Planning Makes Perfect
From elegant charity galas to edgy club parties, Alexandra Lind Rose’s Gala Productions has become the go-to event planner for Manhattan’s elites.
There’s no question, New York has been starved of parties the last two years. But with the pandemic (hopefully) in the rearview mirror, major life events—weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, galas, and milestone birthdays—are back on the calendar in a big way. Gala Productions, the brainchild of Alexandra Lind Rose, has been busier than ever producing outsized events from the Upper East Side to Long Island City.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Alex, a former fashion designer and active philanthropist, has sat on the Administrative Board of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center since 2000 and been a Board Member of Save Venice since 2008. Having regularly produced fashion shows for her eponymous dress collection, she was often frustrated when asked to plan charity events on a tight budget and work with a handful of approved vendors who weren’t mindful of expenses.
Many event companies didn’t think big picture about creating an overall partnership, she learned. Instead they either brought a “one size fits all approach” or tended to be overly myopic or tech focused.
Sensing a real opportunity, Alex seized the chance to start Gala Productions in 2014. “When you start a company you always think, is there a need for this?” she says. “When you realize there are only a few other companies in a similar space, you think, if I could do this in a less-costly and more-upscale way for clients, why not jump on that?”
Together with business partner James Hallquist, who joined as President in 2017 with a background in film, Alex saw a way to stand out in the events production space. First of all, as a woman in the A/V world, she was already a rarity, but her extensive fashion and charity gala experience meant that she knew how to put her clients’ needs first.
“We care about our guests’ experience,” says Alex. “Some big event planners are so busy making the flowers look gorgeous or catering to the performer on stage, they overlook the people who are invited to socialize at the party.”
“Connecting the dots is very much the Gala way,” says James. “What Alex brought to the table from the get-go is her ability to think about how the technical side influences the functional.”
Today, Gala looks after marquee New York establishments, including Harvard Hall, Guastavino’s, 583 Park Avenue, Boxhouse Hotel, Ravel Hotel, and Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. They’re also the preferred vendor for Sound River Studios and the new Hall de Lumières. And while they’ve built a reputation for throwing big, elegant bashes, Gala can also quickly change gears and do a “flash and trash” club party with crazy sharpie lighting and tons of haze.
Gala runs on a fixed cost basis. They have the right equipment to suit all kinds of events from large-scale weddings and bar mitzvahs to more intimate dinners, corporate occasions, even film and T.V. productions. While their expertise is focused on sound, lighting, and staging, they can also bring in linens, draping, carpentry, video, decor, and just about anything in between. Gala technicians wear a navy-blue uniform designed by Alex herself, so they’re easy to recognize.
Gala pricing, gear and approaches are specifically tailored to the specific venues. “We like to tailor our jobs to the guest experience, but also tailor our gear to the job,” says James. They often act as a “one stop,” supplying individual planners or clients with everything on a simple invoice that also amortizes labor and trucking costs. Gala Productions costs are often much less than their competitors.
As a team, Alex and James have a keen understanding of the interconnectedness of party elements, and how details that might seem innocuous to a florist or caterer can have a tremendous impact on the overall party vibe.
For example, the very location of a bar or buffet can create staffing hazards. “So many times, I’ve seen a cable run behind a bar,” James explains. “The bartender is going to be tripping on it and won’t be pumping out drinks quick enough. That could rapidly throw off the natural flow of an event.”
And with more people hosting outdoor parties in recent years, noise levels started posing a big problem. But Gala knows how to get around those. “No one wants a party to get shut down,” says James. “Audio is basic physics. If you’re having a big party in the Hamptons, we’re going to make sure the directional sound is pointed down.”
Party hosts may also overlook equipment fine print when booking talent. Alex and James have handled complex production for all kinds of situations, whether it’s a “club kid” engagement party at Guastavino’s with world-famous DJ Neo or a 12-piece band on a penthouse rooftop with a tiny dance floor.
And then there’s just the basics of electrical power. Imagine: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is coming back to 583 Park Avenue and bringing 40 hair and makeup stations with them,” explains James. “Each station requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit for the blow dryer, curling irons, clip lights, straightening iron, and two phone chargers. That’s 800 amps of power, when the average household has 60.” No easy feat to procure.
Lighting itself is an art form that can make all the difference. “Lighting is the subtle flavor of a well-orchestrated dish,” says James. “You can’t put your finger on it, but it makes it so savory or so perfect.” That’s why Gala always stipulates a well-lit bar for clients. “The bar must be found at all times. If the entire room is dark, the bar should glow.”
And no one appreciates good lighting more than a bride on her wedding day, as pastry sous-chef Sarah Patterson discovered when she hired Gala Productions for her 130-guest wedding at Long Island City’s Sound River Studios in April 2022.
“It was a pretty blank canvas, a white, open warehouse, so it really took a lot to turn it into anything,” Sarah explains. “We wanted big draped fabrics, with string lights in between. I was pretty particular about how the drapery would look, how low it would hang, and getting the color just right. We traded sketches and worked together for two months. When I walked into the space on my wedding day, I started crying just because it was so perfect.”
To plan your next event, contact Gala Productions at 212-888-8833 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit gala-productions.com.
This story was produced in partnership with Gala Productions. All photos courtesy of Gala Productions.