A 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.
This 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!
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.
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:
The “Lookback” Series of blog posts features weddings that happened more than a year ago. Some are repeats, some totally new to this blog! We hope you enjoy looking back with us on these wonderful weddings.
Will and Erik’s Columbia River Gorge Wedding at Thunder Island, Cascade Locks was a wonderful celebration in the midst of the Columbia River Gorge Natural Area. The couple met in Portland, Oregon and chose to celebrate their love in breathtaking beauty surrounded by nature, the river and the foothills.
I loved so many details of their wedding and their planning journey. Their excellent taste in invitations and their choice of brewpub to hold our planning meetings in, just for starters! Look closely, their invitation from LetterpressPDX incorporated a blind-embossed topographic imprint of Thunder Island.
Interesting challenges from a wedding planner perspective were: 1. The very large outdoor location. Thunder Island is a private island, about 3/4 of a mile long, attached to a public park. We made sure to provide plenty of staff and signage so it was very clear where to park, where the ceremony was, and where the reception was, as the two locations were about 3/5 of a mile apart. At the end of the event I looked at my Apple Watch and noticed that I had walked ten miles!
2. The quirkiness of being located near rail lines. Because a railroad trestle crosses the entrance to the park, vehicle clearance is only twelve (12′) feet. This is pretty low, and I wanted to make sure transport and vendors were aware so they could plan which vehicles to use. I noted this at the walkthrough and made sure to put it in huge red letters at the top of the event plan I sent to each vendor and staff member.
3. There was a definite division of warm-weather loving Californians and hardy Oregonians in attendance. We optimized for both groups by providing both indoor tables and outdoor tented seating, as well as open-air areas for celebration.
All in all, the careful planning process that included detailing out the couple’s needs, family requests, vendor logistics, and public facility regulations came together into an unforgettable day.
Finally, what you’ve been waiting for – photos and vendor list, right?
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.
As of Friday, September 18, 2020, here is what is permitted in Phase 1 areas with live events in Oregon. This includes Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties that have agreed to progress through phases together since their populations are geographically linked by the City of Portland.
Includes limited reopening of personal services like salons and barbers, gyms, and malls, and restaurants and bars open for in-person service until 10pm.
Indoor social get-togethers are capped at 10 people with physical distancing.
Cultural, civic, and faith gatherings are capped at 50 people with physical distancing for indoors or outdoors.
And here is what’s permitted in Phase 2 areas of Oregon: The vast majority of counties in Oregon are in Phase 2. No counties in Oregon have progressed to Phase 3 since either a reliable treatment or vaccine is required for that phase; and neither has yet been produced.
For phase 2 counties the maximum capacity for gatherings is:
50 people indoors
100 people outdoors
Statewide, no matter what phase a county is in, the maximum capacity for an indoor social get-together is 10 people indoors.
In addition, organizers of gatherings and live events in Oregon in any phase are required to follow specific General Hygiene, Distance, Occupancy, Cleaning, and Disinfection guidelines outlined here: https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le2351g.pdf . This includes correct and proper wearing of face masks covering both nose and mouth for all staff and for guests while not seated and eating or drinking; frequent hand washing and proper hand hygiene; frequent sanitation of surfaces with no shared service items such as food servingware; and maintaining distance of 6′ between parties from different households at an event.
Finally, DIFFERENT guidelines and guest count limits apply to gatherings that take place in what the state calls “Sector-Specific” locations. For example, if your event takes place in a restaurant or a bar, versus an event venue, different rules apply. Per OHA:
The maximum capacity limits described in this guidance do not apply to gatherings or indoor social get-togethers at a location covered by other sector-specific Oregon Health Authority (OHA) guidance, as those locations have their own maximum capacity limits and other restrictions. Sector-specific locations to which OHA guidance applies includes, but is not limited to venues, restaurants and bars, retail locations, indoor and outdoor entertainment facilities, fitness related organizations, higher education institutions, schools, and child care programs.
