UPDATE: We are sad to report that Elizabeth James passed away on September 30, 2015. May she rest in peace.
The first time I met Elizabeth James I knew she was a take charge kind of girl. She dots the i’s and crosses the t’s with a vengeance; surely her sock drawer is color coded. Most don’t realize this incredible fact about event planners: what you see is not really what you’re paying for, as most of the heavy lifting happens under the radar screen. The beauty of a well planned event is the hours and hours of work before and after the party. Elizabeth James has stood her ground as one of Nashville’s premiere event planners for over 10 years. If you’ve ever experienced her magic, you know she is the best.
Please give me a brief description of your background as it relates to your career:
I bought a catering company in Atlanta at age 25. The night before I was to close on the deal, the two girls I was going into business with, backed out. My father’s comment was “Good Luck”. I had no ideas how to cook, but I forged ahead anyway. It ultimately was a successful venture, but I found myself more interested in planning parties than cooking for them. After five years, I moved back home and worked for George Sloan and the International Steeplechase Group. We staged numerous events which eventually led me to opening my own company. Mary Cain, one of my first clients, gave me the opportunity to plan her daughter’s wedding and taught me so much along the way. Even though I was somewhat of a novice, she put her faith and belief in me.
What does it take to be a good event planner?
You have to listen the client’s needs and remember one important thing: it is not my event, it is theirs. The event must reflect their vision and taste. Patience, above all things, is critical because inevitably something will go wrong. Events are expensive. In many cases, weddings and big parties can rival buying a car or a down payment on a house; big investments carry with them a varied range of emotions.
What is your favorite type of event?
Weddings because that’s how I got my start. You asked me to tell you a funny story and mine involves a wedding. I was doing a wedding at Belle Meade Country Club and the most important element to the bride and groom was their exit. They wanted to leave the reception in a horse drawn carriage…sort of Cinderella meets Prince Charming. You can imagine my look of absolute horror when the horse drawn carriage I hired ended up being two nags driven by, let’s just say, not your most polished groomsmen. In retrospect, it was pretty humorous.
Name an early mentor in your career:
Absolutely my mother and grandmother. My mother moved to Nashville in her 30’s and knew no one. She had small children and proceeded to create a wonderful life for us. My grandmother gave me a sense of style and beauty about entertaining. What fits and what doesn’t. Her table was always beautifully set, her taste exquisite and her manners impeccable.
What is the greatest trend you see in your business? How has your business changed?
Overall, events have become both more complex and more intimate. When compared to our parents’ parties, today’s parties have sophisticated themes, elaborate invitations, specialty drinks and favors. Every detail is thought out and scrutinized Yet, lately I have seen a move to more intimate and smaller gatherings. People are enjoying entertaining at home.
Give us one of your favorite personal extravagances that just makes you happy:
Anyone that knows me well knows that I love anything to do with skin care: facials, scrubs, massages, you name it!
Name 3 things you can not live without (excluding family and friends):
- My faith and spirituality
- Black stretch pants by Susana Monaco
- The Sunday New York Times
- Movies, Music, Uggs….why limit it to 3!