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Cynthia Lopell left and Kerrie Underhill

Making Music: The Team Behind the Wedding Event at The Special Event 2017

The team behind the Wedding Event at The Special Event 2017--Kerrie Underhill and Cynthia Lopell--share their stories

Lopell and UnderhillThis issue of Eventline continues our new feature, showcasing the talented event professionals who share their skills with attendees at The Special Event. We're proud to share the smarts of the two talents in charge of the Wedding Event—a seated dinner plus presentation on Jan. 11: Kerrie Underhill, owner of Platinum Weddings by Kerrie (right), and Cynthia Lopell, owner of CL22 Design and Productions (left). Can you hear the music? You will …

Special Events: Please give me a notion of careers: What did you study in school? What did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get into special events?

KERRIE UNDERHILL: It can definitely be said that the planning gene has absolutely been in my blood since birth, I just didn’t know exactly what path it would take me until I ended up where I am now. I was lucky enough to attend UC Santa Barbara, and graduated with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Art History. I think beyond the education I gained a lot of insight into the potential for myself in the events industry from my involvement in my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.

After college, and some time spent in Guam working at a resort, I took my event planning skills to the next level, and spent the next few years working in corporate meetings and events both on a local Orange County, Calif., and national level. It is during this time that I fine-tuned my skills in event planning, developed valuable relationships with top local vendors, and perfected the skills necessary to produce a flawless event. And in 2007, I launched my own wedding planning companies--170 weddings later, it remains my passion.

From Kerrie Underhill: "At Terranea Resort, a beautiful reception space featured an incredible treatment over the sweetheart table--the bride and groom were framed by a gorgeous structure complete with a crystal chandelier." Photo by Lin and Jirsa Photography.

CYNTHIA LOPELL: The journey of the path and passion that lead to the creation of CL22 Design and Productions began after receiving my BFA in Theater Set Design, Construction and Lighting. As a child I knew I wanted to be in the theater, enjoying a variety of artistries, from designing and building sets, to acting, creating costumes, puppets and the like. After graduation, I honed my skills designing sets in New York City for 10 years, then decided I needed a bit more space, so I headed west.

Once in Los Angeles I thought events would be a fun transition in design, with not a lot of theaters around. So I started designing and producing events in the entertainment arena of Hollywood, with Along Came Mary Productions, a boutique production company that was an innovator in the industry and a producer of high-profile events for over three decades.

This amazing opportunity gave me the platform I needed to continue my learning and work my craft. During my 16 years with ACM, I had the pleasure of doing every job there is in design, construction, production and all divisions of F&B hospitality. It gave me a focused attention to detail and experience that has blessed me with an understanding of the multileveled layering that is essential for producing all types of events, from movie premieres to award shows to celebrity social events of all sizes and large-scale corporate events from 1,000 to 20,000 guests. No event is too large!

From Cynthia Lopell: "For Rhinestone Cowboy Dallas, a swanky rural country setting with a rustic yet elegant stylish fashion. High-back tufted banquets framed in copper studded tacks and rich textured cowhide seats. Hay bale tables topped with polished leather trays and a vibrant pop of color form a soft whimsical array. Oversized brushed cowhide ottomans ribbed pulling into a single center tuft, while wrapped at the base in top-grain leather with a fringe base. Traditional reclaimed wooden stumps with a multi-purpose use of side table or seat. Altogether blending a century of American heritage into a single elegant contemporary spin."

SE: Tell me more about your company today. What has changed—for good and bad—about special events since you got into the business?

KU: As a luxury wedding planner, I pride myself on creating events that are truly a reflection of each unique couple and their love story while also ensuring each wedding is a memorable experience for every guest. Since I am a one-woman-show as far as planning goes, I limit the number of weddings I accept per year to 15 in order to allow myself to work as closely with each couple as needed.

Maintaining a boutique-style company allows me to do what I enjoy most, which is really getting to know the bride and groom and serving as their personal guide through the planning process. I feel that there has become increasing pressure on couples to really knock their guests’ socks off- which is a double-edged sword. It allows couples the freedom to focus on what they love and what is the best reflection of their relationship, but also adds the element of having to come up with new experiences to incorporate into their wedding.

CL: In 2008, CL22 Design and Productions Inc was established as a full-service special events design, production and hospitality company. Our mission is to design and produce unforgettable events by constantly striving for artistic excellence and providing our clients with an incomparable guest experience; a flawless celebration designed to go beyond expectation. Our vision is to uphold our high standards as a boutique event design and production company that’s small enough to provide individual service but big enough in our experience to deliver world-class results, with an endless perseverance to offer the cutting-edge in creative innovation, logistical strategies and effective solutions to every detail of the event.

Our gifts of logistical and communicative skills, creativity, expertise and coordination abilities have contributed to the success of such events as HSN Live in Vegas at Planet Hollywood, IMAX SPECTRE, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Inaugural Gala, Orthopedic Children's Hospital “Stand for Kids” Annual Gala @ Fox Studios, 24 Super Bowl Events in seven States, such as DIRECTV’S Celebrity Beach Bowl and Super Saturday Night events, as well as highly publicized premieres, charities, filmed events and large-scale corporate functions.

