Quarantine RSVPs – An idea whose time has come { free printable }

Image ID: an event RSVP card sitting on a desktop surrounded by a ruler, pen, and coffee cup.

What is a “Quarantine RSVP”? As events open up, event planners and hosts are wondering, How do I hold one of these safety-compliant events, and still keep everyone as safe as possible? Even though gatherings are slowly returning, there are potential pitfalls:

  1. You could provide all the hygiene items, but some guests refuse to wear masks, or they remove them while still mingling
  2. You could create a physically-distanced setup, but without clear instructions or a program of activities, guests devolve into the typical “cocktail hour” behavior where they cluster within less than six feet.
  3. Everyone starts out with the best intentions of social distancing, but after a couple of glasses of wine, the inhibitions fall and people are hugging, touching, and coming in to close contact with people outside their home group.

There is no such thing as a risk-free event during COVID. As of March, most of the US is months away from full vaccination levels, and most states still have some kind of restriction on gathering and nonessential travel. But if you are in a location where your type of gathering is permitted, and you want to do it as safely as possible, here are some reminders, plus an additional tip you may not have thought of:

Most of us know by now to do the basics: avoid indoor or poorly-ventilated venues, keep 6′ or more distance, and wear masks at all times that it is possible to do so (besides when you are seated alone eating or drinking).

Here is one more idea: Identify the groups attending your event who have been previously quarantined together, and allow them to RSVP and be seated together.

A quarantine pod may be a single family; a couple; or a group of roommates. “Quarantined together” could also mean that they share the same household; or they have limited their contact to only themselves and a limited number of other households who all agree to observe the same level of infection-avoidance precautions. For example; two families with children who are friends, who allow their children to play together each week, is a good example of two houses, one quarantine. The goal of this practice is to prevent COVID spread at the event, while allowing groups that are already in contact to be together.

As a host, how can you identify these groups? Introducing the Quarantine RSVP. This is a form you create to gather the names of people who are in one pod. You can set the number of RSVPS according to what is allowed in your location. For example, in Multnomah County as of today, at “Eating and Drinking Establishments“/”Indoor Entertainment“/”Outdoor Entertainment” (the categories that most Oregon weddings and events currently fall into), you can currently seat no more than 6 people at a table. As sector risk guidance is constantly being updated, always check your local and state health authority for your area’s particular guidelines. 

Would you like your own Quarantine RSVP printable template? It’s your lucky day, because we’re sharing this free template with you! Simply fill out your name and email below and we’ll send it right along. We hope you find it helpful.

Download this free printable

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    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.

    Groomsmen Gift Ideas

    A sample of items from Groovy Groomsmen.

    It may be hard to believe right now, but wedding season, and all the planning that goes with it, will be back before you know it. As wedding planners, we know there are lots of details to be taken into consideration all the way up to the big day. While location venues, catering, florists, DJs, and the like are going to take up most of the planning energy, don’t forget about the details, such as groomsmen gift ideas.

    Thankfully there are several shops that make this easy. They offer a unique take on what could be a traditional, “stuffy” gift. Let’s take a look at a few of these groomsmen gift ideas.

    Groovy Groomsmen features a number of manly items. But what makes these items stands out is personalization. You can get items like flasks, knifes, multi-tools and the like, and every item will have the groomsmen’s name on it! They can also add the wedding info, too. (For brides, check out their “sister” company Bridesmaid Gifts Boutique, where the cosmetic bag above came from.)

    Many groomsmen will probably need to comb their hair (and maybe their beard) at some point. What about a personalized comb in a classy leather sheath? Chicago Comb Company has got your back! They have both stainless steel and titanium combs that come protected in Horween leather.

    Chicago Comb Co.

    Finally we have offerings from Bespoke Post. While they specialize in a monthly “box service”, where unique and manly gifts are sent to one’s door, you can also just order specific “boxes”, filled with a theme. We particularly like the “Frontier” box, which includes our favorite pocket knife, the Opinel, plus a Kaweco fountain pen and a hard-bound journal!

