All in the Family: Party Rental Experts on Creating Special Events for Family Members Photo courtesy Stamford Tent & Event Services

All in the Family: Party Rental Experts on Creating Special Events for Family Members

Owners of party rental companies share the challenges and joys of creating special events such as weddings for their own family members.

FATHER KNOWS BEST—HONEST, HE DOES!

Stephen M. Frost
President
Stamford Tent & Event Services, Stamford, Conn.


The event His daughter's wedding, Sept. 1, 2012, for 135 guests

Was it more stressful than working for a client or less? Much more.

Did you get to try to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the chance before? Yes. The design was very much a collaborative effort, but unlike client events, my wife, daughter and myself had the final say in the look and feel of the event. It was exactly what we wanted. (Photo courtesy Stamford Tent & Event Services.)

Was your family more understanding of what’s possible in reality—or not? They understood it had to be perfect or they were going to disown me …

What are you proudest about for this event? That I finally got to do something for my little girl that I had done for thousands of other brides my entire career.

In retrospect, is there something you would have done differently? Nope, not a thing.

Do you find that you get these requests often from family? No. My family is very low-key.

And does “family” sometimes include long-lost “relatives” who are your fourth cousin three times removed? How do you handle this? It has only happened once, and I told him I would do it for cost. Once he found out what cost was, he went to a club.

What was the hardest part? Convincing my wife that after 45 years, I actually knew what I was doing.

I help people determine the right size tent every day. Most people think I’m pretty good at it. From the very beginning my wife insisted the tent was too big. I assured her it was the right size. I did site plans and seating plans and she kept insisting it was too big.

The week of the wedding when the crew installed the tent, the first thing she said was “Are you sure this is big enough?” She kept asking the question until she made me doubt myself. Four days before the wedding, before the carpet was installed on the subfloor, I went out at 6:30 in the morning and drew the tables and chairs on the subfloor with chalk just to make sure.

It was perfect.

Next: Of course, you'd give anything in your inventory for your family's event—until a paying client wants it, too! Steve Kohn of Miller's on the challenge of keeping everyone happy.

 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME—TO PRACTICE EVENT INSTALLATIONS
Steve Kohn
President
Millers Rentals, Edison, N.J.

 

Having a big backyard with a large plush green lawn has made my property the ideal spot for numerous family events over the last 20 years. I guess the first major event we held on my property was my wedding—Sept. 25, 1994--definitely a day to remember (see photo at left). It rained all week up until the moment we said our vows.

Since that time, we have had birthdays, showers, anniversaries and holidays. Each one comes with its own unique stories and challenges. What they all have in common is the ultimate pressure to make sure it goes perfectly. After all, this is what we are supposed to do.

Needless to say, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some of the biggest challenges always seem to be in the timing. It never fails that whenever we plan an outdoor event at the “Kohn residence,” it ends up being a crazy weekend for the entire company with other high-profile—that is, paying--clients to service. Learning to balance priorities becomes the issue. Many times I have had to have my crew come do the work after normal working hours.

Although I try to remember that the client comes first, that is not easy to explain to my family members when they are becoming very stressed trying to plan an important event. Many times I have had to juggle equipment around at the last minute. So if my wife wanted the gold chiavaris with the white cushions, I might have had to swap out something else if an order comes in for a client. Believe me, this has caused many “mini battles” at my house.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FLOORS AND RESTROOMS

I can vividly remember my wedding. At the time, we were just getting into tent flooring and had minimal floor inventory. My “wife to be” wanted a floor, and I was onboard until we rented it out to someone else.

As I mentioned, it rained the entire week and the lawn was soaked. I ended up paying for quite a few pair of ruined shoes after that event. Since that party, every event we do now includes a floor--no questions asked.

I have also learned that any time we have more than 60 guests, portable restrooms are on the rental list.

One of the most crazy things I remember was when my wife turned 50, we threw a big '60s theme party. We went really wild on decor. I ordered special sidewall custom-painted with a VW Beetle on it, which was really a big hit.

I paid a lot of money, assuming I could rent it in the future. That never happened. Conclusion: Never assume.

Many events become testing grounds for new lighting, decorating and tenting techniques. I figure if we screw up, I’d rather have it happen to me than a client. I think after the first couple of outdoor events we did, we worked out the major logistical challenges and had a better “lay of the land,” so each future event became easier. The same goes with basically any client event done multiple times in the same venue.

I don’t think our family has abused the privilege and the nice thing is, we all work together to make it happen no matter how busy we are at work. I really feel each event is better than the last and I get a great sense of satisfaction when the event is done.

PUT DOWN YOUR DRINK AND HELP TAKE OUT THE TENT LINER

Sometimes we have had to compromise. I remember one party that we had a liner in the tent in our yard and we had an event the next day that needed a liner, so after the party I had to have my employees--many who were at the party--take the liner down and move it to the next event.

Some holidays and events I do have to admit, I like it when we go somewhere other than our yard, but after a couple of those I’m ready for the yard again. Best advice to give: Don’t skimp. If you’re going to do it, do it right. It takes a lot of work and effort to make any event happen, but the rewards last forever.

Next: Family comes first—'friends' can get in line, says Sherri Creighton of Pleasanton Rentals.

 

SISTER'S SURPRISE PARTY

Sherri Creighton
President
Pleasanton Rentals, Pleasanton, Calif.

The event: A surprise birthday party for her older sister, for 100 guests

Was it more stressful than working for a client or less? Definitely more stressful than working for a client, unless I know the client well.

Did you get to try to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the chance before? Yes, we tented her tennis court.

What are you proudest about for this event? Our TIA (time in action). We had to begin work at 8 in the morning and have everything done by 5 p.m. Not only did we tent over the tennis courts, the load-in was unbelievably tight. I probably would not have even attempted this job for anyone else. And, she was surprised.

In retrospect, is there something you would have done differently? I would have changed nothing, but I spent easily four months planning every detail.

Do you find that you get these requests often from family? And does “family” sometimes include long-lost “relatives”? I don’t have much family close by, so I don’t get requests often. What I get most often, are the calls where their kid is “best friends” with my kid and they “know me really well” and can we discount or donate.

If it is family, I do whatever they would like me to do. I figure I am where I am in life due to the support (sometimes physical support, sometimes emotional and sometimes financial—thanks, Dad!) of my family, and anytime they would like me to be involved in planning and executing any event in their life, I am happy to take charge!

The “I’m her best friend” requests are a little different. Most of my good friends are marked that way in their customer profile so our staff knows once they bring up a client if they are a close friend of mine. All the other ones are guided to our donation form on our website.

See the full story in the March-April issue of Special Events, which is available to ISES members for free and to subscribers. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.

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