That’s the first major piece to any successful gathering, said party-planning guru and University of Rhode Island alumna Stephanie Frazier Grimm.
“You want to pick people from different aspects of your life,” said Frazier Grimm, a 2002 graduate in textiles, fashion merchandising and design. “That always keeps the conversation going, helping to keep conversation fresh and active. That’s what gets guests talking to each other, which is what a party is all about.”
Since starting Couture Parties in 2008, Frazier Grimm has established herself as an expert on such issues. What began with planning social gatherings in Newport during the summer season has become a small business with nationwide reach. Frazier Grimm has earned praise for her work from none other than Martha Stewart, and has planned personal parties for Hollywood celebrities like Jennie Garth (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Kelly Rutherford (Gossip Girl).
Not that planning for the rich and famous has gone to her head.
“We all put our pants on the same way,” Frazier Grimm said. “Working with celebrities is not what drives me to be bigger and better. I am so grateful for the opportunities, but I work hard for them. I want every event that I plan to work well.
“Whether I am working on a $150 kids party, or a $1 million wedding, I love the creative aspect of designing for a party,” Frazier Grimm said. “Some planners are there to coordinate things the day of an event. Not me. I want to be involved in the process. I want to know the personalities of the people hosting the party; how they met, their grandmother’s name, their favorite recipes.”
She once planned a wedding for fellow URI alumni during which the pillow for the ring bearer had Rhody the Ram on it.
“Incorporating those subtle details can turn a party into a lifelong memory,” Frazier Grimm said.
Despite the national reach of her business – which has been featured regularly in publications like People and US Weekly – Frazier Grimm operated out of her own home until last fall, when she opened shop on Thames Street in Newport.
Last summer, Couture Parties was featured in a national magazine for one of its events, so Frazier Grimm went to a local Stop and Shop to buy a few copies of the magazine. When the young cashier asked why she was buying multiple copies, Frazier Grimm pointed to the profile of her company. The girl was impressed.
“She said, ‘You can live in Newport and plan parties in California? Really?’” Frazier Grimm said. “I told her, ‘Look at Facebook. That was started in a college dorm. It’s all in how you network and get your name out there.”
The formula has worked more than once for Frazier Grimm. Couture Parties is actually her second start-up, following her highly successful baby clothing line Mama and Bambino, which she started in 2005 because of compliments she received after making clothes for her son, Carter, when he was an infant. Within a couple years, her designs were being sought by celebrities like Katie Holmes, Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angela Basset.
Frazier Grimm sold Mama and Bambino in 2007 while she was pregnant with her second child, but she stayed on with the company as creative director.
Home with her two young children, she got the itch for a new venture, planning occasional parties in Newport. This was the birth of Couture Parties, which saw its reputation grow thanks to Frazier Grimm’s social media efforts, particularly with her blog and Twitter feed, @CoutureParties.
“I was never a writer growing up, but it comes easier for me when writing for the blog,” Frazier Grimm said. “I write how I talk, and I write from the heart. When I talk about dresses, if it looks frilly, I am going to say it looks frilly. By keeping it simple, I think it helps make me more approachable.”
Mashable.com has picked up Frazier Grimm’s blog entries, and she is a known entity in the blogosphere. In 2010, she started an offshoot of Couture Parties, Get The Party Started, which are pre-assembled, themed party packs for children. She also plans to write a do-it-yourself party planning book, so she is not slowing down any time soon.
“I get up each day and I am excited for the next project,” she said. “I want to make my business bigger. When you are passionate about something, you want it to succeed.”
University of Rhode Island alumna Stephanie Frazier Grimm (’02) is the owner of Newport-based Couture Parties.
Whether it is a New York state-of-mind dinner party, a waterfront wedding or a Sopranos-themed social gathering, University of Rhode Island alumna Stephanie Frazier Grimm has a knack for detail that has made Couture Parties a nationally recognized company.
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Frazier Grimm