Spotlight on Danielle Couick

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles met with event planner Danielle Couick of Magnolia Bluebird for drinks at charming Orsay on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.


AA: Magnolia Bluebird is such a pretty name. How did you come to choose it?

DC: Thank you! Magnolia Bluebird was supposed to be a bed and breakfast somewhere in my far off future. When the opportunity came for me to start my own planning firm, it seemed like such a natural fit. I am from the South and entertaining is just a way of life. My grandmother hosted often and had a magnificent way of making you feel as though you were the only person in the room, even if you were amongst 200. She taught me how to make centerpieces using the leaves of her magnolia tree which to me has become a symbol of gracious hospitality and reminder to be present in all that you do. She also taught me that entertaining should be comfortable and a reflection of you. Anytime I entertain you can count on a bowl of French onion dip and Ruffles somewhere in the spread. It is such a simple and basic thing, but such a great reminder of the lessons I learned growing up. And don’t let anyone tell you they don’t love chips and dip.

Bluebird is from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and is a song I sang often as a child. It is about following your dreams and owning what is beyond the known. The longer I’ve been in this business the more I learn that my needs and dreams are constantly changing, growing and adapting. There is something really powerful in knowing that I will never reach the top, that there is always an opportunity to learn more, create more and that I am trusted to take incredibly calculated risks.


AA: You’re based in the Washington D.C. area. How far flung have you worked?

DC: We currently do a fair amount of planning and design work on the East Coast but have also designed weddings as far South as the US Virgin Islands. I have also been a speaker all over the country which is always fun! We are always open for a new adventure.


AA: And were there any special challenges you had to overcome?

DC: Working in the USVI I quickly learned that accessibility was one of my biggest obstacles. What may be a basic staple and available at the ready stateside (candles… for example) are not so easily obtained (at least not without huge markup or lead time). Floral also has a high rate of spoilage due to shipping and travel timing. We were going for a more classic look for this particular wedding and did not want to use tropical botanicals. For example, a bouquet that costs $300 stateside could easily see a price tag of $500-600 there. We ended up flying a lot of our needs, linens, candles, centerpiece elements, details, etc. to ensure they arrived safely and on time and due to limited resources on the islands.

AA: Can you name a dream location you’d love to design for but have not yet had the opportunity?

DC: If we are talking dream world, then I would have to say The Palace of Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors is completely breathtaking. The views, the gardens, the detail, the inspiration… all of it. The intention with which the palace was designed and built, the artisans that crafted every detail, the sheer expanse and the meticulous effort to which it is maintained. There are so many elements about The Palace that resonate with elements that we value so strongly.


AA: We were at a recent Engage! conference together and a planner we both know and admire screamed about too many requests for clusters of chandeliers in trees. Would you mind sharing a pet peeve of yours?

DC: Ha! Yes, chandeliers in trees… this is a trend I don’t mind so much if it makes sense. I have more peeves when it comes to etiquette but trend wise, I have to admit that if I never see another mason jar again I would be alright and I am not sure how many more ways we can reinvent a S’more. I also think “naked cakes” are lacking. Icing is just so delicious and a beautifully finished and detailed cake can be a work of art. I would also love to see less blush and gold this year. I am craving color and curated detail.


AA: And then what do you see trending that you can’t get enough of?

DC: Expecting the unexpected. I love creating experiences for our clients and guests. This can be done in so many different ways. Entertainment, food and beverage, lighting and mood, delightful details. Our guests and clients are smart. They attend weddings, galas and a variety of other events so creating surprise and delight is really important and often a very fun challenge to stretch our creative ideas.


AA: You are expert at making a neutral color palette exciting but also excel at incorporating rich, vibrant color. What color do you plan on using more of?

