AND WE'RE LIVE! THE RETURN OF IN-PERSON NONPROFIT EVENTS

By Great Performances

40% of nonprofit organizations reported losses in total revenue for 2020. Partly attributed to a dramatic decline in program-related revenue, it can also be attributed to a decline in donations. Overall, 37% of nonprofit organizations reported a decline in donations in 2020 compared to 10% of nonprofit organizations in the preceding 5-year period and more than 70% of organizations reported that individual donations are essential or very important to their business. (Source)

As Covid restrictions lift and people reunite at events, restaurants, theaters, and in the office, there’s opportunity for nonprofits to recover and rebuild their donation bases. Prior to the pandemic, many nonprofit organizations held galas and events for awareness, education, community, networking, and fundraising. With our return to events, nonprofit organizations can extend their current outreach programs with live events to re-engage and grow their donor base. We spoke with some leading nonprofit event planners and partners to get a better idea of what’s happening with nonprofit organizations and how they’re coming back to live events.

Across the board, we’re seeing an increase of in-person nonprofit events, which is exciting for everyone from the nonprofit host who’s able to reconnect with their donor base to the gala attendee who is delighted to get all dressed up with somewhere to go! Rob Arango, Director of Client Development at CPS Events at The Plaza, notes that there’s been more attention to the step-and-repeat as guests are dressing up, eager to meet, greet, and have their photos taken. Even those first moments arriving at an event are celebratory! For anyone who’s watched the awards shows these past months, we’ve seen more glitz, glamor, and excitement on the red carpet.

Aside from being standard operating procedure for nonprofits to host events, galas, and live fundraisers to raise money and engage donors, there’s been increasing pushback on virtual only events (we specify virtual-only for reasons we’ll elaborate on later). The cost and effort of hosting virtual events didn’t deliver the returns in engagement and donation dollars that organizations realized from live events. As Shaun Roberts, Vice President at Great Performances notes, everyone from corporations building teams to religious organizations leading their congregations is seeing the importance of community. Specifically, education institutions are hosting alumni functions, hospitals are rebuilding fundraising efforts, artistic and performance-based groups are inviting guests back into their spaces, and socially aware organizations are rebuilding their education and outreach programs. “No matter how great the technology, it’s impossible to replicate the networking that takes place at live events,” observes James Munz, Vice President of Sales at Ziegfeld Ballroom, home to many nonprofit events including fundraisers, galas, and celebrations.

“Live events not only raise money; more importantly they are used to cultivate new donors,” reports Mike Warren, Director of Catering at CPS Events at The Plaza. Often, gala attendees will sponsor a table and invite guests who might make a connection with the cause and become a supporter. But there’s been another shift in how galas are held, notes Roberts. Instead of being tied to a table and chairs, more events are starting to have more mobile events (and not the digital kind) where guests are encouraged to walk around the space and network. “It’s been a heated debate within many organizations,” he says, “and a decision that’s very personal to each nonprofit.” Speaking with caterers, planners, and venues can help determine which event style makes the most sense for each nonprofit’s goals and constituency.

Health and safety are still top of mind for many nonprofit organizations planning events but staying on top of the latest requirements and protocols can be stressful and confusing. Munz stresses that it’s important to talk to the experts: the caterers and venues who are best able to advise on best practices that support the health, safety, and comfort of event guests. This can be anything from accessibility to ventilation. “We believe in full transparency and providing as much information as necessary to put our clients and their guests at ease. We can also share what some other nonprofits are doing to help provide some context.”

For most organizations, events look like they did pre-pandemic. Groups who are already going out are going out with a relaxed (or exhausted) attitude towards Covid stipulations: tables are not entirely distanced, and check-in is swift. At GP, we are asking our staff to be vaccinated and to remain masked, but many clients are asking that masks be removed, a sign of their desire to make everything appear as it once was. There are some planners and nonprofit organizations who are still staying on the side of caution, but Warren observes that these are few and far between and it may be as simple as setting a table for ten guests for eight.

