The Party Planning Guide
Parties are best when they can actually be enjoyed: Whether it’s a kids birthday, a landmark anniversary, or a wedding, there’s no reason it has to involve blood, sweat, and a fat rolodex. Here, a comprehensive list of trusted vendors for everything from vintage tableware rentals to organic-only catering to gourmet cotton candy carts. And if all else fails, a slew of skilled event planners.
Ken Fulk Events[email protected] | 415.285.1164
When you need to call in the big guns, you call Ken. The guy behind Sean Parker’s over-the-top Big Sur wedding also does interior design (he's put together some of San Francisco's most beautiful restaurants, and his Pottery Barn collaboration just launched), but he's best known for his events. Lavish, creative, and undeniably fun, he sort of has a Midas touch for unforgettable parties.
Although her corporate events are really beautifully executed (no surprise, with clients like Salesforce, Airbnb, and Pier 24), Alison is best known for her gorgeous weddings in Northern California (and really, all over the world). She's expert at creating an experience that feels uniquely personal and not recycled.
The folks behind Yonder are really graphic designers for your entire event, not just paper goods. Involve them in the early planning stages, and they'll keep everything consistent from the invitations to the place cards. Their unique offerings—some of the beautiful scene—can range from engraved wood place cards to custom seals.
Tusk Events415.775.8508 | [email protected]
Cotogna and its more formal sister restaurant, Quince, are beloved San Francisco staples, so it's no surprise that their catering business is booming. Tusk Events (named for Lindsay and Michael Tusk, the husband-wife pair who run both places) can handle events of any size, offering casual Italian family-style fare from Cotogna, more formal options from Quince, or anything in between. Also good to remember: Cotogna's big tables can easily be reserved for large parties–a nice option if you're looking to host a fairly large gathering with minimal effort.
Bi-Rite Market Catering415.551.7900
Bi-Rite is actually a neighborhood market—it's best known for hyper-local fruits and vegetables and a seriously good deli. Their catering business is capable of everything from a few pre-made meals to a full course dinner, and we love their big platters, which are perfect (and perfectly easy) for corporate events. Their famous ice cream, made in their in-house creamery, makes picking the dessert option a no-brainer.
Taste has been serving San Francisco for more than 30 years, and in those three decades, they've established excellent relationships with local farmers–you’ll know exactly where your tomatoes, beef, and even your coffee comes from. Considering Northern California's year-round bounty, you'll be getting farm-fresh food regardless of season. They also offer full-scale event planning.
Jessica Lasky Catering510.339.7157
Jessica Lasky's meals always feel homemade, even when she's serving a huge crowd. With straightforward menus and a rustic style (think beer bottles on ice in old washtubs and charcuterie plates served on well-loved cutting boards), they do excellent dressed-up family style.
McCalls Catering & Events415.552.8550
While they call themselves a catering company—and their food is fantastic—McCalls is really a full-service event group. With wedding planning and floral design departments in-house, they bring a lot of resources to the table (pun fully intended) and are a great option if you're looking for a single point of contact.
Paula LeDuc Entertaining510.547.7825
Paula LeDuc is sort of a San Francisco institution. She's been catering in the city for years, and is credited with introducing the concept of farm-to-table to the industry. Her exquisitely designed meals are best suited for sit-down events; for a black-tie wedding, there's really no one better.
Waterlily Pond Floral Design415.377.4435
In the past few years, Waterlily Pond has organized several ambitious floral installations that are actually public artworks (including commissions for the de Young Museum). When it comes to their commercial business, they deliver excellent sculptural arrangements and structures—call them for attention-grabbing centerpieces, well-crafted chuppahs, and pretty much anything you might want suspended from the ceiling.
Atelier Joya| 415.854.9462
Atelier Joya does justice to both massive corporate events and one-off arrangements, but weddings are really what they're known for (lush bridal bouquets, flower-topped cakes, and centerpieces that cascade onto the floor). They also have a great rental service for the kind of beautiful things you could buy for an event but might not have use for in the long run. Their warehouse is full of wooden crates, wire baskets, antique lanterns, and even a chuppah.
Bloomers2975 Washington St., Pacific Heights | 415.563.3266
The folks at Bloomers have been in business for more than 30 years: They are fantastic at incorporating unusual flowers into arrangements, so if you're hoping for African violets or parrot tulips and unsure how to style them, this is the shop to call.
Birch SF| 415.626.6860
Torryne Choate is a truly talented designer. While she can take on any floral challenge you throw her way, she's especially skilled at handling those way-harder-than-they-look homogenous sculptural arrangements—not to mention crafting flower crowns that put your Pinterest to shame. For our San Francisco pop-up shop, we asked her to put together arrangements to complement the architectural space; needless to say, she didn't disappoint.
Robert Fountain definitely has a flair for the dramatic, in the best possible way. Call him when an event requires something extra special, whether it be ambitious projected lighting, a lavish Indian tent, live performers, sky-high centerpieces, or, in at least one case, a live elephant.