DC: Thank you! You won’t see a lot of “blush and bashful” in our portfolio. I have always loved color and there is such a brilliant psychology behind the choices. In addition to weddings we also design a fair amount of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs so I think that is one reason we look for fresh palettes across the board. This year I am hearing a lot of requests for aubergine & shades of purple, strawberry & burgundy and pops of color infused into shades of neutrals. I am very excited about a wedding we have coming up this spring where we have designed a gradient color palette that flows from pastel for the ceremony to a bolder version for the reception into neon for the after party.


AA: When you’re choosing your own personal destination for some down time, what is your ideal?

DC: My husband and I are constantly on the move and our vacations are no exception. We typically select a locale that will allow for 24-48 hours of R&R just to recharge a bit and then we are ready to explore. We look for culture, great food and I typically look for historical and architectural significance. Some of our favorite destinations have been US road trips, the rainforest and forts of Puerto Rico, London and France.

Spotlight on Andrea Adelstein

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles sat down with event planner Andrea Adelstein of NYLUX Events to talk about her favorite venues and more. 

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Austin: Invitations were a family business when you were growing up. How has the wedding invitation changed since then?

Andrea: I believe invitations set the tone for the party. The wedding invitation has changed quite a lot over the past 30+ years. When I was growing up the choices were fewer and everything was a version of the same basic standard. Now couples can do almost anything: logos, craft paper, multiple colors and fonts. Brides and grooms can have their collective personalities shine through their invitation. I do caution couples to not go too outrageous, as I want them to love their invitation 10, 20 and 30 years from now. And a classic engraved or letterpress invitation is always gorgeous.

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Austin: What venue do you love because it never fails to inspire you?

Andrea: I love Tribeca Rooftop for weddings. The light shining through the glass ceiling at dusk is gorgeous; the staircase for the bride or couple to descend makes for both incredible photographs and a dramatic entrance. As a planner, I can be creative in so many ways there. The kitchen is incredibly accommodating and the food always delicious.

Tent Decor

Austin: You’ve designed an event for Hillary Clinton. When you know there’s going to be a lot of security involved, what extra preparations are required?

Andrea: When dealing with a celebrity, the biggest item to plan for is extra time! Time for security to do their job, for arrivals, for approvals. Planning needs to start earlier and you need to build more time into the overall schedule for everything.

Pictured: NoMad Hotel Rooftop

Spotlight on Sofia Crokos

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles sat down with event planner Sofia Crokos of Sofia Crokos Events to talk about her favorite venues and more. 


AA: Please tell us about your favorite venue in Greece and how you took advantage of such a spectacular location?

SCE: One of my all-time favorite venues is in Athens, called Island Art and Taste. It is located on the water, with a view that can take your breath away. The way that the space is designed and all the details of the venue makes you feel as though you were on one of the Greek Islands, all while conveniently in the heart of the Capital. From the food, to the vistas, this venue is truly a gem hidden in the Capital.


AA: And in New York?

SCE: In New York City, I would have to say, the New York Public Library, because in addition to being such a grand space, it is a landmark and in the heart of the city. The library’s extravagant size and beauty makes for some truly spectacular events.

Outside of the city, Locusts-on-Hudson is one of my favorite venues for an outdoor event. It has beautiful views overlooking the Hudson River Valley. I love creating tent events, and with the acres of meadows and gardens, this location is perfect for doing so.



AA: What destination have you worked in that proved the most logistically challenging?

SCE: All destination events prove to be challenging in some way or another. Planning an event requires a lot of communication and a long checklist of items to be completed in a timely manner. In my experience, Turkey and The Caribbean have been some of the most challenging locations. Outside of New York everything is very lax. Try to plan a wedding in the Caribbean when everyone works on “Island Time”, it is the definition of challenging! The language barrier is another issue we have to deal with. This complicates communication, which is extremely vital to the planning process. However, no matter how many challenges my team and I have to face, because of my strong contact pull, support group, and positive outlook, everything always falls into both the client’s and my favor.



AA: Any weather nightmares? And, if so, how did you remedy things?