CL22 Productions has a unique service and position in the market by utilizing our background and experience of the theater into the drama of our designs and the experience of our events. With our training and skill developed from a theatrical foundation, to which we are incorporating nontraditional focuses on set design and construction, lighting design, drama and oral interpretation, we bring heightened expertise to the guest experience. We have translated our craft from the stage to events in creating environments that take its guests out of their own world and on a journey into another world. This type of guest experience translates into a social media craze!

SE: What do you see as the hot trends affecting events right now? 

KU: I feel that the trend is to make it completely personal--and that means not feeling the need to adhere to any trends. Couples are mixing and matching elements as they please--a taco bar at a five-star resort? Why not! Wine pairings in a casual beach setting? Sure!

The rules are that there are really no rules. Of course, input from a planner is helpful to ensure that their desired elements all flow well and are executed smoothly, but beyond that, no idea is a silly idea to at least consider--especially if it is important to the couple.

Beyond that I think that while the blush wedding will never go away, my 2017 couples are bringing other palettes to the table that leads me to believe color will become more widely embraced.

From Kerrie Underhill: "This is a shining example of couples steering away from blush. With a clean palette of ivory and white florals, and regal touches of gold throughout, a chic and sophisticated environment was achieved perfectly." Photo by Christine Farah Photography.

CL: Industrial vibes with the inclusion of soft brushed metals, rose gold (tops on the rise), silver, pewter, copper and bronze. Combined with whites, creams and neutrals, this will add pop and drama to give a modern twist for a metropolitan trend!

Paper is the new organic being incorporated into so many imaginative ways! From elaborate florals walls to hanging streamers, floral bouquets and centerpieces.

Technology is playing a major role in events with the need for the “now” in the social media craze! An aim to immerse guests into the events and share their experiences live, so others not on the scene can revel in the experience … which brings us to the guest experience. Innovators in this movement from years gone by are seeing the masses finally on board--but in a less tactile and more futuristic way.

Event designs today are more connected to the purpose of the event, unique in its translation, more specific to the brand and message. It is across the board--be it movie premieres, product launches, network events or award ceremonies.

From Cynthia Lopell: NYC-DTV DIRECTV Super Saturday Night Super Bowl Event New York City: "Industrial Chic--a vintage resurgence with a turn-of-the-century vibe. Retro yet hip, in a New York-urban style. We added a level of sophistication in a comfortable, unpretentious way. Simple, sturdy, approachable, but distinctively fashionable, with a grounded element of class. Rad lounges host smoky gunmetal and chocolates in a distressed leather and suede base with textural pops of muted glimmer accenting the communal settings. Sputnik, industrial dome and subtle earth-gold chandeliers float throughout each cluster. The flanking showpieces are 35 feet of Edison marquee letters constructed out of a lightweight wood and faux-finished with a heavy metal vibe, giving homage to DIRECTV in the Big Apple."

SE: Tell me more about your TSE event, the Wedding Event. What will make this event a can’t-miss for attendees?

KU: We are absolutely bringing the heat with the Wedding Event! CL22 Productions and I initially sat down and knew that the inspiration for the event had to be something out of the ordinary, as far as weddings were concerned. After much discussion, we kept circling back to music and how music and musicians could be interpreted as far as wedding deigns would go. Thus "Weddings: A Lyrical Culture" was born--through four well-known and completely unique musical icons, guests will be able to experience them as conceptualized through decor and the overall design. I could not be any more excited to take guests on this wild journey!

From Kerrie Underhill: "With sunny SoCal weather, outdoor is often the name of the game. We love how tents can truly transform a space; this backyard reception features a magnificent open-air tent, sparkling chandeliers, and sweet details throughout." Photo by Camryn Clair Photography.

CL: Once guests enter the Pacific Ballroom, they will be engulfed with all of the intrigue and mystique to take them on a voyage of unexpected musical design crossing many genres… creating a 3D atmosphere of textural inspiration reflecting the embodiment of the artist’s persona in a spectacle of nuptial traditions distinguishable to their styles.

Each distinct area is transcendent to the intensely rhythmic form the headliner exudes giving the tableaus all a life of their own, from “Urban & Edgy” to “Vintage and Romantic” to “Earthy and Natural,” as well as “Extravagant and Lavish.”

From Cynthia Lopell: The Baltimore Ravens Victory Celebration against San Francisco 49ers New Orleans. "The grand stage and center focus of the design exuded an opulent atmosphere of otherworldly radiance with sparking gold gilded chandeliers floating over an adult playground. Suspended in front of the stage like a drop ceiling of lavish rare melanite, 25 black crystal Marie Antoinette chandeliers levitate over sculpted stand-ups for the revelers to gather. The light glowing from the room was streaming, like confetti falling from the ceiling in colors of the rainbow spilling onto each reverent smattering of what lies beneath it. Varieties of sexy seating scattered throughout the room with furnishings sculpted in a modern gothic style representing a history of great affluence and lavish decorations."

Stay tuned over the next few months, as glimpses into the evening’s design inspiration are revealed and the excitement builds for this one-of-a kind experience.

The Wedding Event, Jan. 11 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Convention Center.

For more information on the Wedding Event at The Special Event 2017, just click here.

Kerrie Underhill headshot by Davello Photography

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