The Planning Powerhouse: Salvatore DeGeorge of DeGeorge Signature Events

From the table linens to the champagne, hotelier turned events guru Salvatore DeGeorge dreams up luxe fetes that couples—and their guests—will remember for a lifetime.

Photographs by Jim Brueckner. Hair and makeup by Laura Dillon.

When it comes to planning the perfect wedding, it’s the little details that make a good event great. That’s where Salvatore DeGeorge, founder of DeGeorge Signature Events, comes in. As a veteran planner with deep roots in the local hospitality industry, DeGeorge—who’ll be transitioning to a new role with the Catered Affair in 2018—focuses on every last aspect of the party, from the acoustics of the venue to the temperature of the food. “In the hotel industry, you learn to be proactive, to wow guests and create an unexpected experience for them,” he says. “You want to go the extra mile.”

“We focus on all the senses that guests will experience that day.”

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What’s unique about DeGeorge Signature Events?

We position ourselves to not be like décor-centric event planners. We want to give more diversity and depth to our service. For us, it’s about looking beyond the Pinterest images and the beauty of it all. We focus on all the senses that guests will experience that day. Does the room smell correctly? Is the music too loud or too soft? What type of music should be playing during what juncture of the wedding? We’re really focused on the culinary experience, too.

How do you get a sense of what brides and grooms are looking for when they’re not exactly sure what they want themselves?

Whether we’re working with a corporation or a couple, we try to match their brand. We ask them: How did you meet? What are your hobbies? What do you like? Can you show me some images of places you’ve traveled? That way we can really personalize the event to represent their backgrounds, family culture, and interests.

Choosing a venue is one of the most important parts of the planning process. What are some things to keep in mind when vetting one?

Look at the capacity of the space. See if you can actually see a wedding set up with that number of guests in the room so you can get an idea of what it looks like. Make sure it’s not too crowded or, on the flip side, too cavernous. The other thing is to find out who you’ll be dealing with at the venue. I’ve worked at places where the salesperson is different from the person actually coordinating the event. Also see what the venue already has in terms of linens, tables, chairs, china, and glassware. What is included with the venue, and what will you need for rentals? Ask about restrictions. If it’s an outdoor venue, for example, can you use glassware at the bar, or does it have to be plastic? Which does your event call for? Additionally, I would ask the chef or the caterer how long they’ve been there, how flexible they are, and if they do custom menus. And I’d inquire about what the ratio of waitstaff to guests is. Are your guests going to get good service in terms of getting their food hot and quickly, and their water glasses filled?

How does budget factor into the planning process?

We advise clients to make a list of all the aspects of the wedding (entertainment, décor, location, food) and prioritize it by what is the most important and what is the least important. That right away is going to formulate the budget and tell you what you’re going to spend the most and least amount of money on. Prioritizing your budget needs to happen before you sign any contracts.

On that note, negotiating contracts is foreign to many couples. Any advice on how to get the most bang for your buck?

Find out where the flexibility is with the vendor: Is it day of the week, or maybe time of the year? Maybe you have your wedding on Friday night instead of Saturday night, for example, because the food-and-beverage minimum at your venue is lower, or the photographer has less demand on a Friday versus a Saturday. The biggest faux pas I see is that couples aren’t flexible on their date, which can drive up the budget and create fewer opportunities to have bells and whistles. When people say they went to an unbelievable wedding, it’s normally based on the experience of the event. It has nothing to do with whether the wedding was on April 18 or April 19.

What’s your favorite way to personalize a party?

A big thing that we’re encouraging folks to do, depending on the crowd, is a progressive wedding, where you’ll have your cocktail hour in one venue, and then dinner, toasts, dancing, and maybe a performance in another. And then we bring them into a third venue for a very early after-party with a band or a DJ. We did an event at the Four Seasons like this. The couple had this elegant cocktail hour with lots of blush tones. And then for dinner they went into the Four Seasons ballroom, which was done in different shades of green and a soft gold, with an English-garden feel. That led into the third venue, the Governor’s Room, which was very Miami with hot pink and fuchsia and white. The event was actually like three different weddings in one. Each room you went into had a completely different feel and look.



Looking to add a little extra wow factor to your wedding décor? Salvatore DeGeorge offers pointers on dressing up four common event spaces.

BALLROOM: Transforming the dance floor with drapes, hedges, and benches makes for a non-generic space and a more romantic scene.

BARN: Accentuate the rich tones and textures of the wood with amber lighting and LED pillar candles.

TENT: A suspended ceiling treatment of upside-down umbrellas adds color and visual interest to a white tent.

BACKYARD: Building vignettes with lounge seating defines space and creates intimacy.

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