'Debs are like mini weddings, and that's how we like to treat them'
My Education WeekRobbie Godsil Debs event organiserMONDAY
The week starts like most others, hitting the ground running with a coffee in hand.We’re in the thick of debs season, and what a busy season it has been. We have run graduation events from Donegal to Cork and Galway to Dublin.
We haven’t found much of a drop in spending on debs nights from the recession, but there is more of an emphasis on value for money, and people are definitely not afraid to haggle. People are shopping around for the best-value dresses and accessories. Hiring a dress is now common.
I am in charge of organising an event for Wednesday, so I double- and triple-check the clients’ wants and needs as well as confirming all suppliers.
After lunch we meet our accountant to discuss our end-of-year tax return. A less glamorous aspect of the job.
First cab off the rank: I have to travel to our venue in Naas to cover a debs test run. This is our PlanMyDebs.ieterminology for a hotel viewing in which the debs committee will be given a grand tour of their venue. They see where they and their friends will be eating and dancing, where fire-breathers and stilt-walkers will be performing, where mementos will be exchanged and photos taken. It is followed by a tour of the nightclub where they will be partying until the wee hours of the morning.
We do get some unusual requests; among others this year we are booking a snake-charmer, a dancing cyborg that shoots lasers from its eyes and Cirque de Soleil acrobats.
A nightclub is almost a prerequisite these days for the discerning debutante. Much has changed in the debs industry since I attended mine, and it has changed even more since my parents attended theirs, as I am so often reminded.
Only about 10 per cent of debs events are attended by parents nowadays, and these are escorted off the premises by their children at midnight at the latest.
Many young people regard the debs as the biggest night in a student’s life. At PlanMyDebs.iewe often say that debs are like mini weddings, and that’s how we like to treat them.
My partner Daniel Lewis and I set up our events and graduation company almost four years ago. As best mates in school we had our first taste of being in business together during a transition-year project. After college we were influenced by a successful industry in the US and launched the Graduation Company, designing and producing graduation gifts for school-leavers, from school signet rings and cufflinks to crested hoodies and ties – we covered it all.
We still do, although since 2010 we have focused our core business on planning debs events, after spotting a niche in the market.
After talking through the wants and needs of the debs committee it is time to return to Dublin, finish some paperwork and do market research with past debutantes, to get their opinions of our new ideas and how they found their night.
It is the morning of one of our last events of a very busy year, and there is a great buzz in the office.
After lunch I go to the venue to set up and ensure everything is ready. This is standard procedure, but when I get to the venue I get a call from the band to say that they have been in an accident: nothing major, but it means they can’t play tonight.
You can’t just choose any old band for a debs: a good cover band that plays more current songs (and less Beatles) always goes down well. So I spend about an hour calling all the bands we use. Finally, one of them says they can play. This is a huge relief and just goes to show we can never expect anything to run smoothly.
These things happen in the event business, but thankfully the whole night is a huge success, with all students and teachers dancing the night away.
The morning begins with the company sitting down to review the event that took place last night.
This is something we do for all of our events. As you can imagine with what had happened with the band, there was plenty to discuss with the rest of the team.
Once the meeting is finished I prepare myself for my second meeting of the week with my accountant to discuss a new budgetary system. It’s not all one big party.
After work I see the Bond movie Skyfall, which definitely lives up to its expectations.
We got two inquiries during the week from a nightclub in Meath and a hotel in Cavan requesting to partner with us. Daniel, my colleague, goes to meet the Meath hotel; I drive to Cavan to meet the nightclub owners.
Once I arrive at the venue I am excited by its potential and can see the benefit of working with the general manager and his team. We take great care when partnering with third-party establishments, making sure that they put the same emphasis on safety that we do. We work closely with Drinkaware on this front. My debs was a ship-’em-in-ship-’em-out affair. There was mediocre food, a crappy band and a cold dry rasher in a bun at the end of the night.
As the market grows here, so do the students’ expectations of the debs. “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold” is an especially relevant expression within the debs industry. Now 18-year-olds here have seen many of the TV shows, such as Glee and Super Sweet Sixteen, that have popularised US teen culture.
After a long week Friday finished, like most Fridays should, with a pint of Guinness and a packet of bacon fries.
This week I was . . .
Alt-J, Mogwai and Mumford & Sons (below)