Debi Lilly knows how to party without breaking a sweat. As the creative powerhouse behind A Perfect Event, one of Chicago’s premier event planning companies, Lilly strives to make entertaining easy. And while her clients include megastars like Oprah and publications like InStyle, she considers the young married couple hosting their first dinner party just as important. “The thing I love about my job is inspiring other people to elevate their own entertaining,” Lilly says. “Everyone thinks throwing a party is stressful and expensive. We disagree.”
It’s that mentality that led Lilly to write her book A Perfect Event, a greatest hits collection of the celebrations she’s thrown, along with tips, shortcuts and tricks to help people do it on their own. The party-planner’s guidebook, published last July, is built around her key piece of advice: Have fun. “As the host or hostess, when you open that door for your guests, you’re the barometer of fun. You want to answer that door ready to go with a big smile on your face.”
But it’s not enough to pen a book or plan a party — Lilly wants to make entertaining easy, accessible and affordable. She’s partnered with Safeway, the company behind Dominick’s, to create Debi Lilly Designs, a collection of timeless, beautiful objects at an affordable price point. Her holiday collection, in stores now, includes topiary, candles, cake stands and vases, many made from mercury glass, which Lilly loves for its elegance and yearlong usability.
While she’s always up for a swank shindig, Lilly knows that people are busier than ever and can’t always play host. So she recommends Chef Art Smith’s Table 52 (52 W. Elm) as a home away from home. “It’s a lovely, comforting and intimate setting,” she says.
Here, Lilly walks us through her standard Sunday, spent with people that always make her merry: her family.
Lilly takes her two children, ages 8 and 10, to Julius Meinl (3601 N. Southport) for their daily green tea fix.
The family heads to Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport) for an artsy, old-school singalong show.
“My kids upped the ante on their lemonade stand and opened their first business, an old-fashioned candy bar inside my store, A Perfect Event [3050 N. Lincoln],” says Lilly. “Sunday is their time to check inventory and brainstorm new candyland projects.”
Lilly loves scouring the Chicago Antique Center (3036 N. Lincoln) for perfect pieces for her home, inspiration for party themes and ideas for her bimonthly digital magazine, A Perfect Event.
The Lilly clan heads down to the Heritage Bicycle General Store (2959 N. Lincoln) to relax in the café. They’re fans of the shop’s Chicago-made bikes.
“Sundays end with me cooking a giant pot of turkey black bean chili or the kids’ favorite: picadillo,” says Lilly.