Some nonprofit organizations aren’t quite willing to let go of the virtual component and are looking for hybrid events. Munz acknowledges that hybrid events can be a great opportunity to capture a wider audience; however, they require an extra level of planning and expertise. Roberts cautions that planning two events in one may result in increased costs and effort and that nonprofit organizations considering hybrid events need to be clear about their goals and expectations for each group of attendees. Selecting the right partner is critical to help create a program that flows smoothly. Munz notes that he’s seen the virtual portion of the hybrid event pause while the in-person attendees were being served their meals. With their deep expertise in hosting events, planners can help create a run of show and make program suggestions to make the event run seamlessly from both perspectives.

Being mindful of guest behavior advises event timelines and runs of show. Munz advises that nonprofits organizations consider adjusting their events to a shorter programmed event followed by a post-dessert reception. This allows those guests who feel uncomfortable to leave and those who feel comfortable to stay longer and socialize – a hybrid of the seated events and the networking sessions.

Event planning is also happening at a shorter timeframe. Although many nonprofits are booking venues, caterers, and other vendors months in advance, guests are waiting until closer to the event date to RSVP, making it difficult to confirm guest counts. And then there are the nonprofits that are booking events on shorter notice. Although it is possible, the current employment landscape can present a challenge. “We always recommend that our clients book the date as soon as they can so we can confirm a venue and ensure proper staffing at their event,” Roberts advises.

At the end of the day, all of the event experts and their nonprofit clients agreed on one thing: nonprofits absolutely should be hosting live events. “There used to be gala fatigue, then we had Zoom fatigue and Covid fatigue. People are eager to get back out in person,” Arango shares. People are yearning for a face-to-face connection, and it’s obvious in the excitement demonstrated when guests are together for the first time.

Encouraging those who are reluctant to venture out to an event can be as simple as providing them with more information, Roberts notes. “Be clear with what the evening holds so people can make their own choices. If you have an amazing key speaker, people will turn out for that; and keep the event to the point—no fluff.” Once you’ve identified your event goals, create a program that will engage your guests. Gone are the days when people stay at a gala until 10:00 pm because they have to; they will stay because they want to be there.

SURPRISE, WE ARE THE SINATROS!

Planning a Wedding at the Plaza Hotel

By Emily Reifel

Photo: ©Shawn Connell
Photo: ©Shawn Connell

It’s not every year that the wedding season kicks off in January, but in 2020 it did just that with an intimate and unique affair – the Sinatro wedding.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Beth, the mother of the groom. A mother of two boys Darren and Alec, and a wife to her amazing husband Tim, she told me how she never in her life expected to plan a wedding, but here she was calling The Plaza to plan one. Her son Darren and fiancée Selin reside in London and really put their trust in Beth to make their celebration memorable.

We met in person because at that point she wanted to see the The Plaza so she could get a feel for what she wanted to do with the space. We started our conversation discussing the big day, but we ended up talking more about life and common acquaintances than the actual wedding.

I was enamored by the international feel of the wedding that Beth envisioned, with the bride originally from Turkey, and the couple now living abroad. Their guest list comprised friends and family from all around the world. We locked down a date and went straight to planning.

Beth and I curated the perfect team to create what Beth had in mind: a classic, formal dinner party. David Beahm’s team was up for the challenge of creating the perfect vibe in The Terrace Room. That’s right – we didn’t use The Grand Ballroom!

Throughout the process, I met with Beth and her husband multiple times. We had an ongoing joke that the wedding would be a complete surprise for Darren and Selin. Soon it was time for our tasting, and I was so excited to finally meet this mysterious couple.

As life has it, though, unexpected life challenges wouldn’t allow the couple to travel to NYC that day, so Beth, Tim, Tiffany and I toasted in their honor and selected a fabulous menu! Darren and Selin were about to be surprised with so many wonderful details! Soon thereafter, I was finally able to meet Darren and his brother Alec. Beth was unable to attend, but I was delighted to reveal some of her thoughtful menu selections.

Photo: ©Shawn Connell
Photo: ©Shawn Connell

During the week of the wedding, I got to meet the gorgeous, elegant Selin. I had a great conversation with the couple and we made sure they were thoroughly represented in all aspects of the celebration. They were gracious, appreciative and very much in love. It was apparent that their long-distance relationship and now living abroad together had created such a strong foundation.

