Meet Sunny Ravenbach, owner of Costa Mesa-based event planning firm White Lilac. She’s a go-to for top fashion houses looking to throw showstoppers and an in-demand sorceress for sophisticated weddings and parties around the globe. You might not know her name, but if you’re a fashion-lover, entertainer, or bride‑to-be, you’ve likely drooled over her opulent events on Instagram, where she has more than 220,000 followers. We asked for a peek behind the hedges and drapings.
Marie Antoinette might have blushed over some of your parties. How would you describe your style?
SR: It’s eclectic and over-the-top and yet it’s restrained. There is still discipline. That’s vital.
Who are some of the notable denizens and brands you’ve worked for?
SR: Rachel Zoe, Anne Fontaine, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Bulgari, to name a few.
Is there a golden child among them?
SR: Hands down, it was the Louis Vuitton event I did on their Beverly Hills rooftop three years ago, for the launch of the fine jewelry collection. It started every trend we’ve seen over the past few years. It has been copied over and over. To a T, actually.
What were some of these trends?
SR: Hanging crystal chandeliers in tents, hanging greenery, using a mirrored tabletop. Also, the mixing of eclectic vintage dinnerware with new dinnerware and glassware pieces.
How does fashion play into other events you create?
SR: Oftentimes, it comes from the clients themselves. It’s funny, because many times the first outfit the client wears for the consult is what their event ends up resembling. If my client comes in wearing, say, a crisp, clean Valentino look with beiges and whites, their event inevitably ends up with that feel. If they’re wearing a red jacket, red nails, I guarantee they will want color, not an all-white event. My job is to decipher the cues and give them a more streamlined color palette in line with their taste.
Finish this sentence: “You probably don’t want to hire me if … ”
SR: If you come in with 8-inch stilettos, overdone makeup, and a high-maintenance attitude, I’m probably not for you. If you’re rigid, set in your ways, or if you come in with pictures of things that have been done 200 times before, I’m not your person. There has to be a certain level of trust and respect for how I’m interpreting your style.
I imagine that you occasionally get people who want to micromanage everything. How does that work out?
SR: It always works best with the ones who just say, “You do what you want.” There’s a self-impetus to outdo myself because I’ve been given creative freedom, so those events turn out the best—100 percent of the time.
What’s the most outrageous request you’ve ever received? One planner told me she once got a request to bring in a tiger!
SR: I don’t get those sorts of clients. What I do get are requests for really challenging logistics. Throwing events in new places where resources are unfamiliar to me, that’s what I love. Last year in Colorado, I had to design a 40,000-square-foot event in the middle of nowhere, and I had to figure out how to get water there and electricity. Those are the types of challenges I really enjoy.
If we were filming a White Lilac TV episode, which experience would be
the most exciting to watch unfold?
SR: The prime minister of Vietnam called me 3½ weeks before his son’s wedding. We ended up having seven days to get everything together for a gathering of 800—including ordering flowers and clearing customs. I flew out with almost 30 people on my crew. We sent 168 pallets to Vietnam. Then we had to look for a warehouse to receive all the goods, local people to work with, and everything else. It was the most fun of my life. If I just pumped out pink weddings at St. Regis every time, I’d probably stab myself in the eyes.
You’ve just started selling gorgeous party goods on your site. What inspired this?
SR: My events can give people sticker shock. I don’t want to be this inaccessible brand. So this is an easy way for people to get the look without having to hire me. Often, people don’t understand that two-thirds of the cost of an event is the labor. If someone doesn’t want to spend $20,000 to throw a kid’s first birthday party, it’s an easy way to get the look for $300 to $500. And, by the way, I wouldn’t spend that on a first birthday, even though I plan them!
If someone wants to White Lilac-ize their event, what are your entertaining essentials?
SR: Using different sorts of tables, from mirrored tables to mercury tables to acrylics. China is important. It’s something people notice: glassware, chargers, plates. I love to mix and match. And most important, don’t
ever go for an obvious theme or go too literal with anything. Play.