We answer lots of emails from family, friends, and friends of friends to help them put together an itinerary to visit Napa on a budget. (You know who you are!)
Well, not only do we have the local insider scoop in Napa Valley by being a local, but we at Danielle Gibson Events are forever advocating for our clients, this means a large portion of our job consists of scouting new hotels, restaurants, wineries and activities.
While we have a little break in planning events at the moment, we love to share our wealth of knowledge and hopefully inspire some memorable trips to our favorite valley! So, without further ado, here is the best of our secret list – How To Visit Napa On A Budget.
First, we always focus on what a vacation to Napa looks like to the inquirer…
Why are you visiting Napa Valley?
Most people are visiting for the wine and food, but we want to make sure.
Where are you staying in Napa Valley?
This is very important! The valley is larger than most people think. You want to spend less time driving and more time experiencing what Napa has to offer. We focus on building daily itineraries around your accommodations location. Or, if you’re looking for a suggestion of where to stay, we can help there too! The valley runs South to North starting from the city of Napa and ending in the town of Calistoga.
Do you want to enjoy wine tasting while visiting Napa Valley? YES
What is most important to you when wine tasting?
Keeping these questions in mind, this blog is mostly for the type 1 or 2 wine traveler. Napa Valley can be an expensive trip, but there are ways to see Napa on a budget.
Napa Valley produces some of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon. There are plenty of white wines as well, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and other interesting varietals. If you like these wine varietals, you are coming to the right place!
If you are looking for a more higher-end Napa wine and food experience, try our other Napa blogs:
Our list compiles places in Napa to stay, taste, eat and still have some money to take a few bottles of wine home! Please note: While there are many affordable places to stay, eat, and drink in the Napa Valley, we have pared down our list to guarantee wherever you chose has Danielle Gibson Event’s seal of approval.
Calistoga (North part of the valley) usually has the most economical choices when it comes to hotels. It’s a little further from the SFO airport (if you are flying in) and a little quieter than most Napa Valley towns, but you can save a few hundred bucks a night on lodging.
Most wineries use Tock or CellarPass to make it quick and easy to book reservations. Our recommendations below are for tasting appointments that range between $20- $40 per person and usually include 3-5 wines as part of the tasting.
Use this Napa Winery Map to help navigate the area, I always send this to friends and event clients who are visiting (click to enlarge and download). Our list below goes from north to south.
St. Helena Wineries
There are many amazing restaurants in Napa Valley and you don’t have to spend a lot to eat a delicious meal. Below are some of our favorites for casual dining at prices below $20 per person. For a list of more restaurants in several price points see our other Napa blog – Our 25 Favorite Napa Restaurants.
St. Helena Restaurants
Enjoy your trip! X, DG Events
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If you weren’t feeling celebratory this year, we have the perfect answer to how to turn your frown upside down: HALLOWEEN!
Here at Danielle Gibson Events we love this season and have our porches decorated the first day of Fall. (September 22nd if you were wondering) While we are more than ready to get the party started, we understand that Halloween will look a little different this year. Let us take you through some fun ways to make the entire month of October a spooktacular event, even in the world of COVID.
Outside Home Decor
While you may not be able to host a Halloween party this year, you can still show off your Halloween spirit, starting with the exterior of your house. We recommend your first stop on your Halloween decor path to be your local pumpkin patch! Many local businesses have worked hard to ensure their patches are COVID compliant, like those found in Half Moon Bay for Bay Area residents, for those in other areas of the state/country simply search “local pumpkin patch” in your web browser to find one near you. Enjoy some hot cider, take some insta-worthy pictures wearing these adorable halloween masks, and show off your pumpkin haul in a red wagon! While you may want to lean toward that perfect Charlie Brown orange pumpkin, purchase a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors so that you can give your porch pops of color. Bring in different textures by adding faux pumpkins, lanterns, baskets, floral containers, colorful mums, and fall colored plants. Next up, the doormat! They are all the rage this season: Hey, Boo, Fall-idays, Happy Fall, Customizable Tile Mat, Light Up Ghosts, and Hey There Pumpkin just to name a few. Throw in a layer underneath for an extra special design touch.
Then add some Halloween touches to your seasonal porch! Make these simple paper bats from Martha Stewart for a perfect addition to any Halloween design.