As you can see, it can be very confusing. A patient and experienced event planner will be your best asset, as they have been keeping up with all of the industry changes and updates since March; and will have you and your guests’ health and safety as their first priority. Please contact us if you are looking for event planning guidance.
COVID-19 is an ongoing and changing situation for live events in Oregon and around the world. The Portland Event Planner blog is meant as commentary only. Please check with your local and state health authorities, as well as the World Health Organization, before making any decisions that would affect you and your guests.
We are heartbroken as our rural neighbors and community in Clackamas, Marion, Jackson and Klamath counties — and many more other counties in Oregon — battle wildfires and recover from destruction and tragedy. Lives have been lost and livelihoods impacted, and the fires are not out yet. Many are wondering what they can do to help rural Oregon.
As we mentioned in our previous post, taking a moment to give if you can, can be one way to stem the feeling of helplessness that many of us feel. The live events industry was already deeply affected by the COVID pandemic, and having to deal with wildfires on top of everything else can feel overwhelming.
On the giving side, we’ve put together a list of resources that we feel provide a good representation of how to help those affected by the wildfires in Oregon.
We’re grateful for the many people who have checked on us from afar. EJP Events’s home base in Portland, Oregon, while safe from wildfires currently, has been affected with power outages and hazardous air quality. Our staff continues to work from home offices in Multnomah and Clark County. If you need assistance with an event that has been affected by COVID-19 or the Oregon wildfires, please contact us – we’re happy to help.
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.
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:
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.
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.
In addition to the COVID-19 upheaval in the world, summer 2020 heralds a historic uprising against racism and inequity, part of a greater struggle for civil rights that has been going on for hundreds of years. While many of us knew that Black Lives Matter (at a minimum — what Black lives are is priceless and beloved), still many more had been silent about this fact in the face of ever-growing disparity and injustice. No one can be silent any more. Although the feelings of unrest and change may feel concerning, in many ways, this time has us at EJP Events feeling more hopeful, creative, and fired up.
Events are about hospitality and coming together. Weddings are about love. When deep injustices affect our communities of color, it feels impossible and inhospitable to go on doing the work of event planning without first doing whatever we can do to address these threats to life and the ones we love.
When event industry folk talk about wanting to “go back to normal”, what normal were they talking about? The world where it was normal for police to commit extrajudicial executions on city streets? The world where our federal government has defunded public health task forces, and our health insurance system, leaving us vulnerable for a pandemic to cut down 160,000+ of our people and counting? No, we don’t want to go back to normal. We at EJP Events believe Black Lives Matter and that means actively adding our voice to the movement for justice.
At EJP Events, during the week of June 1 – 7 we muted our social media and made it a priority to amplify Black voices. After this, we continued self-directed education, reading, and introspection. We wanted to make sure we explicitly state practices in our event business that we follow, but may not have been vocal about in the past.
Our Anti-Racism Pledge:
We recognize that the lack of diversity in the events and weddings business hurts Black-owned event businesses and Black people in general. As a business owner who identifies as Asian-American and a woman of color, I see how being “white-adjacent” and how the “Model Minority” myth plays into systemic racism and harms our Black colleagues. It’s time to commit to doing our part to right these wrongs. Therefore, we pledge to be actively anti-racist in our communication materials, our business processes, and our hiring practices. The following are four specific practices and policies we use to highlight and uplift the Black community, especially the Black LGBTQIA+ community, and to be inclusive in events and weddings:
• We use welcoming and inclusive language in our internal communications as well as in the communications we help write for event clients. We pledge to educate others when we see non-welcoming and non-inclusive language, especially in marketing materials and event registration forms.
• We recommend venue and vendor choices to our clients that are welcoming to Black and Indigenous hosts and attendees as well as those of all ethnicities, and remove venue and vendor choices from our recommendations who practice racial profiling or other discriminatory practices.
• We hire from an ethnically diverse roster of vendors that includes Black event professionals. We pledge that the number of Black event professionals we hire will be proportionally representative or more, of the racial background of the community we live in.
• We center positive and joyous Black and BIPOC representation in our website, marketing materials, and social media. The number of images we feature will be at a minimum, proportionally representative or more, of the population of the community we live in.
