Party On

Wedding and party planner Meghan Cease celebrates life’s moments, big and small, with panache.

Written and Photographed by Kelli Hewett Taylor

In three short years, Birmingham event planner Meghan Cease has turned a love of all things fabulous into one of the largest event planning firms in the Southeast.

Handling more than 60 events a year, she now has locations in Mobile, Jackson, Atlanta and, of course, Birmingham, as well as a team of associate planners on staff. Her weddings have been published on wedding blogs around the world. Nuptials with budgets of more than $100,000 are nothing uncommon for this former New York corporate event planner who has worked for the likes of fashion mogul David Yurman and Conde Nast publishing.

“I am completely floored by the success and how we’ve grown,” Cease says.  “I’ve loved getting into the wedding business, and what we’ve been able to accomplish just motivates me to continue doing more.”

Cease credits her mother, Lisbeth, and grandmothers for giving her an early start to her love of parties. “I grew up in a very social family; we were always entertaining,” says Cease, 27, who opened M. Elizabeth Events in 2009.  “Anything that could be celebrated, we celebrated it — a new puppy, a new car when you turned 16 — there was always a bow on something.”

While she was studying marketing communications at the University of Mississippi, Cease earned a reputation for her all-out tailgate parties. “Everyone knew my tailgate would have flowers and bows and tons of food. I love planning everything to a T,” she says. Carefully thought-out color schemes? Check. Meaningful personal details? Of course. Delectable food? Yeah, baby. College friends still talk about those tailgate parties.

After Cease graduated college in 2006, she put her creative and organizational skills to work in New York City for several years. She began with Conde Nast publishing, handling marketing and event planning for the former children’s lifestyle magazine Cookie. Needless to say, parties in New York can be pretty over the top.

“I did things like an Easter egg hunt for 450 kids at FAO Schwarz toy store,” Cease says. “People in New York go to a lot of events, and we really had to work hard to keep impressing people.”

While in the Big Apple, Cease expanded her work with such big names as W Hotels, Cartier and Bloomingdale’s.  She planned corporate events for women’s clothing designer Elie Tahari and eyewear and jewelry designer David Yurman. “We did roof-top parties, theme events, really wonderful stuff,” she says. “It was my dream job.”

But for a born-and-bred Southern belle, the tug of the South pulled at Cease, and she couldn’t ignore it. “I missed my family and I came home in December of 2008, in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression,” Cease says. “I thought, ‘How am I going to find a job doing this?’ I was very, very down on myself.”

Once again, inspiration came from her family — and the idea to keep the good times happening for other people.

“My dad said I should start my own business,” Cease says. “Two days later I had an LLC  (a limited liability company).” M. Elizabeth Events Inc. was named for Meghan Elizabeth Cease herself.

With an East Coast work ethic that has people in the business wondering how she does it, Cease grew her company into one of the most-recognized event planning businesses in the state and is quickly expanding into the region.  Legendary Kennedy family photographer and wedding photojournalist Denis Regie heard about Cease and put her on the guest list for a cocktail party at his Atlanta estate this spring with other notable wedding industry personalities.

Cease’s work now has her regularly traveling to Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida to work her event magic for clients.

Why did Cease immerse herself in parties in such grim economic times? “I like the idea of helping other people celebrate all the time,” Cease says. “People need to enjoy the special moments in their lives and in their families’ lives, no matter what.”

M. Elizabeth Events banishes the ordinary and is a throwback to the golden days of soirees, whether it’s a rock ’n’ roll bash, a Vegas-themed girls’ night or a destination wedding for hundreds of guests at an exclusive island getaway.

Cease believes special occasions aren’t just about self-indulgence, but an investment in the people who mean the most to you. In tough times, people are returning to what’s important: their closest family and friends.

“If you think back, some of your best memories are probably when someone took the time to do something out of the ordinary and you were part of it,” Cease said. “You can be the person to do that, too.  Then, you can look back years from now and say, ‘Remember what we did together?’ That’s an investment worth making, and I love helping people make unforgettable memories. It’s the best job in the world.”

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