    The “Frontier Box” from Bespoke Post.

    We hope this post gives you some good groomsmen gift ideas.

    Feeding Vegetarians at Events

    feeding vegetarians at events: platter of fresh tomatoes, goat cheeses, herbs, and crackers
    Catering: Your Kitchen Chef. Photo: Vera Gazayov Photography

    EJP Events’ staff are invited to lots of open houses, and other networking events. We love being able to check out new venues, caterers, and vendors. Most of these events have some form of refreshments and snacks. While none of us expect a full meal from this type of event, snacks are definitely helpful, since most of these events happen late on a weekday afternoon or early weeknight–right around the time most of us would be eating dinner.

    I’m sharing my thoughts as a vegetarian about feeding vegetarians at events, from a few of these recent catering open houses; this also applies to caterers setting up any menu for a number of people.

    The default for event catering is “omnivore”. This being Portland, the event catering company will typically provide some concessions to those of us who have a restricted diet, whether it be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. As someone who has been vegetarian for over 20 years, I’m thankful that someone has put some thought into feeding vegetarians at events.

    But a lot of times it still feels like tokenism, something to check off the “to do” list. Vegetarian foods are often not given the same degree of detail and attention than their glutenous, dairy-and-meat filled counterparts. Flavor isn’t considered. It becomes frustrating when there’s only one thing I can theoretically eat, and that one thing isn’t actually appetizing.

    Why should this matter to you, the food provider?

    In the short term, someone like me is going to be cranky and not think so fondly of the event or the food. In the long term, when the particular caterer comes up as an option for a future event, I’m going to cross them off the list. If a caterer can’t be bothered to feed vegetarians at events when they’re supposed to be putting their best foot forward for an event planner audience, I don’t have confidence that they would be able to do it on a day-to-day basis like for a wedding or event.

    It isn’t difficult to offer decent, plentiful, and tasty food options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, those that have allergies, and the like. It just takes a bit more thought. Here are some ideas to consider when feeding vegetarians for events:

    • Have MULTIPLE options. Having only one thing to eat for a vegetarian or gluten free person comes across as doing the bare minimum. Consider having two, three, maybe even more things to eat for us.
    • “One size fits all” actually fits few. Making one hors d’oeuvre option both vegan and gluten-free kills two birds with one stone, sure. But these two dietary restrictions are not similar and have little overlap. As a non g-f vegetarian, I can eat bread and cheese. Someone who is gluten-free may still eat meat. A gluten-free vegan item might be good if  the chef can suss out the common ground of tastiness shared by the two disparate diets. That’s tricky and takes thought. Most of the time the “one size fits all” option appears like you, the food provider, cannot be bothered. Are you only providing it so someone can’t complain about the lack of vegan and/or gluten-free food? Take a look at the item that you are providing: is that edible-flower-on-a-beet-cracker substantial
    • Ensure that the vegetarian / alternative dining option is appropriate to the formality level of the menu. I once went to a fine-dining restaurant where the vegetarian option was a Beyond Burger – the same thing that I can pick up at my local Target. Meanwhile, my dining mates feasted on Beef Wellington and plats de mer.
    • Vegetarians and vegans want protein and calories, too. There’s a popular misconception that we vegetarians are just rabbits: We eat nothing but vegetables in their raw form. I do like my vegetables, but I don’t make meals out of salads unless there’s no other option. (And I’ll probably go get a burrito afterwards.) Most vegetables have little in the way of protein and calories, which vegetarians need to sustain ourselves. Plus, fat adds flavor. Consider adding beans, lentils, tofu, and yes, even hummus into the mix.
    • Refrain from putting meat on everything. Often I’ll find foods that look mostly tantalizing, filled with delicious sauces, cheeses, and veggies. But, meat is also on this item, so it’s a no-go for me. Some folks feel that meat needs to be on everything for it to “taste good.” That is simply untrue!
    • And especially hold back on the bacon. The whole bacon-on-everything trend shows no signs of dying. I’ll sometimes go to an event where every food item has some form of bacon on it! (Contrary to popular belief, bacon isn’t “the meat I miss” since becoming a vegetarian.) It’s not just vegetarians to worry about: pork is forbidden to those with Kosher and Halal diets. So consider that, especially if you promote yourself as an inclusive event company. Turkey bacon is still meat.
    • Consider “build your own” food stations. It’s not going to be as pretty as your meticulously conceived and executed bread/cracker with stuff on it. But it will make it easier for everyone to eat food they’d like. Consider something like a fajita bar. No, they are not as Instagrammable as those delicate crostinis, but it makes it easier to satisfy all sorts of dietary restrictions. Just make sure that meat is not touching the veggies!
    • Ask, “Would this stand alone by itself?” That pretty looking small flower on a beet cracker is fine if you put it on a plate loaded with other foods that will fill you up. But what if it’s the only thing you could eat? Consider what satisfaction those restricted to the flower-cracker are going to get out of it. If it’s something that’s going to make them crave for something else while stuffing themselves on dessert until they leave, you’re not doing your job in feeding vegetarians at your events.
    • Find out what vegetarians, et al would like to eat by asking them. What you think a vegetarian would eat may be different than what they actually do eat. Consult your vegetarian friend and ask what they’d like to see in your menus. Don’t know one? Go online. Find vegetarian themed websites and online communities, there’s plenty out there. Same goes for other dietary restrictions. Here are some places to start: One Green Planet, Vegetarian Times, and Vegetable Love on Pinterest.
    • And most importantly, be open and willing to accommodate. I noticed that at the event where the flower-covered beet cracker was the only vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free option, chefs were making those hors d’oeuvres right behind the table. It would have been so easy for them to build hors d’oeuvre to order, to satisfy folks with dietary restrictions.

