How to have a car-free wedding

cargo bike wedding car-free wedding
(c) Bryan Rupp
light rail wedding trimet MAX
(c) Evrim Icoz

Couples want to be environmentally conscious and use sustainable methods and services for their weddings. A get-together of so many people can create a great deal of carbon load and waste, and consequently, most of our clients want to reduce and offset this burden. We see a lot of couples choosing sustainably farmed foods, vegan and vegetarian menus, and using flowers and decor that are locally sourced and not creating undue waste, so why not take the next logical step and reduce fossil fuel dependency?

Conferences, conventions, and meetings have been stressing the importance of public transit and reducing the number or cars at an event for many years, but it’s taken a while to catch on for social events. Thankfully in Portland, with transit and bike culture always at the forefront, we’re seeing more and more weddings go car-free.

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What is GX? – Guest Experience

You can’t swing a cat (god forbid! we don’t actually swing cats!) in Portland without knocking over a UX (User Experience) engineer or designer. There are entire conferences dedicated to thinking about the online user experience. People are super concerned about UX, and discussions of UX are everywhere.

Bride and Groom at the dinner buffet reception
photo by FritzPhoto

But what about the offline experience, when you are in the face-to-face? I call this GX, or the Guest Experience, and I think about it all the time as it relates to events.

It’s so easy to forget about GX as we are planning our events and I wanted to put the terminology out there and make it as well-known, cared-about, and prominent as UX. After all, if you have a great online experience, but then get to an event in-person and have a bad experience, the best online design in the world can’t help.

Here are four elements that cause event creators (CEOs, wedding couples, trade show organizers, etc.) to overlook GX. I’ll use a scenario of  “the client says they don’t want chairs at a wedding ceremony” as a common example of forgotten GX.

1. Personality type. For example, a “Free Spirit” personality may think it’s fun to do a standing ceremony without chairs in a forest clearing.

2. Budget – A client may think it would save money not to rent chairs for the ceremony.

3. Haven’t reviewed the logistics. A client may think chairs are not needed, since the ceremony timing seems short.

4. Making assumptions based on a narrow experience (“I’ve never needed to sit down at a wedding, so I don’t think we need chairs”).

But you as the event planner know that there are a lot of issues with foregoing chairs at a wedding ceremony (or any event requiring an audience to be at long focused, formal attention). Here are five complementary ways we as planners and coordinators, or employees tasked with helping with an event, can step in and bring the focus back on GX:

1. Appeal to the event creator’s personality type. Again, sticking with our example scenario, if they are a “Free Spirit” type, for example (see this link for some examples of negotiating with personality types), then appeal to their sense of creativity by showing all the things people can enjoy in the wedding venue when they aren’t fatigued from standing during the ceremony. Offer creative solutions, such as hay bales or picnic blankets, that allow them to express their creative streak while still solving GX issues.

2. Show budget data and analysis. Going back to our scenario example, I would show that certain items as a percentage of budget have a disproportionate effect on GX and guest happiness. So while yes, you can cut the budget by not having chairs at the wedding; if the chairs are $2.75 each and there are 100 of them; and the total cost of the wedding is $25K (this is actually on the lower end for designed weddings in the Portland area), the small percentage of budget (1.1%) being spent on chairs will have a relatively large positive effect on GX; while getting rid of them will have a large negative effect on GX while not having a very big effect on reducing the budget.

3. Review the logistics with them. While a wedding ceremony as written can seem short, only 10-15 minutes, remember that guests usually arrive 30 or even 45 minutes before a ceremony, especially if there are out-of-towners visiting who aren’t familiar with the area. Then it takes a few minutes to get everyone in place for the wedding and send people down the aisle. There are usually a few minutes at the end for the recessional and perhaps a receiving line as well. All in all, that “short fifteen minute ceremony” usually winds up being about 30 minutes long and 30 minutes of pre-ceremony waiting. Does the client really want their guests to be standing for a whole hour?

4. Educate, educate, educate. As the event organizer or planner, it’s your responsibility to educate the event owner so they can have good GX. Again, going to our example one last time, you could educate them about possible movement, accessibility, or ability issues that guests could face. Older guests may require a place to be seated. If it’s a corporate event, you could remind about the Americans with Disabilities Act and making sure you provide accessibility and accommodations for different abilities. Once you start providing seating for older guests, it becomes awkward for those who don’t have a seat. Overall, it may be best to provide seating for everyone, and hopefully you can convince the event owner.

This is just one breakdown of the GX process as seen through the eyes of an event planner. I hope it illuminates a little about GX, guest experience, and how we plan events.

