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.
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:
I often have the opportunity to work with some really fun public events around Portland. This year I’ve been involved with the Portland Tweed Ride organizers’ group and had the opportunity to help them produce some promotional media for their event, starting with a Save the Date card. It seemed like a great way to do some vintage and tweed inspiration for a possible wedding style board. With the way velvet is trending for 2018, I thought it would fun to throw a bit of that in too.
We were able to secure the wonderful Evrim Icoz Wedding Photography to shoot the photos, and Event Cosmetics to handle the hair and makeup. Nea Posey, one of Katherine Sealy’s Event Cosmetics clients, and Jeanie Whitten-Andrews, who had worked with Evrim before, stepped up as models. Event Cosmetics also secured the indoor venue, Oregon Historical Society, for us. Luckily, I owned a great deal of the props and attire in my personal collection, so it wasn’t hard to put together the shoot!
I’m always humbled to receive emails like this. It’s a big deal to trust someone you haven’t yet met in person to work with you through all the details and issues that come with planning your wedding day. Thank you S&D, and I’m so excited to be working with you in the coming year ❤❤
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.
I was just glancing through the 2017 WeddingWire Newlywed Report – a market research report where recently-wed couples are polled for data. A couple of items really stood out to me:
40% of couples underestimate their wedding budget. This means almost half of people planning a wedding have a picture in their head of their wedding, but an incorrect estimation of what it will cost. To me, this is a recipe for heartache and stress, and could be easily solved if instead of picking a venue or a design vision first, couples first took their budget and evaluated it line by line to find exactly how each item should be allocated. (This is something we do in our very first meeting with clients.)
50% of weddings occur on just 22 dates of the year which are all Saturdays. This means that, for example, if you take the approximately 16,000 weddings that occur in Oregon each year, about 8,000 of them are vying for venues on the same 22 Saturdays. It seems like it would help to have an organized planner on your side to help you find the perfect location. (We have venue sourcing services that range in price, so get in touch!)
Hope you find the report as interesting as I did, and that it helps you in your planning! — Emee