Elegance and informality: Both are in. Restraint and frivolity: Either one works today. Contradictory? No—as long as whatever theme you choose, your event has the feel of authenticity, says Jaclyn Bernstein, president and partner, Empire Force Events in New York City. Gimmicks are out, she adds. Today’s events are inspired by specific goals, by the venue, and by fashion trends.

What’s Hot/New York:

  • Stimulating colors (try tangerine)
  • Classic elegance
  • New ballroom setups (long, high dining tables that offer good sightlines into the room)
  • “Jersey Boys” entertainers
  • 1980s fashion (off-the-shoulder shirts, “big” hair)

North of the border, says Grant Snider, president, JPdL Destination Management, Toronto & Niagara, Canada, “we may be further into the recovery than the U.S., so we see more frivolity and fun this year.”

What’s Hot/Canada:

  • Themes attached to an emotion or a look (“fire and ice”)
  • Subtle brand reinforcement (using the company colors)
  • Private lounge areas within a larger event
  • Eye-catching tabletops, with even the food styling making a design statement

Heading south you'll find theme events inspired by vintage settings like the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Designed in 1954 by flamboyant architect Morris Lapidus (who once wrote, “If you create a stage and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part”), the resort was made famous in films (“Goldfinger,” “The Bodyguard”), on TV (“The Sopranos,” “Top Chef”), and as a result of its 2008 restoration.

It’s no wonder that glamorous 1950s- and 1960s-inspired theme parties are no-brainers here. “Planners ‘get’ that Morris Lapidus created a fabulous stage set,” says Jake Eldridge, CMP, director of catering and convention services. Who wouldn't love to dine in a ballroom that looks as it did when Frank Sinatra sang there?

What’s Hot/Miami:

  • Mixology: “Planners are going for the ‘wow’ factor at the bar, with special martinis or nitrogen-infused cocktails,” Eldridge says. “This also ties in with the history of the Fontainebleau as a popular venue for martini lunches”—back when martini lunches were popular!
  • Secret Service: This year is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, making the 007 theme a natural for the Fontainebleau, setting for 1964’s “Goldfinger.”