Inside Home Decor
Halloween can be easily expressed by changing or adding a few colors to your current home palette. Switch out the white candles on your mantle for orange or black and add a few pumpkins and pampas grass and you have a whole new look for fall. Need a pop of color? Add pillows! We love adding pink and different shades of orange to this palette to add a pop of color in the sea of orange, black, and white.
When thinking of a beautiful Halloween tablescape, a previous Take Time to Toast event in Napa came to mind. We recommend using small pumpkins like those in the picture above as a demi-table runner. You can even customize the pumpkins and add your Quaranteam’s names using paint markers and use them as place cards and favors they can take home!
Halloween is not a holiday, it is it’s own season. To count down the days before Hallow’s Eve, we’ve come up with a few activities for all ages.
Week of October 12th
Grab your warmest jackets and some hot cider for a socially distanced movie marathon in the backyard. Pick your favorite Halloween movie, or maybe your favorite Halloween episodes of a TV Show and get ready to be spooked. For a fun Bay Area California date night, enjoy a drive-in movie and incredible food with Paula LeDuc Catering.
Week of October 19th
While you may not be able to attend a Halloween party this year or go trick-or-treating, you can still share in the Halloween spirit by “Booing” your friends. A recent trend, “Booing” is when you drop off treats, we recommend Halloween chocolate bark, mini pumpkins and leave a fun note in the hopes that your friend will then keep this going and “boo” another home. You can make your own note or buy kits like this one found at Target.
Week of October 26th
For the final week, break out the Halloween playlist and get crafty with decorating a Halloween Gingerbread House or making a Pumpkin Snack Board. This is a great creative outlet for all ages and is guaranteed to produce a Halloween vibe in your house. Don’t forget about November 1st, Day of the Dead! Celebrate by creating this Sugarfina Charcuterie Board for the sweet tooth in your house.
Want Help Celebrating the Holiday Season While Keeping It Safe?
Looking for more information or hands-on help?
We offer a range of services which you can see here.
Interested in more design ideas for the Fall holidays?
We will leave you with some inspirational photos from our friends around the web.
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This guide gives you the BEST locations for wine tasting, eating and overnight stays!
Why are we so confident our list is the BEST?
For over 17 years our specialty at DG Events has been scouting locations for events and venues for wine tasting in Napa. We have many friends in the wine industry from Mendocino down to Santa Barbara that have shared their favorites with us. Also, my husband David works in the wine industry and has over 27 years of experience in food and wine. While this is both a blessing and a curse, it has brought us a wealth of great connections in many wine regions. Together, we bring you the best of what we love.
Paso Robles Wine Country is an American Viticultural Area located in San Luis Obispo County, California. The region has approximately 33,000 vineyard acres planted and over 200 producers. Back in the day, it was mostly known for its heritage varietal, Zinfandel, with some Bordeaux grapes mixed in… because that’s what you do in California, right? However, as the modern wave of new winemakers began to move in, it became clear that Rhone Valley varietals were more aptly suited to the warm climate and limestone based soils, particularly on the westside of town. We happen to love Syrah, Grenache, and the like so it’s right in our wine wheelhouse. The good news is that it’s all good and there’s something for everyone!
Paso Robles is about 3 hours south of San Francisco International Airport and 3 hours north of Los Angeles, also known as the Central Coast of California. The Paso Robles downtown is centered around a small square with a quaint little park in the center. You can visit wineries on both the east and west sides of downtown.
The eastside is mostly urban tasting rooms and the location of the famous Tin City. (more details about list below) The westside of town is peppered with estate wineries located on vineyard property. Most locations you can get to within 5 -15 minutes, so it is easy to see everything your little wine heart desires. We recommend visiting for at least 2 days so you can devote one day to the eastside and one day to the westside.
No matter what you are looking for in a winery visit, you can find it in Paso Robles. We like to stay small and support the little guys most of the time and always prioritize a higher caliber wine over the design of a location. But, you might not feel the same, so we have categorized the wineries for you below so you can build your itinerary to make everyone visiting happy!
Estate or Garage?
The answer is yes. The beauty of this place can be credited to the balance of how these two approaches to winemaking coexist and promote one another. Hit some spots in the vineyards, but say hi to the cool kids in Tin City and the warehouse spots as well.
