A Spotlight on Alicia Caldecott

Dempsey & Carroll’s event curator Austin Ackles sat down with Alicia Caldecott to learn about her work as an event designer. 1543image001

AA: By now, you’ve done just about everything imaginable lakeside but what was one of the biggest technical challenges? 


AC:  This summer we designed and produced a destination wedding for over 300 guests and for the wedding reception, we built a dock over the water at the client’s cottage! We have been very fortunate to work at some truly remarkable and beautiful locations around Michigan’s Gold Coast however this was a chart topper! The lawn of the cottage was not deep enough to host the reception and the only solution was to select another venue or venture out into the water. After surveying we discovered that the lake bed was not solid enough (too much decaying matter and clay) to lay footings and have the flooring rest on the lake bed- we needed to jettison the supports of the flooring into the lake bed just like you’d do to the pylons of your dock. 330 guests plus a stage, dance floor, lounge area and ample gathering areas require an abundance of space and the resulting platform that was constructed from timber and hand painted was just shy of 16,000 square feet.


Building the dock wasn’t the hard part, but it was a challenge. The length of time required for the build meant strict schedules and when Mother Nature wasn’t playing nice either with thunderstorms or small craft wind advisories we had to push through. The biggest challenge was the painting of the dock in the bride’s signature colors, Lilly Pulitzer Pink and white stripe, on the bias of course! The weather pushed our painting schedule back and we had to install the main tent structure while priming and painting were taking place under the canvas. Being on the water meant working in a constant humid environment on top of the humid summers we have in Northern Michigan. Large thunderstorms the week before the wedding meant warping wood and veneer had to be replaced and restained.


When the sun finally came to stay on Wednesday before the wedding we were blessed with great weather, the kind you dream of on the lake, and our teams kicked into gear putting the final touches on our happy couple’s special venue!


AA:  What’s your secret weapon for a buggy August evening?Stegner (542)


AC:  We have a “layered” strategy for helping make our guests comfortable when insects can be a nuisance. First, start with the welcome bags or gifts. Include a few bug wipes for their convenience. Next make sure to have on hand additional towellettes in the restrooms. If it’s a particularly challenging case of bugs, keep some spray on hand behind the bars. Citronella works like a charm and a quick and easy remedy is to swap out your standard votive candles with citronella scents. Also, around the inland lakes “up north” we have mosquitos and they are not particularly fond of garlic. Now, I don’t recommend having an entire meal of garlic or over seasoning, however it’s amazing the difference even the slightest bit of garlic in one’s diet makes in the resistance to those pesky bites!


AA: Has there ever been wildlife making a surprise appearance at one of your events?


AC: Working around state and national parks there are abundant amounts of wildlife. Thankfully we have not had anything “large” crash a party but we did have a very interested and rather sizable, momma raccoon make her way into a tent the night before the wedding while we were running and lighting and rehearsal. She was hanging onto the tent pole behind the drape and when I turned to adjust the uplight I was greeted with a gnarly hiss and growl!


AA: What’s the hardest thing to make happen in a remote location?


AC: With enough time and resources there isn’t much that is that hard or too difficult to happen. I will say that one repeated challenge is lack of modern conveniences. You have to know your resources before you arrive on location and most importantly, their hours of operation! The mom and pop hardware store may have everything you need to McGuyver the problem you need to solve but if they close at 4:30pm and don’t open until 10am no amount of duct tape or zip strips will make them open for you! Knowing your resources can result in more work for our team but it’s not an unsolvable challenge. The biggest challenge and hardest thing to work with in many remote locations we work with is the lack of total or reliable cell phone services. Short of getting a satellite phone, which those have even been a challenge at one particular “remote” destination we have produced two events at, there isn’t much you can do. In today’s day and age, it’s amazing how dependent we are on our mobile devices and when you don’t have them, or a way to make them work, you best hope that the team you have assembled is sharp and on point!


