where was the most memorable event you attended?

library of congress event

I was teaching a class on venue research and site selection as part of a course on event management and I started out the one hour class by asking the students to share the most memorable event venue from an event they had attended. The answers ran the gamut from castles (more than one!) to landmarks like the Space Needle and museums like the Smithsonian. The one thing that almost all of the answers had in common was that they weren’t hotels or banquet halls – they were what we would consider non-traditional venues.

I like to describe non-traditional venues as any venue that exists for another reason besides hosting events; events are not their primary function. This also knocks out meeting space at hotels and private dining rooms or buyouts at restaurants. This includes places like parks, museums, libraries, warehouses, sports arenas, malls… this category is all encompassing. For many of these types of venues, hosting events there at all is somewhat unique and unexpected.

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introducing: pinning it all

Welcome to my newest feature: Pinning It All! I hope you get the reference – pinning it all, planning it all… anybody? Well like every other woman in the world, I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon years ago. But it’s particularly useful for keeping track of ideas for events and entertaining. While I have a fully curated set of Pinterest boards (seriously, you should check them out and follow me!) sometimes I get so excited about a particular idea but I don’t have a whole blog post to do on it. So this new column is a way to showcase some of my favorite pins from the previous week. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the pins are new, but they are new to me. Enjoy!

Pinning It All

For a wedding, invite guests to join the couple at the sweetheart table! I love this idea of offering some chairs for guests to stop by and chat with the newlywed couple! { Planned Perfectly }

What could be an easier glam fall place card than spray painted leaves? Love this!     { Lovely Bride }

We might be well into fall but that doesn’t mean we can’t still plan for Root Beer floats! This idea of pre-scooping ice cream into mason jars is a great idea for parties!     { Chickabug }

Limes as a place card? I like it, just make sure they don’t roll away! { Real Simple }

For those of you who know me, you know that champagne is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. So imagine going to an event where there was a champagne bar In. The. Elevator.  What!!??! I’m pretty sure that’s my version of heaven. { BizBash }

That’s what we’re Pinning this week – what do you think of these great ideas?

 

having enough food at an event: a constant struggle

having enough food at an event

One of the most important rules of being a good hostess (and event planner) is making sure no one leaves hungry. You always need to make sure you have enough food and account for guests’ dietary needs. When I am entertaining at home, I usually just make an obscene amount of food and assume that I’ll have a ton of leftovers. My husband usually shakes his head at this strategy and accuses me of “overdoing it” but I’d rather eat leftovers for a week than potentially run out of food.

But in my day job as a nonprofit event manager, I’d prefer to not have leftovers at all. At a corporate catered event, having leftovers actually means we lose money. Some caterers allow you to keep leftovers or donate them to a charity or shelter, but oftentimes local laws or policies forbid that and the leftover food is just thrown away.

That means we have to be as exact as possible in our estimates. It’s a delicate balance between having enough food and having too much, leading to waste. When you are planning formal events like a wedding or gala you have a pretty solid idea of how many people will be attending beforehand, but most of our events don’t have that luxury. They might have an RSVP list, but there’s no guarantee that everyone will show up. Or sometimes there’s no RSVP at all and we have no idea how many people to expect.

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the role of food & beverage in events

The Role of Food & Beverage in Events

Have you ever thought about how many of life’s events are built around meals? Food plays a large role in meetings and events of any kind. I share my thought on this deep subject over at the Social Tables blog. Check it out!

You can find more of my event planning tips and articles here, or follow my “Event Planning How-To’s” board on Pinterest.

halloween place cards & escort cards

Halloween isn’t necessarily my favorite holiday – I loved it growing up, but as an adult I’ve felt it to be pretty hit or miss. That is, until moving into a house in a stereotypical suburban neighborhood. I feel like my house is the only one on the block that doesn’t have an elaborate Halloween display outside. Halloween is apparently a big deal in our neighborhood!

We don’t have plans for a big Halloween party this year, instead we’re opting to hang out and greet trick or treaters. But if you are hosting a soiree of some kind, here are some fun ideas for place cards and escort cards. Enjoy!

Halloween Placecards and Escort Cards

Clockwise from the top left:

Remember the raven? Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy poem is quintessential Halloween, just like this set of escort cards. { Camille Styles }

For something a bit lighter, I like these pumpkin straw labels – for smaller parties you can pair guests’ glasses with a fun straw and label to mark seats, or just keep track of drinks for the night. { Etsy: blewbydesign }

These mini witch hats are appropriate for a Halloween fete – or a book club discussing the final installment of the All Souls Trilogy – anyone else reading that? { Bridal Guide }

Instead of asking guests to find their table, invite them to find their resting place, with escort cards that look like tombstones! { Two Sweets Bake Shop }

Remember those dollar store Dracula teeth prizes? Spray paint them silver and you have a creepy but still glam escort card display! { Celebrities8 }

What other Halloween ideas have you seen? For more table ideas, check out my post on spooky but elegant Halloween tables.