A little while ago we were lucky enough to get introduced to Cris Cherry of Villa Creek Winery. Since meeting him we swear he should run for Mayor of Paso Robles. He has become a friend of ours who always takes the time to point us in the right direction when visiting, and if you catch him in the right mood he might just share a local secret or two for a slab of paté from Fatted Calf. So, with a little help from Cris and a couple trips around the block of our own, we’ve built a short list of what we love.
Let’s start with him….His vineyard estate is located on the westside of Paso, on the cusp of the fabled Willow Creek and Adelaida Districts. Villa Creek has been making wine for nearly two decades. Starting with grapes purchased from west Paso Robles’ most esteemed vineyards and eventually planting what is now their MAHA Estate. The wines and vibes are as good as it gets in the Central Coast so this is a must.
With beautiful rolling hills surrounding the property, L’Aventure offers breathtaking vineyard views and some of the best wines in California. Winemaker Stephan Asseo brought France to Paso Robles, producing red wine blends of primarily Rhône grape varieties and helped propel the region into new found acclaim on the world wine stage.
We met owner Don Law and winemaker Philipp Pfunder last year in Florida at DCWAF. We were quite impressed by their wines, so we put them on our list to visit when we were in the neighborhood. They began with the right approach by bringing in Scott Hawley to develop the winemaking and vineyard program. He and his wife Viquel have since launched their own label Torrin which is also part of our Paso Robles “short list”. Law’s stunning modern facility is located atop rolling hills of vineyards providing 360° views of their property and beyond. Not to be missed if you like sleek design and big, bold, polished wines!
After making wine with Justin Smith (of Saxum) for five years and Stephan Asseo (of L’Aventure Wines) for two years, the Jensens decided it was time to create their own expression with Booker Vineyard. The 2005 vintage was Booker Vineyard’s first release with the wines being made by owner Eric Jensen. They became an immediate cult hit and have become more impressive with every release. The wines show both power and precision, totally personifying the modern Paso Robles aesthetic. Get on the mailing list quick if you still can!
Clos Solene Home of Guillaume Fabre, 6th generation winemaker and his beautiful wife Solene. They are a boutique winery on the westside of Paso Robles in the heart of the Willow Creek District. Elegance and finesse, forcefully coupled in a unique style crafted by their honest approach to farming and process. If Guillaume is in the room, I defy you not to join the club.
Denner One of our favorite spots in Paso Robles (Wine Spectator’s too!) located on the westside in a traditional winery setting. We wanted to buy everything we tasted, so our credit card was nearing meltdown as we left. I might become a part time “ditch digger” myself to keep this stuff in my glass!
As you head east toward highway 101 out of the square, Herman Story just chills on the corner like a poet that is waiting to write something meant just for you… Late Bloomer? First Time Caller? Anybody? Taste their wines and hear Russell From’s story and you will feel his genuine approach and reckless precision and realize you want Herman Story at your party.
After that, head right over 101 to the corrugated steel chateau that is home to TOP.
Stanley and Elena have created something that just rings so true. The warmest couple you would ever want to meet. And you will, if you visit – it’s just them. The wines are as pure and polished as they are. Ask anyone, and thank us later.
OK – now jump on the freeway and drive a few miles south…as you turn left into Tin City make a hard right into Cordant/Nelle. Tyler Russell is creating beautiful expressions of both Rhone varietals and Pinot Noir under the same roof, but under different labels. This spot was our coolest new find and we simply cannot get enough of their wine. The vibes are warm and the wines are delicious. Amber will keep the turntable spinning and your palate grinning.
Let’s take you into Tin City now…
While this development has a very industrial/communal feel, their structure needs to be understood. Everything is by appointment and a few spots are closed on Mondays.
Our friend Mayor Cherry recommended Turtle Rock. Owned by Claudia and Don Burns, they are perfect ambassadors of the second wave of the Paso Robles revolution. With Don’s Paso roots and his Justin Smith/Saxum pedigree, they were bound for greatness. The finished product is delivered in artfully designed labels, each one with a thoughtful story behind it.
We were lucky enough to track down Tin City’s newest (and busiest) winemaker Riley Hubbard.
Her label is called Hubba and she just moved into a totally rad spot in the deep corner of the neighborhood. Riley’s education (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) and former stops (Law & L’Aventure) have given her the foundation to succeed. However, when you meet her you’ll see that Hubba is her own unique vision, and her wines are fantastic.
