built around the foundation of trust and confidence our clients instill in us as stewards of the emotional and financial investment they are taking on for their celebration.
To learn more, please contact us here and we will discuss in greater detail exactly how our pricing structure works!
Do you accept kickbacks from vendors?
Absolutely not! We understand that there are planning companies charging their clients a low flat fee up front. Buyer beware! What the client often doesn’t know is that these planning companies are getting compensated behind closed doors from the vendors the planner has selected to work the event. The client thinks they are paying the vendor one price, sometimes touted as a “discount” that the planner has earned through loyalty with that vendor over the years; the reality is the planner demands that each vendor lower their price as much as possible, and the planner will pay the low rate, keeping the difference of the higher rate that the client has actually paid for that product or service. This is an unfortunate practice that has been in place for a very long time – and one that leaves the client in the dark about how their money has been invested in the celebration of such an important milestone in their lives.
We absolutely despise this practice, and our clients value our transparency and honesty in managing all of the event expenses. Our clients will see every vendor quote and bill directly from the vendor – not on an invoice run through my company. Our clients will sign contracts with each of their vendors directly, and pay their vendors directly – I would never ask my clients to write one large check to Sapphire Events in order for me to pay their vendors on their behalf (this is another hallmark practice of a planning company taking kickbacks!). My fee is 100% paid directly to me by my clients alone, and not from any other company or third party. If you are looking for transparency and honesty, contact us so we can discuss in great detail where your investment will be faithfully submitted for your celebration.
How much should I expect to budget for my event?
It is easiest to think of the overall budget in terms of price per person, rather than an overall target budget amount. The guest list is the single biggest driving factor of the budget – so the closer you are able to whittle down the guest list to the actual number of people you would like to attend, the better! To determine your per person dollar figure, divide your overall target budget by the number of anticipated guests you’d like to attend – and there you’ll have your estimated price per person!
Our typical clients expect to spend an entry-level amount of around $1250 per person on their event. As an example, if you are planning to spend an overall budget of at least $200,000 and have a target guest count of 150 people, you could be an ideal client for our work flow and process. If you are planning a celebration for 40 people with a budget of around $50,000, that could work too! Our clients have spent upwards of $4500 per person on particularly detailed and specifically tailored events with high production values. Many of our guest counts are upwards of 250 guests or more, with varying levels of production values and specific details.
We work with events of all guest counts and overall target budgets, so contact us to make sure your expectations for your event are in line with your target budget in our complimentary initial consultation.
How many events do you take on in a year? How far out should we book you?
Because of the high level of involvement of myself and my team into each one of our events, we reserve our time investment for only a handful of events a year. Our target of 4-6 events annually will work for us, but we have found that our sweet spot is two events in the spring and two in the fall.
Our clients come to us at every stage of the process: sometimes before they are engaged, sometimes with four months or less before the big day. Truthfully, we only need about two weeks of time to physically plan any event (heavily relying on our trusted team of professional creatives to pull through for us)! Our typical clients book us somewhere between 5-9 months out from their date, and it is quite common for clients to hire us right around the one-year mark.
What if I don't need full service planning - do you offer partial planning?
We do not offer partial planning, since our full service planning and process-driven design is focused on a comprehensive relationship and involvement into every single detail from our team. However, our sister brand, Ruby and Pearl Events, offers a variety of services you might find suit your needs! Feel free to contact us to find out if these services might be right for you!
Have you planned events other than weddings?
Yes, all the time! We’ve planned social events of all kinds, non-profit galas, birthday parties, anniversaries, international destination trips for groups of friends traveling together – if there is a reason to celebrate, count us in! We are happy to plan and design anything you have in mind.
Do I have to work with your list of preferred vendors?
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with creatives all over the country – so our preferred list of vendors we use as a tool, knowing we have worked with tried and true professionals that love their job as much as we do and are experts in their craft! We will make faithful recommendations to you based on your event goals and financial targets for vendors that we believe are a good fit from our experience, but if you have someone in mind you’ve been dying to work with, let us know! We love making new friends in the business.
Will you work with another designer?
You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen…
Our process is so nailed down and efficient for our work flow and out of respect for our clients’ precious time, working with another designer is not typically a good fit for us. However, I do have a couple people in this industry that are on my “bucket list” of artists I’d love to collaborate with, and under the right set of circumstances I might consider it. Let’s chat about who you have in mind and I’ll be happy to share with you whether I think I could make an exception.
Who will I be in contact with throughout the planning process?
It takes a village to make our events as seamless and spectacular as they should be! As the company owner, I am the principal planner and designer. I work to oversee the big picture of each of our projects – driving the design vision, the financial goals, choosing the perfect team of creatives to collaborate with us, making executive decisions, and so much more. I am in touch directly with our clients throughout the process, but each one of my team of event producers is also communicating directly with our clients as well as our vendor teams on a daily basis. You will hear from everyone on our team pretty consistently, and we are readily available to you when you need a phone call, meeting, or anything at all. Because we are intentional with the number of events we take on, our entire team of experts is able to address your needs in a heartbeat.
How many meetings will we have with your team?
Since our total number of events is limited in a given calendar year, we are available to meet with you whenever is necessary. Once you are fully on-board in our process shortly after booking with us, we will schedule your site inspections, foundation meeting with our team, your design presentation, tastings, and final details meetings based on your event date. Beyond that, we will work with you to schedule meetings and phone calls on an as-needed basis, through our process of developing the design and production details geared toward your event goals. And if you ever need anything last-minute, we are ready to hop on a plane and meet you there, providing you with the support you need to enjoy the planning process and have access to our team from beginning to end.
Are you able to secure discounts with vendors on my behalf because of your relationships with them?
The reality of the coveted “vendor discount” is actually that it is a hallmark for planning companies that are promising special prices when in fact they are taking kickbacks (see FAQ #5 above). There is no such thing as a discount that any planner would be able to secure for you, since each of your vendors is a creative professional and very likely a small business whose very livelihood and reputation is built on each and every job they book, being paid for the value of the time and services they work hard to deliver to our clients. If a vendor has a volume consumer base with business-to-business discounts that they are occasionally able to offer to clients under special circumstances, then rest assured that our company is working to secure the very best price for you that each vendor can offer, for the very best value in products and services to serve your event goals and financial targets.
Even better than a vendor discount, because of our reputation and years of experience in the event industry, our vendor teams want to work with Sapphire Events to align their brand with ours. As a result, we often find ourselves in the fortunate position of having the best vendors in the business delivering goods and services above and beyond the call of duty, in an effort to earn future business and referrals from my company in exchange for a job well done. Since Sapphire Events’ reputation is one of the best event planners in the country, our clients benefit from the extra effort and high quality our team of creative vendors put forth on any and every event with our company.
How many event producers will be working my event?
The number of event producers from our team varies from event to event, but at a minimum you can expect myself as lead planner and designer, and at least two event producers on a typical event day. For event weekends featuring multiple event days in a row, the number of event producers will necessarily increase, and for guest counts in excess of 250 guests with multiple locations in a single event day, we will also add additional team members to ensure high quality service and oversight for all the moving parts over the course of the event experience.
Will you plan other events during a wedding weekend, like rehearsal dinner and farewell brunch?
Yes! We often plan a full weekend of events, and offer our design and planning services from start to finish for each day you’ll be hosting guests in your event location. Contact us to find out more about how we can plan the specific details for each day of your celebration.