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.

{ Real Oregon Weddings} Kristin and Jason at Lewis and Clark College

portland wedding planner at lewis and clark college
photos by Joe Riedl

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:

Chefstable Catering
Sammy’s Flowers
The Party Place
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This just in….Wedding Giveaway!!

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!

GIVEAWAY 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
Includes:

  • Entire Second Floor Event space (8 thousand square feet) which includes:
  • Ballroom
  • Garden
  • Cocktail Reception Space
  • Extra Room (used for whatever you see fit including photo booth area etc)
  • Parking
  • 1 night in a Suite
  • Bottle of bubbly in the suite

{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – 5 sites that allow outside catering

For so many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of December 2017. Policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Please share in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout

Hornings-hideout-portland-wedding-venue

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue has covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

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Vintage and tweed styled inspiration shoot – with a little shot of velvet

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.

Portland Wedding Photographer Evrim Icoz

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!

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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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{ Photo of the Day } McMenamins Edgefield April Wedding

Mcmenamins-edgefield-wedding

Photo: Photobystinson.com

Congratulations to Cassie and Brad on #brassie17! This wedding is extra special to me, as it involves many people who I’m lucky to know personally. It’s always fun to get to do a wedding with friends. Cassie and Brad were married in the Ballroom at McMenamins Edgefield on a lovely spring April day in the Troutdale/Columbia River Gorge area, Oregon.

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Feeling This Springtime Look

Feeling this springtime look – wedding gown by Stella Di Libero http://buff.ly/2oqM7w9 #fridayfrocks #weddinggowns

Part of our Friday Frocks series, where we share a gown, for weddings or other special events,  that’s recently caught our eye!

via Buffer

WeddingWire Newlywed Report Exposes Some Harsh Truths About Planning

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!)

Wedding-wire-market-research

 

Hope you find the report as interesting as I did, and that it helps you in your planning!  — Emee

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