The big day finally arrived; it was a long workday, but I enjoyed working on every detail of their wedding day vision. Shawn Connell and his skilled photography team were able to get beautiful shots of the couple, family and guests. These included a beautiful family photo on The Grand Staircase, a Sinatro family tradition. Guests arrived and enjoyed champagne, hors d’oeuvres and our custom Turkish Station, an homage to Selin’s roots.

Then to the guests’ surprise we moved them all to face the iconic Grand Staircase where the ceremony began right then and there on the landing. David Beahm’s team created this stunning arching tree which was the perfect backdrop to say “I do!” Guests loved it as the couple walked down the aisle onto the stairs. Soon it was time for everyone to see the Terrace Room that was adorned with magnolia trees, white flowers and endless glimmering candlelight.

Photo: ©Shawn Connell
Photo: ©Shawn Connell

Alex from Style Events and a few musicians played the perfect music to entertain this worldly crowd. We seated everyone to a three-course dinner for toasts and special wedding dances, then the party really started. The exuberant crowd didn’t stop dancing for three hours.

Darren and Selin loved how Alex perfectly mixed music from the United States along with Turkish music and other international artists; it was the perfect mix. We passed Shake Shack burgers, fries and milk shakes at the end of the night as on ode to NYC and the crowd loved it all.

Beth, Tim, Darren, Selin, Tiffany and I had multiple group hugs at the end of the night. They really got to enjoy their special day and all of its surprises! The couple was officially the Sinatros and they couldn’t have been happier…and that’s what it’s all about.

Thinking about having your wedding at the Plaza Hotel? Great Performances is the official caterer for the Plaza. Learn more about the Plaza here, and if you are ready to plan your Plaza wedding, just fill out the form below. We will get in touch shortly.

By Rob Arango

Myka Meier, “Queen of Manners” and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy shares her thoughts on the Royal Family shake up.

CPS Events is happy to introduce Myka as our “Plaza Personality” this month.

It seems that most people in the world carry a phone with a camera and are on social media these days. Do you think this has made paparazzi out of everyone?

I think with the easy access to cell phones with cameras, the age-old beliefs of what constitutes paparazzi have now been magnified a million times. There is a fine line between royalty coming across as likable and relatable (and taking the occasional, friendly selfie) while working in their official capacity as senior royals with fans and being followed and given unwanted attention during their personal, private time.

Do you think Prince Harry was so affected by his mother’s death that he fears the same outcome for his wife?

I believe all the actions that Prince Harry has taken have been to protect his wife and son. I think anyone who experiences childhood trauma like that would be affected in a similar way and would want to make changes in order for history to not repeat itself.

How serious of an issue for the Royal family brand is him stepping down? Especially since he is 6th in line to the throne.

It is so rare to see this happen. I believe they must have been so unhappy that they saw this as a last resort and the only option to live the life they wanted. I also believe that you only live once and have to do what makes you happy, and happiness and peace is my greatest hope for them. I think they will make huge changes in the world for great causes around the world.

Why do you think the Queen agreed to let her grandson step down?

Prince Harry and Her Majesty have always been incredibly close. I imagine like any grandparent, she only wants the best for him and respects his wishes; and I’m sure they will remain very close. The Queen is known to be a very fair woman who loves her family very much.

Is this a one-time occurrence or do you think it might happen again with other future members of the royal family?

Never say never! While I hope the monarchy stays strong, this move was completely unexpected and we could see more surprising changes like this in the future.

Beaumont Etiquette is the official etiquette partner of The Plaza Hotel, launching The Plaza Finishing Program for adults, teens and children in 2016, with courses running to date. In 2018 Beaumont Etiquette was named the official etiquette partner of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.

By Afiya Witter

PINK GIN & TONIC

Enjoy Valentine’s Day by sipping this classic cocktail dressed up for the occasion!

INGREDIENTS

PROCEDURE

  • 2 oz gin

  • 1-3 lime wedges

  • 3 dashes bitters

  • 3-4 oz tonic water

  1. Add gin and bitters to a glass filled with ice.

  2. Squeeze in lime wedges to taste, adding one to the rim of the glass.

  3. Add tonic water and stir gently to combine.

  4. Enjoy!

More Recipes

Our Favorite Wedding Venues, Inside and Out

By Great Performances

Engagement season is at it’s peak and it’s almost time to start planning for the big day! After setting your budget, possible dates and starting your guest list, the next step is finding your dream wedding venue in New York. With so many options in the Greater New York area, it can definitely be overwhelming to search for the best wedding venues in New York, but we’ve got you covered with a list of some our team’s favorite venues for your special day.

