Tips from the East Bay's Top Party Planner
Danville-based event planner Lindsay Noonan shares her tips on how to make your party shine.
It rained sideways on the morning of Lindsay Noonan’s wedding. The phones in the bridal suite continuously rang with concerned family checking in. Fortunately, Noonan, an event planner, had done all the prep work herself and stayed calm as the rain pounded outside. Miraculously, an hour before she walked down the aisle, the sky cleared, and her courtyard wedding went off without a hitch.
Despite her young age, the 28-year-old Bay Area native and owner of Lindsay Lauren Events is no new kid on the block when it comes to planning a great party. Noonan got her start working for a catering company and interning with an event planner, and—being a lifelong local—she knows the best places to have a party and the best vendors to help bring a celebration to life. Here are her tips for throwing a stress-free soiree.
Q: I’m hosting a big bash. What is the first thing to do?
A: Call a planner! Part of hiring a professional is having someone who not just hears your needs but will carefully select vendors who fit into your vision, which expedites the process. It’s either time or money. So, if you don’t have a professional who is doing those duties, you’ll end up spending more time on things.
And there will be added stress. Having a planner helps make the process more enjoyable.
Q: What’s next?
A: Get your list of top priorities going. Figure out what you like—what’s most important to you. This will allow you to make better decisions later. A good place to start is with a theme or a feel [for your event]. You don’t necessarily need a theme, but you definitely need a direction. Start with your favorite things. Make a list of what you love: experiences, colors, types of food. All those things can play a role in your event.
Q: What are some tips for planning a party at home?
A: Doing the cooking yourself, as opposed to hiring a caterer, definitely saves money. Plan your menu ahead of time, and know how many guests you are having so you don’t buy more than what’s needed or unnecessary ingredients. And make sure you have enough so your guests don’t feel like they are limited.
Also, decide on what beverages you will have. If you’re serving wine, choose a few varietals ahead of time. If you are going to offer cocktails, provide common drinks that most guests like so you aren’t stuck stocking a full bar. For example, provide vodka with a few different mixers, such as cranberry juice and club soda, plus lemons and limes. And purchase ice!
Q: What are ways (other than hiring a planner) to avoid stress as the party approaches?
A: Plan ahead. Prepare anything you can ahead of time, whether it’s chopping ingredients for a pasta sauce or making the salad dressing that morning. And plan what goes where ahead of time. I always lay my platters out on my counter and label everything with a Post-it note. That way, I’m not looking for platters last minute, and it’s one more step to cross off my list.
And plan your menu wisely. If you’re hosting a large dinner party, choose dishes that don’t require you to stand over them the entire time. Not having to do those tasks while guests are at your home will allow you to stress less and enjoy more.
Q: What is the biggest challenge on the day of the party?
A: All the multitasking, between conversations with guests and trying to enjoy the party. If you’re hosting an event with someone—your spouse, a family member, or a friend—divide and conquer so no one is doing everything. Make a list of what needs to be done, and stay on top of it. That creates less room for errors.
Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when planning a party?
A: Two things come to mind. The first is that people tend not to plan ahead enough. They forget the amount of time it takes to host a nice event. The other mistake is that they don’t enjoy it. As a host, your guests know when you are stressed, and it changes the entire vibe of the event. Plan ahead (or hire some help) so you can enjoy the occasion with your guests.
Q: What are some ways to make your guests feel at home?
A: Greeting your guests and welcoming them at the door. It sounds silly, but being present and not stressed when your guests arrive will ensure they feel comfortable and welcome. The more well-planned your event or dinner party is, the more you’ll be able to enjoy and relax, which in turn allows your guests to enjoy it.
Q: As a planner, how do you feel about Pinterest to help inspire an event?
A: It’s a blessing and a curse. There are so many wonderful things about it: beautiful designs, inspiration for those who don’t know what they want. Someone can create a board that really reflects his or her vision, and I actually help with that, which is wonderful.
But the challenge—and people don’t always realize this—is Pinterest is rarely realistic. There are all these amazing photos, but there’s no budget button. Sometimes, I have to pump the brakes and point out that most things in the photos are custom upgrades. That stemware doesn’t come with those gold rims.
If you keep in mind that your event isn’t going to look like a Pinterest board, [the site] can truly enhance creativity and inspire people to use different ideas.
Q: When you got married, it rained all day. How did you manage to stay calm?
A: Honestly, I don’t know. I got married in September in Sonoma. It’s peak season for the weather—and it rained. Everyone thought I would be freaking out, but truthfully, I wasn’t. What kept me sane was knowing that I had done everything in my power to control the things that were important to me. I had a great team of vendors and someone who was hands-on at the venue who could boss my wedding party around. I was able to let it go and say, “It’s my wedding: I’m happy.”
The little things are just hiccups, and if one thing wasn’t how I envisioned, none of the guests was going to know anyway.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: My passion is people, so the exciting thing is the relationships I make with my clients. I’m with them during their parties or weddings, and then we get to stay in contact with social media.
And every day is different. I jump from ballroom to vineyard, from all the timelines and revisions to seeing the vision. I get to help make clients shine, and make sure they are happy. lindsaylaurenevents.com.