    If you liked this content, check out these other posts:

     

    Events Industry Council – Resources for the events industry related to COVID-19

    UPDATED 3/23: We’ve added more resources for small business and the latest info on Executive Orders from Governor Kate Brown and guidance from the CDC. Information changes on an hourly and daily basis, so please pay attention to source information from official government websites.

    Governor Brown has issued a “Stay At Home” executive order effective 3/23/2020 immediately until terminated (no known end date at this time).

    The CDC and Whitehouse.gov recommends that all event activities with 10 or more people be cancelled for the next 15 days.

    Get Your Mass Gatherings and or Large Community Events Ready (Guidance from the CDC)

    A resource guide for small business, from Portland Business Journal

    Join the Portland Event Industry COVID-19 discussion group on Facebook

    —–

    As a Certified Meeting Professional designated by the Events Industry Council, I’d like to provide you with access to these resources about the ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Please follow all WHO and CDC-advised measures for hand washing and sanitation, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. EJP Events staff will be following these guidelines as well. Please keep checking the above links, as information is updated on a regular basis. We hope you find this information helpful and wish you a safe and healthy event.

    Tips and Tricks to Attending Portland Wedding Shows (or any wedding show!)

    It’s Portland wedding show season, and I thought I’d share a few tips on how to get the most of your wedding show experience, and how to avoid “wedding show overload.”

    Portland Wedding Show and Bridal Show Attendees and Bridal Show Shoppers
    Photo: Fritz Liedtke

    What’s Happening?

    We put together a list of the upcoming Portland wedding shows, just for you! If you’re planning a Tacoma, Seattle, or Skagit Valley wedding; or in any other location, email us for specific information for your area or destination wedding.

    Portland Bridal Show | Oregon Convention Center | January 18-19, 2020

    Portland Venue Crawl | starts at Rossi Farms and visits 8 total venues | February 1, 2020

    Marry Me! Wedding Night Market | Redd East | April 1, 2020

    Portland Bridal & Wedding Convention | Portland Expo Center | May 17, 2020

    Portland Wedding Showcase | Oregon Convention Center | November 14, 2020

    Gear Up!