A New York Wedding Venue With Amazing Views

If you want to get married in the heart of Manhattan, this secret garden awaits you! Right off of 5th Ave, 620 Loft and Garden overlooks St Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Plaza for some of the best views in New York City. The crisp interior allows for you to bring your vision to life, which is only matched by the elegance of the pristine gardens.

An Iconic Wedding Venue In Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Museum in one of NYC’s most unique venue. Couples have the option to be married and have their reception in the modern, glass pavilion with Brooklyn as their backdrop, or in the timeless Beaux Artes Court, surrounded by historic art and under an extraordinary brass chandelier. Guests get VIP access to art, culture and an experience they will never forget.

One Of The Prettiest Wedding Venues In NY State

Located in northern Westchester County, Caramoor’s flower gardens, picturesque cedar trails and historic home makes this unique space perfect for a wedding. Caramoor can host parties from 50-800 guests allowing guests to experience all 90 archers throughout the course of the evening. Don’t forget to visit throughout the season for one of their amazing summer concerts!

A Truly Unique Wedding Venue In Queens

For the rustic chic wedding couple, The Foundry offers great outdoor space, lots of exposed brick, and a fun industrial vibe. With views of the Queensboro Bridge, the ivy covered oasis is a dream for every couple!

A Mansion Wedding Overlooking Central Park

Located in the Upper East Side, The Museum of the City of New York’s beautifully renovated landmark building on Fifth Avenue’s iconic Museum Mile is the perfect space for your special day. With floor-to-ceiling french doors, a stunning marble staircase, a private outdoor space and views of Central Park, an MNCY wedding is nothing short of breathtaking.

A Classic New York Wedding Venue

The legendary Plaza Hotel is the perfect location for a one-of-a-kind celebration that is modern, timeless and elegant. With 4 enchanting rooms to chose from, there’s no doubt that your wedding will feel like a real-life fairytale.

A Nature Lover’s Dream New York Wedding Venue

Wave Hill is known for its natural beauty. The florals, greenery, landscape and architecture speak for itself. There are so many places on the property to host the various parts of the evening, you are constantly surprising your guests each step of the night. You can have your first look in the Aquatic Garden by the coy pond, the ceremony on the upper lawn with the stunning pergola behind you and cocktail hour on the lower lawn overlooking the Hudson and the palisades just as the sun begins to set. It truly is a hidden gem, and as a public garden a place you can come back to whenever you like for years to come after your wedding.

The Hamptons. The Hudson Valley. The Berkshires. Connecticut. Beyond the city limits, Great Performances can bring the sophistication and elegance of a city wedding to any location. Whether it’s escaping “Out East” to the Parrish Museum, your favorite summer camp in the Berkshires, an estate in Connecticut, or a scenic lawn in the Hudson Valley, your options are limitless.

Search for your dream wedding venue on Great Performances’ Wedding Venue Searcher 

LET US CREATE YOUR DREAM WEDDING

Great Performances catering has been around since 1979 when it was founded as a waitress staffing agency to help those women who were working towards a career in the arts. We have now evolved to become New York’s premier events caterer as well as a company that believes in giving back to the community.

Our culinary team works with seasonal, sustainably sourced local ingredients to interpret your dreams into dishes for your wedding celebration.

Throughout the years we have cultivated relationships with some of the best wedding venues in New York. Contact us to learn more about how we work and how we can make your dream wedding come to life.

If you want to learn more about having your wedding at one of these spectacular New York wedding venues, fill out the form below and a planner will reach out to you shortly:

GOINGS ON AT THE BEST WEDDING VENUES IN NEW YORK

A SEASON OF FUNDRAISING FOR CHILDREN

By Rob Arango

Photo: ©Julie Skarratt Photography

It has been a remarkable, heartfelt gala season with the ever generous New Yorker’s coming out to support the multifarious. Whether it be the Sylvia Center teaching children about nutrition and fresh food, or the World Childhood Foundation advocating on behalf of protecting young children from exploitation and international trafficking, not one gala is more important than the next.

