I believe I recently mentioned that there was some planning going on for my upcoming (gulp!) 30th birthday. There’s a semi-tradition among my friends to throw a surprise party for this milestone birthday but I couldn’t let someone else have all the fun planning!
The theme is a little… out there. But it came to me during a moment of inspiration when chatting with some friends about an ad one of them saw for a cotillion in Missouri (long story). And “The Dirty Thirty Debutante Ball” was created. You may be wondering, “What does a ‘Dirty Thirty Debutante Ball’ look like?” An excellent question. Guests are encouraged to dress up as a dirty debutante – which is whatever they want it to be – give it a whiskey tango twist, a rocker edge or glitz and glam it up. It’s basically their excuse to wear whatever you want! The ladies will be happy to embrace this but I realize some of the guys in attendance may be a little hesitant. Which is fine but they have been challenged channel their inner Keith Richards-David Bowie-Elton John-Prince fashion sense.
But determining how the invitations, decor, entertainment all tie in is the current project that you may see a few posts on in the next month. First up, invitations. You may have noticed, I like to create my own.

More for the fun of it than anything else – there are plenty of a-mazing designers out there I should be using! A little more of my “handiwork” can be found here and here. Please note: this is only when somewhere between 5-20 invitations are being sent. Any more and it would be put in the hands of a pro. Naturally, I wanted to have a little fun creating the Dirty Deb invites. But I’m trying out some Photoshop fun instead of hand-crafting (centering, folding, gluing, etc.). The final product will be revealed later, but here is where some of the inspiration has come from:



source unknown


You may be seeing a color scheme here…
I hope to have an inspiration board up soon. But I do want to know – what do you think a Dirty Thirty Debutante Ball would look like?

I have another guest post over at the Cafe di Scala blog today! Check it out for my second round of tips on holding a private event. Special thanks to Phil and Cafe di Scala for welcoming me to their blog family.

Be sure to let them know you want to see more from Socialize!

Check It Out!

It’s another exciting day at Socialize! Word just came that this blog was featured here as one of the Cafe di Scala‘s favorite local blogs of the month!

I’ve also been asked to do a guest post for them – so look for that coming soon! In case you haven’t heard Cafe di Scala is a fabulous local restaurant that offers something Des Moines could use more of – an opportunity for an exclusive experience.
Don’t get me wrong, private party rooms are great and perfectly meet the needs of most events. However, there are times when you want the the space to be completely your own. Cafe di Scala will open their lovely victorian mansion doors to private groups on nights it is not open to the public (Sunday through Wednesday) for lunch and dinner.

In addition, the staff will consider closing the restaurant just for you on a regular business evening (Thursday through Saturday) depending on the number of guests and budget. Fab food, an award winning wine list and a unique experience. What more could you want?

Well, I’m afraid the last few weeks have been all about Socialize. Not to worry. I’ll get you some more event planning tips and tricks soon enough!

It’s a big, exciting day at Socialize! A little paperwork, a signature and a trip to Iowa’s Secretary of State office and the government now has one more business to watch over. We even get letters after our name. That’s right Socialize, LLC has officially been born!
The final draft of the Socialize logo also popped into the inbox today and will be available for viewing shortly. Stay tuned!!

For the last few years, my husband and I have gotten together with friends a couple weeks before Halloween to embrace some pumpkin carving fun! None of us have kids (or much artistic ability) but it’s still a great reason to get together and an easy gathering to plan. Here is what you’ll want to do:

Pre-determine a location. You are probably not going to want to do this in your house. The grown-ups I know are just as messy as most 5-year-olds and you’ll be sweeping up pumpkin seeds on Labor Day. The backyard works well if the weather is still pleasant enough. You can use the garage as shelter from the elements if there’s a chill in the air. Wherever you are; clear enough space to give everyone plenty of room to work.

Gather supplies and prepare the space. Pull out your folding tables if you have them.
Collect newspapers to cover everyone’s carving space. Make sure you have enough to give everyone a couple layers.
Put an empty trash can in a central location for most* of the pumpkin seeds. Use a heavy duty trash bag or double up on the household kind. Those seeds get heavy!
Print and set out pumpkin stencils for those who don’t want to freehand. Better Homes & Gardens has a huge (and free!) selection here. For some tips on carving with stencils, check out Pumpkin Carving 101.

Have a sharpie and a pumpkin carving kit for everyone or ask them bring their own. This way, you don’t have to sacrifice your good steak knives to a jack-o-lantern.
Have a lot of rags or paper towels on hand.
Finally – have tea lights for each pumpkin!