SCE: Unfortunately, yes. At my own wedding! Can you believe the irony? After a track record of beautiful weather for every event I had done-weddings, dinners, milestone birthdays, you name it-there was a hurricane on my wedding day! After our clambake rehearsal dinner on the beach in the Hamptons, we quickly realized that with the brewing hurricane we weren’t going to be able to have our reception. Luckily the weather did not keep us from saying our nuptials, in the safety of a church. Almost five years later, I can finally laugh about the events of that weekend. My husband and I are planning on doing a “re-do” (minus the bad weather), with our closest friends and family in Greece or Italy for our five-year anniversary.


image001AA: When all the work is done, where do you love to go and recharge?

SCE: Whenever I am done with an event, whether it was a destination event or local one, there is nothing I enjoy more than returning to my home in Sag Harbor. I love the beach! It recharges me. The water is so peaceful and relaxing, and it helps me clear my mind to think of new creative ideas for my future events.



Photo Credits: Christina Oth Studio, Judith Rae Photography, Allan Zepeda Photography, Stephen Karlisch


A Spotlight on JZ Events

Dempsey & Carroll’s event curator Austin Ackles sat down with Jennifer Zabinski of JZ Events to learn about her work as an event planner. 


AA: You’ve worked all over the world! Outside of New York, what city hosted your most exciting event and how did you take advantage of that locale?


JZ: I think one of my favorite locations has been in Fiesole, right outside of Florence. This location exposed our guests to the beautiful views of the countryside and allowed them to experience the true pace of Florence (including all of its sights, tastes and views).


AA: And which beach destination is an absolute favorite?

JZ: I’ve had many favorites but one that stands out is the Riviera Maya in Mexico. Few beach destinations beat its pristine water, sparkling sand and quality of food. Its proximity to New York is also extremely practical.



AA: What location provided the biggest logistical challenges and how did you overcome them?

JZ: The South of France is a region that definitely poses a range of challenges. With destinations that aren’t local, there is a great deal of pre-planning involved. You have to keep in mind that you are working during the height of their tourism season and this inevitably means competing against what they can offer for other events. Logistically speaking, you have to be thinking five steps ahead in terms of what needs to be shipped out, and what needs to be sent abroad. There are always many moving parts with a location that is not local and this will always be a challenge.


AA: Is there a venue that you’ve always dreamed of designing for but just haven’t gotten the opportunity yet?

JZ: I’ve always wanted to plan an event in the Mauritius. Their melange of different cultures (Indian and French included) has been something that I have wanted to explore further. I think there is a great potential for different themes here, that aside it is absolutely beautiful.


AA: When you finally get a break, where do you like to go to recharge?

JZ: My beach house in Wainscott is my ultimate go-to. This is a time where I can totally recharge and shut down. During my time there I enjoy spending time with my kids, and of course the little things like bike riding, swimming and being out of the bustle of New York City.


So you’re engaged!

An entirely new vocabulary and course of etiquette awaits you as you plan your upcoming celebration.

Does the Mother of the Bride sit on the left or the right?

What are the responsibilities of an usher?

Who is the MOH?


Never fear – Speak Wedding, by Annie Lee of Daughter of Design, is the perfect crash course in the vocabulary of weddings. This fabulous set of cheeky flash cards will help to plan your perfect day with ease and grace.


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.

A Spotlight on Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions in Aspen

Dempsey & Carroll curator, Austin Ackles, sat down with Virginia Edelson to discuss her work as an event planner in Aspen.unnamed

AA: Aspen is one of my favorite summer places. Do you do many weddings there in the winter or are most in the summer?

VE: Although Aspen winter weddings are absolutely magical, summer is the prime time for events and weddings in Aspen. The saying here goes: “people come for the winter and stay for the summer.” This is certainly true when events are the focus. There is significantly more for guests to do in the summertime (and hotel rates are much better!).


