How A Canceled Event Brought Out The Best In One Event Planner

April 11, 2020  |  by:

When COVID-19 hit the headlines, and local authorities began to regulate the number of guests at events, event planners were left scrambling. Desiree May, of Leave It To May Events, turned a canceled event into special memories for her clients.

Who Is Desiree May?

Desiree May talks about a canceled event

Desiree May is the owner and principal designer of Leave It To May Events, an event planning and design company in Delaware. She’s been planning events for well over eight years, and, in her own words, “loves everything about it.”

Desiree got her professional start working at a venue where she gained a wide range of experience. At the venue, Desiree helped craft events for nonprofits, corporate clients, and private events.

It was when Desiree was planning her wedding that she realized she had a true calling as an event planner. 

Desiree said, “I thought about hiring an event planner, but I thought, no. I got this. I know what I want. Vendors would say to me, ‘you are the most on-point bride ever.'” 

“They say when you plan your wedding, it’s basically like having a full-time job. I was working full time and also planning my wedding. When my wedding was over, I thought, oh my gosh, what am I going to do now? Even though I was still working at the venue, I wanted more. I wanted to work on events that I created under my own umbrella. I wanted to do my own thing and create something that was my own.”

“I took a few months brainstorming names for my business and finally Leave It To May Events stuck”

From there, Desiree had her cousin create her first logo, and she took to Instagram. She posted photographs from a recent wedding she’d planned, and within a month had her first client.

Now, Desiree is an accredited event designer with a certificate from The Institute of Wedding and Event Design, and her business is growing each year.

When An Event Was Canceled, Desiree Made It Work

I reached out to Desiree after seeing photographs of a Lion King-themed baby shower she put on. I loved the pictures, but it was when I read the description, I knew I had to interview her.

What made this event particularly interesting was that the venue had canceled the event mere days before. I interviewed Desiree, and we spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on her business. We also discussed how she pivoted from a large venue to a single room in a client’s home.

An Event Planner Can Make It Work

“I think we can make this work.” 

Desiree explained that “We were anticipating it, just waiting for the call. We were hopeful, but we knew it was coming sooner than later.”

At first, it was the guests who were canceling. They had about 40 cancellations, and Desiree’s clients had made the decision to cancel it themselves. Then they got a call that the venue canceled the baby shower. 

Desiree called her distraught clients and said, “I think we can make this work.” 

Difficult Decisions

What are we going to be able to keep?

Desiree explained, “I said we can transform her beautiful home and make something work. I told my clients that the guest count, unfortunately, is less than what you were expecting. ‘But,’ I said, ‘you still have your immediate family that would love to be there and from both sides of the family.'”

Then it was all about difficult decisions. They had a large throne chair coming in, balloon decor, a backdrop, catering, and a baker doing a special display. “We had to figure out, okay, well, what’s going to work? What are we going to be able to keep?”

Throughout the process, Desiree stuck to two fundamentals. Open communication with her client and a desire to make it work. Desiree worked closely with her client to figure out what they would keep and what they would cut, space being a critical factor, the other being the guest count. 

“It was very stressful,” Desiree told me. “I’m not going to lie, but still, in the back of my head, I was hopeful.”

But then disaster struck, just as Desiree was packing her car.

A Canceled Event Gets Cancelled Again.

The caterer canceled, and the guest count is down to seven.

“I’m packing my car with all my events stuff, and I’m on the phone with the balloon artist. She’s on her way. The baker had started on the cupcakes. Everything came in, we were good to go. Then I get a text that says, Desiree, if you’re en route, you can turn around.” My heart dropped. I was about to hop in the car. Everything was good.

“I had all of this great decor. I had these amazing centerpieces, I had these backdrops, I have all these things. Then I got on a phone call with both the moms, and they told me, ‘The caterer canceled, and the guest count is down to seven.’

Desiree updated the vendors and explained that the event was canceled, this time for good. 

A Canceled Event Gets A Reboot

I just looked at it as a challenge

After some thought, Desiree called the client’s mom, determined to make the event happen, somehow.

Desiree said, “I told her mom, ‘I really do think that we can make something special still happen. Really we shouldn’t be doing an event with 40 50 people anyway.’ But I reminded her again, ‘you have a beautiful home, you have space, I can bring what I have, and we can make something work.'”

“Sure enough, I went over there. I took some time to analyze the space and look at what I had to work with. It’s funny because the back house that we utilized for the shower was the man cave for my client’s father. There were sports items all over the wall. He had a pool table and sports jerseys behind the pool table.”

“But I just looked at it as a challenge. Okay, this is what I have and this is the space I’m working with. I know I have some beautiful items, how can I incorporate this within the space to make it feel special. The family pretty much told me that I could take anything off the walls and move whatever I needed.”

“The pool table, I covered it with the linen. I set up the animal decor, the zebra and the giraffe, and covered up with some greenery. 

“I set up a backdrop behind the pool table so you couldn’t see the walls or the jerseys. That area made a beautiful focal point in the room. They had a few round tables so I used my gold sequin linens and then added the custom-designed Lion King centerpieces. They had a small bar area which I made into a drink station. We set up the buffet table and really made the space work.”

How A Canceled Event Brought Out The Best from Leave It To May Events
Photo by Desiree May of Leave It To May Events

An Event Is All About The Experience

I think it was a job well done.

Desiree told me about a touching moment. “The mom of the mother-to-be walked up the stairs, she was carrying a plate of food, and she started crying. She said, ‘I can’t believe this turned out this good. We had no idea what to expect after all of the changes, but this turned out so good. She will be really happy with this, thank you so much.'” 

“But that was a special moment for me. It really showed that hard work pays off and that I can do anything I set my mind to. Transforming a house was a last-minute task and I was able to transform their space beautifully. Their hearts were set on the venue, and obviously, mine was too. But I think that after seeing the transformation, they were impressed. It was really special to me. 

“I’m so glad that we moved forward with the shower. I think positivity and convincing the family that we could make it work really helped. My mindset was always set on making it work no matter what. It might not be as big a scale as we originally planned. We didn’t have the throne chair or other different things. Still, we were able to transform the backhouse to something extraordinary and get really great photos. Everyone that came was just raving about how everything looked. 

“I think it was a job well done.”

I’ve seen the pictures, and I agree. It was a job well done. A canceled event led to a story that will be with that family forever.

Lion Ling Baby Shower
Lion Ling Baby Shower
Lion Ling Baby Shower
Lion Ling Baby Shower
Photo by Desiree May of Leave It To May Events

A Canceled Event Can Bring Out The Best In Event Planners

Things change, and you have to just have that creative free spirit.

In my discussion with Desiree, I noted her optimism and “make-it-work” values. I asked her how critical is it to have an outlook that embraces challenges.

“No matter how many things you have lined up and in order as an event planner, in the events world there is always something that can go wrong. Things change, and you have to just have that creative free spirit. I usually draw out a diagram of the space and note exactly where I want things to be, color-coordinated and everything. But sometimes you get to the venue or location and you have to just go with the flow. Things may not be set up exactly as planned or a space may be smaller or much larger in person than they seem in photos, so you have to just be flexible.”

Then Desiree said something that I think applies to life in general.

“It’s so important to be positive, but it’s also important to be flexible. If you’re not flexible, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When you are flexible, you build relationships, and the outcome is so much better.”

All of us here at ThymeBase are inspired by Desiree! Her make-it-work attitude is why we love building event planning software – it’s for resilient, persistent people like her.

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