Is accessibility on your site selection checklist? It’s not always something that you as the couple may be thinking about. Often, high on the site “gotta haves” are things like a gorgeous view, good chairs, and a good selection of caterers.
However, with so many people of varied ages and needs in most families, some thought should be given to the accessibility of your wedding event sites. And that’s not just limited to the ceremony and reception — think also of your rehearsal dinner, bridal luncheon, goodbye brunch, or any other events to which you might have guests attending with accessibility needs.
The most common issues are older folks — think Grandma and Grandpa, your Auntie coming from abroad; anyone who might have trouble with a flight of stairs, a steep stone path, or uneven walkways. Think about any of your family or guests who have recently had surgery or medical treatment which might make walking or longer distances between sites a potential challenge.
Putting a little bit of forethought into the accessibility of your chosen site can help a great deal in making sure all of your guests, including those with physical challenges, feel welcome and comfortable at your wedding.
A version of this article appeared on the blog in June 2008.
Receiving lines. Do they bring to mind stuffy, overly-formal, laced up affairs from 1987? Actually, a receiving line is a very good idea for several reasons. Here’s why: It’s imperative that you personally greet each and every guest that comes to your wedding. They have taken off work, scheduled babysitters, and traveled from far and near to witness your big day. Don’t leave your guests hanging and put yourself in a tizzy, wondering if you got to this group or that group.
In addition, leaving the guest-greeting to a casual time, such as the interval between dinner and dancing, means that you will inevitably have to cut your meal short in order to go table-to-table. Let’s think about that. Most of you have spent so much time planning the menu! Most of you say, “The reception – food, drink, dancing – is the most important part.” Shouldn’t you enjoy your first meal as a married couple as well, instead of hurrying from group to group?
There are lots of different places you can fit a receiving line in your wedding timeline. Immediately after the ceremony; as guests move from cocktail hour into the dining room; or even a reverse receiving line where the couple greets each pew in the church as they leave. We’ve even seen a “Bartending receiving line” where the couple tended bar for the first hour and poured all of their guests a pint of their favorite craft beer!
Check with your planner to see which scenario is best for you. But by all means, make sure you greet each of your guests personally!
A version of this article appeared on the EJP Events – Portland Wedding Coordinator blog in 2010.
We recently spent some time traveling through Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island. The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Puget Sound north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, consisting of over 400 islands and rocks. The four largest islands, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, are accessible to the mainland via the Washington State Ferry System.
The islands offer a rich tapestry of forests, farmlands, and beaches, plus spectacular views of the water and mountains. You’ll find several wineries and organic farms dotting the islands. The islands are overall rural, but you’ll find urban services in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Lopez Village on Lopez Island, and Eastsound on Orcas Island. This area is a popular tourist destination in the summer (many people have summer homes here), so it can feel a bit crowded on a nice July weekend. But the overall climate of the islands is more moderate and drier than the mainland, meaning winter explorations are a great way to beat the crowds.
Here are some ideas for your San Juan Islands wedding weekend!
A note about transportation: The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is the primary transportation to the islands, connecting the San Juans to Anacortes on the mainland. During the summer, there is one WSF trip to Sidney, British Columbia, just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The Victoria Clipper runs a passenger-only ferry from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor. Privately chartered boat and plane transportation to the San Juan Islands is also available. If you plan on bringing your car on the Washington State Ferries on weekends or during the summer months, advance reservations are strongly recommended! However, you’ll always get on the next ferry if you are on foot or bicycle, no reservation needed, no matter what. Long term paid parking is available at the Anacortes terminal.
I was lucky to recently spend some time in the Skagit Valley and San Juan Islands. There are so many lovely locations in this area for a Pacific Northwest destination wedding, especially for those thinking about spring and summer events.
Whether you’re coming from the East Coast, or just from Portland where we’re based, the area is easy to get to from either Sea-Tac or Bellingham airports; or just off I-5.
Amtrak Cascades serves the town of Mt. Vernon so, you could even throw your bikes on the train and have a car-free wedding or elopement.
Skagit Valley is known for its flower farms, farmers’ markets, and local art. Anacortes, WA is your jumping-off point to catch ferries for the San Juan Islands; or you may want to spend time in the charming towns of Mt. Vernon, or La Conner (where we hung out the most), or Bow. Here are just a few ideas for your Skagit Valley wedding weekend.
How time flies! Beth and Sachin were married last summer in the Columbia River Gorge. Many thanks to Evrim Icoz for capturing the day through these photographs.
