Native Houstonian Lucas Somoza with models at the grand soirée of a three-day birthday celebration held at Shangri-La Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
The Grand Salon of the Shangri-La Paris where Luca Somoza created a lavish birthday celebration for Houstonian Sheridan Williams. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
The birthday girl tasked event planner Lucas Somoza with locating cherry blossoms for her party at Shangri-La Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
Luca Somoza had his florist provide every flower imaginable for the 18-foot long table in the Grand Salon of Shangri-La Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
A table set for royalty could not be more grand than Lucas Somoza's design for Sheridan Williams' birthday. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
Opera singers part of the surprise at Sheridan William's birthday celebration in Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
Luca Somoza creates a dinner table like no one else, here for the birthday party of Sheridan Williams. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Lucas Somoza set the birthday dinner table with 19th century Sevres porcelain on loan from a private collector. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Detail of the table decor at Sheridan Williams' birthday celebration in Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
Sheridan Williams' birthday cake at the dinner evening orchestrated by Lucas Somoza. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
Lauren Haley, Sheridan & John Eddie Williams, Kristen Nix at the birthday dinner at the Shangri-La Paris, orchestrated by Lucas Somoza. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
The orchid-covered chandelier was dressed to match the color palette of the after party at the Shangri-La Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
The dashing Lucas Somoza carves a trés luxe niche for entertaining anglophones in Paris. (Photo by Le Secret D'Audrey, Audrey Neracoulis)
The welcome lunch for Sheridan William's birthday in Paris, held at rooftop Restaurant Perruche. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
With a gilt-edged upbringing — one of his grandmothers was the first lady of Nicaragua, the other the grande dame of a storied Texas ranch — Lucas Somoza seemed poised from the start to live an extraordinary life. Today, the dashing native Houstonian hangs his tuxedos in Paris where he has established a prosperous event planning firm. His expertise in all things hospitality honed at the knees of both grandmothers.
Isabel Somoza introduced the young lad to the politesse of diplomatic life. There were the state dinners, receptions for dignitaries, the adherence to protocols and the glamor of white tie with medals. Mary Sue Koontz Nelson of the HK Ranch presented Somoza with an entirely different approach to entertaining.
“No one gives a pasture party like Mary Sue, from fireworks to barbecue,” Somoza says.
I met up with Luca Somoza in Giorgio’s Bar at Hotel Granduca, where the debonaire gent was bunking during a Houston visit. His calendar is filling with parties to plan in Paris. The timing is right to explore his burgeoning career.
After graduating from Kinkaid, Lucas Somoza headed to Paris for studies at the American University where upon graduation the family celebrated with a lavish dinner for 50 at the Hotel George V followed by dancing into the wee hours at members-only club Castel. One could surmise that this set the stage for Somoza’s future vocation as the gilded soirée at the George V came replete with “thousands of peonies, orchids and scented candles,” as I wrote in 2006.
It was in New York that Somoza dove into event planning at a luxe level. After earning his masters degree in marketing at New York University, he joined LVMH, heading marketing in the beauty and fragrance sector. Organizing lavish promotional events, VIP dinners and charity sponsorships proved to be Somoza’s forte.
“I loved the adrenalin rush that came with building a sand castle,” he tells PaperCity. “And I also enjoyed the romanticism of the ephemeral that we went to such lengths to create these beautiful moments that were just that — a moment. It’s four hours. It’s six hours. And then it’s all gone.
“And, yes, it’s extravagant. But there is something romantic and ‘You had to be there’ about it that I love.”
In the meantime, Somoza met Thierry Wasser, the legendary in-house perfumer for Guerlain, and a move to Paris with LVMH ensued as the two eventually wed there. Planning their wedding — 150 guests at the Hotel George V — proved to be the launch pad for Somoza’s namesake firm.
“I realized that no one there was doing the level of customization that we as Americans are used to and no one there understands the unique Texan philosophy of entertaining graciously,” Somoza notes. “My specialty is designing luxury events, bespoke events for extremely discerning clients that are largely Anglophone. They dream of hosting an event in Paris.
“But Paris is a difficult city. It’s a closed city and if you don’t have the little black book of contacts, the thought of entertaining 150 people over three days can be so daunting.”
Somoza’s business has flourished since officially launching in 2013. His 2023 roster of events included three nights of gala parties for 100 Brazilian business people and spouses, a three-day wedding celebration for a Dallas bride, a birthday party for a client from Los Angeles, and then there was a special birthday celebration for a Houstonian. One that spotlights Somoza’s creativity and expertise.
His skill set was put to the test last winter when he was tapped by Sheridan and John Eddie Williams to organize three days of over-the-top festivities celebrating Sheridan’s 70th birthday. The three-month time frame for orchestrating five events over three days might have been daunting, but the native Texan and his team succeeded on all points. Guests are still applauding the cornucopia of festivities.
The entertainments began with a rooftop al fresco luncheon with views of the Eiffel Tower and serenading musicians that had guests swaying in their chairs as they sang along. Day two began with two luncheons — a Russian themed caviar lunch for the ladies at Maison Russe and a fine Scotch and cigars lunch for the gentlemen at La Réserv Le Duc de Morny Library. That evening brought the grand birthday soirée in the gilded Grand Salon of the historic Shangri-La Paris hotel.
The black-tie clutch gathered for cocktails on a terrace with views to the Eiffel Tower then moved to the salon for a spectacular dinner with guests seated at one long (18.5 feet) table awash in floral bouquets, fruit-filled antique compotes, candles and Chinoiserie pieces. The table was set with antique Sevres porcelain, borrowed from a private collector to whom Somoza has exclusive access.
The fête included opera singers and presentation of a towering birthday cake accompanied by professional singers leading the “Happy Birthday” serenade. The after party featured Les Cigales Paris, the singers dresses ordered by Somoza who insured that the color palette was in line with that of the evening as were the hundreds of orchids that embellished the massive chandelier .
The final evening was a dinner cruise on the Seine, the bateaux temporarily renamed the Lady Sheridan, after the couples’ storied yacht.
All completed within budget.
For the Dallas bride, Somoza accompanied her on bridal shopping in New York, advising on the dress for the rehearsal dinner, the welcome party, the second look and the wedding dress. It is all part of his extraordinary contract.
“How cool it is that I have found a field where I get to express myself so creatively in so many areas?” Somoza says. “It’s the cuisine which I love. It’s the flowers which I adore. But it’s also lighting so it touches on interior design. It’s about music. It’s about excitement and the drama of a review or a surprise. All of that comes into play with these types of events and I love it.
“I do feel that my MBA has not totally gone to waste because I do a create a helluva spread sheet.”