Ivy Robinson has long been the preeminent wedding planner in the Carolinas, having designed weddings for celebrities, sports figures, and some of Charlotte’s biggest names. But over the past year, Robinson’s focus has shifted away onto designing upscale and swank events such as a 1,000-guest party in New Orleans hosted by four of the city’s most notable families. Though she’s still planning weddings, the Charlotte-based designer says the transition to creating social affairs—from extravagant yet sophisticated birthday parties to over-the-top corporate functions –was seamless. We caught up with Robinson, who is often jetting around the world for her clients, to pick her brain on party-throwing this season.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THROWING A PARTY—WHETHER IT’S AT YOUR HOME OR AT AN OUTSIDE VENUE. WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW? Three things: you need to spark interest for your event, you need good entertainment, and you need to engage your guests’ senses.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE THAT? With invitations, it’s all about getting people buzzing about the party before it begins. A lot of people are moving towards electronic invitations but I’m old fashioned—I like getting something in the mail and I think others do, too. You need to get creative with it—design something that guests can touch and feel. It allows them to get an idea of what to expect from your party. For entertainment, you don’t necessarily need to hire someone to perform, but to really engage your guests it’s better to have live music. And that’s not expensive to do. You can find an acoustic guitar player to play for four hours for $250. You never want a party with silence; otherwise it’s just hearing people talk the whole time. And you want to engage guests’ senses from the music they hear, the things they see, the things they taste, the things they touch with good fabrics and linens.
THE THINGS THEY SEE? TELL ME MORE. You always want to give your guests the unexpected throughout the night. For example, surprise entertainment. At one event I planned, it was Halloween weekend. At the end of the evening, I had these zombies come in and surprise guests with a choreographed Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance. The place went wild. Or it can be as simple as serving interesting late-night food or have a food truck come out as a surprise like Southern Cake Queen to serve guests cupcakes.
ANY OTHER WOW FACTORS THAT ARE ON TREND NOW? Specialty drinks aren’t anything new. But hiring a mixologist to create a drink specifically for your party is a big trend right now. People have always had a signature drink—cosmos, martinis—but these are drinks that a mixologist designs and crafts just for your party.