Dry January, and alcohol-free options for your event

Image: Illustration of Man in suit holding out hand to refuse an alcoholic drink
From an old Soviet anti-drinking poster.

There has been a “Dry January” trend over the last decade of either cutting out or dialing back alcohol consumption in January. It’s a reaction against the overindulgences of the holiday year and a way to have a fresh start for the new year. As alcohol consumption has increased over the last two years due to pandemic and other stresses, now is a good time to be questioning your alcohol intake.

The concept of a sober, or dry January, started in 2013 in London. It’s part of a broader campaign called “Mindful Drinking”, which aims to rethink our approach to alcohol without quitting it completely. Ruby Warrington, who wrote the book “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol” said in a recent New York Times article that “interrogating one’s drinking habits often leads people to adopt more mindful drinking strategies.”

There are definite benefits to drinking less. Alcohol is expensive, so cutting down is a great way to save money. Less drinking can lead to better sleep, better overall health, and can help with anxiety and depression.

But if you are used to having a drink or two on most days of the week, it can feel daunting to give up alcohol for a period of time, even if the period is relatively short. Several organizations, like the one who started Dry January, Alcohol Exchange UK, offer apps and coaching emails to support the decision. And it’s best not to approach the challenge as an absolute: take it one day or week at a time. It’s OK if you end up enjoying an alcoholic beverage during the challenge.

And there are ways to make cutting back on drinking easier, like exchanging alcoholic drinks with a non-alcoholic equivalent.

A good place to start is with beer. If your only experience with NA Beer is O’Doul’s, you’ll be relieved to know that now there are more and tastier options out there. Athletic Brewing serves up a selection of craft beer styles like India Pale Ale (IPA.) Clausthaler has been brewing German style NA beers for fifty years.

If spirits are your thing, Zero Proof offers booze-free rum, gin, tequila, and whiskey alternatives. Spiritless has their own alcohol free take on bourbon. For lovers of fermented grapes, Surely has non-alcoholic wine.

Are these options not available to purchase in your area? Since these products either don’t contain alcohol or a negligible amount (under 0.5% alcohol by volume), they don’t suffer the same shipping restrictions that actual alcoholic beverages encounter. You can buy many of these drinks directly from their manufacturer, or find an online store that specializes in booze-free booze, like Sipple.

You can still accessorize your non-alcoholic beverages. Groovy Guy Gifts offers up personalized decanters for your spirits-free spirits, while their “sister” company Bridesmaid’s Gifts offer insulated stemless wine glasses for your alcohol-free pinot!

And alcohol-free options should not just be limited to one month! With the hopes of weddings and more in-person events returning this year (fingers crossed), one should think about options for their non-drinking participants. Emphasizing alcohol without giving options for those who aren’t imbibing can make people feel unwelcome. And being unwelcoming is no way to have an event! So consider some of the “dry” options listed above in addition to the normal alcoholic beverages. Your teetotaling guests will thank you!

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Group Travel – Plan Now for Future Events

COVID may have drastically changed the way we do group travel, but our needs for new experiences and gathering remain. As we slowly return to travel and events, it’s more important than ever to know where you can gather safely.

With safety as the number one priority, we’re highlighting this list of three amazing destinations for you and your colleagues to visit later in 2021 or 2022. Bend, Oregon; Park City, Utah; and Palm Springs, California. And no need to roam too far – all of these locations are less than a 3 hour drive or flight from Portland, Oregon.

Please note: Stay up to date on the latest public health guidance in Oregon by reviewing Guidance from Oregon Health Authority found at this website. At the time of this writing, only outdoor events of up to 50 guests are allowed in this area. For more detailed guidance on weddings, our colleague Elisabeth Kramer has written a helpful article, found here. State-to-state meetings guidance can vary. Consult with the local and state health authorities for what is permitted. At the time of this writing, a 14-day quarantine is required for persons traveling or returning to Oregon from out of state.

Need to Host a Meeting? – Try Bend, Oregon

If you’re looking to shake things up a bit and get out of town, Bend is an excellent choice, highlighting adventure without being too far off the beaten path. Bend not only offers unparalleled views and outdoor activities, but it also boasts many options for your next meeting.

The Oxford Hotel

  • A view of Oxford Hotel's street sign facade in Bend, Oregon
  • Photo of a bed and pillows in Oxford Hotel, Bend, Oregon
  • Photo of meeting room with screen at the front
  • Photo of the Oxford's door panel

This four diamond, eco-chic hotel is the perfect place to bring the team! With its downtown location everyone can walk to Bend’s many attractions and shops.

It even includes over 2,400 square feet of meeting space – so you can spread out while still getting work done.