Of course Tin City is home to plenty of other great producers and if you find yourself needing a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix, please visit Benom. Arnaud Fabre and his brother Guillaume (Clos Solene) unite the precision and polish of France with the power of Paso Robles in an intimate and stylish setting. Très Bon!
Heirloom (Westside – South of Tin City by 10 minutes)
Casual setting, serious sandwiches and super cool salads. You can get in and out quickly if you’re on the go in the westside winery scene and still feel like you treated yourself. Do the right thing and have a Topo Chico with lunch. It’s gonna be a long day and they have all the flavors.
Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar (downtown Paso)
We discovered this randomly and we were so glad we did. Bistro atmosphere with a menu that changes daily, paired with ingredients sourced locally and seasonally. Fresh and simple, served with regional wines and awesome beer selections! Open for lunch & dinner.
New Kids On The Block (2 Minutes North of The Square)
Paso Market Walk is a mixed-use development that gives residents and travelers the opportunity to convene, relax, shop, and taste the distinctive flavor of the Central Coast. Celebrating the people of Paso Robles – from the small scale, family-owned operations, to a new generation of standouts making names for themselves in food and wine, to the neighbors and guests who can savor them all.
Downtown Paso Robles For Dinner
After your day of tasting make sure you have some gas in the tank to hit Paso Robles’ buzzing restaurant scene..
Let’s start at the top.
Les Petites Canailles High Bar, but not High Brow. Causal, fun atmosphere that delivers on every level. Julien Asseo and his wife Courtney have created something truly special here. He doesn’t brag about his chops (and background) but rather flexes them. Magnificent wine list and service with heart. Open for dinner only. This was hands-down our favorite restaurant.
BL Brasserie (formerly Bistro Laurent)
Relaxed but refined dining, offering à la carte and a multi-course, prix fixe option, spiked with classics and paired with local and French wines. Think Provence in Paso, but you speak the language…dining in France just off 101! Not to be missed. Open for lunch and dinner.
Lively cantina vibe featuring modern Mexican plates with radical salsas and ceviches. The bar program is fun and funky, featuring killer margaritas, craft cocktails and a Mezcal program that will blow your mind. Open for lunch and dinner. Always call ahead, it’s the busiest spot on the square for all the right reasons.
A modern, gastro pub inspired joint right on the bustling part of the square.
The menu is driven by the culture and comfort that food brings to our lives. Add to that, inspired cocktails and an honest energy. We enjoyed the hip, local vibe and friendly staff…did we say bourbon? Only open for dinner.
I would recommend staying downtown around the square. You can enjoy yourself at dinner and casually walk back to your hotel. Our first trip to Paso we stayed at Hotel Cheval. This 16 room boutique hotel embraces Paso’s equestrian heritage with elegant rusticity, the design is both luxurious and smart without feeling too snooty. The service is amazing and they have received several accolades over the years from Conde Nast.
For more recommendations, check out Villa Creek’s Paso Robles lodging recommendations on their website.
Again, Chris won’t steer you wrong.
We also found these alternatives if you don’t want to stay at a hotel.
Law Estate has a beautifully designed guest house on the property that has 2 bedrooms, if you’re looking for more amenities than just a hotel.
Airbnbs are becoming more popular in Paso Robles. We stayed in this apartment right on the square. It was very convenient and had modern amenities, but be prepared to sing a few tunes in your sleep with the local bar downstairs if you go to bed before 11 pm.
Enjoy your trip!
X, DG Events
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So you’re involved in the event industry like us and you have a client, boss, or company who wants to go virtual, what’s next? Feeling overwhelmed with where to start?
Read on for an introductory guide to virtual event planning: how to pick a platform, how to convert an in-person event to virtual, and tips from the pros who went virtual (spoiler alert: you can make it work, too!)
How To Pick A Platform For Your Virtual Event
First things first, pick your virtual hosting platform. Zoom has come out on top the last few months for their hosting and streaming capabilities, but you may also want to consider Google Meet (previously Google Hangouts), Facebook Live, or one of the countless others popping up every day (see more here.) While all of these platforms offer the same core capabilities, each provides different benefits. Both Zoom and Google Meet allow for interaction between you and your attendees, whereas Facebook’s streaming service is one-way. Zoom’s stand-out feature is the breakout rooms. The breakout rooms allow you to split attendees into smaller groups for discussion questions or meet and greets. Zoom also allows you to to control who the host is, who’s muted, and who can share their screen. Depending on the size of your virtual event, these features can be extremely beneficial. Google Meets and Facebook Live are generally free platforms while Zoom will require you to purchase one of their packages for full streaming capabilities and a larger guestlist. There are other higher price options available for more robust event needs so it’s best to contact an AV provider like GotLight for details.
