Nominations are now open for the 12th Annual EEAs!
It's time to make your mark. Nominations are now open for the 12th Annual Event Experience Awards!

Industry Innovators 2024: Katie Pehrson

For the senior planner and designer for 2 the 9s Events, innovation begins with everyday inspiration.

'In my personal and professional life, I practice the arts of noticing and seeking joy,' Pehrson says. 'For me, innovation begins with everyday inspiration. It could be a fabulous velvet lounge in a hotel lobby or a wildflower color palette in nature. I utilize those moments, as well as tap into our talented local venue/vendor partners, to translate the vision from idea to reality for our clients’ events.'
"In my personal and professional life, I practice the arts of noticing and seeking joy," Pehrson says. "For me, innovation begins with everyday inspiration. It could be a fabulous velvet lounge in a hotel lobby or a wildflower color palette in nature. I utilize those moments, as well as tap into our talented local venue/vendor partners, to translate the vision from idea to reality for our clients’ events."
Photo: Samantha Look

Katie Pehrson Headshot (1)Photo: Irja TannlundKatie Pehrson is a senior planner and designer for 2 the 9s Events. She's based in San Francisco.

How she got her start: "I knew the hospitality industry was for me from my first job at a little bed-and-breakfast in Livermore, Calif., at 15 years old. As event staff, I set up our in-house inventory, assisted all vendors, and cued special moments (toasts/first dances). I was in love! I earned a bachelor of science in hospitality and tourism management from San Francisco State University, where I passionately jumped two feet into the local events industry.

One of the graduation requirements was to secure a semester-long internship. I immediately reached out to 2 the 9s Events after seeing the stunning work on their website. Elizabeth Bainbridge, principal planner and creative director, was traveling that summer but encouraged me to reach out in the future. On the first day of the fall semester, I reached out and was on site with her a few days later for a wedding at the Landmarks Art & Garden Center in Tiburon. Once that internship concluded, she offered me a permanent position, and I graciously accepted.

Over the last seven years, we’ve been an unstoppable team, and I’m so grateful for her constant support, insight, kindness, and sense of humor. I adore working for a woman-owned business. I also work for the de Young and Legion of Honor museums in San Francisco as a senior event coordinator. I love helping execute their external/internal events when I arrive on site, surrounded by showstopping works of art. I also continue to say yes to every opportunity to learn through freelancing with fellow planners. What I adore about this industry is that the learning never stops, no matter how many years you’ve been in it."

What innovation means to her: "In my personal and professional life, I practice the arts of noticing and seeking joy. For me, innovation begins with everyday inspiration. It could be a fabulous velvet lounge in a hotel lobby or a wildflower color palette in nature. I utilize those moments, as well as tap into our talented local venue/vendor partners, to translate the vision from idea to reality for our clients events.

I feel so lucky to produce events in the San Francisco Bay Area, which tends to be at the forefront of new hospitality ideas and concepts. Currently, I am obsessed with the trend of incorporating more activations and experiences into events, whether it’s a wedding or a nonprofit gala. At 2 the 9s Events, we love to create these awe-inspiring moments, with the goal that they will remain in the guest’s mind for months to come.

With professional organization events like those I’ve helped produce/design in ILEA, we’re also able to let our venues/vendors showcase new ideas they’re excited about. And the great thing about the event industry is that we thrive on forward thinking. It may sound corny, but if you’re not looking forward, you’re looking backward. My days are never the same, and I’m consistently researching and learning about new-to-us services, trends, colors, entertainment, and technology—just to name a few.

On the ILEA-NCC Education and Programs Committee last year, I really enjoyed brainstorming with our committee about what each person would like to learn about. Is it client relationships? Is it navigating contracts with pandemic addendums? Is it working to make hybrid events as engaging as in-person events? Is it navigating your team working fully remote? And from there, we produced so many great virtual and in-person events for our local industry. It was so rewarding. Not only was it a great experience for us, but we were collectively using our knowledge to help each other out in a time of uncertainty—and that is beautiful!

During the pandemic, I was also participating in as many webinars as I could through the likes of BizBash, Party Slate, California Events Coalition, etc. I would take notes during each webinar and stick them up on my bulletin board to remind myself that this industry will come back with a fierceness. And it did!"

What sets her work apart: "In the words of my fabulous mentor and friend, Elizabeth Bainbridge, 'Always make sure we have the perfect marriage of design and logistics.' When designing an event, we make sure the logistics back up the design in all areas and that it feels fully authentic for the client(s).

We also truly value our venue/vendor partners and maintain the mindset that we are on this team together. We are there to make sure the event is perfect for the client(s) and their guests. Those I work with know I pride myself on being a calm presence with unsurpassed attention to detail, no matter what hypothetical or real problems arise. And with that mentality, our clients feel at ease and fully supported throughout the planning process. There is nothing that compares to the complete appreciation of a client whose event went seamlessly, thanks to you and your team."

This wedding, which incorporated the bride and groom's two cultures, was one of Pehrson's most memorable events.This wedding, which incorporated the bride and groom's two cultures, was one of Pehrson's most memorable events.Photo: David N. Sachs Photography

Memorable moments: "What can I say about N & A’s amazing wedding weekend? During the pandemic, they reached out to us about nine months before their date with news that their original planner was no longer an option. We dove headfirst into production/design, and with the help of our amazing team, both venues, 28 vendors, and our wonderful bride and groom, the weekend was a complete success. It incorporated their two cultures, as well as the city they know and love.

On day one, there was a baraat with a Ferrari F430 Spider convertible, a custom-fabricated mandap adorned with floating string lights and flowers/greenery, a sangeet ceremony with showstopping performances and CO2 cannons, and a night of delicious cuisine while guests enjoyed views of the San Francisco Bay. On day two, there was an elevated sofreh aghd complete with stunning floral/gold elements, a photo op with a custom neon sign quoting the bride and groom’s favorite Jay-Z and Beyonce song, a Persian ice cream station where guests could get creative with flavors/toppings, and a dynamic dance party kicked off with cold sparklers. It was everything."

Her vision for the future of the event industry: "Coming out of the pandemic, I’ve seen people wanting to connect more than ever before. It’s a sort of 'why not?!' vibe. We’ve had a rough three years, and I love seeing people feel joy at little or big things during an event. It could be at a DIY arts and crafts station, an enticing espresso cart, or a conversation-starting Champagne skirt. As long as we keep pushing forward and supporting one another, the event industry is going to continue thriving."

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