These practices are implemented effective immediately, and we promise to review our practices on a quarterly basis, with our first all-company review due in December 2020, to ensure that our public actions in the event and wedding planning world align with our values. We ask that you call us in and hold us accountable by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have feedback or notice ways we can be doing better.
We acknowledge that we didn’t come up with these ideas on our own, and do not position ourselves as experts in this field. Racial justice expertise is an area we defer to Black leaders, to whom we pledge to expand our knowledge of, and continue to listen to. Equity and justice work is the labor of a lifetime. As humans, we acknowledge our own mistakes and imperfections in this process; we ask for, and continually give grace to others, in this journey. We’ll be updating, refining, and adding to our pledge as our understanding and processes continue to evolve.
We are grateful to the individuals and communities who have welcomed us into their networks in order to continually learn and grow. Also, many thanks to these events businesses who are leading the way and have inspired us in this discussion: All the Days, Cocktails and Details, EllyB Events, and Andrew Roby Events.
Additionally, to further underscore our commitment to being inclusive hospitality professionals, we:
• Undertake disability justice training, and apply these lenses to event design. This can manifest in a recommendation of specific event setups to accommodate different types of physical and mental/emotional event accessibility needs.
• We educate our clients to offer translation and other accommodations to make their events more inclusive.
This time can feel overwhelming. If you are a Black event professional, likely this time has felt like an additional blow to your sense of safety. Non-Black and White people are wondering, how can I help? While we’d never say we have all, or even any answers, for anything that’s going on, at the moment it feels right to share the following three focus points:
1. Take care of yourself!
Community Care Resources for Black / BIPOC Event Professionals and others:
2. Ways to Be Generous and Share of Yourself and Your Resources.
Many of us feel overwhelmed by both the pandemic, and at the same time, know it’s necessary to show up for Black lives. I have found that giving and being generous assists me in being thankful and feeling gratitude. Gratitude can lead to better mental health and may alleviate the feelings of depression that come from working through challenging historic times. If you are able, here are some places to give (some Black/BIPOC-focused, some event industry-focused):
There are many places to give and participate; I’ve highlighted these as I’m an event planner based in the Pacific Northwest and these links are particularly relevant to me. You may find other organizations that are relevant to your situation or location.
3. Why you should want to work with diverse vendors, and how to find them:
1 in 5 millennial marriages, the majority wedding consumer today, are interracial. Yet wedding publications do not reflect the reality of current weddings, even with the real weddings they choose to publish.
I would add, that not including faces and stories from the nearly 42% of Americans who are not White, in wedding and event media, is a cultural erasure. Avoiding the full picture of the many cultures of the global event experience can lead to increased stereotypes, implicit bias, and to a decline in event quality and creativity. When all you’re seeing is the same whitewashed and filtered Instagram wedding and event feeds, all of similar, non-diverse people, you’re missing out on things that your attendees expect from you, like creative and varied design choices, visuals, menus and tactile experiences.
How do you find diverse businesses to work with? Perhaps, like us, you’ve been on your own journey working on event diversity, inclusion, and justice work for several years, and you have a roster of contacts. If you don’t, you might want to make a list. But watch out! I have mixed feelings about creating new lists of BIPOC-owned businesses. In some ways, it’s great to have a list to refer to at your fingertips. In other ways, it can feel like a “roundup” or tokenism. BIPOC-owned businesses don’t want handouts or to be the lone non-White face in the name of diversity. These businesses have unique voices and stand on their own merits, and that alone is the reason you should be working with diverse businesses – because their contribution will make your event better.
My take? If you have a non-Black business or organization, do your research first. There are already a lot of lists out there! Consider partnering with or reaching out to Black-owned businesses to collaborate on a resource, before striking out making lists on your own, which runs the risk of looking like saviorism or Columbusing. It’s a nuanced issue, and in all cases, the wants and needs of the business owners themselves should be considered first, as well as the motivation behind the list. If a directory is created in order to promote and support BIPOC business, great. However, if an entity by “creating a list” winds up drawing attention to themselves, positioning themselves as a gatekeeper to information, and centering their non-BIPOC business in the current conversation, then that can be problematic. Whether or not that’s the intention is immaterial – it’s the action and effect on the business and how the BIPOC business owner experiences the interaction, that counts.
