Elegant Affairs is an off-premise, full-service catering firm that caters to people’s homes, estates, places of business, and venues. We cater social, corporate, and not-for-profit events in NYC, Long Island, and the Hamptons.
Andrea, President of Elegant Affairs, started this business at the age of 16 from her parent’s basement. She has a love for each and every aspect of this business from the perfect presentation to the smallest of details. She is always thinking of how it should be done and how it could be done even better next time. Excellence is what ignites and excites her – she wants everything to go perfectly for her clients. Her commitment to providing the best food, service and overall experience is exactly why Elegant Affairs is known as the go-to caterer on Long Island’s Gold Coast, NYC, and the Hamptons.
Known for her innovative food presentations, Andrea’s passion is to inspire people to entertain at home with style and ease. Her hard work and experience led to an invitation from L’Oreal Paris Academy to be one of their lifestyle and entertaining experts, shortly followed by similar invitations from Ehow.com, Sam’s Club, Celebrations.com (1-800 Flowers), Lenox China, and OK! TV. Andrea’s passion, knowledge, and skillset has prompted appearance requests from Bravo, CBS, FOX, HGTV, MTV, NBC, News 12 Long Island, and VH1.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
Over the years, there have been numerous challenges that we have encountered and overcome. There are too many to list.
But, there is one that stands out. Several years ago, we had a 200 person waterfront wedding in the Hamptons. We began setup and installation 3 days before and everything was going great! Until the day before, when a Northeastern storm decided to come through and turn our world upside down. As strong as the tent, screws, and bolts were, the entire tent up and blew away, right into the water. Full structure, flooring, stairs, and all. The entire yard was flooded and there was dirt everywhere. It was an absolute disaster. We had less than 24 hours until guest arrival and 3 days of work to re-do.
Reinforcements had to be called in, staff was increased and we worked through the day and night but we got it all back in place and set up just in time.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
With the current health pandemic, of course, event trends have changed. Some event trends that are currently beginning to emerge are smaller, more intimate gatherings. Many people who had large events planned and scheduled for the spring and summer, had to cancel or postpone for the fall or 2021. Now, they are looking to still commemorate their special dates with smaller, more private events at their homes. Because the event is smaller, we are able to put more attention and larger budgets towards these events. This is very exciting because it now allows us a chance to do something very special and be more creative.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
One of my favorite events to plan and an option that I suggest to clients who are on a tight budget is to host a Brunch event instead of an evening party. This way, you can really enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, the alcohol costs are less, you can put out a delicious buffet spread rather than doing a multi-course dinner, and you can do away with the expensive band and dance floor to be replaced with some cool background music and a chill atmosphere.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
My dream event would be to create an outdoor Coachella-themed event that is the ultimate adult playground. The event would feature some of the biggest A-list entertainers performing their greatest hits throughout multiple small and large stages.
On a perfectly green field, we’d have beautiful blankets and pillows sprawled out, marked with a chilled bucket of champagne. Each blanket group would have an assigned personal butler that would serve beverages and food all day and night.
There would be hot air balloon rides, a gigantic ball pit, super long slides, unlimited adult interactive games, and of course, the biggest smorgasbord possible. I’d love to feature a truck or food station from every country in the world featuring the coolest presentations and newest ideas that would really wow. We’ll have spiked Slurpee bars, a Don Julio shotski bar, a tie-dye bar, and of course, a prosecco wine bar.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Our relationships with vendors are next in line after our relationships with our clients. They are everything! When planning massive events, especially multiple events at a time, we really rely on the amazing relationships we have with our vendors in order to execute events successfully. Knowing that you’re working with someone who is reliable, performs work of a certain quality, values their work as much as you do, and respects the process is everything. It’s one less thing to worry about.
Vendors can also be a great source for new business. When we get a new client, we always recommend our regular vendors because we know their work, work ethic, reliability, and prices can usually be negotiated more among friends as well.
The way we cultivate our vendor relationships and create good rapport is really through work ethic and over time. We believe in putting your best foot forward, doing the best job possible, being reliable and trustworthy.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
The first thing I would suggest is to come up with a realistic guest list – find out exactly who you want to invite. Next, put pen to paper and list out your goals. Figure out what is really most important and what the goals you want to achieve are. Based on the guest list, come up with a price point that would work to achieve your goals.
Next, this price point becomes your budget. Based on that number, you can begin to explore event themes and ideas for your events. Once you have that, you can begin looking into a venue, caterer, entertainment, tenting (if applicable), etc.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
The most exciting thing for me personally and for us at Elegant Affairs is that we are currently in our growing and expanding phase. This is SO incredibly exciting. We just opened up our new NYC office in the heart of midtown, in collaboration with my good friend and event pro, Michael Cerbelli of Cerbelli Creative.
We’re also looking to expand our existing footprint on Long Island by expanding our physical space and building, as well as expanding our business in the Hamptons and have several other projects in the pipeline. We are also looking into revamping our brand, expanding our current marketing, growing business development, and growing our team of staff. So exciting!
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
For me, it all started with my first job. I was 14 years old and was working in a country club and I immediately fell in love with the catering business. I held every position at the club from waitress to bartender to bridal attendant. At 16, I became a maître d’ assistant. That’s when Elegant Affairs was born – out of my parent’s basement on Long Island.
My first company was called “Rent A Waitress” and I had a team of servers, bartenders, and other event staff that would go out to people’s homes. Slowly, I began to add food to our service offerings, beverages, and other services.
In all, it took about 5-6 for it all to come together and for the clients to begin rolling through.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
One thing I really wish I knew when I first started my business was more of the legal nuances of running a business. For example, I wish I knew more about labor and regulation laws back then, rather than learning the hard way through experience.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
One of the most difficult tasks I was dealt by a client’s request was to find some swans for a celebrity Hamptons wedding. It started as a simple request – the client wanted to have a couple of swans floating in the pond upon guest arrival. Once we began looking into it, we realized how much work we had ahead of us. Finding swans was no easy feat. It took us weeks before we finally found a promising lead.
Finally, we found a couple in Wisconsin who said they would get us a couple of swans and transport them to NY for the event. When the couple showed up, late of course, and only 1 hour before guest arrival – they were disheveled, their truck was smoking and falling apart, and the swans were crated in the back. It was truly one of the most difficult and stressful requests I’ve ever had to handle.