Blog Roundup: What Corporate Events Can Learn From Wedding Planners

Spot the meeting planner vs. the wedding planner.

Do wedding planners have anything to offer corporate events? Is the experience that a wedding planner brings to weddings valuable, when staring down the barrel of a large, multi-day, multi-track, executive-level conference?

BizBash, Etouches, WilsonWest and Meetings+Events Magazine, some of the top voices in our industry, all say a resounding YES.

I present the following readings to you that remind us all that for high-level events, whether they have a social or corporate focus, there is always a “bride” (a VIP or group of VIPs), and the details always matter.

Raise the Bar on Your Next Event by Thinking Like a Wedding Planner – Meetings+Events Magazine

What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning – WilsonWest

10 Lessons Event Pros Can Learn From Weddings – BizBash

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – See more at:

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – eTouches

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:

The net-net? Don’t conflate wedding planning skills with frivolous knowledge – the skill set is very similar; the major difference is where the money comes from. A veteran wedding planner is merciless with budgets – a skill prized in corporate circles. Someone who knows how to soothe ruffled feathers during the most over-the-top family dramas is the diplomat you want when tensions run high in a conference committee. And an onsite wedding whiz who can think on their feet and handle a million guest and VIP requests simultaneously with aplomb can be a valuable contributor to a corporate event team.

Excited to join the content team at New York Institute of Art and Design!

Fun news! Through a partnership with Movable Media and the New York Institute of Art and Design, I will be regularly writing for NYIAD’s design blog on various topics related to event planning.

The first post went live this week and is called, “How to find out what your event planning client really wants.” Like the content here, our NYIAD content is written for and about the event industry professional and corporate event consumer. (For the bridal style blog, please visit The Portland Wedding Coordinator!)

How to Find Out What Your Event Planning Client Really Wants

I am very excited about this partnership and hope you enjoy the articles too. Feel free to share and comment both here and over at NYIAD. Also, if you have an event planning, event design, or event industry topic you’d like me to cover, please feel free to email me directly at


Event Design Series – Part 6: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Our final installment in the Event Design Series on the Portland Event Planner blog. Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Part 1, and where the questions came from

Part 6: Case Studies: Of all the designs and/or event decor you’ve come up with, what has been the most successful and why? …And what was the biggest ‘bust’?

I’m not going to post any client pictures as that would probably be a shock to the client that I thought their design was “a bust“. I will tell you that my weakness is sometimes being TOO accommodating to the client’s wishes.

In this example, I had a client who told me she cared absolutely nothing for decor and just wanted to make sure that the chairs in the room didn’t squeak against the floor. She had attended an event in the same venue for a fundraiser, and was horrified at the constant squeaking and grating noise the venue’s wooden chairs made against the bare concrete floor.

Obliging as always, I agreed to rent some very basic (and in my opinion, unattractive) hotel banquet chairs with little rubber tips on the chair legs. This way, my dear client would not have to endure that squeaking sound.

However, the rest of the event decor was compelling – she worked with a wonderful florist, we printed individual menus, and her guests received an adorable favor; one per place setting. Those details, coupled with the wonderful catering and simple, chic linens she had chosen meant that her choice of chair, which I had gone along with, was glaringly out of sync with the rest of the clean, classic decor. Looking back, I wish I had just suggested we purchase soft-felt furniture sliders and offered to attach them to all 800 chair legs. It would only have taken a few hours, the venue probably would have loved it, and the overall look would have been much more appealing. (Of course, this is all in my head – not a single guest, nor the bride, said anything about the ugly chairs!)

As far as a successful design? Again it seems that it came from taking a client’s wish and running with it wholly. In this event, the only direction my client gave was that she wanted “a big red party”. Working with Portland Art Museum, Vibrant Table, Royce’s Prop Shop, and Geranium Lake, we did just that. It is still one of my favorite designs of all time.

Photos: Robert McNary for Melissa Jill Photography

What are your thoughts about successful design — what constitutes a blowout or a bust? Any great event design stories to tell? Please share in the comments below.

You might also like to look back at the previous parts of this series:
Part 1- It’s an Event Design Series on The Portland Event Planner Blog!
Part 2 – Event Design Trends
Part 3 – Sustainable Event Design
Part 4 – Event Budget and Design
Part 5 – Event Theme and Design

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Event Design Series: Day 2 – Trends

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 2: Trends: What are some new trends in event design and how can an event planner keep current? What new color combinations are requested by clients? What are the most popular themes for parties, galas, and corporate events? What themes are overused?

New Trends (2012-2013): The idea of un-themes is big. “Unconferences” with informal agenda-setting sessions and crowdplanning such as WordCamp are influencing the way even traditional corporate and sales events are being planned.  Rapid-fire presentation events such as Pecha-Kucha nights, Ignite, TED and TEDx talks; and storytelling events such The Moth, Backfence, and Portland Storytelling Theater have become wildly popular.

