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Microweddings, Petite Parties, and the Next Normal for Events (for now)

On May 8, the “Reopening Oregon” Framework, and similar guidelines throughout the Western States Pact were released, outlining a phased timeline for when the public could return to holding events and mass gatherings.
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.
A microwedding, or a small wedding with only a few guests.
photo: Altura Studio

This is not the case, and many weddings, festivals, events, and conferences have been postponed and are following protocols similar to the one I outlined in this blog post “What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations“.

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.

Will bento become the newest catering trend due to COVID-19? Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

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.

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations

what to do if covid-19 affects your event

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 is on all our minds. This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

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. 

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.

Hotel Zags Relaunch – Corporate Event Planning with EJP Events

Corporate event planning in Portland, Oregon.

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.

Urban sketcher Rita Sabler.

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 courtesy Evrim Icoz Photography.

The Zags performing on the rooftop.

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

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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.

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

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

A wedding with llamas. Photo: Sweetlife Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vendor thank yous:

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Lewis and Clark College Estate Garden Wedding

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

 

Revisiting: Tacoma event venues

Stadium High School, Tacoma

We visited Tacoma, Washington in fall of 2018 and afterwards reported on various event venues in the City of Destiny. We passed through the city again earlier this fall and checked out some more unique event spaces. Here are three more Tacoma event venues to check out!

Courthouse Square.

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.

Historic 1625 Tacoma Place.

Formerly a truck and car dealership showroom built in the 1940’s, this Tacoma event venue features a total of 6,000 square feet of space. They offer catering via five preferred caterers.

Tacoma Union Station.

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.

Tacoma Union Station

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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!

Outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events

Xport Bar and Lounge, from their website.

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.

Departure

The view from the west patio of Departure Lounge is dramatic! ©Evrim Icoz Photography

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!

Xport Bar and Lounge

The Xport is another downtown rooftop venue. Located above The Porter Hotel, XPort offers eclectic New American cuisine. The patio features sweeping views of the West Hills and the Cascade Mountains.

The Hairy Lobster

Located in the Pearl District, this seafood restaurant has a patio that is directly across from Jamison Square Park. This shaded outdoor patio can accommodate parties from 70-110 people.

Revolution Hall

Revolution Hall.

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.

Shine Distillery

Shine Distillery’s Patio.

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.

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 }”

Unique event destinations in Seattle

We recently visited our sister city to the north, Seattle. The Emerald City is brimming with standard venues for meetings and weddings. But what if you want something a bit more creative, a bit more unique? Here are a few ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle!

The Steamer Virginia V. 

This steamship is the last operational example of a Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet steamer. The Virginia V once plied the waters between Seattle and Tacoma. Now it is docked on the shore of Lake Union, where it acts as a living museum. Not just a curiosity, The Virginia V is an active venue, available for weddings, holiday parties, office events, birthdays, anniversaries, and more! Imagine, having a meeting or a wedding while on the water.

Fremont Foundry.

This location in Seattle’s original “funky” neighborhood was once an artist space. (The famous Jimi Hendrix and infamous Lenin statues were sculpted or constructed here!) The Fremont Foundry features 11,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space across two floors, plus a sky-lit atrium with a 20-ft ceiling! Weddings, private parties, corporate events…the Foundry does a bit of everything.

Fremont Foundry, from their website.

Smith Tower.

Seattle’s first skyscraper, and holder of the Tallest Building West of the Mississippi from its opening in 1914 until 1931, this 38 story, 484 ft neoclassical tower rises above Pioneer Square. This historic building hosts two event spaces: The Observatory, a speakeasy style lounge at the 35th floor that can hold up to 80. (This bar is usually open to the general public, and features an outdoor viewing deck.) Located on the 21st floor, the Lookout features indoor and outdoor space that can also hold up to 80. Smith Tower provides catering service for both venues.

Hopefully this gives you some good ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle. This post is just the tip of the iceberg! And if you are looking for some off season wedding locations in the Seattle area, be sure to check out our blog post here.

