Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles sat down with event planner Cristina Verger and spoke about her beginnings in Rome and her enormous success here in New York.
AA: In just a few words, can you share with us the essence of Cristina Verger Event Planning & Production?
CV: The essence of Cristina Verger Event Planning & Production is to work with our clients in, not only meeting their expectations, but surpassing those expectations.
AA: You are consistently busy. What are the top three reasons clients keep flocking your way?
CV: What I mostly hear from clients is that they find me to be: professional with incomparable industry knowledge; brutally honest (hopefully I am not shattering hearts); sense of style; they seem to enjoy the entire process while working with me. As one client recently told me “we know you are not going to let us have a bad wedding.” Most rewarding of all for me is to feel this mutual respect and to have my client’s confidence.
AA: We recently worked with you on ceremony programs, menus, escort cards, and table numbers for a New York City wedding and a huge blizzard hit on the big day. Please tell us what ended up happening?
CV: This was definitely one for the books. On Saturday, Jan. 23rd, the actual snowstorm was much worse than predicted and turned into a “state of emergency” followed by the Mayor’s travel ban. With 50-80 mile per hour winds, almost two feet of snow fell within a few hours and I knew it was impossible to proceed with the wedding. Most of the guests had flown in from out of town and were housed between the Mandarin Oriental, the Essex house, and the Park Lane Hotels, while the wedding ceremony and reception were scheduled to take place at the Metropolitan Club. Even though all the venues were in close proximity, it was impossible to get anywhere with a travel ban in effect. In addition to which, all the professionals working on the wedding could not get to the venue. The wedding had to be cancelled.
As a wedding planner, I am not legally obliged to reschedule a wedding, only to produce and organize the wedding celebration for the day for which it is planned. Acts of God and major catastrophes, are exactly what they are. However, a wedding is a very special day in a “girl’s” life, a once in a life event, and I understand how terribly upsetting cancelling your wedding can be. It is a day to which everyone has looked forward to for almost a year, the buildup to this moment is incredible, and the letdown would be equally enormous. With this in mind, I offered to move the wedding to the next day, Sunday, January 24th. Once the bride and family agreed, I moved to make this happen. Not such an easy task. All had to be rearranged within a few hours and before the 2:30 pm start of the travel ban. (The decision to reschedule the wedding to the next day was made at 1 pm.) Of course, I had to reach every single person working on this wedding and ensure they would be available for the next day. My long standing working relationship with all the professionals involved was key in receiving full cooperation. Everyone worked very hard on rescheduling their lives and ensured that they were able to provide their services on Sunday. The Metropolitan Club was also excellent in reaching all their staff and rescheduling everyone for the next day. It was quite an experience to be out, driving in the snow storm. Every street had cars stuck and we had to go around vehicles, make sure we did not get stuck ourselves in the deep snow. My driver, Vito, was fantastic and committed. My assistant, Valentina, was a true trooper handling the bridal suite filled with bride and 15 bridesmaids, plus hair and makeup artists, the photographer, and more … I needed to make sure that she was able to get back home before the ban. In order to achieve all, I was the one that ended up driving around well into the travel ban. In fact, met by the police, and risking arrest, Vito was able to talk us into freedom.
The result was a fabulous wedding on Sunday the 24th and, in the bride’s words, “perfect!” Stressful? Definitely. But also exciting and the experience gave me another opportunity to “think out of the box,” which is what I do best.
An article about this wedding can be found here in The New York Times.
AA: You’ve worked extensively all over the globe and are Italian born. What’s your favorite thing about working in Italy and what is your favorite thing about working in New York?
CV: Italy is where I was born and raised. It is an incredibly beautiful country with cities that are “open air” museums. When you walk through cities like Rome, Florence, Siena, and many others, you literally bump into major works of art casually placed throughout. Bernini sculptures and fountains adorn all of Rome, for instance. Working in Italy, anywhere in Italy, as the country is vastly varied in its offerings. From north to south it is completely different landscapes, food, wines, oil, cuisine. Even language changes since all the regions were actual countries not too long ago. To me, creating a wedding in Italy, for Americans, means bridging what we are used to experiencing at weddings here, but with the thrill of what Italy has to offer. Truly marrying the two cultures to bring out the best of both and, thereby, create a unique and memorable experience for all attending.
New York is a unique city, the energy of which is intoxicating! A NYC event is one that very few will not want to attend. I always tell my clients not to plan on a no-show when inviting guests to a NYC wedding as all, from anywhere in the world, will be eager to participate in a wedding celebration NYC Style!
AA: If you’re planning a wedding for a client that wants to have a B-list, what is your advice to them?
CV: Just the other day, someone said to me that they found out they were a “B” list guest and were completely insulted. I am not a proponent of a “B” list for this exact reason.
AA: Is it a refreshing change to design a corporate event or do you prefer the flamboyance of private parties?
CV: Designing a corporate event can be very rewarding as often these are very lavish and have a very “business” approach to the entire process. But producing private parties and especially weddings, allows me to truly utilize all my skills and guide the bride through the minefield of options. Most brides have never planned such a large and important event as their wedding. They may have a vision but this vision is not quite clear. I can be a pivotal person in achieving and then surpassing their expectations.
AA: If for some crazy reason you couldn’t be an event designer, what career could you see yourself totally immersed in?
CV: This is a tough question. I have always wanted to be in the hospitality industry, since I was a little girl. In Rome, my family owned and operated a hotel in the heart of the city. It was always my desire to, one day, operate the hotel myself. However, for many different reasons, at some point my family decided to sell the hotel and move to NYC. Though we no longer owned a hotel, when I was finished with my school, I went into the hotel business and from there began my career which ultimately led to starting my own business 15 years ago. I may still open my own hotel in the near future, but being an event producer and, particularly producing weddings, allows me to completely use my creative skills and realize wonderful settings for the brides who put their trust in me. It is fabulous to be part of such a momentous time in a couple’s life! To answer your question, there is nothing else I’d like to do. I am totally immersed in what I am doing now.
AA: Lastly, when you finally have time for yourself, what’s a favorite getaway?
CV: So many beautiful places to visit in the world! The end of this year I am planning on a trip, over Christmas and New Year’s, to Australia and the Fiji islands. Last summer, I spent the end of August (after my last wedding of the season) till mid-September, between the South of France and Milan. It was fabulous! Nice was great, and I love the Mediterranean. The difficulty is being able to plan much in advance as it always depends on the events I have in the works.
AA: Thanks so much, Cristina. You’ve been so much fun to work with!