Photo by Kirby Urner via Flickr

These events’ success show that in either a corporate or social setting, attendees want to create the agenda, tell their own story, or have an upfront, personal connection to others’ stories. I’m seeing this reflected in the continued use of performance in special events, whether it’s having dancers from the bride’s culture during a wedding; or using a speaker with an incredible story to uplift and motivate a corporate event audience.

Photo: Craig Strong.

How can I stay current on trends? I think it’s more important for event planners to be creators of new designs, not necessarily followers of trends. At the same time “there is nothing new under the sun” – or is there? I love pop culture from every corner of the globe, and that keeps me on my toes. Online resources are always popping up with something fresh and inspiring all the time. Just a year ago, nobody was using Pinterest, now it’s everywhere. Tumblr seems to be under the radar for mainstream use, but is widely used by fashion brands and designers. Anyone can easily create a Tumblr blog (a mini-blogging platform) to follow and curate their own favorite content from around the web in a mini-blog format. I have several Tumblrs and my main one for event and design inspiration is here. Travel is the best for seeing firsthand what is hot in other places, and then you can bring that back to your home base and reinterpret it.

New color combinations: Fashion and retail are always pushing color in new directions, and of course there are always the color gods at Pantone. The good old-fashioned color wheel never hurt anyone. Right now I’m really loving multicolored event palettes. Take a look at online storefront Hello Holiday to see what I mean. Multicolor doesn’t have to mean garish or childish. You can have smaller swaths of multicolor paired up with a neutral like grey to keep the look balanced.

Photo by Aubrey Trinnaman for Anthology Magazine

Popular and most overused themes? The panel found straight-up “time era” themes to be the most overused. A Fifties sock-hop for example, feels dated right now, not retro in a fun way. But if you want to do an era event, change it up by focusing on something a very narrow topic from that time – maybe one celebrity – and go from there. Call me crazy, but when I think of the 50s I think of Che Guevara. Or  Marilyn Monroe. Social events are still using vintage and shabby-chic looks; bold and preppy graphics and stripes are still big.

Hope you’ve found “Day 2” of our Event Design Series helpful. For background on this series, go here. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Event Planner Tech Tip of the Day: Reading PDFs in iBooks

For us in the event planning world who use iPhone, iPad, and iOS (which seems to be the majority), we are always looking for that cool new shortcut or hack that will make life easier. While not splashy, using iBooks to read PDFs that are emailed is one that I have found to be a huge time-saver.

Let’s say someone emails you a PDF that is important, but you want to read later. The other day, I received the Splendid Insights Global Study Wedding Report (thank you Liene!). It is 41 pages of wedding marketing goodness that I do not have time to read in one sitting, unfortunately. I also am a compulsive inbox-cleaner, so I can’t leave something like that in my inbox.

Enter iBooks, the Kindle alternative for iOS. The thing is, it’s not just for books, it reads PDFs as well and organizes them elegantly on a nice little bookshelf.

To put your PDFs in iBooks, first tap once on the PDF attachment to make sure it is fully downloaded. Then simply press and hold down down on the attachment in your email. A pop up menu will ask you if you want to “Quick Look”, “Open in iBooks”, or “Open In…”. Select “Open in iBooks”. It’s that simple!

Now your PDF is on the bookshelf ready to read when you are on the train, waiting for your table in the restaurant, or whenever. You can also use this method to save any PDF – such as event plans, event timelines, or diagrams. No more clunky clipboards at the event, just put your phone or iPad in a handy spot!

Find this hint helpful? Know any other quick event tech tips? Please leave a comment below. And if you did find it helpful, please feel free to share or pin.

Planner Olympics 2012

Photo courtesy

Two thoughts have been cooking together in my head lately. With the London 2012 Summer Olympics all over my various dashboards, it’s hard not to think of all of the related events and the planners involved. This year, also listed event planning as the #6 most stressful job – right behind soldiers, firefighters, and police. (Really?)

I hereby propose the hashtag #plannerolympics to my event planning community. If you’ve ever gone 8 hours without a restroom break, worn high heels on concrete convention hall floors for 12, or (my true story) sat politely eating nothing during a 2-hour menu tasting whilst 12 weeks pregnant and starving (because the client barely touched her food and I didn’t want to look rude), then #plannerolympics is for you.

July and August in Oregon are especially trying for independent event planners as we juggle current clients with incoming inquiries for next year, while also fielding last-minute inquiries for every event type imaginable. Strength, stamina, patience, and focus…needed by medalist athletes and professional event planners alike!

So whichever social tool you’re using, be it Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, or Google+ … tell me about your #plannerolympics. Long distance marathon walking? Heavy decor deadlift? The “don’t put that steak entrée in front of our vegetarian VIP” sprint? Do tell!