Safety Policies

Mount Bachelor Village Resort

  • Vista view of Mt Bachelor Village Resort showing snow-capped mountains in the distance
  • Exterior view of resort building
  • Interior view of hotel room showing Central Oregon views

If you’re looking to have your next meeting nestled in the forest, the Mount Bachelor Village Resort is for you! Once the meetings are over, there are numerous outdoor activities available and downtown Bend is only a short walk away.

Their dedicated Events Center offers more than 5,000 square feet for indoor and outdoor meetings.

Take a virtual tour of the Event Center to get a feel for the space.

Need to Collaborate? – Try Park City, Utah

Let’s face it – it can be difficult to move ideas forward without in-person collaboration.

Getting out of your normal space can help spark creativity and get the team excited again. Park City is perfect for social distancing – together! There are so many options for outdoor activities, from zip lining to horseback riding to fly fishing. You’ll almost forget you’re there to work.

St. Regis

  • Aerial view of Park City Resorts with snowy mountains in background
  • A bedroom view at St. Regis Hotel Park City
  • Photo of boardroom meeting setup
  • Photo of boardroom meeting setup
  • Photo of meeting room setup
  • Outdoor photo of round tables with floral centerpieces

Tune in to nature at St. Regis: This resort offers unmatched luxury in the picturesque Wasatch Mountains. Utilize their private ski valet for convenient ski-in/ski-out access or take in the beauty during a breathtaking hike.

With over 16,000 square feet of event space and 11 different venues, there’s something for everyone.

Montage Deer Valley

  • View of hotel lobby at Montage Deer Valley
  • View of hotel bedroom
  • View of meeting boardroom
  • View of indoor bowling alley
  • View of small group meeting area

This elegant mountain lodge is the ideal setting for your next team meeting! It also offers unrivaled ski in/ski out access and many other year-round activities.

With over 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space available the sky is the limit for your next meeting. Once it’s safe to do so, try renting out their private bowling alley for a bit of fun for you and your team.

Group Travel at Deer Valley Ski Resort

  • A group of skiers smiling at Deer Valley Resort - Group Travel
  • View of meeting room boardroom
  • Evening view of Deer Valley Resort exterior

This Ski Resort offers more than just the ability to hit the snowy slopes! It also hosts a number of event spaces large and small. Try getting the team together to tackle business in the morning and follow that with an afternoon in the snow – there are options for all skill levels and interests.

Need to Build Relationships? – Try Palm Springs, California

Everyone needs a break, and Palm Springs is the perfect place for a getaway that still involves connecting over business.

Whisk the team away to sunny Palm Springs to recuperate while strengthening bonds. In a less than a 3 hour flight, you’ll be gathering under the desert sky and palm trees.

The Ace Hotel + Swim Club

  • Aerial view of Ace Hotel Resort Palm Springs - Group Travel
  • View of an Ace Hotel bedroom suite
  • Aerial view of Ace Hotel Resort swimming pool
  • View of Clubhouse event space
  • View of outdoor meeting space

With private outdoor fireplaces, a spa, and a private pool for events – your group travel event can stay safe and distanced while having fun! And if you do end up leaving the property, it’s only a short walk to downtown.

The private event space offers over 3,000 square feet for flexible indoor and outdoor meetings and events.

360 Tour of Event Spaces

Safety Policies for Group Travel

Avalon Hotel + Bungalows

This beautiful historic property will make it so you never want to go home! With luxurious guest rooms, three pools, a spa and 4-acres of manicured gardens there is plenty of space to relax and recharge safely.

When you’re ready to hold group travel again, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor options available. From courtyards to cabanas, there are lots of fun locations on site to host your meetings and events.

Health + Safety Policies

Don’t Wait!

Many groups are now re-scheduling their 2020 postponed travel and events. This means that for some 2021 dates, there will be double the demand. Most locations offer a very flexible cancellation policy, so why not start your sourcing now, before the pressure is on. You can fill out this form for a free venue sourcing consultation with EJP Events.

Katherine O’Brien is Lead Events Coordinator at EJP Events, and also the brains behind food blog What’s On Kate’s Plate.

Virtual and Hybrid Event Showcase at Skyrise

a hybrid event attendee listens to a sommelier from a distant tableA virtual and hybrid event attendee listens to a wine sommelier explain wine pairings at a small hybrid event. Additional attendees view remotely and are connected to the event on a big screen. Photo: Tom Cook Photo

 

Virtual and hybrid events have been on the upswing since the 2008 recession, but 2020 pushed them to the forefront. As EJP Events fielded many requests to move events online this year, we employed our existing knowledge and pulled in technical production teams, as well as software platforms like Whova, Eventsquid, and vFairs, in order to create compelling virtual and hybrid event offerings.

a table set for a virtual wine dinnerThis table is set for a virtual at home wine experience, complete with charcuterie box, bottles of wine, notebook, and the computer with which to participate in the event.