AA: When you’re doing an event out west, what do you miss the most about working back home?


AC: Aside from working around Lake Michigan, we have been fortunate to travel to California, Colorado and Texas to name a few, to produce events for clients. Working at “home” is never really “home” for us. We are always traveling to our venues so operating in a mobile capacity is something we are very comfortable with. With that being said, I don’t know that I really “miss” working at home when we are in a new state or across country. New locations, challenges and venues are inspiring just like the families we serve and although we may not be able to bring our exact tool kits, team of vendors or families we sometimes have more fun learning the new and reinventing what we do on the road!

AA: What can you get in northern Michigan that you can’t find anywhere else?


AC:  For those that are fortunate enough to have spent time around Northern Michigan I think you would agree with me in saying that there is a certain sense of self and wholeness here that resonates in one’s soul. Our clients may not reside up north year round but it’s their favorite address and they want to share the magic of what we have here with the ones they love. The natural beauty found along our shores, crystal clear waters and intoxicating sunsets provide the back drop for the effortlessly perfect summer day. Now, if you are a four seasons lover like I am, you’ll have no problem swapping your swim fins for snowshoes and your fresh roadside fruit for campfire chili!



A Spotlight on Matthew Myhrum

Dempsey & Carroll event curator Austin Ackles sat down with Matthew to discuss his event design process. 

mmyhrum portrait

AA: You were a production designer for Preston Bailey. What is the most indispensable piece of experience you acquired there?

MM: Learning to make design decisions quickly was the biggest lesson I learned. I used to take a lot more time as a set designer to make creative decisions, as I often felt that I didn’t want to make a mistake.  However, learning to trust my skills as an artist rather than second guessing myself has been one of the more impactful things I took away from my time there.

AA: And when you design for the stage? What skill have you found yourself employing again and again?

MM: The importance of visual storytelling and removing one’s ego from the equation when needed in order to effectively tell the story.  It doesn’t matter how creative and clever we would like to be, or how many new ideas we can bring to the table.  If we’re not telling the story that needs to be told, we’re doing the story a disservice.  Although I may occasionally add artistic touches to a client’s renderings to better communicate the event’s experience, the primary goal is for me to express myself by expressing their creative voice.

AA: Beyond the obvious, what is the biggest difference between designing for the theatre and creating renderings for special events?

MM: Usually my involvement in rendering an event happens over the course of a week, while my role as a set designer usually took place over a series of months.  As a result, I’ve become a much more prolific artist in weddings than I ever was as a set designer.

rendering 1

AA: When you’re doing renderings for a wedding reception, how many rounds of revisions usually happen?

MM: It depends on whether the planner/designer is still in the process of discovering the design, or expressing what they’ve already designed in their mind’s eye.  In the former, the rendering process allows them to evaluate their ideas and revise them if needed to better serve their client. In the latter, the rendering process is more about insuring that I’m interpreting and expressing their artistic vision as concisely as possible.Adobe Photoshop PDF

AA: Do you usually meet directly with clients or just with event planners?

MM: Well, to be clear, the planners are my clients. Although I have had the opportunity to meet a few brides over the last few years, my primary relationship has always been with the planner, helping them to build the creative trust with their client and sell their designs.

AA: Anywhere in the world, is there a venue that you’re yearning to create renderings for and just haven’t had the opportunity yet?

MM: I have a few.  Either Gaudi’s Park Guell or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a party at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, and lastly, given my love of Disney Parks, I would love the opportunity to work on a few events or weddings at Walt Disney World.

An Excerpt from “Diamonds from Brilliant Minds”

An Excerpt from “Diamonds from Brilliant Minds,” published by Messers. Dempsey & Carroll in 1881.

In Twos

Somewhere in the world there hide,

Garden-gates that no one sees

Save they come in happy twos-

Not in ones, nor yet in threes.-W.C.GannettIMG_1539IMG_1545