AA: Are there any extra considerations for those who want that dramatic high-peak mountainous backdrop for their ceremony?

VE: Indeed! Whenever we plan an outdoor wedding, weather and guest comfort are key items to keep into consideration. We always recommend a strong weather back up in case that gorgeous mountain backdrop is covered in clouds and rain. Moreover, guest comfort is always front and center at our events. Communication of proper attire, how weather can change, and proper footwear is always communicated to guests to ensure maximum comfort. We may just throw in a few extra goodies for their comfort at the event as well!!


AA: And are there any special concerns about the guests response to elevation changes?

VE: Fortunately, we rarely have any issues with guests coming to altitude for the wedding. However, we always remind guests to consume a lot of extra water prior to their arrival in Aspen and we often have an oxygen bar or mini cans of oxygen available for guest use once they arrive here.


AA: Have you ever done a wedding where skiing was somehow involved in the event itself?

VE: We have! One of the most memorable grand departures was a couple in full wedding attire skiing through a sparkler departure and then down Aspen Mountain with a special ski patrol escort. (I have photos!).


AA: What about wildlife? Any great sightings or surprise guests at a wedding or reception?

VE: There is a resident fox that tends to make a “surprise” appearance at almost all of the weddings on top of Aspen Mountain. Although we have our fair share of bears around town, we have yet to see one at a wedding. Most guests see them on their way through!!


AA: By now, you must have been involved in an event with a weather nightmare. Can you tell me about how it ended happily?

VE: Unfortunately we have. We tend to get storms that come and go relatively quick so they don’t impact our events to a great extent. However, we had an east coast style rainstorm all day one Saturday this summer. Our 300 person wedding was scheduled for mid-afternoon in a gorgeous meadow followed by a tented reception in the meadow. The weather broke shortly before guest arrival but it was clear we didn’t have too long until it returned. About 3/4 of the way through the ceremony, the rain returned and all of the umbrellas opened. As the mother of the groom exclaimed afterwards: “It was like hundreds of bottles of champagne popping open!” Although we didn’t have out picture perfect Bluebird day, it was certainly a dramatic and memorable one for the books. DSC_2702

A Spotlight on Mark Ingram

From the first visit to delivery, how long does the process of acquiring the perfect dress usually take?

It can be quite a long process.  We recommend that brides begin shopping for their gown ten to twelve months before their wedding.  They should order their gown no less than eight months before their wedding.  Designer gowns may take as long as 5 months to be delivered to the salon. Purchasing less than six months prior to your wedding may incur a designers rush fee. In some cases the gown may not be able to completed at all.  Our gowns are all made to order and this takes time, plus we need to make sure that each gown arrives in time to have proper fittings and alterations period. That can be minimally two months.


How many people is too many to be involved in the selection and fitting reed? 

I recommend that a bride only bring one or two people close to her that she trusts.  Too many people in the fitting room can confuse the bride and really make the whole selection process more difficult.  Many brides often shop alone for their first appointments and bring their mother, sister, maid of honor back to make the final selection.  If a bride feels they need to bring a gaggle of bridesmaids, wait for the final alterations fitting or book a VIP appointment where we will close the shop which will then allow room for all and everyone.

It must feel fantastic to have made so many brides absolutely elated for the most important day of their lives! Has it become an addiction?  It is definitely the best part of the job.  I wish I could be in the fitting rooms with the brides all day to see the tears of joy, but someone has to run the business and find the designers and gowns to feature in the Atelier.  I do make it a priority to try and meet every bride at some point during her appointments, especially when she is in a final fitting to see the completed look.


What’s the craziest accessory you’ve ever known a bride to have hidden under her dress? 

I don’t know if they really show me those things since I am a man!  But our brides often like to have something sentimental, like an heirloom or a token from their mother or grandmother either sewn or tucked into their gown.  And some of the designer shoes they are wearing now are fierce!  My girls are not wearing simple dyables, we see the most extraordinary shoes! Just last week we did have a client who came in with the most incredible gold and feather cape and wanted to find a gown to go with!!!


