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Tips and Tricks: Accessibility

Medicalcongress93 courtesy Clara Natoli, http://claranatoli.blogspot.com/ clarita1000@gmail.comIs 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.

Tips and Tricks: Why a receiving line is (still) a good idea

Wedding-planning-receiving-line

Photo: Jessica Spengler

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!

via ejpevents on Instagram

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.

Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest

photo: MaxPixel

I’m an event planner, but often I’m also an event guest. I wanted to share a recent experience I had with you, as a sort of case study, and would love to get your feedback.

I received an invitation to come to a sales event for a brand of event software. This event promised lunch and networking. It seemed like a great idea: Check out a possibly helpful software tool, have lunch, and meet other event and meeting planners. To top it off, the event was being held in a popular downtown venue. Sounds great! I signed up online for both myself and my event manager, and put the event in my calendar.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest”

San Juan Island Weddings

Agate Beach, Lopez Island

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!

San Juan Island:

Lopez Island:

Orcas Island:

A Washington State Ferry heads towards the San Juan Islands

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.

Skagit Valley Weddings

The Skagit Valley in March, when the daffodils are blooming

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.

5 ways small businesses can test the event sponsorship waters

A silent auction setup for a school auction at the Portland State University Smith Memorial Ballroom.

The investment into event sponsorship can be very rewarding for an organization, but it can also feel risky. While sponsoring an event can be a valuable way for a business or an organization to connect with a community or interest group, for small businesses, the dollar amounts involved can be daunting. Does that mean that there’s no room for small businesses to take part? Absolutely not – here are some ways small businesses can “test the sponsorship waters” before launching into larger (higher dollar amount) sponsorships of events:

  • Donation of gift cards to silent auctions
  • Participate in more intimate, smaller-audience events
  • Buy a table and invite business colleagues to dine out for a cause
  • Sponsor a teacher or attendee scholarship so an under-served population can attend an event
  • In-kind sponsorship: Providing the business’s service or product for use at the event
  • Offer volunteer perks/meals/lounge areas to support the volunteers of an event
It’s always important for the business to be clear about the goals and objectives of sponsoring an event and to make sure they are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Equally important is to have a written sponsorship agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each party and the benefits the sponsor will receive.
By being clear about the objectives, and measuring the results of a small, trial-run sponsorship, even small businesses can see benefits; and eventually, hopefully realize gains that previously they only thought large organizations could achieve.

{ Real Weddings } Bright colors and vintage details: Beth and Sachin

 

Evrim Icoz Photography
Evrim Icoz Photography

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.

Continue reading “{ Real Weddings } Bright colors and vintage details: Beth and Sachin”

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.

Continue reading “How to have a car-free wedding”

Thoughts on creating community within a large, international alumni association

I had the opportunity last fall to attend the Association of Yale Alumni’s annual Assembly* in New Haven, CT.

As an alumna and an AYA volunteer, and especially as a meeting planner and association manager (I do event planning and contract association management for a couple of regional associations in the Pacific Northwest); it was an exciting opportunity to see the inner workings of a large, international, global association encompassing more than 160,000 members around the world.

The theme for the event was “Creating Community at Yale” and attendees came from all eras, from The Silent Generation to the newest “Gen Z”ers from Yale’s graduating class of 2017.

The entire 3-day conference was packed so full of activities, I hardly had any time to document, but I did put together this short slideshow to give you a glimpse of what attending the AYA Assembly is like:

AYA Assembly 2017
Click for Flickr Slideshow


And how do you create community in such a massive organization, spanning so many age groups, interest groups, and regions? Certainly the answer can’t be contained in a short blog post, but I’ll try to cover a few points that I saw being discussed at Assembly:

  • Recognize Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) and give them a voice at the Assembly
  • Survey the membership for their preferences in what the AYA should be delivering to them; report on the results of the survey, and allow it to inform decisions moving forward
  • Acknowledge the need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and create a Task Force to study the issues and challenges of D/E/I at Yale and in the AYA

It was a great experience for a first timer to see the massive operation that is the AYA. I’m hoping I can take a lot of what I learned that week back to the other associations that I help to manage and coordinate conferences for, and see if any of these ideas about creating community also apply to other organizations.

*(For the Yalies out there, I was officially an alternate delegate from the class of 1995, and unofficially representing the Yale Club of Oregon and SW Washington in order to accept the “Outstanding Mid-Size Cities Award“.)

The New Elopement: Planning a Small, Mini-, or Micro- wedding

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.

destination wedding planning
photo: Altura Studio

What makes it a modern elopement?

  1. 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
  2. There are less than six months of planning involved
  3. 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?

  1. A lot of thought is still going into the wedding clothing and for the couple to look their best
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

  1. Can save a lot of money. Reducing guest count is the number one way to reduce the cost of a wedding.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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.