If you live in Toronto and are lucky enough to score an invite to one of CANDICE&ALISON’s events, you know it’s going to be a good party.
As in, the only way you’d miss one is for a funeral or if you were out of town.
In five short years, the event planners have made a name for themselves in the Toronto social scene by creating epic nights that result in packed venues until the lights come on and a flood of social media activity.
We caught up with Candice Chan and Alison Slight to hear more about what makes a good event, potential event pitfalls, and advice for party planners – whether that means throwing a dinner party or embarking on a new career choice.
How did you two join forces and how did CANDICE&ALISON form?
It came about quite organically, actually; the timing was right. We had both reached a point in our careers where we were ready for a change and had enough experience to try venturing out on our own. Over a glass of wine we decided we had something to offer the Toronto event scene and that our strengths perfectly complemented each other. A few weeks later, CANDICE&ALISON was formed.
What do you think has attributed to your quick success as THE party planners in Toronto?
Thank you! In fact, we feel there are a lot of great planners in the city, each with their own specialties. We feel our forte is the fashion-forward approach we apply to our event designs. We love looking to the runway for inspiration and get excited to surprise our audience.
What makes a memorable party or event?
There is no single detail that will contribute to making a night memorable. Simply put, it is the magic combination of a good crowd, good food and drink, great music, and a stunning space all coming together seamlessly.
What events that you’ve thrown stand out in your mind as your favourites and why?
There is a build-up in the planning cycle, which makes every event exciting to plan, as the anticipation of the date grows. If we had to choose one, we’d have to say Candice Versus Alison, our 5-year Anniversary bash, as it was our opportunity to treat our guests and supporters to a fun night while showing them the possibilities of what the industry has to offer. We had 400 people at Malaparte, which was the perfect setting for the party as it has two distinct event environments. This allowed us to individually showcase our personalities and kept our guests interested all evening long.
In a city where everyone has seen everything, how do you find ways to keep things fresh and interesting?
We believe there is so much more to be seen! There are so many ways to entertain and add intrigue to an event and there is constant innovation within the industry. We look to other cities but believe Toronto is on par when it comes to amazing suppliers who create world class products. For example, Jackie O, who is our go-to floral partner and White Cakery Co., creates the most amazing, delicious and visually stunning desserts.
What is the biggest mistake/pitfall someone can fall into when planning a large-scale event for the first time?
Not paying attention to your audience. Having an understanding of who your guests are is imperative, as you will need to understand their interests in order to cater to them. Service is also a huge element that is often neglected – there’s no point in having amazing food and beverage if it is served poorly or inefficiently.
What cities to draw your event inspiration?
Paris, New York, Milan, Miami, LA, Hong Kong, Shanghai, St. Tropez and London.
What tips do you have for young professionals when it comes to planning a memorable house or dinner party?
Plan ahead and over compensate. It is much better to have your guests feel full than wanting more.
Can you tell an event horror story and how you dealt with it?
Outdoor events are particularly vulnerable due to weather conditions. We always have a plan B and suggest taking the appropriate measures in order to avoid disaster. Unfortunately, these measures are often costly and potentially unsightly. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to convince clients to move forward with these plans. In one instance we had to reallocate and completely redesign an event that was planned for outdoors 24 hours prior to guests’ arrival due to a storm. It was not ideal, but we made it happen.
What does your event day check list look like?
The event day itself is often the calmest as the majority of work has been done, and it’s just time to execute. We always put together a detailed event specification package inclusive of floorplans, contact sheets, orders, etc. for anyone who will be involved in the event.
Do you have any advice for aspiring event planners?
The industry looks very glamourous from the outside but there are a lot of detailed “not-so-glamorous” work elements to planning. You have to love all of it in order to be good at it.