Nathalie Cadet-James launched Luxe Fete, an event planning and design studio, in 2009. Like many others in the industry, the pandemic has forced her to focus on over-the-top luxury weddings for the production of deliverable celebration boxes for intimate gatherings.
“When the pandemic struck, the marriages ended,” said Ms. Cadet-James, 44, who lives in Miami with her husband, Brian James, 47, a lawyer, and their two daughters, Johanna, 13, and Lucca, 11 years old. Under lockdown, I was unable to plan a wedding of 300 people. “
Enter Luxe Fete Social, which launched in March, although conceived two years before Covid. “Covid created an opportunity to make it more relevant,” she said.
The new company offers six different reusable table settings, inspired by Ms. Cadet-James’ travels when planning destination weddings. “These table-in-a-box dinners are an extension of my brand,” she said. “I wanted to show couples that they can have small, accessible and effortless weddings by empowering them with magazine-style arrangements.”
These days, Ms. Cadet-James’ usual routine is to work from home rather than the office she once shared with her five employees. Her days include sharing inspiration boards with her salespeople and colleagues, she said, “so my staff are all on the same page, looking at my dinner orders in a box, talking to my staff. warehouse and making sure orders are filled.
“Then one kid has soccer and another has a dance class, which I take them to. When I get home, I see what must happen to move forward the next day. “
How did you get started in event planning?
When I got married, I ended up having my own wedding. I am so particular in the way I want something to feel, not to look. It is very different. The planners I have met did not understand the difference. One is to set up a production, but it lacks soul; the other feels an experience. I realized I liked the details and watched my vision unfold. At the time, I was a lawyer. When I got pregnant I realized I would have to go back to work, which was not going to fit into the life I was designing for myself. I created a website using photos I had taken from the two weddings I had planned for friends, and the one I had done for myself. Two months later, I had my first client.
What is your main goal for the wedding guests?
For people to connect and celebrate the moment. We are all part of the couple’s story. You unite two tribes as everyone becomes one family. I create events to bring everyone together. The trick is to do this by creating amazing experiences. It is important to bond before and after. In Port Antonio, Jamaica, we arranged for 120 guests to travel two at a time on a bamboo raft on a river. It was a very mystical place, and the guests experience something so magical and that creates a connection. In Italy, we rented a chateau and hired a nonna, an Italian grandmother, who taught the guests how to make pasta and sauce. People came together around food and wine while creating an amazing environment.
What are some of your rituals on your wedding day?
I want my clients to be present and relaxed. I purposely try not to move too fast in front of them and make sure they feel calm. I always bring a treat for the bride, something she doesn’t remember sharing with me, like whether she likes rose petal macaroons or a specific type of donut. It’s to remind him that it’s a party. I also make them a playlist based on their personalities, so it plays low in the background, to bring them calm and excitement at the same time for what’s going to happen.
What was your first wedding planning moment?
Eight months before our wedding, I started writing a handwritten, personalized note each day. Each guest received a personalized letter. You could hear the gasps and people felt celebrated and special. This is the moment you want to capture. It makes a lasting impression. I make sure there is one of those moments in every event I do.
How did you decide what to include in your dinner in a box?
It was created from my years of experience creating beautiful table arrangements. I wanted to include personal details like business cards; practicality, such as silverware and beautiful plates; centerpieces, because that’s the statement of the table; napkin rings to create accents worthy of a host; candles to get a warm glow and atmosphere; and 12 playlists because music sets the tone. And question cards to start the conversation.
What prompted you to add conversation cards?
Few people know how to have a meaningful conversation that isn’t about their job or their kids. We have lost that ability. Here are some questions: Looking back, what would you have said to your 18 year old? If you could invite three people, living or deceased, to a dinner party, who would they be? What makes you lose track of time? These answers tell you a lot about someone. You also build confidence, gain a different perspective, and capitalize on commonalities. All of these pieces connect us. It’s my mission when I bring people together.
Did being a person of color keep the doors from opening?
As a black woman, I have always had to work harder. But there has been a deliberate change in the industry, which began after the death of George Floyd. The conversations got hotter. Peers asked what they should do best, and that’s how you build community. Both sellers and customers have become more inclusive. People are more aware of their actions. Others specifically choose to work with more black-owned businesses. This allowed me to bring in suppliers that I might not have brought otherwise.
What is your favorite wedding moment?
When the couple step into space and see their vision come to life. It is a very magical moment.