Plan Ahead and Get Organized With Event Specialist Dara Castiglione of Castiglione Events
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Castiglione Events offers an elevated event planning experience to their clients by making the entire event planning experience personal, professional, and fun. From managing timelines to assisting with budgets, the team is driven to help their clients as they plan for and enjoy their most swoon-worthy events.
And because Dara is the queen of organizing amazing events, we knew she was th perfect person to help you do the same. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the event planning industry or are just looking for ways to stay accountable, professional, and organized, read on to learn how Dara gets things done like a boss.
Can you tell our readers a bit about you and your business?
I grew up in a very large, North Jersey, Italian family. There was always a reason to celebrate. My grandmother hosted every holiday and these large lavish parties frequently. My childhood was spent with her at Party Box, fabric stores for custom linen, and alongside her in catering meetings. She absolutely loved the presentation and how it made guests feel while in attendance. And that all stuck heavily with me and has a lot to do with how i run my business and my passion for detail.
As I got older, I slowly started taking over Christmas eve - then Christmas day for my family of multiple aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. It just felt natural for me. One of my aunts told me I should get into catering/event planning and I did.
My career started in rigorous off-premise catering in NYC, north jersey, and Princeton. Eventually leading up to what I was put on this earth to do today: full-time wedding and event planning. We have an office in Asbury Park and like to focus on out of the box, not so traditional weddings. We offer event management, partial planning, full-service planning, and event design.
One of my very favorite things about the work we provide is creating something awesome from scratch. Taking a blank slate and seeing something that is not already there and bringing it to life. I also love the relationships I develop over time with our clients.
When you are event planning, you sometimes have daily communication with the same couple of people regarding a personal, significant life event. That connects you to a person - you become their confidant, therapist, nurturer, friend.
I still keep in touch with and have bonds with a handful of past clients. It's so nice. And so rewarding.
You offer event planning and management, and there are so many details involved in doing that sort of thing for weddings and special events. How do you stay organized in your life and business?
Two words: Google Calendar.
I would be lost without it. Google Drive also.
Between the business, my daughter’s heavy sports schedule (she is a sophomore in high school and plays basketball and lacrosse all year round), and my personal life, it is absolutely imperative that everything is on the Google Calendar.
I have separate calendars for each area of my life. From workouts scheduled each week to when I need to place my Shoprite from home order. It’s all on there (with reminders!)
My team is required to learn it and use it.
It keeps us all on track and prevents important things from being forgotten.
When you're planning an event, how do you schedule your time to make sure everything gets done?
Did I mention Google Calendar/Drive?
Haha - Literally every task goes onto a working spreadsheet that we all follow - client included - broken down by month.
This way I'm not being asked about lighting - for instance - 3 months before we are scheduled to dive into it. It keeps the client engaged, up to speed, and excited about the planning process.
Each CE assistant assigned to the event knows exactly when we will be doing what. It helps to schedule out personal lives as well which is SO important and something I value and respect greatly.
For instance, my lead event director, Cassie, won’t schedule a long weekend vacation if she knows we have a final venue walkthrough that same weekend that she absolutely has to be present at. She will know about this, and all other pertinent tasks and meetings as soon as the client books and I finalize the planning timeline.
When you're collaborating with vendors and other businesses what do you do to stay on the same page?
When collaborating on design, we share working project specification sheets and mood boards within Google Drive. Inspo photos are so key in this industry.
When collaborating on an event schedule/timeline we start by asking our caterers, venues, DJs/bands, photographers, videographers how they like to work first and foremost and what their timing preferences are before all else. It has always been very important to me that my vendor team feels supported by me - as opposed to stressed and discounted.
We take that information very strongly into consideration when creating our timelines and production plans. If it turns out something will not quite work, we revisit and discuss what we can do differently to make it more streamlined.
At the end of the day, the client’s happiness is everyone’s main concern and objective - so it is up to my team to steer the ship and ensure just that.
What's something you wish you knew when you started your business?
Not to take things personally.
Simple as that.
What advice would you give to someone who feels like they'll always be disorganized or can get organized but has trouble staying that way?
Write everything down!
Track your work in a notebook dedicated to that and make it a habit.
The more you do it, the more natural it will become and will help you plan for the future.
What guidance would you give someone who is interested in working in the event planning field as they get started?
Start working in off-premise catering. You have to be able to relate to that side of things in this industry.
It’s not glamorous, but it is absolutely essential to the success of an event planner.
Reach out to everyone. Do not feel annoying. It’s like making friends when you were little. Just say hi!
The best way to learn anything in event planning is to have hands-on experience. So ask other event planners if you can shadow them.
Intern for a while.
You have to learn how to recover from mistakes in order to grow.
Admire someone on Instagram? DM them. Ask them to collaborate on a shoot or just ask them for coffee.
People love talking about themselves - soak up all the knowledge you possibly can and learn from others and your own mistakes.
How has the Babes In Business community made a difference in your life or business?
It has made a tremendous impact in my life and business. The day I put my two weeks in at my day job, to take on CE full time, I attended my first Babes meet up that night.
I was super nervous. The incredible Bailey Frumen spoke and really solidified my choice. I left Porta feeling like I could do absolutely anything and I was going to succeed - no matter what.
It boosted my confidence and introduced me to and cultivated relationships with women I still work with today.