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Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

Event Planning Industry Shows Staying Power

Madalene Benoist d’Etiveaud, an event planner living in Darien, poses for a photo at her home on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Madalene d’Etiveaud was always drawn to event design and channeled this creativity into chairing local fundraisers and galas on a volunteer basis. Five years ago, the natural party planner turned this hobby into a career and launched her own event-planning company.

D’Etiveaud isn’t alone. In fact, event planners, along with meeting and convention planners, are on the rise nationally. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of planners increased to 100,000 nationally in 2014. The bureau projects the average growth rate to be 10 percent, which is faster than the national average for all occupations at 7 percent.

This national trend is being reflected in Fairfield County, according to Lisa Mercurio, vice president of the Fairfield County Information Exchange at the Business Council of Fairfield County. In the Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford metro area, she said 240 individuals identified as event planners out of a total professional population of 417,000.

Though the percentage is small, she said there is solid potential for growth, with the outlook for event planners in the New York City area forecast at twice the national average.

It’s a complicated job, and includes coordinating all aspects of an event or professional meeting, from scouting venues to arranging transportation. Although most work for private companies including the Fairfield County-based Gartner or Reed Exhibitions, about 1 in 10 event planners were self-employed, like d’Etiveaud.

The Darien resident opened her event planning firm, Bash, in Greenwich last June. Since 2011, the party pro has executed weddings and celebrations throughout Fairfield County and the greater New York area, from milestone birthdays and anniversaries to bar mitzvahs and graduations.

Living in the region for 20 years, she understands the demographic and what services it needs. She attributes the industry’s popularity, as well as her company’s success, to the culture of Fairfield County.

“The reason why wedding planner and event planners are working well in this area is because of the community here,” she said. “They’re career-driven, educated busy people who don’t have time to deal with planning an event.”

Like d’Etiveaud, Westport-based planner Michele Sinacore thinks Fairfield County is an ideal location to be in the event planning industry. She previously worked in event marketing for larger companies in New York City and then started consulting for private clients in 2008. When she moved from the city to the suburbs six years ago, she immersed herself in wedding, anniversary and celebration planning across Fairfield and Westchester counties.

As an experienced planner, Sinacore said there is a good mix of clients, from families wanting to host an anniversary party to large companies throwing a winter gala. People are busy and don’t have time to plan these celebrations, she said, which has helped her planning company, Michele Sinacore Events, thrive. She now has between 60 and 80 clients in total, and has expanded her operation to include another full-time planner and associate planners.

“It’s an exciting time to be industry,” she said. “People are looking for larger events like weddings, but also it’s a time for specialization, like creating dessert tables.”

Jeffrey Selden, managing partner at Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning, has been in the industry for more than 20 years and doesn’t see it declining anytime soon. Previously in the catering and events departments at some of New York City’s luxury hotels, Selden joined his sister, Robin, and mother, Marcia, at the family business based in Stamford.

“Thankfully, clients still need and will always be getting married and have family celebrations, mitzvahs, and high-end corporate parties,” he said. “Clients are willing to spend money on celebrating with their colleagues and on their personal events to enjoy and celebrate milestones with gatherings rather than buying material items.”

For individuals hoping to break into the industry, Sinacore recommends gaining experience in both the front end, like party design and floral arrangements, as well as negotiating with venues and understanding how catering works.

Like Sinacore, some of Selden’s clients became interested in the industry after hosting their wedding or house party. What they don’t understand, he said, is that planning for yourself is much different than planning for clients.

“Everyone seems to think that event planning is the sexy, fun and easy job,” he said.; 203-625-4411