    First things first, make sure to have a good breakfast or lunch before attending the show if it doesn’t have a food function offered. Many times samples of cake or champagne are offered, and all that sugar and alcohol can wreak havoc on an empty stomach.

    Bring a water bottle so you stay hydrated while you’re walking around. Air-conditioned, recycled convention center air can dry you out and leave you feeling fatigued.

    Finally, make sure to wear comfortable shoes since you might be doing lots of walking or standing.

    Be Prepared:

    Use your show time efficiently! Make a few sheets of labels with your name, address, email, and wedding date if you want to avoid standing in lines to enter drawings or raffles. At the same time, remember that if you provide personal information, you’ll probably receive mail and email from those vendors. If you provide a wedding date , most vendors will stop contacting you once your date has passed. Or, you can also create a separate email just for wedding-related business, so your personal email doesn’t get clogged up with vendor requests.

    Understand the show timeline. Is there a seated food function, or seminars to sign up for? What time should you arrive in order to get a seat for the fashion show? Make sure you take a look at the program offerings; that way you get the most out of your admission fee. Some Portland wedding shows, such as The Portland Venue Crawl,  have scheduled bus or shuttle tours of venues, so you’ll want to make sure you understand what time you should be at the pick-up point so you don’t miss out on a tour.

    Make a list of items you still need from your wedding checklist, and target those booths first. Otherwise you could spend precious time wandering the aisles and getting distracted! Also, bring notes or pictures to help your planning along — for example, if you’re looking for jewelry and accessories, bring a picture or swatch of your attire.

    If you plan on hitting the gown or attire sales at a Portland wedding show, avoid wearing makeup, as products are bound to smear. You can always stop by one of the beauty vendors for a touch-up once you’re done shopping!

    Finally, Enjoy Yourself!

    You’ll probably receive lots of brochures and business cards. Try to sort through them as you go through the show, otherwise you could wind up with a heavy bag that just gets recycled.

    In the end, be sure to have fun and enjoy yourself! Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices; in the end you’ll be sure to find some great ideas and with the help of your family, friends, and planning team, put together a winning team for your wedding day.

    A version of this blog post originally appeared on November 13, 2013.

    Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }

    couple marrying at an outdoor pavilion Portland Wedding Planning
    Matt and Diana wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2018. Photo courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

    For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration, so they will only consider venues that allow outside catering. 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 January 2020. Keep in mind that policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Let us know by sharing in the comments below!

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

    Read more…

    Continue reading “Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }”

    First Class Stamp price increase on January 27, 2019

    first class stamp price increase

    Hello folks with an upcoming wedding or event, here’s something important to consider: The United States Postal Service (USPS) will be increasing the cost of a Forever (one ounce letter) stamp. Starting January 27, 2019, the price for a Forever stamp will jump from its current 50¢ to 55¢! This is a five-cent increase, the biggest jump for a Forever stamp, in, well, forever. (The next biggest increase was in 1991, when the first-class stamp jumped four cents from 25¢ to 29¢.)

    This will increase the cost of sending out invitations if you don’t plan in advance. For example sending out 200 wedding invitations at the current rate would cost $100.* But after the increase, the cost would be $110, a $10 jump.

    Fortunately, Forever stamps are always valid for the full first-class postage, regardless of any rate increases since the stamps’ purchase. That means if you buy your Forever stamps now at the 50¢ rate, they’ll be good after the rate jump. So buy your stamps now, even if you don’t plan on sending out invitations after January 27!

    *This is for invitations that would use a Forever stamp. If you have an invitation weighing more than one ounce, or the invitation is square, the cost would go up. It’s always best to bring your invitation in to the post office to have it checked and weighed, before beginning a large mailing project.

    Other posts you might be interested in:

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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.

    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”

    What is GX? – Guest Experience

    What is GX, or “Guest Experience”, as it relates to events– and in contrast to UX, or User 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, the way a user might move through and interact with an online environment, and discussions of UX are everywhere.

    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.

     

    Bride and Groom at the dinner buffet reception
    photo by FritzPhoto

    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.

    { 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.

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