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Tough Times Make Planners Stretch Decor Budgets

Tough Times Make Planners Stretch Decor Budgets

Tight event budgets are putting the squeeze on decor. In an recent online poll, 60 percent of event professionals tell Special Events that they are using less decor at their special events now than in years past. Thirty percent say they are using the same level of decor, and 8 percent say they are using more decor elements.

How to make decor dollars do double-duty? These event designers share their secrets:


Linda Ly, principal with Grand Soirees Event Design in Irvine, Calif., points to the power of "well-designed, attractive" event spaces. "They require less decor; you don't need to bring in pipe and draping to camouflage" them, she notes. She cautions against cutting corners with lighting, linen and chairs. "Nothing is going to save you from a room full of basic hotel chairs or polyester, non-floor-length linens," she warns. If the floral budget must be cut, consider tinting the water in the vases for a cost-effective decor element, she adds.

To make the most of floral, turn to flowers such as hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias—their full look "takes up a lot of space, yet looks beautiful," notes Amanda Ma, partner in Fresh Events Co. of South Pasadena, Calif. And a given: "Pick flowers that are in season," she notes.


To create the beautiful ballroom for the Gala Celebration at The Special Event in January, event co-chairs Amy Berner of Pacific Event Productions and Nicole Matthews, CSEP, of The Henley Co., both based in San Diego, traded creativity for cash. (See photo at top.)

Because floral donor B&H Flowers grows only specific types of flowers, the Gala team made the most of the situation. "The answer was to use the same flower—in our case, shades of pink gerberas—in a big way," Matthews notes. "Our design team, headed by David Hahn of Willem-Aidan, used repetition to create our look. He created a pavé display using just two elements–gerberas and curly willow. The result was an explosion of color that highlighted every table."

Berner advises planners to trust their designers. "If you can agree to an overall look of a centerpiece but not specific flowers, they can find much better deals for you and can provide much more of a 'look' for less of a budget than if you are locked in to a specific design," she notes. "Our floral department has fantastic relationships with growers and importers and can often work deals for product that is fresh and readily available."

For airtight budgets, "I always go back to candles," Ma adds. "When you put a cluster of candle votives or containers together, they still look just as amazing." For a recent private event, the Fresh Events team lined the venue's entrance path and driveway with candles in hurricane lamps—"It looked very impressive," she says.


Scott Dixon, marketing manager and event designer with Decor 'N More of Denver, helps clients keep decor costs down by turning to what he has already sitting in his warehouse. A decor stalwart: "We have some 3-by-3-foot square acrylic cubes that we attach a laminate to with the client's or event's logo," he explains.

Pattern can sometimes make up for quantity. "Chair sashes on every other chair still make an impact," notes Susie Perelman, head of Mosaic in Pittsburgh. "But they cost half as much!" She recommends suspending her company's custom lamps over tabletops, an option that runs anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent less than a floral centerpiece. On top of that, "You won't need pin-spotting for the tables as the lamps provide their own ambient light," she adds.

Awny Khashoggi, president and CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based Unique Option, shares a unique perspective on decor trends: "The shift is not in the consumption" of decor, he says. "It is more in the definition of what is decor." He points to stylish furniture, decorative partitions and customized bars and food stations as decor elements in their own right. He adds, "Decor has also shifted in scale from large perimeter elements to midsize background and accent pieces that define areas of interest and enhance desired flow." A crucial element in this scenario: "Lighting has become the large-scale element that gives depth, scale and added interest to an otherwise dimly lit room."

Big budgets can indeed create beautiful events, but so can ingenuity. "Anyone can create a masterpiece with an endless budget," Matthews says, "but the truly creative can turn very little into something extraordinary."


What's so in, what's so over? For an upcoming story, we're listing decor trends that are hot and those that are so over. Feel free to share your opinions with us!


Fresh Floral Wilts in Face of Green Events

Event Designers Create Tremendous Tabletops

Decor: From Plain Space to Phenomenal Party

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