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How Dozens of Competitive Vendors Worked Together for This Over-the-Top Gala

WIPA Philadelphia's first-ever gala paid homage to the city's musical history with an elaborate event design created by 30 different florists, planners, rental companies, and other local vendors.

WIPA Philadelphia's first-ever gala was held at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia.
WIPA Philadelphia's first-ever gala was held at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia.
Photo: Anastasia Romanova Photography

PHILADELPHIA—When the Philadelphia chapter of WIPA (the Wedding Industry Professionals Association) was founded in mid-2023, the board knew they wanted to lean into a "community over competition" mindset. 

And that attitude has never been more apparent than in the chapter's recent gala, an over-the-top affair that adopted a stunning "Sounds of Enlightenment" theme that transported its roughly 260 guests through various eras of music. 

The evening kicked off with a registration moment that evoked the 1800s.The evening kicked off with a registration moment that evoked the 1800s.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyWIPA Philadelphia chapter vice president Robin Ewing, director of catering for Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center, worked closely with chapter president Caitlin Kuchemba, creative director of Fulton Events, and Meghan Papiano, owner of House of Catherine, on the vision. “We really wanted to elevate the city and bring more awareness to the talent of the wedding industry here in Philadelphia—and showcase what we can do when we come together," explained Ewing, who pushed for the event to be held at her hotel.

Due to the way the luxury property is structured, guests had to take various escalators and walk through foyers—so the team decided to take guests on a multipart journey, creating different decor and immersive entertainment in each space. Once Jordan Kahn Music Company joined the team as a sponsor—and offered to bring in 50 immersive entertainments and musicians—creating a music-themed experience felt like a natural fit. 

The opening registration moment evoked the 1800s, creating a "wow" moment with a Bridgerton-like feel, before guests ascended an escalator and entered a jazz-inspired era. Up another escalator was a 1970s-themed space with a live band. “We were trying to pull in the soul of Philly, which we feel like is music, and really give people an experience using immersive entertainment and costumes," said Ewing.

Entertainers from Jordan Kahn Music Company wore themed costumes that evoked various eras of music, creating immersive experiences throughout various spaces in the hotel—including the escalators.Entertainers from Jordan Kahn Music Company wore themed costumes that evoked various eras of music, creating immersive experiences throughout various spaces in the hotel—including the escalators.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyThroughout each of the spaces, in addition to the themed costumes and music, there were specialty cocktails, passed hors d'oeuvres, and food stations–all leading to the main ballroom, which had a seated dinner with food stations showcasing all the F&B outlets at the Four Seasons.

“So as the doors opened, the guests were greeted with our signature caviar toasts from Jean-Georges, which was a great moment," said Ewing. "Then they were excused by table to go to different stations, like a carving station, a live-action truffle pasta station, and more."

The ballroom was transformed with restaurant-style seating, including banquettes and a mix of high and low tables, plus elaborate floral designs and rentals from dozens of different vendors. “It was really exciting for me to see the space that I work in day in and day out transform to that level, and see what we can do when we all come together," said Ewing, who also loved seeing the various competitive vendors build relationships and trust with one another. "These vendors are all now more comfortable recommending each other if they’re booked, for example, because they’ve all worked hand in hand together.” Eight florists came together to pull off the event’s ambitious design, as well as four rental companies and six different planners. In total, more than 30 sponsors worked together to fulfill the WIPA Philadelphia board’s vision.Eight florists came together to pull off the event’s ambitious design, as well as four rental companies and six different planners. In total, more than 30 sponsors worked together to fulfill the WIPA Philadelphia board’s vision.Photo: Anastasia Romanova Photography

The evening culminated in a surprise Hamilton performance with singers, dancers, and authentic costumes from the wildly popular musical. “It was an immersive experience that really felt like dinner and a show," said Ewing, who described it as one of her favorite moments of the evening. "The energy in the room was unbelievable, with everyone up singing and dancing.” There was also a speakeasy experience; one of the event captains was tasked with walking around and handing keys to various guests throughout the night, inviting them to a secret room in the main foyer. The space seated four people at a time, and featured the lead bartender from the hotel's Vernick Fish restaurant. “People were coming out with these really cool, unique cocktails that weren’t being served at the other bars, which created a fun buzz,' said Ewing.There was also a speakeasy experience; one of the event captains was tasked with walking around and handing keys to various guests throughout the night, inviting them to a secret room in the main foyer. The space seated four people at a time, and featured the lead bartender from the hotel's Vernick Fish restaurant. “People were coming out with these really cool, unique cocktails that weren’t being served at the other bars, which created a fun buzz," said Ewing.Photo: Anastasia Romanova Photography

Ewing notes that planning for the gala began in June, as soon as the chapter officially formed, and that tickets sold out in just nine days. The experience actually helped the new chapter become WIPA's second-largest market in its first year, she added. "We had seven or eight different florists, rather than just one. We had different photographers and videographers. We had over 30 people sponsoring this who all shared the same vision," said Ewing. "It really was about community over competition, and it was so special."

