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The Personalized Approach to Entertaining with My Resident Expert, Debra Morris

Welcome back, Fabulistas!

I am continuing my conversation with Debra Morris, Resident Expert for Entertaining at Home. If you enjoyed our earlier post discussing Debra’s fascinating journey into the world of event planning as much as I did, you are in for a treat. In today’s conversation, Debra shares a bit more about her work, including some of the incredible career moments she’s had over the years. I know you’ll enjoy our discussion!

A headshot of Debra Morris

A Different Kind of Event

Robin: Hi again, Debra. Welcome back!

Debra: Always a joy to be back with you, Robin.

Robin: Can you talk about the types of events you typically put on? 

Debra: I have done everything from a rooftop proposal—complete with a full orchestra—to corporate events and personalized meetings. One time, I planned an event for Coca Cola where every piece of catering was made with food from their family of brands. Creativity is very important, no matter how formal or casual the event is. My company also helps plan corporate Christmas parties, intimate dinners, weddings of any size, a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs, fundraisers, and more. 

In focus in front is a person with long hair holding a full champagne flute up for a toast, with another hand coming in from the left edge of the photo doing the same. Other blurred people in the background are also raising their hands and all looking towards the horizon of the picture. The people are in formal clothes sitting at a table with glasses and flowers.

Robin: What do you think you are most known for?

Debra: We don’t specialize in any one type of event, but recently we’ve gained a reputation for planning exciting investor meetings. They can be tricky because you are dealing with different personalities and high-profile clientele, as well as specific corporate procedures. It can be easy to fall into a standard “safe” event, but I’m known for thinking outside the box. By bringing the right team together and negotiating with the client, we’re able to turn a business affair into something entertaining and fun. 

We’re also known for throwing bar mitzvahs. People can be very competitive about it, and usually there’s a lot of money being spent. What I typically do is sit with the bar/bat mitzvah boy or girl and discuss with them which charities we could support with some of the money. Once that is sorted, my creative energy kicks in, and I do my best to learn everything there is to know about the family hosting the party. Personalization is the winning factor! 

A large event space with numerous tables surrounded by chairs. Tables have full ornate place settings, covered in flower center pieces with lit candles. A red ceiling centers on an ornate flowery chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

A Personalized Touch

Robin: Debra, how do you approach each of your client’s needs differently?

Debra: Before we get started on anything, I sit down with my client and have a regular conversation completely unrelated to the party or event. I really want to know who they are and understand how to create a moment that’s special for them, not something that’s cookie-cutter and pulled from a magazine. In reality, what they think they want may not always be within their budget or reflect their personality. Getting to know the person on a social level and building trust is the most important step and must be done before any of the other event planning processes begin. 

Robin: What is the most important factor for you to be able to work with someone?

Debra: Chemistry between me and my client is key. We need to be on the same wavelength and work towards the same goal. It will reflect on the event. People often get competitive, wanting to have “the best” event compared to the rest of their family and friends.  But “best” does not always mean more money. The spotlight should be on who they are as a person. My job is to guide my clients with the budget they’ve given me and allocate it in good taste. If I feel that they are pushing for something that may not be ideal, I try to suggest alternatives that will work better for their situation. 

This is a photo of a fully set table: plates with elegantly folded napkins on top, wine glasses filled to the brim with a reddish/pinkish liquid, and a center piece running down the length of the table of brass-y metal bars and flowers.

Robin: Could you tell me more about what you enjoy most about the process? What brings you joy?

Debra: The best part of my job is that it feels like an evolution. No two days are the same. Whatever project comes in, I love it as much as the last one. It also depends on the people I get to work with. There are those who define how much you enjoy your job by being easy to work with, and those who require more hand-holding—for instance, an anxious bride or a high-powered CEO who sometimes has a hard time relinquishing control. My job is to get them to trust me so they can be free to enjoy the event themselves. 

Exclusive Clientele

Robin: A little birdie told me that you’ve planned notable events for celebrities, Hollywood entertainment, and major museums. Can you tell me more about planning a celebrity event?

Debra: When it comes to celebrities, there’s a lot more detail involved. Think press, security, etc. If I am ever asked to plan an event for a celebrity without having access to them, I remove myself from the equation. I cannot do a party well if I don’t know who I am doing the party for. I always promise my best, and luckily I have been able to deliver on that promise for my entire career. 

Another tricky thing with celebrity events is ensuring all vendors are compensated for what they do. Sometimes, I have to be the middleman and make sure everyone is being treated fairly, while also making sure the event is a huge success. 

Robin: What about planning events for entertainment companies? How are they different from other events?

Debra: Entertainment companies are great. They often have new ideas, but due to their busy schedules they need a lot of help executing them. When you plan something like an awards show, for example, it’s important to remember that it is also a party, just with press coverage. 

How do you make it successful is the big question? By engaging the audience with subliminal messages through lighting, music, details of color and texture. By adjusting these elements, you can influence the way people feel without “telling them” how to feel. 

This pictures what looks like a grand awards show or major event. Purple colored lights dimly light long rows of elegantly set tables, with flowers running down their center. The backdrop a stage with that looks like a grand cathedral, with a curved dome roof, columns, and stained glass windows. Moving lighting fixtures at either side send cascading spotlights in angled directions from the sleek black stage itself

Thoughtful and Unique

Debra’s eye for detail and thoughtful approach to every kind of event always inspires me. I especially love her personal approach to her client, no matter the scope of the event. Now that you’ve had a chance to hear directly from Debra a bit more about the art of entertaining, you too can begin to bring those personal touches to every event—big or small! And especially now that the weather is warm for the summer, you too have the opportunity to host something fabulous and outdoors! Check out my Outdoor Collection for some inspiring ideas and pieces for your next celebration.


XOXO,

Robin

 

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