Interview: Kimberley Petyt
Kimberley Petyt is the Owner and Managing Director of parisian events, the premier wedding and event coordination and design agency catering exclusively to the English-speaking community in Paris. Her blog, parisian party, was voted ‘2010 Best International Wedding Blog’ by Aisledash.com. We thank her for doing this interview with My French Life™.
How would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Easy-going, Candid, Aesthetic
What is your interest outside of events planning?
I love reading, and a lot of the time that I’m not working seems to be spent looking for quiet spots where I can sneak in a quick read… I also like antiquing, hitting up the flea markets on the weekends, etc.
What is it about France, and Paris in particular, that caught you imagination and heart (both personally and for your business)?
I fell in love with Paris when I was little, in grade school, and saw the film Le Ballon Rouge. The image of Paris in that film just stuck with me: the ‘foreign’ feeling of the old cobblestones, the ironwork, the tall stone buildings- mixed with the Technicolor of all of the balloons, plus the mystery of the ‘love story’ of sorts between the boy and his balloon. It was so magical and exotic and attractive. 30 years on, week after week, I find that Paris still has this same magical attraction for me.
How did you get started in events planning?
I started as an executive assistant, and one part of my job that I really enjoyed was planning offsite team-building excursions for my boss and her team. In the evenings and weekends, I started to volunteer my services with different non-profit organizations, planning their social events and fundraisers, and then, once I planned my own wedding in France (long-distance from San Francisco), I realized that I had found my niche.
How do you describe your business?
Parisian events is a wedding and event planning agency that caters to the English-speaking community in Paris. We service both Anglophone clients who live in Paris, as well as English-speaking clients who come to Paris specifically for their celebration. The events that we style can probably best be described as Modern Franco-American fusion: mixing modern American elements with classic Parisian elegance.
Who are your clients?
My clients come from such diverse backgrounds, but I have to say that one of the most common threads is that they’re almost all a bit adventurous – it’s a pretty normal fantasy to run off and get married in Paris, but it takes a certain personality to actually do it. My clients are also stylish, creative – often a little offbeat. We like to have fun a lot!
Could you give us an example of a wedding that you organised that was vraiment incroyable?
I organized a summer wedding with a Franco-American couple that was just so much fun. They were both in the music industry and had friends and family come in from all over the world – North and South America, all over Europe, and even India. Their wedding ceremony was in a church overlooking the Seine and was very beautiful and classic – then we pumped it up for the reception: They privatized one of the old covered mosaic passages in the 9th arrondissement for their cocktail reception, and followed by dinner and dancing in an amazing mirrored Salon lit with chandeliers and dozens and dozens of candles. We organized Indian dancers, a funky photo station (with silly disguises), a decadent pink candy and pastry dessert bar – it was really an amazing night for everyone!
What are some of the major differences between how Americans and French celebrate big events, particularly weddings?
French weddings can be a lot more traditional than American weddings – for starters, legal French weddings can only take place in city hall and places of worship, where in the US, people are used to throwing down an aisle runner pretty much anywhere they’re allowed and having a wedding. This allows for Americans to have a lot crazier, non-traditional weddings. It’s only been very recently that French couples have been requesting symbolic ceremonies like they do in the States, so the trend is slowly starting to head over here. French weddings also last a lot longer than in the US. A guest at a wedding in France could see themselves starting the day at 10 am at City Hall and still out on the dance floor at the reception at 4 am the next morning! I always warn my American guests to drink LOTS of coffee before coming to a wedding in France.
You also keep a beautiful blog ‘Parisian Party’; how does blogging help your business?
I know that it’s not in everyone’s budget to be able to come to Paris to get married, but I also know that people, especially a lot of brides, look towards Paris for their wedding inspiration. So my blog is a way for me to give hints and advice to couples who are planning a wedding in France, and also to people who want to bring a French touch to their home-based wedding or event.
Now onto your favorites:
Who is your favorite French fashion designer?
I’m someone who always needs to feel comfortable, I’m not at all about suffering for fashion, so I love the tried and true idea of things like pairing jeans and a t-shirt with vintage Chanel jackets or accessories. For newer French designers, I’m a big fan of Christophe Josse- his designs are young and fresh, but look fabulous on women of all ages. I think he really understands women.
Where is your favorite wedding venue in Paris?
It may seem like a cliché, but if done correctly, you really can’t beat a yacht reception on the Seine – all of the elemets are there!
Where is your favorite place to eat in Paris?
Anywhere with good friends!
Where is your favorite place to drink in Paris (a bar or café)?
I’ve nicknamed O Chateau ‘The Central Perk’ (i.e.: the café on Friends) just because my group of friends and I always seem to find ourselves back there! The atmosphere is warm and unpretentious, great wines and nibbles, it’s just a nice place to hang out with friends and relax.
Where is your favorite place to shop in Paris?
Le Bon Marché. It’s such a pick-me-up just walking through Le Bon Marché, you feel like Holly GoLightly looking in the Tiffany’s window, and you feel great even if you come out empty-handed (which is nearly impossible!)
Where is your favorite place to play in Paris (a nightclub, a park, a museum etc.)?
We’re kind of a ‘geek’ family – we love the Galerie de Paléontologie in the Jardin des Plantes, we can spend the entire day at Cité des Sciences. My husband and I usually hit up Musee d’Orsay for our ‘date afternoons’.
What is your favorite day trip from Paris?
Auvers-Sur-Oise, it’s on the way to Giverney, and is where Vincent Van Gogh painted over 70 paintings (and where he and his brother Theo are buried). I love it there in the fall – the colors are beautiful, you can visit Van Goghs home, have lunch at the Chateau… There’s also a very cool Absinthe Museum there as well. I always suggest it to clients who have been to Paris before, and want to see something that’s a bit off the beaten track.
1 & 5 © Kimberley Petyt.
2 – 4 © AmyPunky Photography