All of them are critically in need of constant funding to teach, protect, inspire and find a loving home from birth through the oldest adoption agency in New York. The New York Foundling has placed thousands of infants and young children in loving, caring and warm homes since 1894.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest at the New York Foundling’s Gala at The Plaza and at my table seven guests, all who were adopted, shared their gratitude to their adoptive parents and to the Foundling. I’m pleased to share quotes and pictures from these charities.

Photo: ©UP Studios Photography

The Foundling’s 150th Anniversary was spectacular! This is mostly due to the hard work and hands of the banquet team and wait staff. I highly recommend The Plaza Hotel! In all my years of serving on charitable gala committees, and as a board member of philanthropic organizations, I have never experienced such passion, professionalism and generosity from the head of events at any venue, let alone one such as the legendary Plaza Hotel!

– Joanne Marisa Sullivan, Guest and Committee Member at the New York Foundling

The World Childhood Foundation, established in 1999 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, envisions a world where all children are free from violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. Each year, Childhood USA hosts its ThankYou Gala Awards in New York City. This is the largest fundraiser for our foundation, mobilizing support for our US programs. These critical funds allow us to continue our work to stimulate, promote and enable the development of solutions to prevent and address sexual abuse, exploitation and violence against children.

During this annual event, we recognize outstanding individuals and corporate leaders that have significantly furthered the cause of children’s rights worldwide. By honoring these extraordinary individuals it is our hope that their work will inspire other leaders, businesses, foundations and organizations to follow our awardees’ example by protecting children everywhere.

– Agna Brayshaw, Project Manager at the World Childhood Foundation USA

Photo: ©World Childhood Foundation
Photo: ©Harlem School of Arts

The Harlem School of the Arts Gala is our largest fundraiser and for the past four years, we have raised over a million dollars holding the celebration at The Plaza. The funds raised have a direct impact on our students’ access to arts education in the four disciplines of music, art and design, dance and theatre, where over 60% of our students, most of whom are from Harlem and Upper Manhattan, receive financial support.

– Talya Westbrook, Chief Development Officer at Harlem School of the Arts

Our annual event at The Plaza, A New York Winter’s Eve, provides the perfect setting in which to graciously thank our supporters, give them an insider’s look at new or expanded services coming down the pike, and tell a client story or two through multi-media, that leaves guests feeling inspired and proud to be associated with Volunteers of America-Greater New York. For instance, at Monday’s event, our emcee, Willie Geist announced from the podium that funding was just approved for us to begin providing mothers whose babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome,

the permanent housing and wrap-around services they need to overcome their addiction and never return to using. Saving babies, saving families is something everyone can get behind and conveying complex, not very pretty issues in a beautiful room like the Grand Ballroom, when everyone is there to celebrate our successes, welcome in the holiday season and support our efforts, makes it easier. We are all in this together. Our donors, our staff, The Plaza, the entire team.

Rachel Weinstein, Vice President of Communications and External Relations at Volunteers of America

Photo: ©Volunteers of America

In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice.

Charles Dickens

 

By Emily Reifel


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

 


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

Anyone that has worked with me on a social event at The Plaza knows that I’m big on honoring tradition. It’s one of the reasons that The Plaza is so special to me because it’s a place where so many family traditions are celebrated.

Everyone has their favorite memories of The Plaza during the holidays. For me, my biggest honor is when a client comes, after hosting one or two Plaza affairs, and returns for another one. I was lucky enough this year to get a call from Nicole, who was looking to host her son’s wedding at The Plaza. I recognized her name and remembered that she had also hosted her other son’s bar mitzvah with us when we first reopened The Plaza in 2009. To make things even more exciting, she told me that she also had her wedding at The Plaza.

 


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

We quickly got her soon-to-be daughter in law over to do a walkthrough. It was a girl’s night with myself, the bride Alessia, Nicole and their planner Madeline Zeiberg from MZ Events (who is a regular Plaza planner). I couldn’t wait to meet Alessia and show her around. I was just hoping she fell in love with The Plaza the way she fell in love with Nicole’s son and that she would continue the tradition. There was no pressure to choose The Plaza, but of course, we were all hoping that she would like it. The next day, Nicole called and said: “We have a winner.” Alessia and Mikey came back on their own to walk around and dream of their big day.

