Everyone who follows the wedding and events industries – or celebrity news – knows that Bryan Rafanelli, founder of Rafanelli Events, in Boston, is the man who managed to get Chelsea Clinton’s wedding off without a hitch.
Less known is that Rafanelli grew up in Rhode Island, flexing his entrepreneurial instincts at a young age by running his own neighborhood lawn-mowing business. He garnered a love for special events through constant family celebrations he says were a central part of his Italian-Irish upbringing.
Once on the path to becoming a lawyer, he veered into the political arena, another early love, by working on campaigns in Syracuse, N.Y., where he went to college, and parlayed organizing fundraisers into becoming an event planner.
He founded Rafanelli Events in 1996 and since has expanded his business to offices in Washington, D.C., Palm Beach, Fla., and New York City.
In addition to being enlisted by former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to plan their only daughter’s 2010 nuptials, he’s participated in planning four state dinners for President Barack Obama, under the direction of social secretary Jeremy Bernard.
Recently, he served as a guest lecturer to Johnson & Wales University students in the school’s sports, entertainment and event-management program at its Providence campus.
Some 500 undergraduates attended.
PBN: Is event planning a dream you followed through your own schooling?
RAFANELLI: In my day, there was no such [thing as] an event-planning major. When I went off to school and joined a fraternity, I certainly ended up understanding what throwing a party [such as formal events] was and I was very good at it. My friends would say, “You should figure out how to make money [on this],” but it was not a career [option] at all. I really wanted [to do something creative] and I loved politics. I really got a tasting of organizing, going door-to-door [on a campaign]. The story ends where I brought the two of them together, but I certainly didn’t remotely think about that [growing up].