Melissa Andre
Toronto, Ontario
As a special events planner extraordinaire and owner of a full-service creative agency, Melissa is no stranger to the spotlight. Her work is as varied as her clientele and has been featured in leading Canadian and international magazines. Here she shares a behind-the-scenes take on extreme party planning…
Part 1: Holiday Party Glamour with Melissa Melissa Andre

Extreme events come with extreme personalities. How do you work through that? MA - We provide an event design and service and, with that said, our goal is to keep the clients “hand-offs.” It’s funny though as all of the extreme proposals usually come from me and my team; our clients’ version of extreme is usually our “normal.” We take an idea and push it that much further. I am the extremist and end up guiding the client in that direction.

What’s the most extreme request you’ve ever planned? MA - In terms of actual party props, we have an upcoming event where we’re bringing a working carousel into the venue. The loading of all the pieces, the mechanisms and the logistics are easier said than done! But we will get it done, we always do. I should say this was also a proposal we made to the client and they were blown away with excitement at the very idea that we could bring this to life.

How much accommodating should one do when planning a party at home in terms of things like guests’ allergies and food restrictions? MA - A good host should always be considerate to their guests’ food restrictions. But if you prefer not to accommodate, do not plan a sit-down dinner. Instead opt for a cocktail-style party with passed hors d’oeuvres of different variations. They are real crowd-pleasers and everyone in my experience loves them.

Do you ever plan parties for yourself? MA - Yes, but not often because my schedule doesn’t permit it. If I’m going to plan a party for myself, it usually falls last on the list of priorities so they rarely occur. I did plan a very lavish dinner for my 30th birthday this year. I used myself as a guinea pig to test out new ideas, plus my friends are more forgiving than my clients and make for great sounding boards! I really wanted to bring my floating clouds to life and I had been wanting to try combining vinyl and wood so thought this would be a great time to go for it. The menu was fun and casual but elevated versions of my fave comfort food, like chicken and waffles with maple syrup presented in a beautiful vessel. The table runner was wallpaper from my home.

How do you get to know your clients and achieve their vision – can you do all that in a meeting? MA - Clients generally turn to us for a vision. I like to ask them what they don’t like and work from there. They can give me an example of things they’ve seen or colour palettes they like but in the end our vision for events is beyond what clients envision and that’s what we love about our job!

Do you love or hate it planning events for yourself? MA - Again, it comes last on the list and I do end up “working” but, with that said, I love being surrounded by my own friends. The ideal night for me is actually being at home with friends in a very casual setting; a juxtaposition to my everyday life.

How do you mentally prepare for a big event? MA - Hosting events is second nature to me so it’s very natural.

Favourite playlist for a big event? MA - You have to have a mix of everything. See what the guest list looks like and choose music to create nostalgia; songs that remind them of great times in their lives.

What inspires you? MA - Really anything that I decide I like at that moment. Interesting colour combinations, beautiful props, movie sets, fairytales, patterned fabric, travel, fine art, pop art, hot air balloons, secret gardens, Ferris wheels and nursery rhymes. I’m just constantly thinking about spaces that I’d love to celebrate in and anything I’d want to see happening in them, and then hoping that my clients will love to celebrate in them too.

How do you like to relax after a big event? MA - Tequila! Kidding (but not really). By doing something the polar opposite to my events like staying in and watching a movie, something very low-key.

PART 2: From Fab to Table