We put the wedding together in under a year. Alessia and Mikey were always so excited every time we saw each other, and I could see the joy in Nicole and her husband David’s face when they watched the couple dream of their big day.

 


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

One of my favorite moments was when we had their tasting. Everyone was excited to try the wines, and we tried a few more bottles than we usually do and made an afternoon of it. The couple was talking about their first dance, and at one point, we had this idea that they should practice it right then and there; we turned the music on and had an impromptu rehearsal.

Before we knew it, we were ready for our final walkthrough and Madeline’s team had finalized all of the details. It was a breeze working with DeJuan Stroud for decor, Jimmy Valli for music, Jason Walker for photos and video and Ben and Jaime from Bentley Meeker Lighting and Staging.

 


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

The big day had finally arrived and guests made their way to the Terrace Room, which was decorated in all white flowers and greens—inspired by the Mediterranean. The ceremony went off without a hitch and guests enjoyed a cocktail hour, complete with a gorgeous sushi station and caviar bar—no detail was spared.

After the cocktail hour, guests were escorted into The Grand Ballroom where DeJuan had taken the Mediterranean inspiration to the next level. The guests felt as if they had been transported straight to Italy, which was just what they wanted. Large trees towered over the tables with twinkle lights glowing off off them; crystal candelabras graced the room giving it a sleek, modern, yet palatial feel; accents of pink flowers gave the room the perfect pop of color; and the ceiling was transformed into a starry night, complete with the moon. It was so stunning and untraditional but still worked in the elegant Grand Ballroom setting.

 


Photo: ©Jason Walker

Photo: ©Jason Walker

At one moment, I saw Nicole twirling in her dress on the dance floor, and I couldn’t help but think this had to be one of the best days for her to stand in the same spot where it all began for her and David.

During the toasts, many mentioned the tradition of using The Grand Ballroom at The Plaza for family affairs. I was so happy to be a part of this, and I can’t wait for the next one. The party rocked on and the after-party kept the dancing going until 2:30 am.

Thank you, Nicole, David, Mikey and Alessia. I’m so honored to continue this Plaza tradition and can’t wait for many many more!


 

By Rob Arango

Julie Satow, journalist and author, recently published a book on the history of The Plaza Hotel. Julie is a native New Yorker residing in the West Village with her family. The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel recounts the history and forgotten tails of the world renowned hotel and its famous guests.

CPS Events is happy to introduce Julie as our “Plaza Personality” this month.

Julie Satow, Author Of The Plaza: The Secret Life Of America's Most Famous Hotel

Where were you born?

I was born in Riverdale, in the Bronx. A true, born-and-bred New Yorker!

When did you first come to the Plaza?

It is hard to know the very first time that I visited the hotel. Growing up in New York City, the Plaza was always a constant in my life. After school, I would often go to Central Park with my friends, and the Plaza’s white façade was ever visible over the tree tops. And whenever my grandparents visited from Pennsylvania, they would stay at the hotel. I recall so many memories of being in their enormous hotel room, looking out on the pedestrians walking along Fifth Avenue, or the horse-drawn carriages lining up against the park. I also used to love to wander the Plaza’s hushed hallways or ride the elevators and pretend to wreak havoc like Eloise (although unlike her, I always behaved myself!).

What made you write a book about the Plaza, and why is it so close to your heart?

As a journalist who covers the real estate industry, I had written plenty about the Plaza over the years. And when I became engaged, I chose the beautiful Terrace Room in which to say my vows. The Plaza has always been special to me, and, like so many others, I’ve long known it has a rich history that spans more than a century. But as a journalist and a curious New Yorker, I wanted to learn more!

The Plaza has stayed much as it was when it first opened in 1907, but it has also changed over the decades. I wanted to tell that story, of how the Plaza is a part of the larger fabric of the city that surrounds it, a lens through which to understand New York, and even the country. As I say in my book, “The Plaza was built in an era before radio and exists in a time of Facebook. Like a white marble mountain rising in the center of the city, the Plaza stands weathered, permanent, and implacable.”

