Life is one party after the other for Wonda Karibian, owner of Collinsvilles A1 Party & Wedding Rental. And she never tires of the endless round of parties, mostly wedding receptions, because no two are ever the same.
We dont do cookie cutter receptions. We try to create the reception each bride wants, and every single one of them is unique just like every person is unique, she said, noting that the differences provide challenges but also keep her job interesting.
Karibian started out in the party world nearly 25 years ago, working for a St. Louis caterer. After arranging the rentals necessary to complete catering jobs at that post, she moved on to a job in Collinsville doing party rental. Then, when her employer wanted to sell off the party rental side of the business, she took the gambit. That was in 1999, and she hasnt looked back. Shes been too busy.
Since taking over the business, she has concentrated on wedding receptions, tripling the rental inventory as well as adding a significant amount of retail merchandise. (The business does still supply other celebrations like school graduations.)
Customers can rent or buy their items from the business and do the set-up and teardown themselves or A1 Party & Wedding Rental can do it all.
We can come in and set it all up and go back at midnight and make it all go away. All the bride has to do at the end of the night is wave goodbye.
Karibian said A1 works with brides having weddings of all sizes and with budgets large and small.
No wedding is too small for us to be able to help them. Our job is to get into their heads and create the image they are looking for -- even when they dont know themselves.
Rental versus retail
Many budget-conscious brides believe that DIY is the way to save money, she said. But, often, thats a fallacy. For example, a centerpiece might cost $3 to rent, but, the total price tag of materials for brides to put it together themselves could be $9. And what do they do with it afterwards?
For the most cost-effective solution, Karibian and her staff might instead suggest mixing and matching from the stores rental and retail wares.
Karibian has seen many wedding reception trends come and go. Years ago, paper streamers and tissue bells were standard practice. Later, themes - like fish or baseball - were a popular way to show a couples common interests. These are all now history. Even balloon bouquets are passé for weddings, perhaps because the current helium shortage has dramatically increased prices.
Current reception trends range from diamonds and bling to burlap with lace (part of a larger vintage look). And there are the colors of the moment: eggplant purple, lemon yellow and cobalt blue. Of course, classic black and white, with or without an accent color, never goes out of style, according to Karibian. Specialty linens, chandeliers and candy buffets are now among the frequently requested items. Also newly popular is lounge furniture like overstuffed couches and chairs.
People want a comfortable spot to sit and talk at the reception, she said. A guest may be there for the wedding but also looking forward to visiting with Uncle Joe.
Wishlist to reality
When brides come in to A1, Karibian and her staff help them put together a wishlist and give them prices. They can then take this home and, based on their budget, decide what they want and what they can live without, to turn that wishlist into reality.
Sometimes store personnel can suggest alternatives like having several different kinds of table centerpieces (from elaborate to simple) to rein in the bottom line. By doing this, they can have their cake and eat it too.
Another week, another wedding
The business is all about helping out, she stressed. Service is the most we have in this industry.
The job comes with long hours. For Karibian, it means 10-hour days, six days a week - sometimes more. But the payoff is bringing dreams to life for area brides.
My goal is to help make it the wedding of their dreams, she said. And if they cant afford to do it all, my job is to give them tips to stretch their dollar so they will feel like they got everything they wanted.