How To Convert A Previously In-Person Event To Virtual
Some of you may remember our event series: Take Time to Toast. Back in March, we were gearing up to host our 2nd annual TTTT Wellness event, but COVID beat us to it! We quickly pivoted to make this year’s event completely virtual. How did we do it and how can YOU do it? Start with choosing the platform that best fits your event’s needs. Zoom was our pick and we decided to break the event up into three, 45-minute segments with a 10 minute break in between for our attendees to take a breather. Zoom was the best choice because it allowed us to give our guest speakers the “host” capability so that they could easily access and interact with attendees. We partnered with a different guest speaker for each segment and let them “take the stage” after a brief introduction. You can easily set your own event up with this same format. Once you know your platform and format, you want to understand what it will look like for your attendees. We partnered with Archive Rentals to create a virtual background that matched the in-person look and feel of our Take Time to Toast event. Think about who in your industry you want to partner with to make the experience special for your attendees. Share the image with your attendees prior to the event with the intention of reinforcing a sense of community. If everyone applies the same virtual image, it starts to *almost* feel like you’re in the same room together! Another fun add-on is tangible items for your event. If you already purchased swag for your in-person event, consider mailing it out anyway so your attendees have some tangible evidence or reminders of your event. Foxtail Catering has created VIP Boxes and DIY Kits with everything from food to personalized branded agendas to keep your attendees involved while they are following along at home.
How Going Virtual Is Right For Your Event
Virtual events don’t fit every scenario, but they’re growing rapidly in their capabilities! We’ve attended several virtual conferences, seminars, and happy hours since quarantine started and can confidently say that online events can be just as, or even more successful than in-person events. The best example, and definitely the new leader in the virtual events world, is Tony Robbins. Every few months he hosts an in-person event called Unleash the Power Within. The last scheduled in-person event was planned for March of 2020 in San Jose, California. Of course, the event was called off and Tony quickly got to work brainstorming how to make this high-energy event successful through your computer screen, in your living room. In July, he pulled it off. He partnered with Zoom to build a 5 million dollar studio that allowed him to see thousands of attendees at one time and Zoom helped him set up the technology to manage breakout rooms with just 5 people from an audience of over 60,000. The Tony Robbins team was nervous that an event of this magnitude wouldn’t carry the same impact virtually, but it turns out that attendees loved being able to participate from the comfort of their own home and to be connected to people around the world. Most found the virtual version of this event to be even better than the in-person events they’d been to with Tony. The other cool part about virtual events? They change your price point! Tony Robbins events are traditionally expensive, and for some who would often not be able to attend, they were able to attend virtually due to the lower ticket price and the ability to split the cost with others on their QuaranTEAM and attend together!
Additionally, the virtual RISE event by Hollis Co. had the added benefit of being recorded so you could watch it on YOUR schedule! Both the Tony Robbins and Rachel Hollis events included energizing music and breaks between every session to get you up out of your seat (aka off your couch!) to keep your head in the game.
5 Tips + Best Practices To Have The Best Virtual Event!
Still Nervous About Creating Your First Successful Virtual Event?
Looking for more information and hands-on help?
Waiting For 2021 To Just Skip The Virtual And Go Back To In-Person Events?
Don’t wait another minute as 2020 events have been pushed to 2021 and many venues are booked!
Find out how we can help you find the best venues for your event for FREE! (Our venue scouting services are free when you book with us.)
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Unfortunately, many couples had to make the heartbreaking decision to postpone or cancel their weddings this year due to COVID-19. However, a trendy alternative popped up – The “Micro Wedding”. We are here to give you the low-down of what exactly this new wedding trend is and whether or not it’s right for you. We also happen to have an in-house expert on-hand: Danielle Gibson, our fearless founder. She had her own micro-wedding several years ago and is here to give us all of her best tips and tricks for planning the perfect day!
WHAT IS A MICRO-WEDDING?