 

The challenge, however, was how to relay our vision to new clients. As much as we love to dial in every detail and think critically about the attendee experience (have you ever thought how many physical items an attendee will need to gather in order to be on camera at a virtual wine dinner? We have!), it’s hard to convey that to someone who has never done this before. And it’s not like we could go into our existing clients’ living rooms and take photos of them attending our events during a pandemic, let alone the privacy issues!

 

video camera recording a hybrid event
Livestreaming and video-recording of events has become de rigeur due to the pandemic-created virtual and hybrid event requirements starting in 2020. Photo: Tom Cook

So we put on our creative agency hats, and put together a content shoot (or styled shoot as it’s known in the weddings world). Emee and Katherine spent many hours in the fall brainstorming over Zoom, which best practices would make a virtual event shine; as well as what needs to be done to make your small hybrid event not only fun and memorable, but over-the-top in safety. We even experienced the now-common pandemic phenomenon of having everything scheduled and ready to go for our shoot event, only to have Multnomah County go into a four-week freeze and have to re-schedule the entire event and all its vendors.

We’re happy to note that because of this team and their experience and professionalism, it reinforced our faith in the event process and things went off without a hitch. (Unless you count that Emee forgot her on-camera outfit and had to send someone back for that.) And we now have this wonderful content to share with you, that I hope tells the story of how EJP Events would envision a safe, engaging, delightful, and productive virtual or hybrid event where everything is dialed in, from the food and drink, to the individual sanitized microphones on each attendee. Check it out in the gallery below. Our main ideas are:

  • Tell people what to do. Pre-COVID, people didn’t need a lot of instruction at a networking event or a happy hour. During COVID, however, structure and format is needed. Open networking leads to too-close gathering. Offer each attendee their own seat, table, or area and provide a program of activities. 
  • Speaking of program, make sure to explain the program to everyone through multiple channels: Pre-event communications, on-site signage and directionals, live staff offering directions and guidance, and audible instructions through the use of announcements.
  • If people are attending remotely as well as in-person (a “hybrid event”), ensure that the home viewer is not left out of the action by creating an online, digital broadcast that is just as interesting as the in-person experience. Make sure audio is good, not just of the speaker but of the in-person attendees, to give home viewers the feeling of “being there”. Offer opportunities for the home viewer to be “seen” at the in-person event and interact with the in-person guests. It’s a two-way street!

There are so many more details I could share, so I hope you’ll follow up with us if you have questions. For those of you who believe we’ll be back to normal and there’s no reason to keep perfecting virtual and hybrid events, here are a few headlines and quotes from news around the world:

Virtual Events, Other “COVID Trends” Likely to Continue to Mid-2021, Meetings and Events Director Says

Health expert predicts concerts, sporting events won’t return until ‘fall 2021 at the earliest“;

“Once my family and I are vaccinated, I would change behaviors, except I can’t imagine being in a crowd or attending any crowded events until at least 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.”Julie Bettinger, associate professor, University of British Columbia

David Nash, M.D., who serves as dean emeritus at Jefferson College of Population Health, anticipates that large in-person events could return with enhanced safety measures “deep into 2021 — the last quarter.”

Location: Skyrise / Remote.ly
Catering: Charcuterie Me
Photography: Tom Cook Photo
Planning: EJP Events
Florist: Mix Mod
Dessert: Missionary Chocolates
Rentals: The Party Place
Wine: Domaine Roy + fils
Signage: The Fresh Hues
Plates: Dtocs
Stylist: What’s On Kate’s Plate

The 2021 EJP Events Corporate, Event, and Weddings Gifting Guide

corporate hybrid and virtual eventsTom Cook Photo – Katherine O’Brien of EJP Events demonstrates the physically-distanced method of passing out conference swag at a small hybrid event with 4 people in attendance at Skyrise. Signage and props by The Fresh Hues; Floral MixMod; Rentals The Party Place

While the Christmas personal shopping rush is winding down, the winter/spring 2021 conference and gala season is just heating up. Hundreds of fundraisers, seminars, symposiums, annual conferences, and board meetings are held between January and June every year. Most of these in 2021 will still be virtual due to COVID-19 still rampant in our communities. A conference or business gift brings tactile experience into the virtual and hybrid event world, making it interactive, engaging, and more likely to be remembered.

We love to give and get gifts – who doesn’t? This year is markedly different as many of us have been isolated from colleagues and friends; and we haven’t been attending meetings and events to keep us connected in our business relationships. Even though we’re heartened by news of a vaccine, it will be months before it’s widely available enough to change what’s happening with hybrid and virtual events.