Find your perfect pumpkin. We like to make this part of the event for the whole group. Head to your local pumpkin patch so everyone can select their canvas.

And a couple suggestions for easy, festive additions!
You can’t beat hot spiked apple cider to keep everyone warm. Use fresh apple cider, spiced rum and some cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (to taste)

Heat apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Stir occasionally. When cider is heated, remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon.
Pour a shot of rum into a mug, then pour cider over to fill mug. Add a cinnamon stick to stir drink.

To keep things easy, hold your pumpkin carving party in the evening, post dinner. This way, some light snacks will be sufficient (remember – this is supposed to be an easy one!). Last year, I had some candy corn, Halloween-theme Oreos and some popcorn for guests to snack on. You can also *save the seeds from the first few pumpkins to be gutted. Roast some up using butter/olive oil and salt or this recipe from Fabulous Foods. By the time the carving has ended you’ll have a seasonal snack ready for your guests.

Let the fun begin!

I thought it would be nice to sprinkle around some Local Love* posts for the some of the fabulous vendors Socialize has had the opportunity to work with and probably some of those we hope to work with in Central Iowa!

For the inaugural Local Love post – I am actually going with someone I worked with on a more personal level – my wedding photographer, Mark Kegans. But don’t worry -I had already been in the event biz for three years by the time I worked with him so he was carefully evaluated with my already developed event planning eye!

All photos are the work of Mark Kegans. This photo is of my lovely friend, Alexson. In the background is Iowa’s great State Capitol building in the Des Moines East Village.
Mark truly is a photojournalist at heart. What keeps him busy these days is his wedding business but he’ll still to things for some small-time publications; like the New York Times. I think explaining Mark’s style is best put in his own words (from the “What the FAQ” section of his website). 
“You get dressed up, say your vows, party, dance and fall in love all over again. I take pictures. Documentary, photojournalistic, reportage, lifestyle, candid, ninja, whatever you want to call it, it means that I work as the proverbial ‘fly on the wall.’ I don’t direct. I don’t work off of preconceived ‘must-have’ shot lists. My goal is to capture your wedding and all its glorious, messy reality.”
Mark takes beautiful, REAL images away from whatever he shoots. He understands the importance of the obligatory formal shots but his true talent shines through when he is telling the story of your day in his images. Don’t worry brides – he will follow your must-take shots but the more free and photojournalistic you allow him to be – the more you are going to love your photos.
Mark searches for the quirk and humor in the day and I think generally, the human experience. But I think his favorite part of what he does is that he gets to capture a day full of love. This means his shots of the new bride and groom try to capture all of the emotion and beauty of the day.
I still pull Mark’s photos from my wedding day out at least once a month. Each one reminds me of some special moment or image that I treasure from that day and get to re-live, just a little. (For anyone who want to see more of what those in the biz like to call “wedding porn” – you can check more of my very own wedding shots here: http://mkegans.zenfolio.com/p39223348/   password: shinkunas)
As Mark’s website states, “If you really, truly, madly, deeply love good photography and gotta have it for your wedding or family;” contact him. I highly recommend that you do!
*Socialize blog’s Local Love posts are not sponsored and will not be available for sponsorship.

One last Oktoberfest post before I get ready for the tapping of the golden keg this afternoon. Check out this story on the Des Moines Oktoberfest celebration. It covers an example of when a major change did NOT work in making the event more successful but was definitely worth a try. Now the Des Moines Oktoberfest is making what I think will be a triumphant return to it’s original location.

Added bonus: great tips on what a Burgermeister does. Another great addition to your Oktoberfest party!

State Holiday

You may not know, but tomorrow is essentially a state holiday in Iowa. It’s so important that if anyone is planning an event in the state in the month of September; the first question out of their event planner’s mouth better be “When is the Iowa/Iowa State game?” (if they don’t already know, which they should)
That’s right. Our state rivalry football game between the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones is a HUGE deal. Iowa doesn’t have any pro teams so all of our energy goes into the college games and this one is the granddaddy of them all!

Even though the game encourages a generous amount of smack talk in the days weeks (and months) leading up to the game; there is one thing the rivals can agree on: tailgating. No matter where the game is held or who wins; in the end we all love a good tailgate.

So, in honor of the big day tomorrow and all the fun that the Hawkeyes and Cyclones around the world will be having; I leave you with this.

Cupcakes via Next Generation Housewife

If you couldn’t tell from the pictures, I am a little biased so…