That being said, it’s easy to find Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color-owned businesses to work with and to enjoy. We put together a resource to help you get started. Don’t be shy, follow and support! You may be surprised at how the vision for your event becomes that much more creative and inspired.
Based on this framework, event professionals and event clients all over the Pacific Northwest now understand that large gatherings are forbidden through the end of September 2020, and only microweddings and small parties within one’s own household will be permitted. This came as a surprise to many, since when the outbreak in the US became known at the end of February 2020, the prevailing belief was that the epidemic would subside within six months, allowing events to begin again at the end of the summer.
Because of this, you’d think that all events and weddings have come to an absolute stop. But is this true? Not if you consider the many folks who are re-tooling their 2020 celebrations to comply with a 10-25 (depending on the area) person guest count and physical distancing guidelines. Add careful hygiene and sanitation measures, and we are starting to see what the next normal of events will look like for the next 6-12 months; at least until more testing, contact tracing, and treatments/vaccines are expected.
What are some things that will look different in this new world of microweddings and petite parties?
1. Physical distancing will change the way we set up rooms. Much larger venues for weddings of 10-50 guests will need to be booked than previously thought. A venue once thought to be “too big” for 50 guests will now be the norm. Room setups will incorporate physical distancing guidelines.
2. Food service will be different. Buffets and family style will not return until new cases are on the decline and a vaccine is available. Group meals will be plated, or be a creative twist on “boxed”: think beautiful packaging, linen napkins, and gorgeous flatware in a customized bag for each guest.
3. As travel is reduced, local and regional celebrations, meetings, and events will move to the forefront. Unfortunately, car driving will increase until mass transit becomes safe again; we hope this isn’t a permanent trend since the climate effects are sure to be negative.
What things will stay the same? The elements that are not as affected by physical distancing or sanitation are getting as much attention as they would at pre-COVID-19 elopements or microweddings:
1. Wedding clothing – whether it’s just the two of you, or a few combined households of 10-25, everyone still wants to look their best. Formalwear services like Generation Tux are offering increased sanitation practices and home try-on.
2. Photography and videography have become even more important, as many guests may not be able to travel. Sharing the day through photos and video, and also livestreaming, is more important than ever before.
3. Flowers – nature does not stop for a pandemic, and flower farmers are still hard at work. Buying local is a must; people are not flying in bouquets from other countries.
4. Cake and a celebratory toast: Involving dozens of vendors in customizing a celebration isn’t currently feasible, so we see microweddings returning to archetypes like these.
5. Elopement and small-event packages that include planning and services offered in an easy-to-book bundle will be more important as ever, as busy families won’t have time to sort out all the details of what’s allowed, where they can go, and what activities are permitted and how to do them. Expert planners who stay up-to-date on changing regulations and availabilities will be highly sought after.
This is Part 1 in a 2-part post about the Next Normal of Events. Stay tuned for our post about new developments in meeting, convention, and trade show setups; and trends to watch for in food service and even coffee bars.
Note: This article contains information about holding microweddings or small parties during COVID-19, the novel coronavirus pandemic during spring of 2020. Guidance is changing quickly, and you should check with local and state health authorities, local governments’ Executive Orders, and your own contracted wedding professionals, before making any important decisions about your wedding. We’ll try to keep this post updated with items marked “UPDATE:” when possible.
It has never been easy to plan an event, but to do so during the pandemic era of COVID-19 comes with unprecedented difficulty. As of today, April 14th 2020, all 50 states of the U.S. and many parts of the world are under some form of Stay at Home order. Here in EJP Events’s home base of Portland, Oregon, we’re beginning Week 5 of social distancing and “Stay Home/Save Lives“. Travel, both locally and internationally, is severely curtailed if not outright banned. Our hearts go out to the many people affected: whether due to COVID-19-related illness, or to business and financial effects.