Check out the long list of vendors involved in the gala, and keep scrolling for more photos.

VENDORS:

Venue & Host: Four Seasons Philadelphia
Creative Direction/Event Design: House of Catherine
Programming/Planning: @Milan1818, Leila Miller, Robin Ewing, Fulton Events, Tiffany Chalk EventsHouse of Catherine
Floral Design: Fresh Designs Flora & Events
Title Sponsor: Maroo
Lighting Production (Ballroom & Cocktail): Revolution Event Production
Draping (Entire Event) & Lighting (Jazz & 18th-Century Era): OnQ Productions
Rigging Production: Encore Global
Photography: Anastasia Romanova Photography
Filmography: CinemaCake
Immersive Entertainment: Jordan Kahn Music Company, Sam Riseborough, Maria Kent
Custom Dance Floors: SHOUT! Dance Floor Wraps
Stationery: Papertree Studio, Christy Howton
Rental Partners: Luxe Event Rentals & DecorVision Furniture Event Rentals, Something Vintage Rentals & Design, Party Rental Ltd.
Linen Partner: Nüage Designs
Event Renderings: Matthew Myhrum
Hair & Makeup: Gina Kay Beauty
Breakdown Production: Jersey Strike Co.
Immersive Photo Booth: Banga Booth
Coffee Partner: EverFran Coffee
Floral Donation: Forget Me Knot Flowers
Registration Partner: VOW
BTS Content/Social Partner: Unveil the Moments, Anthony Page Photography
Hotel Block: The Logan Hotel
Floral Sponsor: Pennock Floral
Gifting: Chick InvitationsBoxbar Philly
Catering Sponsors: Garces EventsZamaVernick Fish
Ice Sculpture: Ice Concepts Inc.
Floral Team: Sebesta Floral and Events Design, Ram Floral, Celestine Design House, Jennifer Reed, 7 Blooms Wedding & Event Florals, Margaux St Ledger Luxury Floral Design, Belovely Floral Co., Always Beautiful Floral Design by Stella “I had a client come in a couple of weeks after the gala who was unsure if our ballroom was the right space for their event,' recalled Ewing. 'I sat them down and showed them a video of how we’d transformed the space for the gala—and they ended up booking with us!'“I had a client come in a couple of weeks after the gala who was unsure if our ballroom was the right space for their event," recalled Ewing. "I sat them down and showed them a video of how we’d transformed the space for the gala—and they ended up booking with us!"Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographySHOUT! created a custom dance floor wrap that evoked the event's bold floral design.SHOUT! created a custom dance floor wrap that evoked the event's bold floral design.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyEwing described the registration area as a 'wow' moment with a Bridgerton-inspired feel.Ewing described the registration area as a "wow" moment with a Bridgerton-inspired feel.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyThroughout the spaces, musical elements were used as both decor and entertainment.Throughout the spaces, musical elements were used as both decor and entertainment.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyRecords were used as event decor in one space.Records were used as event decor in one space.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyPerformers set the mood for each of the various musical eras.Performers set the mood for each of the various musical eras.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyAnother area hosted jazz-inspired performances.Another area hosted jazz-inspired performances.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyAlso on site? A branding experience from Chick Invitations where guests could get their initials on leather credit card holders or keychains.Also on site? A branding experience from Chick Invitations where guests could get their initials on leather credit card holders or keychains.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyThere was also an ice sculpture from Ice Concepts Inc.There was also an ice sculpture from Ice Concepts Inc.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyThe evening's surprise Hamilton performance may have been the biggest crowd-pleaser, noted Ewing.The evening's surprise Hamilton performance may have been the biggest crowd-pleaser, noted Ewing.Photo: Anastasia Romanova PhotographyTickets for the high-energy event, which drew about 260 people, sold out in just nine days.Tickets for the high-energy event, which drew about 260 people, sold out in just nine days.Photo: Anastasia Romanova Photography

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