Venues and meeting spaces in Berkeley, California

Sather Tower, University of California Berkeley

This past January I was invited by Visit Berkeley to check out various venues in town. The city of Berkeley is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, across from San Francisco and just north of Oakland. Located in the heart of a region of almost eight million people, with numerous transportation connections to the rest of the US and the world, having a meeting or an event in the Bay Area is never a bad idea. Berkeley has numerous spaces for events small and large. There’s plenty to do in town, and if that isn’t enough, it’s just an easy BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, their subway/commuter rail system) ride to Oakland and San Francisco.

Here are the places I checked out while in town:

Shattuck Hotel Opened in 1910, this classic hostelry done in the classic Mission Revival Style is located in the heart of the city. They have about 200 sleeping rooms, plus 7,500 square feet of event space, including a ballroom, courtyard, and boardroom.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina Located a few miles west of downtown, this facility gives a great view of San Francisco Bay. They have many different meeting spaces that can be combined into different configurations, the largest room is about 5,100 sqare feet.

UC Theatre and Taube Family Music Hall. This historic former cinema was built in 1917 and is located on University Avenue. The 17,500 sq foot theater can host banquet, reception, and theater style events for anywhere from 225 to 1350 people.

Berkeley City Club  Built by famed architect Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle), this establishment initially opened in 1927 as the Berkeley Women’s City Club. This means it’s one of the few (maybe only?) civic club that has always allowed women. This famed institution built in the Moorish and Gothic style has one grand ballroom, the Venetian, which can hold up to 350 people. It also has more meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, and a beautiful indoor pool.

University of California Memorial Stadium. This historic stadium located above the city gives a great view of Berkeley and the campus. The stadium offers numerous different event spaces, such as the Chancellor’s Box, University Club, Stadium Club, and Field Club.

David Brower Center. Honoring former Sierra Club Executive Director, this three-floor building in downtown Berkeley. Besides office and gallery space, the center features conference facilities and a 178-seat theater. The Brower Center’s focus is on hosting low-impact, environmentally conscious events.

Graduate Hotel. Formerly known as the Hotel Durant, this classic hotel off the UC Berkeley Campus offers an impressive view of the city. The six floors of this Spanish Colonial styled building features 144 sleeping rooms. Their California Room can hold up to 70 people. The hotel does weddings as well.

A meeting near a National Park

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

It’s almost a default to have a business meeting in an urban area–there are transportation connections, a great deal of venues, and plenty of amenities. But what if you are looking for something a little different? Something that features a backdrop of scenic splendor and natural wonders? How about a meeting near a national park?

Here in the West you’ll find a great selection of National Parks. Here’s a few options for holding a meeting near one of them!

Glacier National Park

The crown jewel of the northern Rockies, Montana’s Glacier lies on the Canadian border. Daily service on Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes getting there easier than you think. Just on the south edge of the park, the Izaak Walton Inn features rustic charm and plenty of space for a meeting. Cell reception is non-existent and WiFi is only available in select locations. This makes this 1930’s era hotel is a great place to have a meeting without distractions. (Though you may be distracted by that scenery!)

Lake Quinault Lodge. Photo by flickr user Maurice King.

Olympic National Park

A land of craggy mountains, lush rainforests, and primordial beaches, Olympic is only a couple hours from Seattle. Located just southwest of the park in the adjoining Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge has rustic charm galore. This lodge was built in 1926 on the shores of the lake. You’ll find many a hiking trail nearby, a short one will lead you to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. There are 91 guest rooms and the Quillayute Ballroom holds 80.

Banff National Park

Canada’s most popular national park is located in the Rocky Mountains at the Alberta/British Columbia border. The mountains themselves are awe-inspiring and the wildlife is plentiful (you may lose count of the amount of elk, mountain goats, and bears that you’ll see). The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is within the park itself. Located about 90 minutes west of Calgary, Banff Springs is a grand resort built in the early 20th century by Canadian Pacific Railway. With over 700 guestrooms and more than 76,000 square feet of meeting space, this old-world inspired hotel would be a great spot for a unique event!

Grand Teton National Park

This mountainous park in northwest Wyoming is just ten miles south of Yellowstone. Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is just a mile outside of Grand Teton itself. This resort features 5,000 square feet of meeting space plus an onsite spa and private luxury residences.

