CHICAGO “I’ve been to Athens five times in my life, but it wasn’t until last year that I actually got to see the Acropolis,” says Steven Valenti, founder of All Things Party. The first time Valenti headed to the ancient city, he was a senior in college, working for Lake Forest-based planner Bruce Southworth. Valenti was assisting with events such as a private anniversary party in Athens, which entailed chartering a cruise ship for 116 guests and retracing part of Ulysses’s voyage from the Odyssey. Soon after graduation, Valenti began working with Southworth full-time, and then spent 16 years there, starting as an assistant and working his way up to managing director—and getting to Greece a few more times for business, but not sightseeing.
Valenti describes his work with Southworth as planning very high-end events for the nation’s wealthy. “One of the things I came up with there was the 10-10 rule,” he says. “Every event hit within 10 percent of the established budget, and within 10 minutes of our timeline.”
Then, “no doubt about it, two years ago the world changed,” and business dried up, Valenti says. “There was a lot of sluggishness in the economy, and our clients stopped entertaining.”
Valenti and Southworth parted ways in 2008—but within a week, Valenti says, he was getting calls from former clients requesting his services for weddings or birthday parties. “They still had occasions they wanted to celebrate, and I could help out,” he says. “That gave me the confidence to realize I could do it on my own.”
In March 2009, Valenti founded All Things Party. Apart from his social clients, in the past year and a half, the company has worked on the after-party for Rush University’s charitable fashion show, which drew 600 guests to the Palmer House Hilton’s Red Lacquer Room for an event with a “Feel the Pulse” theme. Throbbing LED lights underscored the intended vibe, tables got custom, fringed linens, and life-size cutouts of the event’s fashion-sketch logo filled the room. Valenti has also planned a retirement party for a television industry executive and the opening of the Hermès flagship store in Chicago.
“What makes my business unique is the experience I have from the past,” he says. “I’ve dealt with a very discerning client base who knows what they want, and are used to the best. There’s no reason for an event to ever feel corporate or canned. Everything can be treated like a private party, and I present ideas in that fashion.”
“Steve Valenti is not only professional, organized, and on the ball, he is one of the most creative people we have worked with,” say Colleen Mygatt and Elissa Kovas, chairs of a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association event produced by Valenti, via email. Held at the Cycle and Saddle Club in October, the fund-raiser drew more than 300 guests and had a casual ski-lodge theme, a silent auction, and Olympic athletes in attendance. “We were totally blown away by his skills,” say Mygatt and Kovas.