What was the most shocking story that you found out in all of the 292 pages that you wrote?

There were so many stories that surprised me! As I did my research, I realized that many stories about the Plaza had been long forgotten to history. For instance, I discovered that a brutal murder took place while the hotel was still under construction—the New York Times called it “Murder in Mid-Air” because it occurred on the Plaza’s unfinished eighth floor. One hundred years ago, the eighth floor was impossibly high!

I also loved the tales of the many eccentric widows who lived at the hotel. They were dubbed “The 39 Widows of the Plaza,” and included a wealthy Russian princess who kept pet owls and even a lion, who lived in her hotel bathtub, and a Kentucky heiress to a great fortune who invented the cocktail party. There were other things too, like the fact that the hotel very nearly closed during Prohibition, or how Ivana Trump was the only female president ever to run the Plaza, or that it was thanks to a 12-year-old-girl that The Beatles ended up staying at the hotel.

Do you think there could be a new 21st Century Black and White Ball? If so, who would be the new Truman Capote?

What a great question! Yes, I believe there could be another Black and White Ball today, but instead of Truman Capote, the host would be Lady Gaga. And instead of guests wearing black-and-white, they would be told to dress in outrageous colors. Lady Gaga, like Truman Capote, is such a force of nature and has so much talent, I’m sure she could draw an amazing crowd!

Is there a favorite room that you love and why?

I love the Edwardian Room, with its stunning views of both the Pulitzer Fountain on Fifth Avenue and the greenery of Central Park. It is an architectural gem, with its intricate wood paneling, and its history is unparalleled. It has been around since the very beginning, the favorite dining spot for everyone from Broadway producer George Cohan, to wealthy dowagers who lived at the hotel. It is also the location of New York’s first power breakfasts!

What is it about the Plaza that makes New Yorkers feel like it is their own hotel?

The Plaza is an icon, like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Chrysler Building. But unlike those structures, the Plaza is accessible to everyone. Anyone can walk through the halls of the hotel, glimpse the famous Eloise portrait, or sip tea at the Palm Court. For many, the Plaza is akin to an extension of their very own (supremely elegant) living room!

If you could have been a guest at the Plaza, what decade would you choose?

Well, of any decade that I researched, the 1920s Jazz Age sounds like the most fun! This was when the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald used to haunt the hotel, attending tea dances in the basement Grill Room and taking his wife Zelda on crazy jaunts, like jumping fully-clothed into the Pulitzer Fountain. I have a photo in my book from this time, and you can see the Plaza standing sentry on the corner, surrounded only by other low-slung buildings, signifying its import and architectural beauty.

This was also the era when Harry S. Black, the Plaza’s debonair owner, lived in a penthouse on the top floor of the hotel. I would really have loved to meet Harry! He was the country’s first-ever real estate tycoon, and a larger-than-life personality who also built other important structures, such as the Flatiron Building.

Who do you think was the most famous guest to check in?

That is a tough one! There are so many famous guests, but I always loved the fact that Frank Lloyd Wright lived at the hotel while he was designing the Guggenheim museum. He famously said that the Plaza was the only building that he loved that he hadn’t built himself!

Why was the Plaza built at 59th and Fifth Avenue?

At the time the Plaza was built, Fifth Avenue didn’t have so much as a streetlight. But its location, at the foot of Central Park, would soon become the heart of Manhattan island. It was a prescient move by its builders. The site also offered something very unique in New York: two visible facades. There was Central Park South, which was offset by the park, and Fifth Avenue, which was offset by Grand Army Plaza. Its location is one reason that the Plaza became such a significant landmark.

How long did it take to write your thoroughly researched book?

I began research in 2015, and it was published in 2019, so nearly four years from start to finish. I read more than ten thousand articles, interviewed close to 100 people, and traveled from India to Israel for research. Writing this book was the best job I ever had!

What is your next book?

Thanks for asking. I am still working on my book proposal, but suffice it to say, it is not about a New York hotel!

