What's Old Is New – Creating Contemporary Events at Historic Venues

Jennifer-Farmer_2015-08_Fox-Theatre_PIANO_800pxWPhotography: Travis S. Taylor, Affairs to Remember

When we think of experts in Atlanta that understand the in’s and out’s of special event venues, especially historic venues, Jennifer Schiveree Farmer‘s name most definitely comes to the forefront! Currently with Affairs to Remember Caterers, Jennifer joined this dynamic team in July 2015 as their Director of Business Development. Bringing with her a wealth of experience and industry knowledge, Jennifer creates new business opportunities for one of the country’s largest privately owned luxury caterers.

Before joining the Affairs to Remember team, she successfully served as Director of Sales & Marketing for Atlanta’s iconic landmark, the Fox Theatre. In this position, Jennifer coordinated weddings, social, corporate and fundraising events for local, national and international clients. Prior to the Fox Theatre, Jennifer served as Manager of Visitor Services at the Michael C. Carolos Museum on the campus of Emory University and before that she worked in Zoo Atlanta’s Special Events department.

Venue after venue, Jennifer Schiveree Farmer has honed her experience and personal knowledge of some of Atlanta’s most prestigious event venues. We’re thrilled to welcome Jennifer as our September guest blogger. Through her writing you’ll feel her love and passion for what she does. We hope you enjoy reading the many nuggets of advice that Jennifer has to share about holding events in historic venues.

I know couples whose first date was at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Later, they became engaged at the Fox Theatre, and then exchanged vows and celebrated their union with friends and family in one of the magnificent ballrooms in the Fox Theatre. I am one of those who became engaged at the Fox and later hosted my wedding reception at this beautiful historic venue. Both celebrations are cherished memories.

This long-standing Atlanta icon holds great significance for countless many. Every visit to or pass by the Fox Theatre evokes memories of magical moments and fond recollections. And it will offer many more in the years to come, whether for life celebrations, cultural experiences or to regale friends and family with one’s Fox stories. Historic venues provide hosts and their guests something that no other destination can offer. Venues like the Fox Theatre allow event planners to build on a beloved legacy, and to share their event story wrapped in something that’s much more than just a building…the Fox Theatre is an important part of Atlanta’s social fabric and is the city’s “Memory Maker”. Allow me, please, to share a few ideas on how to make a historic venue uniquely your own for special events:

It’s All in the Details
When you’ve selected your historic venue, pull from its grandeur for design inspiration. Complement its charm, grace and magnificence! Architectural details make a historic venue a unique event space, and the Fox Theatre has an abundance of wonderful architectural elements. Discover Egyptian (Egyptian Ballroom), Moroccan (The Grand Salon), and Gothic (Terrace) architectures and plan to light them up. You can light up your ballroom with uplights, spotlights, lasers, glow-in-the-dark elements…get creative! You can even add unexpected, personal light details like your monogram illuminated on a blank wall. Place mirrors throughout the space, as well as reflective details on your table settings, to achieve a glowing, light-filled room.

Sitting Pretty
Let the magnificence of the architectural elements at a historic venue shine through, while keeping your event design fresh and new! If you’re looking to add a contemporary seating element—and not clash with a venue’s traditional décor—consider using “ghost” or “mirage” acrylic clear chairs. The shape and style of these chairs reference the classic Louis XV armchair from the 18th Century, while their transparency and sparkle keep them current. An added bonus—the transparency allows the true beauty of the venue to literally shine through.

Janet Howard- Dupree-Bagheri EB Reception Lounge AreaPhotography: Janet Howard Studio

Adding plush furniture groupings is another way to make your space feel more intimate. Position communal lounge seating areas around the dance floor so that everyone can take part in the excitement, mingle with old and new friends, or relax and settle in for cozy conversations. Lounge seating is especially popular when placed on the Fox Theatre’s Terrace.

Touches of Texture
If you think all of your centerpieces, linens and place settings need to be exactly the same, think again! While matching everything can be stunning, an eclectic mix of textures breaks the traditional décor mold and adds visual interest. The popular contemporary looks of shabby-chic, rustic and farm-to-party can be equally as stunning. When planning your eclectic look, use the venue’s décor as inspiration and then focus on repeating complementary materials, flower designs or your signature color throughout the party space. By using this approach you can showcase a variety of styles, while ensuring everything looks like it was done with purpose. Working with the right designer can help ensure you balance the décor of your historic venue with your selected contemporary theme.

Social Affair
Sure, cell phones and tablets weren’t around when historic venues like the Fox Theatre were built (1929), but that doesn’t mean contemporary technology shouldn’t be a part of your special occasion. One of the great things about a historic venue is that you’re getting built-in charm and magnificence. When your guests are taking photos to show off the party, the architecture and décor are so unlike your start-from-zero venues that their photos are automatically special.

When your guests tag their photos using a unique hashtag (as well as one specific to the venue, #TheFoxTheatre, for instance) and share them on social media, it becomes easier for the host to collect digital keepsake photos and videos from the event. The Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom has a built-in stage—not common in most venues constructed today—with an Egyptian Pharaoh relief overlooking the space. Wouldn’t it be awesome for a friend to share a great photo of your guests dancing to your band or the spinnings of your DJ using the hashtag: #ModernRockwithAncientPharaoh! Be sure to strategically place signs featuring your unique hashtag at the event entry (in beautiful frames is one option), on your printed menus and prominently at your photo booth. Another unique idea is to be the “Host of the Year” and set up charging stations to keep your guests clicking and sharing throughout the night.

What about White?
Don’t ignore this magical color. White can be spectacular when incorporated into your décor; it can be a design element that ranges from sophisticated to fantastic fun. White drapery provides traditional venues with a contemporary vibe, while also showcasing high ceilings, like those in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom. All-white furniture groupings are a fun way to add seating. And why not dress up the floor, too. An all-white dance floor adds elegance and highlights the space within the room, enticing guests to dance the night away! Make it even more fun by opting for an illuminated white dance floor—quite a contemporary update from the 1930s nights of ballroom dancing in the Egyptian Ballroom. The possibilities are truly endless.

Eco-Friendly Exit
The night is over, and now is the perfect time to leave your guests with a lasting and environmentally-friendly impression. Whether your event is a New Year’s event, a birthday party or a wedding, one festive option is to forego traditional confetti and give your guests eco-friendly confetti to toss in celebration. It comes in a variety of textures and colors that are sure to fit every style. Believe it or not, simple decisions like this can contribute to a historic venue’s sustainability initiatives. And you get to feel good about it, too.

Janet Howard- Dupree-Bagheri Arcade Exit ConfettiPhotography: Janet Howard Studio

Of utmost importance is being comfortable in your party space, and if it’s a historic venue, to embrace its character while making the event your own. Show its magnificence to your guests through your contemporary interpretatio