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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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.

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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.