By Denise DePaolo
It’s 8 p.m. on a brisk December evening. Snowflakes are drifting slowly from a violet sky and inside, a holiday party is getting into full swing.
Glasses are full, festive music is lilting from the speakers, tiny plates of shrimp and crostini and fancy cheese are being balanced, and most importantly, the evening’s hosts are smiling.
Behind the scenes, however, two servers just collided, spilling a full tray of crudités on the floor and the emcee’s dress just caught on a corner and ripped. Addie Graham-Kramer springs into action – simultaneously reconfiguring the food rotation and pulling out an emergency sewing kit.
As founder and president of The Event Company, it’s her job to make sure that the stress of throwing a party never becomes part of the experience for hosts or their guests.
“What we have to do is think fast and think on our feet, and luckily we have backup tools in place,” she explained. “The thing about being a planner is there’s always a backup, so we no longer carry just singles of things. We carry three – three rolls of tape or extra centerpieces, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
When Graham-Kramer launched her company two years ago, she already had more than a decade of corporate and non-profit event planning under her belt. It was a concept not foreign to Sioux Falls, but far more common in larger metropolitan areas. She found that in South Dakota, many organizations were pulling in planners from places like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia – or delegating the entire job to employees who already had a lot on their plates.
“One of our clients, we ended up saving him over 38-thousand dollars from their normal budget by us just taking it over,” she remembered. “Because they’re not having to pay salaries or committees to pick out linens or help pick out food or go buy decorations. Let them do what they do best. That’s our key – let accounting to accounting and marketing do that, and let us work with them and take over the hard stuff.”
The Event Company has worked with budgets of all sizes – from a couple thousand to nearly a million dollars on everything from private dinner parties to large-scale fundraisers with A-list performers. Graham-Kramer and her small team call themselves event designers (as opposed to planners), because they handle all of the logistics – managing the budget and contracts, securing the venue, media buying, selecting decor, food and flowers, booking entertainment, and making sure it all adheres to fire codes – while also making sure the guest experience is the best it can be from first impressions to grabbing the coats. Basically, they make it look good. Really good.
“I think people don’t realize all that goes into an event, you know? They just show up and think, ‘Oh this looks good.’ Well, that table took us hours to style,” she laughed. “We did a dinner party in August and this one table alone took three of us four hours to style, because there’s every little element. You’re literally lugging in tables, pulling in chairs, there’s nobody else that does that. It’s the event planners that are doing that. You’re literally lifting every single piece and putting it where it needs to go.”
Graham-Kramer says organizing large-scale fundraisers like NAMI Sioux Falls’ “Dancing with the Sioux Falls Stars” or Feisty Fighters’ Breast Cancer benefit “Sparkle and Shine” is incredibly rewarding, but some of the most unexpected and fun events have been the private ones.
To read the full article pick up the December issue of 605 Magazine or click here.