Beating the heat (and other weather woes) on your wedding day

It’s been a wild weather ride these past couple of weeks in Portland, Oregon. We’ve had a chilly and rainy early June, and now as we approach July, we’re hitting 100-degree temperatures. This reminds me of the summer we did a wedding at Bridal Veil Lakes for almost 200 people that took us through the full complement of sun, overcast, and finally rain late in the evening. Thankfully, the couple had made weather plans: renting scores of white golf umbrellas from Barclay Event Rentals, providing tent heaters, using the site’s two existing covered areas wisely, and checking the weather forecast regularly with the option of adding more tents if necessary.

Bridal-veil-lakes-portland-outdoor-wedding

Image: EJP Events

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Top signs you do NOT need a wedding planner

I know, crazy, right? Why would The Portland Wedding Coordinator blog about not needing a wedding planner? The plain truth is, not every wedding really needs one. Here are some signs that yours might be one of them:

1. You are very laid-back about the look and feel of the wedding and don't need for things to turn out or look a certain way.

2. Your event has very little etiquette, protocol, or time constraint

3. Culturally, the expectations of family and guests of your ability to host a party experience are low.

4. Your guest list is small (less than 40) people, and you don't have friends and family coming from out of town

5. The how-this-will-all-come-together is pretty cut and dried. Logistics are really easy, and your vendor team has all worked together before in that venue. Additionally, you are not creating a script or schedule that deviates greatly from what's been done before.

{ Wedding Trend Watch } Interactive Art Walls

Say what you will about corporate event planning, but I am always amazed at how often corporate events stay one step ahead of wedding trends. Often, something I see at a corporate event I know will translate perfectly for a social one; and before long I see that trend start appearing at weddings.

The art wall is one of these trends. The party host puts up a large backdrop containing drawn frames, individual watercolor sheets, or even Lego(TM) baseplates and allows each guest to customize an area of the wall. Each guest installs their art piece in the display which then becomes a grand version of a guest book as well as part of the cocktail hour entertainment and a conversation piece.

Events-art-wallsHere, website design company Virb invited guests to draw what they loved, and to tag their photo on instagram in order to enter a contest. This same multi-frame backdrop could easily be used for individual wedding guest drawings or guest book entries.

Lego-interactive-art-wall

At the Lego Kids' Fest in Portland, individual 5" x 5" base plates/"tiles" were provided with a wide selection of Lego shapes and colors. After each guest completed a tile, they were invited to add their tile to the larger display.

Are you incorporating any interactive components into your guests' experience? Or did you come up with a novel idea for cocktail hour entertainment? Please share in the comments!

Photos: EJP Events

{ Friday Roundup } Unique Escort Cards

Unique escort cards can add a special touch to your wedding, so here are some great ideas that are sure to grab your guests' attention.  Escort cards are a nice way to set the tone for dinner and can even become a favor for your guests to take home!

Using vintage keys are a wonderful way to make your guests excited to find their name. This is one that can double as a wedding favor that guests are sure to keep.

Vintage Key Escort Cards

Vintage Key Escort Cards from Style Me Pretty

 

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{ The Daily Reblog } Tips for a Disability-Friendly Wedding, from Offbeat Bride

Having a wedding is stressful enough. Add in health issues and different physical abilities, and the normal four- to eight-hour long celebration can prove to be a real strain. That’s why I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog post from Offbeat Bride that gives some great pointers to think about, from the bride’s point of view.

Phantomssiren-offbeat-bride
We also have a post from a while back, about checking for accessibility issues at your wedding venue, so all of your guests can enjoy the festivities. You’ll find it here: Accessibility in a Wedding Venue

Are you making any specific accommodations for yourself or your guests at your wedding? How did you get what you needed from your venue or vendors? Please share in the comments.

thoughts on service

Today, I called a florist with a last-minute request for a few more napkins and linens.  The wedding is tomorrow, it’s been a very elaborate, complex one, and as I was going over the list I realized that a few service tables might not have linens, and I didn’t want any franticness on the day of the event.

After I made my request, the florist said “OK, we’ll take care of that for you.”  Then, she added sarcastically, “The rental company is just gonna love us.”

And I thought to myself, thank goodness my client has a wedding coordinator, because she was spared that kind of attitude the day before her wedding.  In my opinion, the grating remark was unnecessary and unprofessional.  There was no need to comment on the trouble involved, since it is our job to go to a little trouble. 

The wedding industry is supposed to be about taking problems and stress away from the client, and by transference, taking them on ourselves.  That’s what we’re paid to do.  If all florists did was arrange flowers, then they’d be out of a job the minute a bride saw what was available at the farmers’ market.  If all wedding coordinators did was to make phone calls, then any bride could do it.  Our business is supposed to provide much more than that.  We are supposed to provide professional service and peace of mind.