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Singin’ In The Rain

Nashville event designer Blair Laborde celebrates going ‘over the hill’ with an over-the-top evening of dinner and dancing
Peonies lend texture and visual interest to the monochromatic table.

Mother Nature clearly missed the memo that April showers bring May flowers because on May 5, just days before Blair Laborde’s 40th birthday fete, the forecast projected a week of wet weather ranging from light sprinkles to full-blown thunderstorms.

“Tents were oversold almost everywhere by the time I rolled out the rain plan,” says the Nashville event designer, who had spent months planning the outdoor dinner party in the backyard of her Belle Meade home.

Event designer Blair Laborde (center) with friends Stephanie Norris (left) and Ellen Street
vases of white flowers, arrangement in bunches of a single variety of blooms, including tulips, protea, and orchis
Clusters of lush, loose arrangements look organic and have the same visual impact of large, formally mounded displays.

“When I finally found a company that had one left, I went into overdrive to adjust the floor plan and lighting setup. My mood needed major adjusting, too, so I tried to lighten things up by adding a few fun, unexpected touches. I had eight dozen white umbrellas shipped overnight from a vendor in Virginia to give to all the guests. I was so bound and determined to have them that I would have driven all night to pick them up if I had to!”

Italian string lights kept guests seeing stars even beneath the tent.

It is this kind of creative energy that has Blair’s social calendar perennially packed. Since founding Sarah Blair Designs in 2016, she has produced some of the Music City’s most exclusive events and developed an A-list client roster. A self-described dreamer, Blair had been pondering party plans for her milestone birthday since she was in her mid-30s. With the exception of the inclement weather, the night was everything she envisioned and much more.

“Mother Mature can be moody! She’ll give you blue skies one day, and the next day stormy grays. As long as you are shining, sunshine is inconsequential.” —Event Designer Blair Laborde
The band, Halfbrass, led guests to the dining tent with a Second Line parade. 

As she does for all of her events, Blair designed and arranged all of her own flowers. A mix of ceramic and glass containers in a myriad of shapes and sizes overflowed with ranunculus, peonies, garden roses, king protea, orchids, hydrangeas, and tulips—all in shades of white.

Each place was set with a single peony in a bud vase for guests to take home at the end of the night. Hand-calligraphed and watercolored place cards and menu cards by artist Lexie Armstrong had guests’ jaws dropping and mouths watering in anticipation of the meal, which featured Gulf Fish à la Commander’s Palace, a nod to Blair’s Louisiana upbringing.

Guests were all aglow despite the rainy weather.

“It might have been a white party, but it was such a colorful night,” Blair says. “Having my family and close friends from all over the country and all phases of life underneath one tent was the best birthday gift I could ever receive. Fifty will have some big shoes to fill, so I better start planning now!”

Scenes from the Party

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two children play with oversize white beach balls on an expansive lawn surrounded by trees

Oversize beach balls create a sculptural look and provide entertainment for the kids.

A plywood bar covered in mood moss brings the outdoors in.

white tulips

White tulips in a simple vase impart effortless elegance.

Sea grass baskets with whitewashed wood name tags were filled with goodies for each guest.

a waiter carries a tray of cocktails

Mixologists concocted watermelon palomas and other bespoke libations.

South Fork Catering, appetizer

Hot chicken with homemade pickles and pickled onions

South Fork Catering, appetizer

Bruschetta on homemade crostini

South Fork Catering, salad course

Local arugula tossed in lemon vinaigrette and topped with roasted beets, fennel, goat cheese, and honey-roasted pecans

Cregan, Blair's husband, wears a white button up. Blair, the honoree, wears a one-shouldered white dress

Cregan and Blair Laborde

guests mingle outside at the 40th birthday celebration of Nashville event designer Blair Laborde

“When we bought it, I barely even looked at the interiors,” says Blair of her Belle Meade home. “I was focused on finding the perfect party yard, and that we did!”

Guests arrived in white attire and in the party mood.

Blair sets the tables in the dining tent.

tent ceiling covered in helium-filled white balloons

In lieu of string, cotton zipper tape dangles from the balloons.

Party Sources

By Margaret Zainey Roux  |  Photography by Mary Craven Dawkins of Mary Craven Photography

This story originally appeared in Flower magazine’s July/August 2021 issue. Find Flower in a store near you or subscribe.