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Smashing Summer Soirees

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Unusual details will make your event unforgettable.

©Studio Tran PhotographyHien Nguyen and Kim Tran, the owners of Wink Design and Event Planning, started their event design careers early on. “We started back in our college days,” Nguyen remembers. “A few years later, Kim recruited me when she was working in insurance and her boss got married.”

Nearly 10 years later, Wink offers planning and production services for all kinds of events, including weddings, corporate events, galas, fashion shows and charity parties. “We don’t want it to be an event,” Tran says. “We want it to be an experience.”

So what’s the secret of a perfect experience? Planning, planning, planning. “We’re a step ahead of everyone,” Tran laughs. “We always have plans A, B, C and D just in case.” Nguyen adds, “To make any event go smoothly, you have to be very organized and not over-think it. You have to make sure you stay calm; troubleshoot; and make things work.”

Nguyen and Tran also take care to nurture insider connections with every New Orleans industry, especially those that deal with factors beyond human control — like the weather. “You always have to make sure you utilize all your connections,” Tran says. “We’re friends with a meteorologist!”

In addition to seamless planning, Wink’s claim to fame is its focus on offering unusual details at every event, whether it’s a signature cocktail named after a bride or a wedding cake that eschews traditional white for more playful colors.

Ultimately, your event is about you. “There shouldn’t be any rules,” Tran says. “It’s all about what you want, and how you tie everything together.”

Wink’s Pro Party-Planning Points

Light Up. “You can transform any space by just adding pipe and drape and dramatic lighting,” Nguyen says. “Whether it’s adding up-lighting, stock gobo [a physical template placed in front of a light source to change its output], or intelligent lighting, dramatic lighting sets the tone for any event.”

Cool Off. Throwing a party in New Orleans’ summertime heat might seem like a sticky situation — but there are clever ways to take guests’ minds off the temperature. “You can’t avoid the humidity and the heat,” Tran says. “But what about greeting guests with a snowball, so that they can cool off when they get there?” She also suggests setting up misting fans, or offering eventgoers an evening program that doubles as a handheld fan.

Stand Out. Play with the dimensions of your event location by adding a splash of color or drop-down décor. “Hanging a chandelier or doing a ceiling treatment can also transform any space,” Nguyen says. “If your space is muted, add a pop of color — whether it’s from your linens, or even through the floral arrangements.”
*Small Space, Big Impact

To avoid being overwhelmed by decorating a large space, Nguyen and Tran suggest picking a small area to focus on first. “We always look at a focal point,” Nguyen says. “Whatever that main area is, if you don’t have a big budget or you want to trick the eye, you start from the center and work out.”

For example, spend most of your effort on the entrance to make a big impression as guests arrive. Lighting, decorations and furnishings can play a part, but don’t forget the option to do something unexpected, like hiring a dressed-to-the-nines “Champagne diva” to hand out glasses of bubbly when guests walk in. “It doesn’t have to be design; it can be some type of buzz-worthy thing to talk about,” Nguyen says.