NORWALK, Conn. -- Debbie Lionetti walked a taut tightrope in one of her latest projects as an event planner. The Rowayton resident delicately balanced her role as the mother of the groom and as the creative mind behind a late summer wedding in Block Island.
“It was a challenging position to be in,’’ said Lionetti, who opened her business, Say Soiree, in 2008. “To get there and do all the things as a planner, and then to be there as the mother of the groom, it was extra pressure. It was a team effort. We definitely nailed it, and everything, including the weather, was just perfect.”
- Who : Debbie Lionetti, Rowayton
- What : Event planner
- Learn more: On the business website at http://www.saysoiree.com/
- Did you know? February is National Wedding Month
Weddings usually are perfect when Lionetti is involved. She takes on up to two major events each year, along with some smaller parties. She organizes and schedules everything for weddings, including the photographer, florist, venue, lighting, decorating and even a justice of the peace, if one is required. She likes to get at least one year in advance to pull all the pieces together but can adjust to a shorter timeline if necessary.
“The first major event I worked on I really liked the organizational aspect of it,’’ Lionetti said. “The scheduling, the timing, bringing together all the different vendors. My role is really that of a project manager, including helping with budgets and keeping track of payment schedules.”
At New Canaan Country School, Lionetti volunteered on all sorts of school events and larger non-profit fund-raising events for Horizon's, a student development organization focused on helping students from low-income families. She was also on the Board of Directors for Horizon’s for 18 years. She also helped with annual fundraising events for more than 20 years with Hope’s Door for Domestic Violence.
After she planned the wedding for her daughter in 2007, a friend from Greenwich asked Lionetti to plan his daughter’s wedding. “He said, 'I think this is what you should be doing. I’d rather work with you than any of the other planners I interviewed.' That led me to starting a business," she said.
She took an online course in event management but hardly needed it. "The professor called me after I had turned in the first project,'' Lionetti said. "She said that I had more event knowledge and experience than any of the other students. That gave me more confidence when I was just beginning,'' she said.
Lionetti proved early she could tackle any project. One of her first weddings was a large wedding with a large budget and extraordinary details. She enjoys piecing together details for lavish weddings just as much as the projects she did for her children’s school.
“I love helping my clients achieve their goals and what their dream is for an event,’’ Lionetti said. “I don’t think families always understand the intensity of planning a wedding until they’re in the middle of it. It’s draining, financially and emotionally. Having a third party can save you time and money.”
The pressure to create perfection does not faze Lionetti. She has a stable of reliable vendors, and if something goes wrong on the big day she’s prepared. “I’m meticulous about what I do,’’ she said. “I go through everything. I know every vendor and what their strengths are. I haven’t felt the need to worry because if you have done the work and know what’s happening, it will all come together.”
Lionetti said weddings can be ruined when people fail to plan properly. “Making sure that your guests are comfortable and fed are important responsibilities of the host,’’ she said. “I’ve seen or been to events where the host did not pay attention to important details such as a rain contingency, accurate timelines or adequate food quantities. What I do is to make sure that all these types of details are attended to, which will ensure the success of the wedding or event. Having a planner can help save you time, money and the possibility of anything going wrong."
It has been an interesting ride for Lionetti, an Ohio native who earned an accounting degree at the University of Dayton, moved to Connecticut shortly after college and was a stay-at-home mother and volunteer before launching her career. Now she’s one of the best in business.
“I work with some amazing brides and their parents,’’ Lionetti said. “I’m very calm about mediating any issues that come up. Weddings are expensive and emotional, and there are times you know it’s going to be tough. I love what I do and I love working with people.”
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