Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Entertaining with Tara Guerard

Many years ago, I started hearing whispers about an events planner in Charleston who was creating some very stylish affairs. Word spread like wild fire throughout the South, and Southern brides were clamoring for this planner to work her magic on their weddings. Great press and a book followed (Southern Weddings: New Looks from the Old South), and then before you knew it, the cat was out of the bag. Our Southern party planner Tara Guerard of Soiree became known across the country. And now Tara's fresh and colorful take on parties is so much in demand that she recently opened a studio in New York!

So I thought who better to ask for advice on entertaining at home than Tara. It's no coincidence that so far both people I've asked for advice hail from Charleston, a very social town. (Mitchell Crosby, if you recall, was featured in a post a few weeks ago.) What I found refreshing is that Tara is actually quite laid back about the way she entertains at her home. Of course, for someone who is in the party planning biz, having a few friends over for drinks should be easy. And with Tara's advice, it should be easy for the rest of us too.

A preprandial glass of wine

On bar carts and mixing cocktails:
"I have a bar side table...always prepared to mix a drink...even for an unannounced visitor. When we have close friends over for drinks or dinner, my husband and I always try to make their drinks, but I want them to feel comfortable enough to help themselves if that is what they prefer! For daytime events, I love having my famous Bloody Marys available. Otherwise, I stick to the basics."

Sweet Tea Vodka, perfect for a hot summer evening

On serving food with drinks:
"Because I do events for a living, I am a slacker for my personal events and usually have cheese, nuts, olives...something simple!"

Hors d'oeuvres at one of Tara's events

And some additional tips:
"Use great glassware. I prefer something a little unexpected- like chilled juice glasses for beer, stemless Riedel for wine (so that it doesn't get knocked over) or beautiful, very thin rimmed glasses for cocktails. And wonderful linen napkins are a must at my home! Dim the lights, even in the kitchen, and have upbeat, get you in the mood music! I always pick my favorites on the ipod and have them ready to go. Gypsy Kings, Cesaria, Miles Davis, and the Buena Vista Social Club are a few of my favorites.

Tara Guerard's Bloody Mary Recipe

1.5 oz. premium vodka
6 oz. tomato juice
1 tablespoon prepared Horseradish
Dash Worcestershire
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash Lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
Dash Celery salt
Fresh cracked black pepper - to taste
One Teaspoon fresh chopped Dill
Garnish with pickled okra and enjoy!

(Photo at top taken at Soiree's New York outpost. Drinks photos by Liz Banfield. For more information, contact Tara Guerard, 54 Chapel Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29403, p- 843-577-5006, f- 843-577-0095; 37 West 20th Street, Suite 1205, New York, New York 10011, p- 646-329-6258, f- 646-329-6986;


  1. Jennifer, you picked a great tastemaker to interview! How fun to have Tara's Bloody Mary recipe and playlist ideas.

  2. How fun to read about Tara after I have just posted about her new office in NYC. As I understand, Tara and Nicki Clendening of Scout Design are old friends, so when Tara wanted to open an office there she turned to Nicki and partner, Callie Jenschke. Loved this post and the fact that she is laid back at home - it makes it all less intimidating to know a professional entertainer likes to keep it simple at home!

  3. I think some wonderful southern artist should paint this tablescape. Luscious!

  4. Hill Country- You are absolutely correct!

  5. Hello, Jennifer-

    Thank you for a vivid and vibrant insight into Southern hospitality. Cheers,

  6. Being both a New York and Charlestonian at different times of year and life now, I am thrilled! Congratuations on the New York adventure!

  7. A Californian thumbs up on the stemless Riedel.

  8. Tara does such a beautiful job on her events! She's been the planner for two of my friends and both weddings were absolutely spectacular. I love seeing both Tara and Mitchell on your blog -- great talent here in Charleston!

  9. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Jennifer-I had the pleasure to work with Tara and her team in Franklin, TN when Creative Candles made the beeswax pillars for Martha Stewart's assistant-Liesl Menning's wedding last fall. She is a delight and brings so much grace and character to the event. Thanks for bringing her talent to your readers-Pam at Creative Candles

  10. Love the idea of fresh dill in a Bloody Mary!

  11. Food, drinks, entertaining and music! I cannot even get past the yumminess of that coffee table! It is beautiful!

    So, so flattered to have you follow me on Twitter-

  12. I love the Bloody Mary recipe, one of my favorite things to do is go to Bloody Mary Saturday at one of our local pubs. They put out everything under the sun and you can customize it to your heart's content. Mine usually ends up requiring chewing because I put almost everything in it.

    Whim Tart