Most events for April, May, and June have already been rescheduled or cancelled. Event planners are taking cues from major world and regional gatherings and festivals such as the Olympics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Coachella, etc. which have all cancelled or postponed.
What does this mean for a couple planning a wedding, or an association planning a conference in late summer through end of 2020? First things first: please take care of yourself and your family, friends and coworkers. Do what is safe and healthy. The science tells us: COVID-19 is extremely contagious, can possibly be carried while asymptomatic for up to 14 days, and is potentially life-threatening for many. So follow your local health authority guidelines and right now: stay home and stay safe. Take care of your mental health too. The emotions around planning an event can be overwhelming enough without a global pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the many feelings that can arise and be kind to yourself and others involved in this situation. Check out these resources from the CDC on coping.
OK, so thankfully you’re safe and healthy at home, but you have an event on the future horizon. Now what? While no one has a crystal ball, here are some thought processes we recommend as you plan what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 and your event date approaches:
We agree with, and really love this chart made by the folks over at Filosophi Events in Vancouver BC. In general, you should have a Plan B for any event occurring in 2020; and you should set a “go/no-go” date on which you decide whether or not to invoke your Plan B. For most people, this “go/no-go” date will be about 60 days or 2 months before the event.
In order to create your Plan B, you’ll need to communicate with your venue and vendors about what options you have, find alternate dates, and find out if everyone is available on the possible alternate date. This is also a good time to review your contracts, especially any clauses about Impossibility or Force Majeure. Ideally, your contract should cover you in the event it becomes “illegal or impossible” to hold your event. There should be a way to seek relief from this impossibility (such as a reschedule) through this clause in your contract. Please contact your legal advisor or attorney for further advice on this.
Canceling outright (termination of contract) should be a last resort, as typically it will incur the most financial loss. A recent survey showed that 96% of couples are not canceling their weddings. It’s better to postpone than cancel. Should any of your event partners, whether vendor or venue, not be available for your Plan B, you’ll need to work out how to release them from their contract with you, and what, if any, financial repercussions there will be.
If your event is not a wedding, but a corporate event or conference, however, you may need to set your go/no-go date earlier than 60 days, since it’s not just the actual event itself that is affected, but your business partners’ ability to plan for and market the event as well. For example, if you aren’t able to sell trade show booths or registrations because your business partners aren’t sure if your event will even be allowed, it becomes impossible and commercially impracticable to hold your event, which may trigger a need to postpone.
Ultimately, the most important things are for you and your attendees to be safe; and for the purpose and spirit of your event to be upheld. Love is not canceled. Education is not canceled. With these things in mind, and with the positivity and teamwork of your vendor team, a solution will be found.
If you are looking for assistance with this process of what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19, please contact us. We’re currently offering complimentary phone and online consultations to assist any new and existing clients with COVID-19 questions. We are here to help.
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.
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!
We hope this post gives you some good groomsmen gift ideas.
Weddings and special events get a lot of attention, but corporate event planning can be fun, engaging and creative too! The Hotel Zags changed its name and branding from Hotel Modera, and EJP Events was hired to produce all the entertainment celebrating the big launch. They needed an event that would send-off the new brand into the future of hospitality in Portland, featuring the hotel’s position at the center of Art, Adventure, and Play.
Not just another hotel opening, the Hotel Zags relaunch featured local celebrity Carlos the Rollerblader as MC, with their trusty DJ – ‘DJ No.Bi.Es’ – (Bianca Estrella) spinning tunes. Contortion artists from The Orchidea greeted guests and wowed them with feats of agility and physical artistry. 3-piece power-pop combo The Zags came straight out of SE Portland and brought some very Beatles “Get Back” vibes as they rocked the crowd from the courtyard’s living roof.
Evrim Icoz staged a paparazzi style photobooth in the hotel’s Gear Shed, where guests could check out, library-style, anything from longboards to mountain bikes for their enjoyment. Additional treats awaited guests in the Colosseum, the hotel’s game room, as well as henna artistry from local favorite Salon Amrapali.
