Plenty of Reasons to Celebrate the SeasonAmy Denyer-Grey has never bought her dad a Porsche for Christmas. But that never got in the way of him asking for one. While Denyer-Grey and her sister Debbie were growing up outside of Metro Detroit, she said that during the holidays her family would pile into the car and head to her grandma’s where they’d dine and then head back home to get ready for the big day. But not before Denyer-Grey’s dad Dennis drove the family by the Porsche dealer to remind them what he wanted. “(He’d say) ‘there’s my present. I don’t see the bow,’” said Denyer-Grey laughing. But Denyer-Grey said not to feel too sorry for her dad, today he has two of the luxury sports cars. Despite not getting his dream gift from his daughters, Denyer-Grey’s dad would stand guard every Christmas morning, making sure Santa was done with all of his work before letting his girls downstairs. Then he’d prepare breakfast for the family and, if they were lucky, some cookies baked from his mother’s secret recipe. “My dad makes fantastic cookies,” said Denyer-Grey. It’s memories like these, and the years Denyer-Grey’s mom Susan took her and Debbie to the Detroit Yacht Club for a special Santa brunch and visit with Bozo the Clown, (above) that make Denyer-Grey a fan of Christmas. Today, with a family of her own — she and her husband Ed have a six-year-old son Colin and four-year-old daughter Lydia — Denyer-Grey works to create happy, holiday memories in her household and far beyond.
A Day on the JobAs the catering sales representative at the University Club in East Lansing, Denyer-Grey works every day to help clients celebrate the seasons, special occasions and so much more. “We can do virtually anything,” said Denyer-Grey. “We can do as much or as little as someone wants us to do … We’ve got a fabulous team of chefs that will do just about anything … I just have so much fun planning … I don’t get the bill, but I get to do (it all).” “It all” includes anything and everything from helping hosts select the flowers, décor, food, music and more for their event. The University Club was founded 80 years ago. While it was originally housed on Michigan State University’s Campus, for the past 40 years it has called its current location on Forest Road, home. With more than 1,500 members, the club plays host to a number of events from weddings, to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, to business lunches to large events — like last year’s Sparrow Annual Gala — that see up to 700 guests and much more. Although it was originally only open to those with ties to MSU, today anyone in the community is welcome to become a member. To host an event at the club, you must be a member or be sponsored by a member. However, personal training services as well as the spa at the club are always open to the public. Denyer-Grey has worked at the University Club for four years. While she has most definitely found her calling in event planning, it’s not where she expected to land.Finding Her Place After graduating from high school, Denyer-Grey headed to college at Western Michigan University, where she earned a degree in communications with a specialization in public relations, journalism and English. Straight out of college Denyer-Grey got what she calls a “real job” at a traditional public relations firm and got to work. But something didn’t feel right. “It just wasn’t me,” said Denyer-Grey. And so she returned to her former job at a private club near her hometown. It was there she discovered that her passion for event planning wasn’t going to go away. Event planning is what she was meant to do. Her passion caught the eye of a fellow co-worker who suggested she apply for a position at a private club in the Bloomfield area. “It was a totally different (experience),” said Denyer-Grey. “I got to do some really, really cool events.” One of which was an opening party for a Tim Allen’s movie Jungle 2 Jungle. Another was a wedding for a food critic. After five years at that club, Denyer-Grey took a position in food service management. While she said the position tested her love of the field — she did five job transfers while with one company including an ill-fated stint in Ohio — Denyer-Grey said she gained a ton of experience through the opportunity. It was also during this time, while volunteering to help a friend paint in Muskegon, that she met her husband Ed. An experienced wedding planner, Denyer-Grey said her own wedding, which was in 2003, was very relaxed. Still, with each wedding she plans at the University Club, she said she discovers something new. “We’ve been lucky here to have brides who are just so creative,” said Denyer-Grey. “I actually learn a lot from our events … We can be so flexible … It makes every host feel like their event is their own.” Given her day job, which is anything but a typical nine to five, Denyer-Grey sees the holidays a little differently than she used to as kid. For one, Ed, Colin and Lydia do the decorating since November and December are some of the University Club’s busiest times. And with both Denyer-Grey and her sister pulling mom duties to small children, the extended family now moves around from house to house during the holidays, depending on who can be the most mobile. “We’re so laid back,” said Denyer-Grey.
Celebrate the SeasonLike she explains to her clients, the misses during an event only make it better. After all, along with the fond Porsche dealer drive by memories, Denyer-Grey said there was also the year that her dog ate the stuffed cat she received from Santa at the Yacht Club brunch. “When anything goes wrong, consider it something memorable,” she said. “I just say ‘no matter what, enjoy it’ … If you stress on the details you’ll miss it.” Since she’s busy keeping events perfect at the University Club, she said she always warns her family to be ready for a few non-perfect moments during their celebration. She hopes that like her, her children will have fond memories of the holiday season even if every holiday isn’t “sheer perfection.” Along with not stressing on the details, as Denyer-Grey prepares to celebrate the season this year she has one wish. “Whatever happens I’ll be happy as long as we’re all together.”
Emily Caswell is the Managing Editor of CAWLM. She has a passion for fun, family, friends, shopping sprees, cold drinks and Lansing.