EVENT MANAGER SIDNI Greenblat knew it would take work to create the feel of a swank hipster hotel inside a bland synagogue multi-purpose room. But having an enthusiastic client, a top-tier team of vendors, and a total budget just shy of $200,000 helped ease the burden, says the owner of Kensington, Md.-based Rave Reviews.
The concept for the spring event was designed to meet the widely varied needs of her clients — “a very important family in the Washington area,” according to Greenblat.
For starters, the parents of the bar mitzvah child were fans of designer Philippe Starck, and wanted the event to have an atmosphere reminiscent of his tony boutique hotels, which include Los Angeles' Mondrian and Miami's Delano. At the same time, they maintained a close relationship with their synagogue, and wanted festivities to take place on site. For his part, the guest of honor — a tennis fan — wanted to include his favorite sport in the celebration. On top of everything else, the hosts wanted to keep the dining area design a secret from guests until the very last moment.
To accommodate everyone, Greenblat enlisted the help of New York-based decor expert David Tutera to come up with a memorable two-part party.
With limited time, Greenblat's vendors set out to transform a nondescript space into the ultimate celebration place.
The first challenge in producing the Saturday night event was working around the Jewish Sabbath, which lasts from Friday evening until Saturday evening. Because the event rooms required extensive setup, Greenblat negotiated with the synagogue director and rabbis to arrange for crews to come in starting Wednesday, with the promise that they'd stop working during the Sabbath.
Even more daunting was the transformation of the main dining area — “just a big, ugly room with nothing in it,” Greenblat says. To create the environment she and Tutera envisioned, staff started by draping the entire perimeter with 16-foot white sheers. Next, her team interspersed square stainless steel and slate tables with traditional rounds, and ultra-modern, square chairs with classic chiavaris, to give the room a more modern feel.
Meanwhile, Silver Spring, Md.-based lighting company Atmosphere Inc. erected an extensive trussing system that not only held lighting, but also added support to the room's drop ceiling, making it possible to hang a variety of chandeliers and lanterns.
On event night, a duo of spaces did double duty.
A tennis-themed reception area featured servers in tennis whites, tennis clips playing on wall-mounted video monitors, and a mechanized tennis cage. The reception area fooled the 200 guests into thinking they were attending “another sports-themed bar mitzvah.”
When the time came to proceed from the reception into the draped-off main dining area, guests encountered a “breathtaking” room bathed in changing shades of blue, pink, purple and gold, Greenblat says. Guests took their seats at tables set with pewter dinnerware and adorned with centerpiece boxes of white tulips, lilies, horsetail and grasses — “a feng shui, cutting-edge, sparse look,” she says.
Buffets featuring food provided by Owings Mills, Md.-based Charles Levine Glorious Kosher Caterers included a seafood station set up on two adjoining fish tanks, and backed by a “wall” of additional stacked tanks.
On the dance floor, guests experienced a true nightclub feeling, Greenblat says, as the lighting crew used dispersion fans to create clouds of fog through which they shot beams of light into the crowd.
In the end, Greenblat herself received rave reviews from her clients, who noted in a glowing letter that her “professionalism, timeliness and attention to detail were instrumental to the success of the party.” She, in turn, praises her clients for their enthusiasm. “The father of the young man especially was so into it — he loved it all, he was a riot,” she says. “It's always so much fun to work with people who add to the event, rather than try and cut back.”
10605 Concord St., Suite 106
Kensington, MD 20895
Hors d'Oeuvre Assortment
French Gruyere Cubano Style Asian Spring Rolls
Peking Vegetable Wraps
Red Szechwan Black Bean Empanadas
Straw Potato Latkes with Piquante Sauce
Rockfish Imperial Tart in a Phyllo Nest
Plantain Chips with Shallot Salsa
Red Snapper Páté with Pumpernickel Batard and Armenian Wafers
Spicy Latino Olives
Charles Levine Glorious Kosher Caterers, 410/363-0900
Event design, dining table design, floral:
David Tutera, 914/777-3817; www.davidtutera.com
Mitchell & Co. Graphic Design, 301/765-0979
Atmosphere Inc., 301/585-2100
Staging, dance floor:
All Stage & Sound 301/977-3686
HDO Productions, 301/881-8700; www.hdotents.com
Future View 202/882-7400; www.futureview.com