Party On!

Event planners make parties and other affairs extra special.
By Nathalie Alonso
A woman smiles as she leans against a table.
Andrea Caldwell runs her own event-planning company, Practical Productions.

Andrea Caldwell was at work one day when she realized that what she most enjoyed about her job was planning meetings and conferences. She decided to make that a full-time source of income by starting her own event-planning company, Practical Productions.

Caldwell has since planned parties and conferences in cities throughout the United States and Europe, including Berlin, Germany; London, England; and Barcelona, Spain. Individuals, organizations, and companies hire Caldwell to select the venue, entertainment, decor, and catering for their events. She also rents tables and chairs and technical equipment. In some cases, she even arranges transportation for attendees. 

Caldwell will sometimes get an unusual request from a client. She once had to hunt down what she describes as “the largest cauldron in the United States” for a Halloween event. On another occasion, her mission was to find a giant volcano for a Hawaii-themed affair. Being creative is important in her job, she says, because her clients want their events to be special. “That’s the biggest thing our clients want, just that one thing that’s a little different that’s going to be super memorable,” Caldwell told Your Hot Job.

For a Halloween-themed event, Caldwell has tracked down a giant witch’s cauldron.

On a typical day, Caldwell works out of her home in Connecticut, spending much of her time putting information into spreadsheets to keep track of things like dates and payments. Being organized is a must for an event planner, she says. She also spends time researching the products and services that best fit her clients’ vision and—just as important—their budget.

On the day of an event, Caldwell is typically on site overseeing preparations and making sure everything goes smoothly from start to finish. “It’s very exciting, very fast-paced, and you have to be ready to go,” she says.

Depending on the size of the event, Caldwell might begin the planning process anytime from a few weeks to months or years in advance. But even with tons of planning and organization, things can and do go wrong. That means that to keep their clients happy, event planners must be ready to pivot when something unexpected happens.

Sometimes, the problems are minor, and other times they’re serious. While planning an event in London, the toilets exploded at the venue Caldwell had originally booked—yes, you read that correctly—forcing her to have to find a new location in a short amount of time. “One of the biggest things is keeping your cool,” she says, “and just finding solutions, and finding solutions quickly. That’s part of the creativity, as well.”

Caldwell recommends that anyone who’s interested in a career in event planning pay close attention to details at any event they attend, whether it’s a party, festival, or marathon. “When I go to a concert, I’m not just watching the person onstage,” she says. She’s interested in “everything happening in the background, the way the lights are, the way something might set off smoke. I’m watching all those fine details.”