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Event designers sweat the details

Lo McShay became an event planner after planning her own wedding, where she learned some hard lessons.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Planning a party is more than concocting little drinks with umbrellas or writing out name tags. From negotiating with vendors to organizing entertainment, determining room configurations, coordinating parking, budgeting, selecting a site, handling ­liquor liability, and more, there are dozens of details that go into organizing a successful event.

Lauren "Lo" McShay, owner of LoLo Event Design in Boston, has taken on such challenges as transforming a New England home into the setting for a Miami-style gala; throwing a blue jeans ball; and organizing numerous weddings.

"I apply the principles of large-scale production and dedicated client service to design an event," said McShay.


The sign in your office is the old British ministry saying, "Keep calm and carry on." Do you encounter many such moments?

For weddings in particular, I'm working with clients on one of the biggest days of their life. At the end of the day, though, we're throwing a party that ­celebrates two people in love. It's not brain surgery — it's just a party.

How hard is it to stick within budget? How can you balance wants with needs?

It's much easier to stick to a budget when you start planning with the whole pie in mind. Often clients approach me after they've booked their venue, which typically ­accounts for 45 percent of your budget. If you overspend on that slice of the pie, it's much harder get your top want list items.

What was your favorite event so far, and why?

My favorite event to date has to be a wedding at The Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead. I love adding modern elements to classic New England buildings. It's one the few venues that has an outdoor dance floor [overlooking] the ocean. There was so much love on the dance floor, not only between the couple, but their friends and family.


Food is integral to a party. What's the best appetizer to serve?

I'm a strong advocate for bite-sized, passed appetizers that aren't messy, but simple and delicious.

Planning your own wedding inspired you to become an event designer. What did you learn?

Make the first dance short. ­Secondly, better safe than ­sorry. We were one of those horror stories where the cards were collected in an open ­basket and someone stole the gifts. Now, I recommend a bird cage or interesting lockbox.

What's the oddest request you've ever received?

Being a dog sitter while the bride walked down the aisle.

Have you seen "The Wedding Planner"?

I've absolutely seen "The Wedding Planner" and love it, ­except for the part where she falls in love with the groom. Bad karma for life!

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com