Instead of boring room tours, EJP Events organized “room vignettes” where guests were invited to take a sneak peek into the lives of two travelers: “Ms. Business”, played by urban sketcher Rita Sabler; and “The Diva”, played by mezzosoprano Sophie Gregg. Guests were treated to impromptu operatic warmups and the friendly hospitality of tiny Coco, the weiner dog (Rooms at Zags are pet-friendly!), as well a live sketching of the urban scene surrounding the Zags courtyard.
Over 200 of Portland’s travel and hospitality elite were entertained, as well as corporate reps from The Hotel Zags parent, Sage Hospitality. Food and drink were hosted by the killer team from Chef David Machado’s Nel Centro and guests gathered around the courtyard’s centerpiece – a five-foot fire globe.
It was an unforgettable night right at the beginning of Rose Festival, Pride, Pedalpalooza, and the summer event season in Portland. A great way to use corporate event planning services to launch the new endeavor. Congratulations Hotel Zags on your relaunch!
All photos here courtesy Evrim Icoz Photography. You can also view the official event photographer’s photos by KLiK Concepts, on Instagram below, or here at this link.
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 mightbe 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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This former federal courthouse in the heart of downtown has a lot going on. There are local businesses, a couple restaurants, office space (both standard and co-working), and a United States Post Office located in this historic structure. There are also three different event spaces: A 2,000 square foot Ballroom (formerly a courtroom), the Gallery, a former post office warehouse room that can accommodate 90-120 attendees, and Suite 430, the former judge’s chambers that can accommodate 20-50 attendees.
Built in 1911, Tacoma Union Station served the city as a train station until 1984. (The current rail stations are about a mile east of here.) Since 1992, this Beaux-Arts beauty has served as a United States Courthouse. Now, the Grand Rotunda is currently available for rental as a Tacoma event venue. This three-floor cavernous space can hold up to 800 in a seated reception, and you can use the caterer of your choice. Plus, the Rotunda is decorated with glass art by famed local artist Dale Chihuly.
Many of these Tacoma event venues are easily accessible via Tacoma Link! This is a light rail train that currently runs 1.6 miles from Tacoma Dome Station (Sounder commuter rail and soon Amtrak) to the Theater District on the north side of downtown. The trains run about every 12-24 minutes, and are free. In 2022, the line will be extended an additional 2.4 miles to the Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhood.
Hope this gives you some ideas for a unique event venue in Tacoma!
It’s winter here in Portland: short, damp days are the norm. But before we know it, summer will be here in full force. There’s nothing more glorious than a nice summer day in the Northwest. Everyone wants to spend time outside, so they head to one of our fine restaurants that have outdoor patio venues.
Are you thinking about having a special event or perhaps a rehearsal dinner using an outdoor patio venue? The time to plan that event is now. Once folks start shedding layers and ditching umbrellas, you can be sure that these special outdoor patio event spaces are already booked up.
Here’s a selection of outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. All of them are unique; many feature great views of the city.
This restaurant sits atop the historic Meier and Frank building next to the Pioneer Courthouse. Meier and Frank was THE Portland downtown department store, but is no longer with us. Much of the old building is taken up by The Nines Hotel.Departure features pan-Asian food and its outdoor patio features one of the most impressive views of the city!
This Southeast venue consists of the former Washington High School, a public school that served Portland from 1924 to 1981 and counted Linus Pauling as a student. It now hosts Revolution Hall, one of the city’s premier music venues, plus restaurants (including Martha’s), bars, and private event spaces. The Roof Deck Bar is an outdoor patio venue available for private events from mid-June to mid-September.
This new distillery is located on vibrant North Williams Avenue. Besides spirits, you’ll find a restaurant and a small patio overlooking the neighborhood. Williams Avenue really comes to life during the summer months, manifested in the scores of cyclists you’ll see bounding up the bike lane!
Hope this list gives you some ideas for outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. And again, we urge you to make your reservations early, and to call us if you need some help planning your event.