 

Revisiting: San Juan Islands (and Fidalgo Island) weddings

A Washington State Ferry passes between Lopez and Shaw Islands.

Thinking about a wedding location that is the perfect balance between sea and forest? Consider a wedding on the San Juan Islands!

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Puget Sound of Washington State, north of Seattle and south of Vancouver. They are just west of the Skagit Valley. There are over 400 islands and rocks in the archipelago. The four largest islands, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, are accessible to the mainland via the Washington State Ferry System.

The islands offer a rich tapestry of forests, farmlands, and beaches. Plus there are spectacular views of the water and mountains. You’ll find several wineries and organic farms dotting the islands. The islands are rural and pastoral in flavor. But you’ll find urban services in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Lopez Village on Lopez Island, and Eastsound on Orcas Island.

Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Island. From their website.

Here are some ideas for wedding venues in the San Juan Islands.

San Juan Island

Lopez Island

Orcas Island

Majestic Inn and Spa, Anacortes.

Fidalgo Island/Anacortes

Anacortes lies on Fidalgo Island, the gateway to the San Juan Islands. The area gives a similar vibe to the San Juans without the ferry logistics.

A note about transportation

Since we’re talking about islands, transportation logistics is a very important thing to consider!

The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is the primary transportation to the islands, connecting the San Juans to Anacortes and then the mainland*. Plan on bringing your car on the Washington State Ferries on weekends or during the summer months? Advance reservations are strongly recommended! However, you’ll always get on the next ferry if you are on foot or bicycle, no reservation needed. Long term paid parking is available at the Anacortes terminal.

Not driving? You can take Amtrak to Mount Vernon Station, then Skagit Transit buses will bring you all the way to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. You can find taxi service on San Juan, Orcas, and Shaw Islands. There is also bike rental available on the islands, including dockside rental at the Lopez terminal.

The Victoria Clipper runs a passenger-only ferry from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor. There is also privately chartered boat and plane transportation available.

*****

The San Juan Islands are a beautiful place that feel removed from the rest of the world. Yet, they are close enough to major destinations like Seattle and Vancouver BC. So consider having a wedding in the San Juan Islands!

 

*Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, which is connected to the mainland via two bridges.

 

Use a train for an event

Looking for a unique spin on an event? Why not use a train for your event!

Amtrak, America’s national rail provider, travels to over 500 destinations around the country. It may not be the fastest way to get to where you need. But it’s a trip lacking  the hassles of airport security and driving stress. And it’s not always about speed. A train trip on Amtrak’s Cascades from Portland to Seattle takes about 3 1/2 hours. While it’s possible to drive there in slightly less time, taking the train avoids the nightmare that can be Seattle rush hour traffic. (Not to mention parking!) Plus, there’s the romance of arriving at your destination in a historic station in the heart of the city.

Going further? A long-distance train journey is a great way to relax and unwind. You can get mesmerized by the scenery going by, even in so-called “boring” places. You’ll be able to accomplish a good deal of reading, writing, or drawing. Think of those things you probably don’t have the time to do in your day-to-day life. You’ll now have the time! Want a comfortable night’s sleep? Book a room in a sleeping car, where attendants will make your bed every night.

Trains for a long-distance event

There are many options for one to incorporate rail travel into an event or wedding. Here’s a few ideas:

Trains for a local event

Maybe you’re not going to travel a long distance but still want to use a train for an event? There are many tourist trains and historic museums scattered throughout the US. While most of these trains are short distance day trip affairs, but some offer longer journeys. Here are some options for the Portland area:

  • Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. Located here in Portland, this museum can host parties. The Foundation features historic trains like the Southern Pacific 4449, the Freedom Train!
  • Mount Hood Railroad Located in Hood River, this railroad offers group reservations and scenic rail charters. Their Club Car has space for live bands and dancing and can be connected to a lounge car with a complete bar.
  • Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. This tourist railroad runs along the coast from Garibaldi to Wheeler in Tillamook County. They offer a group discount for parties of 13 and more. Plus, they have a dinner train where you can treat yourself to a four-course meal!

    The Southern Pacific 4449 Engine, seen at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

As you can see, there are many ways to use a train for your event. Using rail will make your event stand out!