Natalie Bowen Designs415.948.6035
Floral design is in Natalie Bowen's genes (her mother was a florist, and her grandmother ran the flower shop at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco back in the 1940s). Her own style has a great sense of balance—the arrangements are lush without ever seeming over-the-top. And while flowers are her specialty, she also offers full-scale event design, from lighting to signage to linen and furniture rentals.
Stanlee Gatti| 415.558.8884
Stanlee Gatti is a fixture of the San Francisco event scene—his all-star client list includes Elton John and George Lucas, and he even planned the wedding for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Stanlee works best at large scale—some of our favorite moments include pantone chairs at an SFMoMA gala and towering pillars of calla lilies at a SAG Awards gala.
Amy Kaneko Events| 415.728.8677
Amy is an alumnus of Yifat Oren, one of our all-time favorite event-planning outfits, so you know she's got the chops to pull off amazing parties. She is also a trained architect, which explains her excellent sense of space and knack for focusing on the right subtle design techniques to make the most of your venue.
Janis Anzalone Calligraphy
Janis' Instagram feed is an excellent place to get a feel for her classic calligraphy and illustration style. You'll find perfectly arranged inspirational quotes, carefully lettered envelopes from her current projects, and a few of her quirky and whimsical illustrations.
This supremely talented jazz band includes drums, trumpet, stand-up base, piano, and of course, a sultry singer. Even though they definitely have a signature style, they can adapt their set to your taste.
Foxtails Brigade is a local band with a bright future—we can't get enough of lead singer Laura Weinbach's bubbly, delicate voice. Being talented songwriters, their repertoire never feels cheesy, making them a great choice for any event.
Dave Kim Music[email protected]
David Kimm is an electric violinist at heart, but he also has exceptional DJ skills, so if you're looking for a traditional DJ but with a little edge, he's your guy. He also knows his way around sound equipment, meaning he can hook up your speakers without subjecting your guests to screeching microphones.
Magik Magik Orchestra
Magik Magik fancy themselves a "made-to-order" orchestra. They started out as a service for bands, composers, and other creatives who needed scalable string music for different projects, before bringing it to the public. You can hire their musicians and scale them to the size of your event, whether you’re looking for a full 80-piece ensemble or just a single, talented violinist.
Synchro Strings[email protected]
When an event calls for a string quartet, these women get the job done. They all play in major orchestras and their song list is exhaustive: they can even do pop.
The Awesome Booth415.508.8932
All party planners know that professional photographs will probably never have the social media power of the ones your guests take themselves. Awesome Booth takes care of the camera as well as the props, the prints (they wirelessly share them with your guests), and the backdrops.
The name kind of says it all: These guys are all about straightforward chairs, tables, and linens, all of which they can provide in large quantities. They're also really reliable and well-priced, meaning you won't get your bill only to realize you spent half your budget on napkins.
Shelter Co. Rentals415.967.3630
Shelter Co.'s business concept is completely unique: They've built an entire event-planning company around a gorgeous collection of luxury tents that they put to use in a variety of ways. You can rent just one for a small backyard party, or you can ask them to build out luxury accommodations in the wilderness. For those really remote events, they can also bring in catering, lighting, and general design.
Brown Paper Design702 Harrison St., Berkeley | 415.494.7956
Since its inception back in 2007, the focus at this event design company has been on florals. That said, founder Danielle Rowe and her talented team can lend their signature romantic aesthetic to each and every event aspect. Brown Paper Design also operates in Los Angeles.
Helmed by Jesse Kivel and Michael David (of Kisses and Classixx fame, respectively), this creative collective is lightyears away from cheesy wedding DJs. Simply put, these guys have stellar taste in music. For example: A mix can run the gamut from Missy Elliott to The Supremes to Iggy Pop, with some under-the-radar stuff thrown in for good measure. We're told their vinyl collection is second to none.
Magbooth415.689.8720 | [email protected]
Magbooth is kind of like the people's photo booth: Take your pick of prop and custom logos and never worry about going over some preset picture limit. The best part, though, is that ever rental includes an attendant, which significantly minimizes mid-party technical difficulties.
Elan Event Rentals805.760.0544
Elan's cadre of beach-wood benches, rattan chairs, and rustic tables is best suited for outdoor events—they've been curated to blend into natural surroundings rather than overpower them.
Julie Song Ink415.314.7433
Wedding invites are Julie Song's bread and butter, but her illustrations, calligraphy, and branding are all excellent, too. She's also really popular, so get in touch with plenty of lead-time. (Julie is responsible for the gorgeous watercolor menus at our goop x Net-a-Porter dinner.)
Ryan Ray Photography214.504.8034
Ryan is a photographer with a talent for capturing the connection between a couple. Unsurprisingly, he does great engagement portraits, too.
Paige Winn Photo| [email protected]
Paige Winn kind of kills it when it comes to the full wedding photography experience. She captures all of the special moments and her portraits never feel staged—plus, she's really easy to be around.