(Williamsburg's Next Door Neighbor photo)
According to Alicia Riley, it’s never too late to plan a party. Alicia is an event planner and designer who has devoted her life to creating memorable moments in people’s lives.
“Of course, the more time you give yourself the better,” she says with a smile. But any type of party could be fraught with stress, especially at this time of year. “Planning around the holiday times lends itself to its own stressors, but you have to decide what is the key to your happiness and not wrap yourselves around the idea that this is the event, this is how it’s done.” She notes this is especially prevalent at Christmas or Thanksgiving, when people are stuck on how things had been done in the past. Instead, she notes, create your own style and don’t worry about what it used to be like. “Be creative.”
Alicia is originally from Glendale, Arizona, but because her father was in the military she moved to the peninsula as a young child. “My father retired at Langley Air Force Base. I was younger. I went to Bethel High School in Hampton, and I went to college at Christopher Newport University (CNU) and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts Design Work with a concentration in event design. Then I went to the University of Phoenix and got an MBA.”
Several years ago, Alicia got married, and she and her husband, Kenny, decided to move to Williamsburg. “This our second year in Williamsburg,” she says. “I love it. I love my neighbors. They are fabulous. We’re kind of in the middle part of Williamsburg so we hear the fifes and drums on the weekends. We hear Busch Gardens. We’re in the middle of all the activity. It’s great.”
Originally, Alicia had planned to go into the medical field for a career. She was attending college with plans to become a Physician Assistant. “As part of the curriculum, I had to volunteer in something, so I decided to do a cancer bene t dinner. At the time I was thinking about the event as a whole, and I ended up trying to buy décor.” The store she went to, in Hampton, no longer exists, but the impact it made on her has lasted a lifetime. “It was beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life.”
After speaking with the owner of the store, Alicia discovered his work included events for lawyers, the shipyard, and major corporations. “He said if you’re really still interested I want you to meet a lady. She’s a professional event planner and designer.” After meeting someone in the profession, Alicia decided to change her major. “ at was a shock to my parents,” she says.
After speaking with the guidance counselors at CNU, Alicia was told she could petition for her own major but needed to write the curriculum. “I wrote a list of 70 things that I thought I needed to go into this field, and the college accepted it.” At the time the college president had started a program called the presidential leadership academy. “I was in his inaugural program. He selected me to help with his events so at the same time I was studying events I was learning how to do open houses, how to work with politicians, all those great things I needed.”
From there, her career took off, and now she is planning the release of her new book, “The Power of Events.” The book is scheduled for a December release and is divided into three sections: education, beginning event planning and protecting your business.
Read more in Williamsburg’s Next Door Neighbor by clicking HERE.