By Shelby Deering
The room was filled with tiny, shimmering stars, lit-up paper umbrellas and a throng of happy revelers basking in the sparkle and style of the space. But this wasn’t some magical wedding fairyland—it was one of the areas that event designers Andrea VandeBerg and Sarah Sarbacker of Madison’s Cherry Blossom Events created for the city’s toast-of-the-town annual soirée: Frostiball at the Overture Center for the Arts.
As the co-owners of an award-winning event planning company, VandeBerg and Sarbacker specialize in “producing weddings and events that reflect the unique style and personalities of our clients,” the two share. Since the duo often plans weddings alongside non-wedding events, they’ve gained quite a bit of wisdom on planning a wide variety of events since they started in 2009.
One of their favorite events to plan is Frostiball. “We love designing this event as every year we work with a different theme based on a show coming to Overture,” Sarbacker says. “We are always challenging ourselves to create a full guest experience for this event.”
The two have taken away plenty of insights from planning these types of events. The focal points they center on for all of their events include guest experience, décor, theme and entertainment.
When crafting a fine-tuned guest experience for any event, Sarbacker recommends creating interactive food stations and a map of the event where guests can check off items during the cocktail-hour period. “Creating these talking points can make any event fun and different,” she says.
The décor doesn’t necessarily need to be flamboyant or over-the-top, the two note. VandeBerg adds that you can anchor the décor with “a few high-impact pieces,” and says, “We always try to design with simplicity still in mind. We love having intricate details and layers worked into the overall design, but we always keep in mind that a few high-impact features are all you need to make a big statement.”
As for theming your meeting, conference or corporate event, Sarbacker shares, “Sometimes, there doesn’t need to be a theme,” something that will no doubt make the planning process easier. Instead of wracking your brain to come up with a theme, she says, “It can be more of an overall aesthetic and vibe that you bring to the space.”
VandeBerg and Sarbacker consistently strive to include at least one piece of live entertainment in each of their events. VandeBerg says, “If it’s not a musical element, it can be a strolling magician during cocktail hour, or a champagne dress. These again can add to the guest experience and interactive approach.”
Whether you are planning a large-scale convention, small conference or executive retreat, Sarbacker says the priority is always the same: the guest. “No matter what event you are planning, it’s always a great reminder to keep your client and guests at the forefront of the planning; what would be of interest to them and makes sense. Designing with a purpose but still allowing for surprises is a great combination for a winning event.”