Five Tips to Throw a Great Party from Mercer Island’s Own Expert

November 22, 2022 | by Naomi Tomky

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All images courtesy Michelle Shleifer

Michelle Shleifer is known to get creative in putting on a memorable event. One Halloween, she supervised the loading of a pontoon boat full of spooky gear on the north end of Mercer Island. After it set off, she met it on the Bellevue side, at her client’s property, to set up an epic “Trunk-or-Treat” at the house above, a neon and blacklight maze on the property basketball court, and an elaborate haunted house on the beach.

The client (“a celebrity couple no longer in Seattle”) and party guests loved it, and that latter part is the most important element to throwing a great party, she says. Shleifer, who grew up and still lives on Mercer Island, graduated from the University of Washington with a business administration degree but quickly realized that she wanted to be on the creative side of things and to work for herself.

Now she does just that at her company, Seattle Premier Events. She describes her job as “event producer,” because she doesn’t just plan parties, but also plots ideas for them, designs spaces, sources vendors, and executes all sorts of affairs, from intimate home holiday festivals for local celebrities to enormous, stadium-based corporate shindigs. As islanders gear up for party season, we asked Schleifer to share the secrets to throwing better parties.

Prioritize the Guest’s Perspective

Though people tend to start by planning what they like or want for themselves, Shleifer recommends focusing on the guest’s perspective as you design and put together the event. From imagining the moment when the guest receives the invitation until they get home after the event, she puts herself in their shoes and thinks through how they will perceive each element.

Surprise People

“Putting on a really great event means that you are keeping your guests on their toes the whole time,” says Shleifer. She always makes sure events have a little something that the guest doesn’t expect, because people get excited about surprises.

Set the Right Vibes

“How I remember things is how I felt in the moment,” explains Shleifer, so having the right energy at a party is always a priority. Mostly, that comes from the entertainment, she says. “Your room can look great, but if your whole goal is to get people on the dance floor, if you get the wrong DJ, you’re out of luck.”

Make Everyone Feel Special

No matter if she throws a small dinner party or a 2000-person bash, Shleifer aims to make each guest leave feeling like a VIP. They should feel like they are there for a reason, she explains, not like they were just thrown on a guest list. For smaller parties, this can be done with personalized notes or gifts, but for larger parties, she gets creative, like a recent event where she built out a red-carpet entrance with a bouncer to welcome each guest and check them off the list.

Know What to Look for in a Venue

Shleifer looks at venues as specific to each event or client, but says the most important part is understanding what is or is not included in the venue: “What do I have to bring in, what do I have to source?” Things like tables, chairs, and AV equipment vary from place to place. Beyond that, she looks for places with good flow, with access to restrooms, and that won’t get crowds building up in a hallway. But in terms of the actual look or style of a location, she says her favorite ones are a blank slate that she can transform.

Wondering about Shleifer’s favorite venues on Mercer Island? Check out our local party and event venue guide!