An Interview with Joyce Pollakoff

On this week’s G1028 blog, we are going to be featuring a lovely wedding and event planner from Chicago’s North Shore, Joyce Pollakoff. Joyce has been planning events for over 25 years and is incredibly passionate about her work. Working with planners like Joyce is one of the true pleasures of being in the industry. Now on to the interview:


G1028: How did you get started in the event planning industry? 

Joyce Pollakoff: I am truly very fortunate to have had my mother in law Joyce Pollakoff Sr. introduce me to the industry 25 years ago. She has been such a wonderful mentor. We were business partners for 18 years until she retired in 2009.

We continue to enjoy talking about our clients’ events past and present.

Photo credit Stanton Kramer Photography

Photo credit Stanton Kramer Photography


G1028: Have you had clients work with your mother-in-law, and then have other members of the family worked with you?

JP: Absolutely! We have been planning events for many of the same families over the years and couldn't be more proud to be part of their family life cycle celebrations.


G1028: What are some of the challenges of working with the same – or different - members of the same family over the years?

JP: There are some challenges, but there are definitely more benefits. Each event has its own personality and meaning, and it's great to know generations of families, what they like, and how to work with them. I am honored that so many families have continued to contact me for their life events.


G1028: How do you usually get your ideas for events? Do your clients provide you with a general idea, and then do you work your magic from there?

JP: Sometimes my clients provide me with a theme or a focus they have in mind. If not I learn more about my clients and what they are passionate about to help them personalize their event.

There is no better way to gain inspiration than from real life experiences. Personally, I am inspired by art, music, and reading. I love to take inspirations from those and translate them into my events.

I was just in New York and saw a Jazz Show in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where I got inspiration from new ideas for staging and lighting.

I also had the opportunity to see one of my past Bar Mitzvah clients perform in the show ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ on Broadway and was able to go backstage to congratulate him.

photo credit North Shore Photography

photo credit North Shore Photography

G1028: What is your favorite event that you have ever planned?

JP: One of my favorite events that I have ever planned was a wedding for a 75 year-old couple on Winter Solstice. They were truly in love with each other and wanted an event full of surprises. Their love showed through all of their choices regarding the menu and music. For the cocktail hour, they selected their favorite music from high school, which was performed by a famous pianist from Ravinia Festival, creating an amazing sing-a-long. The true surprise was when everyone was invited to a gorgeous tent in the back of the country club where there was a 20-piece orchestra and a small-plate menu of all of the foods they loved. It is always the words and emotions of my clients that make an event special. It was an honor to be chosen by them.


G1028: Are there certain things that you have in your back pocket that you are waiting to showcase at events?

JP: I always have something that I look forward to doing. I wait for the right time and the right client that will appreciate doing something different.


G1028: Are there trends that dwindled away that you would like to make a comeback?

JP: I love including family traditions and heirlooms into a ceremony. I recently had a couple have their grandfathers purple heart on the chuppah table along with their family Kiddush cups. It truly makes for a personal touch that can be seen and felt by all the guests.


G1028: Are there trends that you wish hadn't come back?

JP: I try to embrace all trends that my clients love. I help them find ways to incorporate them into their events.


G1028: When you plan a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, how do you manage to tailor to adults and teenagers at the same time?

JP: I try to make sure the adults have some time where the music is specifically for their taste, usually a dance set for the adults when the kids are eating. I really encourage separate cocktail hours to make sure everyone has time to talk and enjoy each other’s company. I truly enjoy when all the guests are together dancing and can enjoy the party as one.

photo credit Garbo Studios

photo credit Garbo Studios

G1028: What are some tips and tricks for a successful event?

JP: The timing of an event and working together as a team are the two most important things for a successful event. It is crucial to have a detailed schedule and to have reviewed the event with the vendors so everyone is completely prepared. I always bring my clients into the room ahead of the guests so they can enjoy a moment of seeing their vision come alive. It’s an emotional moment that carries throughout the event.


G1028: Did you plan your own wedding?

JP: My mother-in-law planned my wedding. The only thing I did was pick out my wedding dress and the bridesmaids dresses. However, I did have the opportunity to plan my daughter's wedding this past year. It was wonderful because it was all about the bride and groom. After the wedding, every guest truly felt the love and emotions of this adorable couple, which is a goal that I strive to achieve for all of my clients.


G1028: Do you think food selection is crucial for a successful event?

JP: People eat and enjoy parties with all of their senses. It is important to think about all these senses when you plan an event. I am a foodie and constantly engaged in the culinary world. I truly enjoy working with caterers to create a delicious and beautiful food presentation that my clients and their guests will remember and enjoy.


photo credit Paul Yamashiro Photography

photo credit Paul Yamashiro Photography

If you would like to learn more about Joyce Pollakoff Events, head on over to for more! Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about how technology can spice up your event!


cover photo by Jai Girard Photo

Calihan Blog Staff