All About Dossiers

Representing the theme, color scheme, and scale of an event, these hyper-curated documents provide guests with an amazing reference guide to plan the perfect outfit for a special occasion.

What’s A Dossier?

Dossiers are lookbooks, used for attire purposes, that inspire guests to dress in accordance with an event theme.

They’re typically presented on an event website, or as an enclosure card of an invitation suite. They can also be sent several weeks out from an event, when attire is more top of mind for guests.

When Should I Use it?

When a theme is hyper-specific, dossiers are the way to go.

Perhaps the desired dress code is difficult to interpret from the attire specified on the invitation alone. It’s not as simple as ‘Formal,’ or ‘Cocktail Attire.’

Think: Resort Chic, Wild Wild West, or Shine Bright, which was the theme of a past Knot Gala that requested guests dress in all white with metallic accents… View the Knot Gala 2019 Pinterest board that was shared with guests here.

Dossiers are extremely useful for events that span across a weekend, especially wedding weekends. If a wedding client is hosting a welcome party on the Thursday prior to the wedding, a rehearsal dinner on Friday, wedding on Saturday, and post-wedding brunch on Sunday, and each event has a specific theme, dossiers can serve as the perfect tool to communicate what guests should wear. It’s a huge asset during their packing process!

Where Do I Start?

Pick a few words that exemplify the scope and scale of the event, aesthetic, and vibe.

Is it chic, effortless and vibrant, or is it more black tie, sophisticated and refined? Consider including colors, locations, or phrases – it’s completely up to your interpretation of the event.

Use those words as checks and balances when deciding if an image is the right fit to include in the dossier. As always, reference Event Goals to make sure these words support exactly what the event looks to achieve.

Source and file inspiration images from magazines, online articles, designers, characters from movies, the event venue… inspiration is everywhere!

When it comes to dossiers, less is definitely more. Limit the final selection to the top photos or phrases that best represent the look for each event.

How Does It Come Together?

Dossiers can be illustrations on printed material, such as a trifold card stock that’s enclosed in the invitation. They can also be digital, included on a website for the event or a stand-alone site, or presented via Pinterest.

Pro-Tip: Consider hiring a watercolorist to hand paint the dossier, or a graphic designer to digitally create each look. Working with a professional gives you the flexibility to completely customize the dossier, and produce something that’s visually stunning!

Some illustrators will handle the design only, and share the graphics with the client for them to print. Others will supply the printed or digital materials. Pricing is usually billed on an hourly basis, and varies depending on the number of revisions.

Once the dossier is complete, watch your vision come to life on the event day. If you’re Type-A like me, you’ll love how cohesive guests look as they move throughout the event environment. It looks impeccable in photos!

Have a question about something specific? Ask it on my Q&A page!

Read more Event Planning advice.

Event Decks

Decks provide visual reference for event concepting, design, layout, form and function. They’re an extremely useful tool to curate how an event will look and feel.

What is an Event Deck?

After I’ve surfed through Pinterest, mulled over different designs, and have a skeletal plan for an event, I launch Powerpoint and begin working on a deck.

The deck serves two purposes; representing inspiration and actualized ideas. It flushes out concepts, serves as a hub of information and is ultimately a decision-making platform.

When I build a deck, I like to think in terms of event flow, with a beginning, middle and end. I start by choosing a cover photo that best represents the vibe I’m after.

My Event Deck features tropical concepts, represented by this pool with palm leaves
Photo by Scott Webb on

Finding Inspiration

In the early stages of a deck, the next 10-20 slides are filled with inspiration images ranging from stationery ideas, to welcome moments, decor, activities, food and beverage, and guest gifts.

There could be as many as 3-5 different themes shown in these initial images. Think of this step as a jumping off point to guide you towards a final theme direction that best accomplishes the goals you’re after.

Read more about the importance of defining goals for your event here and the role they play during the planning process.

My Event Deck includes concepts like a beauty bar activation, represented by this image of powdered eyeshadows in pink, blue, orange, and purple
Photo by 𝐕𝐞𝐧𝐮𝐬 𝐇𝐃 𝐌𝐚𝐤𝐞- 𝐮𝐩 & 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐮𝐦𝐞 on

Looking at Logistics

As the deck is populated with inspiration, consider the following for each concept shown:

How does this support the overarching goals of the event?

Is this feasible in accordance with the event budget?

What labor will this realistically require for set up, during the event itself and strike?

All of these questions will prompt you to play out scenarios for each design.

Finalizing the Theme

Look for patterns in the inspiration photos that make you most excited, and identify exactly which parts of those images you are drawn to and why. Research the marketplace for the concepts shown, it may become clear that certain themes are out of budget, or lacking in availability.

At this stage, you will have fully flushed out the design, compared pricing to the event budget and confirmed availability. Check the box for due diligence!

Once the theme is selected, deep dive into design. Remove any inspiration images that no longer fit the scope and scale of the event.

It’s totally fine to mix and match inspiration images that showcase different themes. The point is that the deck makes sense to you. It doesn’t need to represent one continuous design plan just yet.

My Event Deck includes flamingo stakes, pictured here, and pink accents with palm leaves
Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on

Pro-Tip: Lean into the design by creating vignettes for each phase of the event. Consider the presentation of everything; treat all vessels, activities, food & beverage, and decor as a decision. Be thorough here, anything within the event environment should be on-brand and represent the theme.

Planning for Purchases

While sourcing materials for the event, add product links and pricing to the notes section of the Powerpoint slide that houses the items you’re considering.

Look for multiple suppliers of those products – don’t just purchase the first one you see. Starting far enough in advance of the event will position you to purchase items when they’re on sale.

When your first purchase has been made, separate the event deck into two sections: Inspiration and Purchased. Reference and compare the two sections against future purchases to stay on theme. This is also when an Inventory List will come into play.

Two nude pool umbrellas
Photo by Dids on

It’s All Coming Together

At this stage, the deck is no longer a shell of a design, but instead a cohesive lookbook of actualized purchases.

Populate your deck in real-time, as purchases are made and orders are confirmed, to account for each piece of the puzzle.

Don’t forget to include stationery, like the save the date!

Pink exterior envelope with my name on it in white script. This was the save the date invitation for my twenty fifth birthday bash
Envelope liner with palm leaves
Save the date invitation with pink flamingos and gold and pink writing

Final Edits

Once all purchases are reflected in the deck, play the presentation on full screen a few times, and organize slides in a cohesive way; mirroring the beginning, middle and end of the event.

It’s super helpful if the items on each slide make up the vignette being produced on the event day. Then, it can be easily translated to a visual checklist of items to account for once you or any staff hired starts to set up.

Final edits solidify the vision and goals for the event, and demonstrate how to properly execute those moments in a turnkey way.

Round beach towels in palm leaves and pink flamingos. Yellow palm leaf pillows
Tropical sun visors in playful patterns like rainbow, mermaid, orange, iridescent and pink and green palm leaves.
"Baby Got Bounce" inflatable beach ball, "Island Vibes" inflatable flyer and inflatable volleyball net for pool

The Completed Deck

Toss the confetti, the deck is complete!

Download the presentation to your phone for quick reference on the event day. This step-by-step guide is such a helpful resource to identify where every item will live, so be sure to share with anyone assisting with set up on the event day.

To view an example of a final event deck, click the Download button below. This deck shows the plans for my twenty fifth birthday celebration that took place over the summer of 2020 (I had a blast with this one). To read more about that party and how it came to fruition, click here.

Have a question about something specific? Ask it on my Q&A page!

Read more Event Planning advice.