A Bloody Mary Party

Event planner Tara Guérard surprises her friend, tastemaker and fashion designer Lela Rose, with a book-signing brunch in Charleston, South Carolina, to get partygoers ready for the weekend
bloody mary party
Pink and coral shades—in flowers, condiments, and juices—set the tone for this Bloody Mary party. Kumquat branches cradle pink peonies and roses.

It was one of those perfect Charleston, South Carolina, mornings—the air was crisp yet warm, the light was soft, and the weekend was just a few hours away. Stylish, classic Lela Rose was in town for Charleston Wedding Week and, unbeknownst to the fashion designer, her entertaining book was surreptitiously making the journey as well. Tara Guérard, an event-planning celebrity in Charleston, New York, and beyond, whose company, Soirée, is known for its deft touch with elegant, original parties, had a plan for her friend: a surprise book-signing party where chic fashion and entertaining done right meet to kick off the weekend.

Rose, Guérard, and a guest take advantage of a photo op.
A balloon-decked orange bike from Soirée beckons guests to the party.

Guérard herself was the hostess and not the hired event planner, so the party had an extra layer of personality. It reflected both guest of honor and hostess, summing up their individual approaches to style and fun. But it was not an over-the-top, pinky-raising event. Rather, there were signatures—a Soirée orange bicycle out front, festive, original cocktails and nibbles, and a collection of party guests whose affinity for a great time made them the perfect ingredients for a Friday morning brunch.

Rose and Guérard’s friendship is only a few years old, but it has developed fast. “Tara is all about the things that really matter to me—creativity, vision, and an attention to detail,” says Rose. In fact, several Lela Rose employees are Soirée alums, having honed their skills working for Guérard. This party was a case in point. “The Bloody Mary bar was so fun,” says Rose. “It had every possible garnish and mixer, and then there were labels to help you decide what kind of drink variation you wanted. It’s the kind of detail that you’d expect at a Soirée event.”

The Bloody Mary bar features fresh-squeezed juices, pickled garnishes, and mixers.
Clever labels for the carafes help guests create both alcoholic and nonalcoholic custom cocktails.

For Guérard, ideas like that are part of any party she creates—it’s second nature. “We were inspired by Lela and her book. She likes a handwritten invitation to a party, so we started there,” says Guérard. “And she appreciates a good drink, so we ran with that and created the Bloody Mary bar.” In addition to the traditional tomato concoction (two varieties of Charleston-made mixes) and fresh-pressed orange and grapefruit juices, the brunch also had a red juice of apple, beet, carrot, and ginger, and a green juice of kale, spinach, romaine, celery, parsley, cucumber, apple, lemon, and ginger.

The flowers were part of the serendipitous event. “It is early spring,” says Guérard. “That’s when the most beautiful flowers are in season, in all our Soirée colors.” Pink and coral shades—in flowers, condiments, and juices—set the tone.

“We didn’t overthink it,” says Guérard. “We tried to keep it simple.” The food was all pick up, no forks required. The bites were Southern—biscuits, ham, pimento cheese, cheese straws, and deviled eggs—as were the pickled-okra drink garnishes.

An acrylic stand that Guérard found at an antiques mall offers Callie’s biscuits, Anne’s Charleston cheese biscuits, pimento cheese, and ham biscuits.
Lela Rose signs her book, Prêt-à-Party (Rizzoli New York, 2015).

The perceived effortlessness of the event came through with a wink; no detail was overlooked. A classical jazz troupe played in the garden, stacks of books sold out, and guests could also snag a pair of Lela Rose oven mitts to bring the designer’s signature chic to their kitchen. The party was Lela Rose and Tara Guérard from head to toe, beautiful and fun, a breath of fresh air and style.

By Frances MacDougall | Photography by Lucy Cuneo

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