A micro-wedding is a small wedding that typically includes 35 guests or fewer. It’s purpose varies from couple-to-couple, as some may choose to have a micro-wedding now and intend on a large celebration later, but for the sake of this blog we are planning with the intention of having only one celebration.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE A MICRO-WEDDING?
This may seem like a silly question, as it is the only option available at this moment, but there are many reasons why a micro-wedding may be a better fit than a large wedding, even in a non-COVID world. For example, a smaller wedding will mean a smaller budget and will allow you to invest in your future together. Danielle and David Gibson chose to invest their money towards purchasing land and building their dream home (which you can see their living room featured in Scandanavian Designs.) A micro-wedding also allows for a budget that reflects quality over quantity. Where you may have been spending a large majority of your budget on basic rentals (chairs, tables, linens) to accommodate a large guest list, you can now allocate a portion of that money to small, noticeable details and save the rest! Invest in a live trio instead of a DJ, select the nicer linen you wanted, and hire a top-tier photographer!
Having a micro-wedding will also guarantee a more intimate day for you and your partner, as large weddings can sometimes unintentionally take away the true meaning of your special day. Rather than focusing on your union, you’re worried about what table your neighbors should be assigned and if your great aunt is close enough to the restrooms. With only 35 of your closest friends and family, the focus is guaranteed to be on the both of you.
How do you choose these 35 guests you ask? Danielle, a New York native married in San Francisco, advises that you only invite those who can drive, so guests don’t have to fly during COVID-19. For the family and friends you aren’t able to invite, consider calling and having a personal conversation with them so they can understand your situation. Offering to live stream your wedding for those who cannot attend, or who live too far to justify inviting, may also ease some of the stress in your decision making.
Have loved ones that are nervous to attend? You may also consider an at-home COVID test the week of your wedding and receive results within 48 hours. Please note this test does not detect antibodies or immunity; it is designed to determine active infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
WHERE SHOULD I HAVE MY MICRO-WEDDING?
Another bonus to having a guest count of 35 is your options for venues exponentially expands. Non-traditional venues like your favorite restaurant or winery suddenly become possibilities if they have an outside gathering location. (Depending on your local COVID-19 ordinances) As event planners based in Napa, we at DG Events always recommend searching for venues in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as it is the perfect escape from the San Francisco Bay Area without being too far away. Not familiar with Napa and Sonoma Valleys and need some help finding a venue? We recommend partnering with Distinct Locations, a team with a large portfolio of venues and exclusive access to some of the most beautiful private locations in wine country.
HOW CAN I MAKE MY MICRO-WEDDING SPECIAL?
Find the things that make you happy and make it all about you! Planning a wedding during an unconventional time gives couples a great excuse to bypass some of the wedding traditions that you may not like. Wear what you love: Danielle bought an inexpensive dress at the Napa Outlets and her shoes at a designer store because that’s what mattered to her. Omit the traditional wedding cake and pick your favorite dessert from a local bakery. Instead of a few planned speeches let your guests stand up and share stories of you both. Skip the traditional guest favor and write your guests handwritten notes about what they mean to you.
What’s the best tip a planner can give? Ease your stress and hire a wedding planner! Many wedding planners and coordinators have curated beautiful options for smaller weddings and are flexible in their services offered. For example our friend Lea Stafford, founder of Lea Stafford Events, LLC. and Ethos West Collective created the “LSE Essentials Suite”, which offers full-service planning for a group as small as just the couple and as large as 25 of your closest family and friends. Hiring a planner will guarantee you can be fully-present on your wedding day and will be one of the best decisions you will make for your day. (We promise!)
While COVID brought the entire world to a halt, it has also given people an opportunity to refocus and re-center their priorities. A micro-wedding may not be what you were planning or wanting, but it acts as an easy reminder that celebrating love is a simple and beautiful act.
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Picture this: you and your closest friends sign up to attend an event on a warm summer evening and the only thing you know is the day it is happening and the dress code. The decor, food, and of course, wine are all up to you and you have two hours day-of to find out where the venue is and bring your beautiful tablescape to life. Once put together, you and other groups have the rest of the night to be inspired by other tables, enjoy music, and each other.
That my friends, is a Pop-Up Dinner Party.