By Emily Reifel

 

Photo: ©Fred Marcus Studio

 

Photo: ©Fred Marcus Studio

We live in a world where everyone is fixated on immediate gratification. Everything seems to be about right now, and people tend to use the term “ASAP” way too frequently. Sometimes, it feels like no one can wait for even just one minute. In the world of weddings, it used to be that people booked their weddings far out in advance, and now it seems like a 3-month engagement is the new normal; even the relationships can go from 0 to 60 in a matter of weeks. I prefer working in the short term, but there is something nice about playing the “long game” where things seem a little more zen. And this was truly the case for my lovely couple Jon and Diana.

Jon and Diana booked The Plaza two years out from their wedding date. It felt like their wedding was never going to get here, and just as their engagement was long, so was their relationship as they had been dating since high school. Going on a decade of love and togetherness, this was one couple that I wasn’t worried about for one second, and I knew that they were each other’s soul mates.

Photo: ©Fred Marcus Studio

When I first met them I wasn’t sure that they would book at The Plaza. They were taking their time looking at venues and after a few weeks I received an email that they wanted to move forward, and everyone involved in the planning couldn’t have been more thrilled. Jon and Diana wanted to make their wedding planning an unforgettable experience and enjoy every minute of it, even down to finalizing details over champagne and Old Fashions in the lobby of The Plaza.

They chose an all-star cast to work alongside as well; Bobby Attiko from Hank Lane Music and Productions for music, Brian Marcus for Photography and Videography and Golf Srithamrong of Tantawan Bloom to design the whole affair. When this crew came in the house, it felt like a family affair. This team, along with Diana’s professional project manager organizer and Jon’s love for production, were all set to create an elegant yet fun wedding for everyone involved. Diana has a big family and Jon’s family is smaller in scale, so putting a wedding together for guests of all ages can be a daunting task, but they did it with ease.

Photo: ©Fred Marcus Studio

Not being in a crunch for time was a great feeling, and even if we weren’t in touch for a few months every time we got together there was always a great energy; and before we knew it it was summer 2019.

Diana, Jon and I had a meeting scheduled to go over a few last minute wedding details, and as soon as they arrived they could sense that I wasn’t having the greatest day. They immediately built my spirits up and knew instantly that sometimes real life takes over and it’s ok to take a minute from wedding planning to regroup. This night created a bond that made their wedding even more special and fun.

Photo: ©Fred Marcus Studio

When their big day finally arrived, it felt as if my new assistant Tiffany and I were welcoming old friends back to The Plaza. We did not let any stress get in our way and everything went (almost) accordingly to plan. We will laugh about the little hiccups forever and no one will know about them except for us. Our rockstar team kept everyone on time and dancing the night away. Their guests loved their Old Fashioneds, champagne and of course Bobby’s incredible musical talent. At one point, Diana’s mom came up to me saying that Bobby was playing her favorite song and Brian Marcus stole a quick dance with her while everyone was enjoying their entrées. It was such a nice moment to really see that everyone, including our team, was enjoying Jon and Diana’s big day.

Jon and Diana, I’m so happy we played this “long game” together and I know we aren’t done. Cheers to many more parties, from The Plaza to Brooklyn.


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By CPS Events at The Plaza

No one can deny that the world’s appetite is shifting. 2019 was dubbed “The Year of the Vegan” by the Economist. Major surveys conclude that one out of every five Europeans is eating plant-based and one out of every three Americans under the age of 35 is eating mostly plant-based.

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While some may fear such a sudden shift in consumer demands, here at The Plaza, we’re excited by such changes. This shift means innovation in the area we love the most: food. It’s an amazing opportunity to get creative and try new things. Recently, we’ve ventured into plant-based foods and are thrilled about all the options available on the market. Our most recent tasting had us drooling over raw, organic, gluten-and-dairy-free desserts from Nat’s Rawline. The desserts were incredible and we were quick to say “YES, we love it.”

We also ventured into trying some vegan wines complete with a vegan cheese plate (who knew wine wasn’t vegan?) and we’ve settled on one of the finest wines found in Italy called Querciabella. This wine is completely biodynamic (meaning, a step above organic, using herbs and plants to optimize the soil and grape growth). The most exciting parts about these new trends, is that it’s just starting to catch fire and the best is yet to come as ingredients and food-tech become more and more ingenious.