 

the mount vernon wine festival & why festivals are hard to plan

 

Mount Vernon Wine Festival

A week ago I attended the Mount Vernon Wine Festival. This was an event that I’d been looking forward to for a while, and I’d heard about for many years. It’s well known in the DC area as a rare opportunity (it happens twice a year) to enjoy food and wine on the lawn of George Washington’s estate, overlooking the Potomac River, listening to some live music.

It’s hard for me to attend any sort of event without keeping my “event planner” cap on. It’s for this reason that my husband doesn’t love going to weddings with me anymore. So naturally, at this event with hundreds of people, an event that’s well-known and obviously successful enough to warren three days twice a year, I had some… feedback.

Overall, the event is well-run. The issues that the Mount Vernon festival run into are no different than other successful festivals, which are, by nature, difficult to plan and execute. Here’s why:

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how to successfully manage a team of event planners

managing a team

 

I have a new post over at the Etouches blog – “How to Successfully Manage A Team of Event Planners.” All you regular readers of the blog (hi Mom!), you know that my day job is working at a nonprofit, managing a team of fabulous event planners. I’m pretty excited about this article, but it covers something I think is very important -getting your team engaged with the mission of the organization and maintaining brand consistency.

You can find more of my event planning tips and articles here, or follow my “Event Planning How-To’s” board on Pinterest.

Show Etouches some love! Enjoy!

Ideas for Non-Edible Favors

For most social events (weddings, parties, etc.) I prefer edible favors. Maybe it’s because I like food and drink so much, but I’ve never been unhappy with a mini champagne bottle or a tiny box of truffles. Let’s be honest – both of those options usually get broken into not long after the event is over.

But just because I lean toward edibles doesn’t mean there aren’t some fabulous non-edible options that make great favors. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

 

Non Edible Favor Ideas

From top to bottom:

Umbrellas are one of those things that are useful for almost everybody (unless you live in somewhere constantly bright and sunny – I’m looking at you San Diego!), you likely can use an extra one, especially if it’s compact.  Practical – absolutely. You can make it fun by choosing a color that matches your palate or a fun print. { Disney Weddings }

I love the idea of a take-home flower. Most people (most women, at least) enjoy fresh flowers so why not send your guests home with one? You could also do a small plant or succulent. { BizBash }

Pashminas are great for outdoor weddings or chilly climates. It’s another thing that most women wouldn’t mind having an extra one lying around. { Loverly }

Small serving pieces like this cheese spreader are nice – again, not awful if you have one already. This one works because of the cork motif, probably for a winery wedding. File this under ‘useful tchotchke.’ { Colin Cowie Weddings }

Seed packets are cost effective – not everyone may plant them, but you can riff on the “let love grow” theme. Also, very environmentally friendly. { Exquisite Weddings }

A mini recipe book – I really love this idea for a bridal shower. { Offbeat Bride }

Little containers of sugar or salt scrub – again, useful for the ladies, plus it’s easy to make it match a decor or theme. { Loverly }

 

What other non-edible favors have you received or given that you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments!

 

5 things to remember when going on a site visit

5 Things to Remember When Going On A Site Visit

The venue you select for a an event is one of the most important decisions you will make – the venue sets the tone for the event, sets expectations for your guests before they arrive, and can either enhance or hurt your event. So it’s important to visit it ahead of time, preferably before you sign a contract.

Many professional event planners have site visit checklists, listing all of the items they look for.  I encourage you to make your own list based on your events’ needs. But here are five things that could easily be overlooked:

Bathrooms: Most (if not all) of your guests will end up going to the bathroom during your event. Why would you visit a venue and skip a room? Taking a quick trip to the venue’s restrooms will tell you a lot about the maintenance. If the restrooms aren’t well-kept, you might want to hold your event elsewhere.

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apple inspiration for fall weddings & events

Pumpkin gets all of the attention during the fall, but apples are just as prevalent. Each fall, I go apple picking. Of course, apple picking in Northern Virginia isn’t exactly the same as I remembered it as a child in New York. It’s usually still fairly hot, the apple trees peak early. I strongly feel like apple picking should be done during crisp fall days where you wear a sweater, jeans and boots, and sip on hot apple cider at the quaint general store next to the orchard, and much on fresh apple cider doughnuts. Alas, it’s not ever really like this in Virginia. But I digress… apples are still a great way to make a fall event feel festive and fall-like, and also a low-cost alternative for centerpieces and decor. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

A simple potted plant with apples makes for a lovely centerpiece. You can easily DIY this – you just stake the apples. Via Ashley Austin Homes:

Apple Inspiration for Fall Weddings & Events

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