I produced this corporate event gifting guide to make it easier for you to find the local Portland businesses creating unique gifts for corporate and social events. I hope it helps you support small businesses (especially those that are BIPOC-owned), and helps you reach out to your friends, clients, and colleagues with a little something to spread cheer and let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Whether it’s conference swag, a personal touch for a nonprofit gala, or a wedding party favor, there are so many reasons to celebrate in 2021 with a token of appreciation and affection.

Download the 2021 Gifting Guide here, or view it as a website.

corporate event gifting guide

Why It’s More Important Than Ever Before to Buy from Local and BIPOC-Owned Businesses.

The upswell of the Black Lives Matter movement has created a conversation around supporting Black owned businesses. Some of my non-Black colleagues seem confused by this. “Isn’t this reverse racism? I’m not racist, I don’t see color!” is a common trope heard during times like this.

A tall Black woman makeup artist applies lip color to a Black mother of the bride.
Photo: Craig Strong

While an event planning blog is not the best platform to address how those types of statements actually promote white supremacy*, one thing I am qualified to address is how to make your event better. One way to do this is to make your event or wedding a force for good. Here’s my opinion on how buying more often from BIPOC- (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and locally-owned businesses can do this, starting by contrasting with the following examples of common practices among large, global corporations:

  1. Starbucks forbidding employees to wear any clothing or jewelry supporting Black Lives Matter (later rescinded)
  2. Cambodian worker who makes Kate Spade and Michael Kors handbags was jailed for speaking up about coronavirus fears on Facebook.
  3. Racial profiling at Anthropologie stores (Sister co of wedding dress boutique BHLDN and owned by Urban Outfitters) In addition, Urban Outfitters has a long problematic history of stealing from independent artists, and for its own designs being shockingly offensive to pretty much anyone.
  4. Corporations profit from prison labor; meanwhile, Black and POC are convicted and incarcerated disproportionately to the population as a whole.

Yikes, right? While not every corporation may be guilty of these types of wrongdoings, it’s more common than not. By choosing a local and/or BIPOC-owned event business, you lessen the risk of sending your hard-earned event dollars to organizations that perpetuate racism, profit from prison labor, deplete the environment, and steal intellectual and artistic property.

In addition, when you avoid mass-produced event and wedding items, you’re more likely to:

  • integrate artisanship and hand-crafted know-how into your event
  • avoid cookie-cutter designs and boring flavors
  • reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding overseas shipping.

If you’re looking for even more reasons to Buy Black this year, check out this article from Green America: 6 Reasons to Buy from Black-Owned Businesses.

It’s important to reduce negative impacts of consumption, both environmental and social. This extends to events. Most of us know that in this big, big world of 7 billion people, we won’t solve every problem in a few months. I myself am just beginning a long process of educating myself, divesting from old processes, and doing my small part. I present this idea of normalizing buying local, and buying BIPOC, as often as you can, and especially with large purchases such as wedding- and event-related costs, as one way to raise awareness, reduce your risk of harm, and make your event better.

* I recommend Alishia McCullough’s 7 Circles of Whiteness article, which is much better at explaining this phenomenon.

For Love and Llamas: Stephanie and Nyles’s joyous Lewis and Clark Estate Gardens wedding

We were overjoyed to see our client, Stephanie, post recently to her blog about their amazing wedding (with llamas!) at Lewis and Clark Estate Gardens, one of our preferred venues.

A wedding with llamas. Photo: Sweetlife Photography

At this time of year, we see a lot of photographers posting about work we’ve collaborated on, but it’s not often that a client blogs their perspective in so much detail, so we had to share!

long tables underneath a wedding tent wedding marquee
Photo: Sweetlife Photography

Head on over to Stephanie’s blog to read about the wedding ceremony and reception. You can even view the wedding video by GoodCo Studios, here.

Some of our favorite quotes? “When we originally started planning the only things I knew I wanted was for it to be outdoors, have long barn tables, ice cream for dessert and llamas! In the end, it turned out so beautiful and perfect. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

happy dancing bride wearing a lei of flowers
The happy feeling when everything is perfectly planned at your wedding. Photo: Sweetlife Photography.

And, “Our DJ Bryce had nothing but bangerz on the dance floor. There was seriously so much love and laughter. I would do anything to relive this day all over again. It was perfect!”

Thank you, Stephanie and Nyles, for letting us be part of your special day, and for sharing your story.

Vendor thank yous:

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Lewis and Clark College Estate Garden Wedding

Flanagan Memorial Chapel Wedding and Smith Hall Reception at Lewis and Clark College