After a number of years of experimentation and some pretty outrageous themes, we’ve been seeing a large increase in requests for a more timeless, elegant invitation. Is the same thing happening in dress design?

Yes and no.  Our brides seem to be falling into two camps lately, those who want the classic, timeless styles a la Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera and those that want to push the envelope fashion wise.  The more adventurous girls are really adapting more of their personal style and ready to wear sensibilities into their bridal style.  They are opting for sexier, more bare and sophisticated gowns.  Then we have many girls who opt for a classic look for the ceremony and something outrageous and fabulous for the reception!


God forbid, if you couldn’t do what you’re doing now, what would be your runner-up dream career? 

Who knows, something creative for sure!  I have always liked the idea of designing something myself.  Now that I have designed the paper collection, I really am looking forward to what else I can do creatively.  I am very inspired by men’s tailoring lately, so who knows what I might be doing next!

A Spotlight on The Cloister

Events Curator Austin Ackles sat down with Maren White of The Cloister

AA: Sea Island, Georgia is so speCity Scape in Lanternsctacular and the Spanish moss lends such an air of mystery. Could you give us a bit of background?

MW: Howard Coffin, industrial magnate and creator of the Hudson automobile, fell in love with the Georgia coast while on a trip from Detroit to promote his cars in the 1910 Savannah Road Race.  The Coffins purchased Sapelo Island, built a beautiful home there, and in subsequent years purchased all of what is today’s Sea Island, as well as large tracts on St. Simons Island.  Believing that others would enjoy the coast as much as he and his wife did, Coffin and his young cousin Bill Jones commissioned famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner to design The Cloister, which opened in 1928.   Knowing that golf would be of interest to his guests, Coffin had Walter Travis design Plantation, the first nine-hole golf course of the Sea Island Golf Club, which opened in 1927 on St. Simons Island.

Although The Cloister quickly became popular, the young company’s early success was immediately affected by the Great Depression.  It was an extremely difficult time in the life of the company, with many employees encouraged to find work elsewhere if they could.  Most continued to work at Sea Island, where they were paid in Sea Island scrip, printed by the company and honored by local business owners in trade for food and necessities.


AA: You have your own chapel on the grounds of the resort. Does the chapel host a lot of weddings?

MW: The Chapel is extremely special to our brides at Sea Island! Nestled under historic oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, the Chapel is able to accommodate weddings of around 80 guests. With Sea Island’s weddings ranging from 2-300 guests in attendance, about half of our couples are lucky enough to fit their wedding inside this unique venue. For those brides that choose to celebrate with a large group of family and friends, the Cloister Garden is the perfect venue to exchange vows. With the Chapel being just a stone’s throw from the Garden, those brides that are too large to say their “I dos” in the Chapel are still able to incorporate this great venue into their wedding day by starting their walk down the aisle from our Chapel steps.


AA: We’ve seen so many beautiful ways to display and distribute escort cards. What’s the most original way you’ve seen it done at The Cloister?

MW: Our bride’s style always comes into play when designing gorgeous tablescapes! One of my favorite escort card displays has to be one that we did for a New York bride. We took various sized lanterns and staggered them across the table to create a city skyline in candlelight. We then nestled the escort cards on the base of the table on silver trays- all of the guests were drawn to the display and were sure not to forget their escort card! See attached images!


ABC Foyer TableA: There are so many reasons to visit Sea Island but what is the best reason to have your wedding at The Cloister?

MW: Each bride is drawn to Sea Island for her own reasons- some have been visiting the property since they were little girls, others have found our resort very recently. With that being said, I believe that the reason why our brides come to Sea Island is because of the true Southern Hospitality that our venue offers, while still providing our brides and their guests an incomparable luxurious experience!