Jillian Livingston had a special night to plan. Eclectic Hive, which she started just under three years ago, had a successful year and to celebrate Livingston wanted to throw an appreciation dinner for 40 of its top clients and collaborators. But how do you create an event to impress a roomful of industry professionals? Eclectic Hive managed to do so by going back to the basics and completely reinventing them.
In early October, the Denver-based custom event and décor company, known simply as The Hive, treated its guests to an evening of indulgence with drinks, music and a delicious dinner—sans utensils—at blanc, a relatively new venue in Denver.
“We really wanted to give them a new experience. There’s nothing worse as a planner than going to something you’ve seen a hundred times over,” says Livingston.
The Hive is known for its savvy design and aptitude for creating intimate spaces promoting conversation. The focus for the evening was to bolster togetherness, so ambiance became key. Aptly named Fall Feast, the event played off the season’s blend of old and new. Autumn is a time of transition into a new year but also a time of reflection on the year passed, and she wanted to use the festive mood leading up to the holidays but still hold the event before the bustle and stress of preparations took over.
The other reason for a fall theme was practical: Livingston wanted to utilize blanc’s outdoor space. Located in the urban heart of Denver, north of the Ballpark neighborhood, blanc is a surprisingly intimate venue with a rustic feel. A private stone drive separates the main gallery from a renovated historic barn and features a small grove of trees, which The Hive outfitted with ottomans, low tables and woven throws for an improvised cider bar and apple lounge where guests could chat before and after dinner.
Livingston says, “blanc is really reflective of The Hive’s style, and the space goes well with the furniture that we have to showcase.”
As the guests began to arrive around 6:30 p.m., they were treated with drinks and introduced to the first staple of the night: a custom hand-washing station.
“I had this kind of silly idea,” explains Livingston. “I wanted to have a hands-on dinner with no utensils. It was about being very basic and almost primal. You’re literally sharing food with your neighbor, using your hands. But it still had to feel luxurious.”
So Livingston came up with a unique solution. A table of natural ingredients including oils, honey, lavender and fruit was set up near an antique basin. Guests could use provided recipes or create their own hand scrubs, followed by a warm rinse poured from a pitcher by an attendant.
“It was fun. When you first hear you’ll be eating with your hands, you think, ‘How is this going to work?’” says AXS Group Partner Nicole Marsh, CMP, DMCP. “But it turned out to be great. Especially the hand-washing station, which we’ve since proposed to our clients.”
Then came the dinner: a multicourse meal featuring fall’s bounty provided by Epicurean Group.
Each course came with a presentation from the chef and a paired drink. As guests first sat down, they found handwritten personal thank-you notes tucked under small hexagon-shaped mirrors serving as plates.
“I knew there were only a few people in town who could pull this dinner off,” confirms Livingston. “I have a history with Epicurean Catering, and they ended up being the perfect partner. They know how to work with harebrained ideas like hot food on nontraditional surfaces and no silverware.”
Scooping mussels from shells with their fingers and sipping soup from spice jars, the guests chatted away to the sounds of Parisian-inspired manouche jazz performed by Gypsy Swing Revue. The music blended seamlessly with the evening’s theme, and best of all it promoted conversation instead of distracting from it.
“We really broke it down to the basics: We washed hands and then sat down and ate dinner and shared food. The night was literally about getting to know the person next to you,” shares Livingston.
After a two-and-a-half-hour dinner, the night was not yet over. Guests moved outside for dessert and drinks, and the barn’s doors opened to reveal a truffle bar, which The Hive decorated with chandeliers and candles. The yard itself held barrels of grapes for a mock wine crush—another little reminder of the season and a fun finale to the night.
“After I left, I called my husband and said, ‘I just attended the most thoughtful dinner I have ever attended,’” says Dawn Williams, director, event services for Denver Center for the Performing Arts. “It was a journey for the senses and a night that I will remember forever.”
For Williams, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, The Hive’s Fall Fest made her top five event experiences.
Eclectic Hive said goodbye with make-your-own goodie bags as a subtle reminder of the evening. Each guest got to choose an item from a collection of Zents bath and spa products, two truffles and a can of Infinite Monkey Theorem wine.
“This was something I have never experienced before. Every little detail was thought out from start to finish,” says Marsh. “It’s one of those things you walk out of and there are certain elements we continue to talk about six months later.”