While found around the world, pop-up dinners have been popularized in the United States by Handmade Events. In an interview by Christa Youngern of She Stories, founder Nicole Benjamin describes her inspiration behind creating Pop-Up Dinners:
…The idea was born when Nicole’s husband and business partner read about a similar event in Paris. With a desire to bring that relaxed simplicity to the states, she began her journey. Her first event, hosted in San Francisco, had over 4,000 guests. With eight years in the rearview mirror, she now hosts events in up to twelve cities annually. (pre-Covid) Whether she is in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Minneapolis, her aim is to inspire a sense of connection and spontaneous community. In times where various forces seek to divide us, what Nicole offers the country is a return to the personal. It is a welcome salve to the unpleasantness that characterizes the upper echelons of our government. It reminds us that we are far more similar than different. That the simplest lessons are perhaps the most valuable: treat others with kindness, listen deeply, and enjoy every moment you are given for the sake of joy itself.
While spontaneity is a little harder to find these days, the core sentiment of Pop-Up Dinners is still a possibility: bringing people together to create joy and a sense of community. When asked how to plan a quarantine Pop-Up Dinner, Nicole said this:
“Pre-shelter in place, I would always tell people to keep it simple since you would have to haul everything to the unknown location, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you need to change. When planning it for your backyard, go above and beyond and make it special with treasures from your home.”
With this advice in mind, we’ll show you how to create your own Pop-Up Dinner Party and curate a special moment with your quaranteam!
What to Wear
Nicole’s classic Pop-Up Dinner dress code was white, but self expression was always greatly encouraged! When thinking of what you want to wear, think about what reflects your personality. Is it a classic silk jumpsuit, a funky-textured button down, or maybe even some daisy sunglasses? Whatever will make you most comfortable is what you should do (you do you!) One easy way to add more character to your outfit is to look for pieces that have different textures and layering. Here are some examples of fun outfits and accessories for inspiration!
How to Decorate
Want a beautiful/full tablescape without blowing the bank? The answer is layering! Utilizing objects with different heights and patterns immediately creates depth and a sense of sophistication. For example, layering two plates like these compostable white and palm leaf paper plates from Oh Happy Day makes it appear as if you have a beautiful charger minus the rental fees. Putting vases at different heights like these from Etsy will also help to create depth on your tablescape. Don’t want to cover your beautiful outdoor table? Use a linen table runner to frame your tablescape! Want to make your table more sentimental? Add picture frames with images of your quaranteam as place cards!
For those wanting to curate a more elevated feel, keep an eye out for neutral pieces like those you can find at Encore Event Rentals. To break up the tablescape even more, utilize an assortment of glassware like these coupe glasses that bring the perfect amount of simplicity and elegance. We also recommend adding customized wooden place cards like these offered by Studio Noel (no longer does custom order but try our good friend Blushtype) that match perfectly with the dried florals used in these centerpieces by Scarlett and Grace!
While you might not be able to surprise your quarateam with the location of your dinner, you could surprise them by transforming your backyard. With the help of Shelter-Co and Found Rentals you could create the warm, inviting space that is guaranteed to facilitate a good time. Really feel like going the extra mile? Try renting a set of lounge chairs and coffee table for you and your quaranteam to sit 6-feet apart and play games after dinner. Heads Up anyone?
Here are images from Danielle Gibson Events’ past Pop-Up Dinner Parties we attended for Inspiration!
Plants @soulflowersf, flatware and glasses @encoreeventrentals, napkins and linens @latavolalinen, macrame runner and rattan chargers @worldmarket, wooden names @studio.noel
Food & Beverages
While we discourage a potluck-style meal right now, we do encourage sharing wine. A warm summer evening like those we’ve experienced in
Pop-Up Dinners past calls for Lewis Cellars’ Napa Chardonnay and Debbie’s Sauvignon Blanc, or if you’re feeling like looking at life through rosé colored glasses, the always delicious Fearless Rosé. To pair with your delicious wine, we once again recommend single serving foods like individual charcuterie boards, sandwiches or some delicious deviled eggs.
For those more interested in dessert, we recommend making yummy chocolate chip cookies. They are the perfect individual dessert for a beautiful summer evening!
More inspiration from Pop Up Dinners we attended.
Table design Danielle Gibson Events
Terrariums with florals and flower crown @soulflowersf, Linens, napkins and seat cushions @latavolalinen, flatware @encoreeventrentals, leather string for napkin rings @amazon
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