The wedding weekend kicked off with a Friday evening rehearsal dinner at Multnomah Falls Lodge, followed by a welcome event at the hotel featuring local Oregon and Washington bourbon, beer, and wine tastings; mehndi hand painting by Amrapali Boutique, and lots of treats including s’mores around the fire and cuisine provided by Skamania Lodge catering. Northwest Navigator was on hand to make it easy for guests to get around the Gorge.
Saturday, everyone was up early for beauty and preparations. Family and friends shared in both traditional Hindu wedding rites and a non-denominational Christian ceremony. The cocktail hour was held in a quiet garden patio area, and followed by the wedding dinner reception and dancing a meadow lit with twinkling lights and adorned with bright flowers and vintage details.
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.
Elopements don’t have the same social connotations as in days of yore: a rushed wedding, kept under wraps for various reasons; family drama. Nowadays, elopements are becoming a popular choice for couples who don’t feel a big, traditional wedding suits them. Modern elopements, rather than being just the couple running off together, now often include a small number of close family and friends.
What makes it a modern elopement?
The couple is often going to a destination wedding location rather than marrying in one or the other’s hometown, or their current place of residence
There are less than six months of planning involved
Some traditional wedding customs may be left out such as a lavish wedding cake, printed invitations, or an elaborate dress.
What items are we still seeing being “left in” the elopement that are like a planned wedding?
A lot of thought is still going into the wedding clothing and for the couple to look their best
The location is very important, since without a lot of wedding traditions, the location is the centerpiece and more important than decor. The location IS the decor.
Wedding photography is not getting skimped on! In fact, many elopement weddings we’re seeing are able to afford a skilled professional photographer, because they aren’t spending so much on having hundreds of guests in attendance.
What are the pros?
Can save a lot of money. Reducing guest count is the number one way to reduce the cost of a wedding.
Simplifies arrangements. By not using many wedding traditions, the overall planning becomes simpler. Elopement planners can be used to help find the location and negotiate contracts, and may set everything up; but once you walk down the aisle, you may not need the full services of a wedding planner. Asking a wedding planner about their elopement package for a group of 20 guests or fewer may result in surprising savings.
Could reduce stress. If you are introverted, or just don’t like the fuss surrounding a traditional wedding with a large dance party and hundreds of guests, a small wedding or modern elopement can feel perfect.
What are the cons?
Some people could feel left out. If it’s common in your family culture to have large weddings, those not invited could feel snubbed. Check with the elders of your family if you think this could be the case! Be diplomatic and use the 25-year-rule.
Does not always mean a great reduction in cost. We have seen modern elopements where wedding guests are included, quickly turn into destination weddings. These type of events can quickly grow to a $5,000-$10,000 price tag for 20-50 guests. As long as you have set your budget and planned carefully in advance, you should be able to get the type of wedding you want. A wedding planner can be helpful in this respect, especially those who do a “Kick-Off Consultation”.
It can be hard to find just the right location for a modern elopement. A couple searching on the internet for a place to get married can often easily find the flagship or traditional wedding venues in a destination, while the quirky, unusual, or unique locations are harder to find. For this reason it can be helpful to work with a wedding planner who is familiar with your destination, has traveled there before, and can possibly offer a different angle from what you would see on traditional wedding websites like TheKnot and WeddingWire.
Whichever direction you take your wedding planning in, there are a lot of great elements that we can take from smaller, intimate weddings and elopements.
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.
Kristin and Jason were married last July at Lewis and Clark College in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel and their reception was at Smith Hall in the historic Albany Quadrangle on campus. Many thanks to Joe Riedl for the photos of the day.
We enjoyed working with the following great companies to make their day truly special:
We just heard from our friends at Jupiter Hotel that they are giving a way a free wedding at their new hotel Jupiter Next!
The @jupiterhotel is gearing up for the opening of their expansion, Jupiter NEXT, and to share the love they are GIVING AWAY A WEDDING! Enter to win by posting an Instagram video using their handle @Jupiterhotel AND the hashtag #loveatnext to tell them WHY you want to get married in Portland and why, specifically at the Jupiter NEXT. Winner will receive a wedding package valued at $8k. The lucky winner will be announced on 3/13. Check the link in their bio for more details!
Jupiter NEXT Wedding Giveaway!! Enter to win by posting an Instagram video on your profile using the handle @Jupiterhotel AND the hashtag #loveatnext and tell us WHY you want to get married in Portland and why, specifically, at Jupiter NEXT.
Package Value: $8,000
Entire Second Floor Event space (8 thousand square feet) which includes:
Cocktail Reception Space
Extra Room (used for whatever you see fit including photo booth area etc)