Don't Want a First Look? 7 Other Ways to Connect with Your Future Husband Before the Wedding

Wedding planners and photographers often recommend a pre-ceremony first look for many reasons, one of which being the opportunity to connect as a couple. If you're a stickler for tradition and prefer to keep your first look reserved for the ceremony processional, here are a few alternatives that'll help you feel connected before the wedding.

Exchange Gifts

A custom that many couples partake in, the wedding-morning gift exchange is a great way to connect with your soon-to-be-spouse. Ask the hotel staff or a member of the wedding party to deliver the gift to your fiancé's room while they're getting ready. Some couples wait until the photographer arrives to do this in order to capture the reaction on film. Others may choose to sneak the gift into the suite early, then call one another to personally thank each other for the present.

Sneak a Surprise

Who doesn't love a sweet surprise from their partner on their wedding day? Plan something sweet and simple that won't be too hard for you to pull off on the morning of your wedding. This could be something as small as writing a note in a sneaky hiding place for your fiancé to find while getting ready, or decorating your getaway car with ribbons and flowers.

First Touch

Some wedding photographers encourage their clients to do a first look while others recommend a first touch. Meant to calm the nerves just before the ceremony, a first touch usually takes place on either side of a cornered wall or with eye masks on so the couple can't actually see each other. Photographer Lacie Hansen says, "I think it's all in—either see each other or don't," but to each his own, right?

Pass Notes

If you're getting ready in the same hotel or venue, passing notes or funny jokes through a bridesmaid or groomsman can a be a playful, tech-free way to connect with your fiancé on your wedding day. Keep the notes going until just before you walk down the aisle.

Get Ready Together

Wedding planner Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events opted to get ready for her wedding with her husband. "Getting ready together is a different approach, but it's nice to have time alone with your fiancé before the ceremony," Alison says. "It allows you not to be so nervous during the vows. Plus, it was so fun to take time out and kiss in between getting ready!"

Text Teaser Photos

While you may not want to see each other the morning of the wedding, swapping little teaser shots back and forth can make the getting ready process feel more playful and connected.

Work Out Together

You may not want to do a first look but having coffee together and going for a long walk, hike, or yoga class can be a helpful way to start the day with a feeling of collective calm.

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8 Questions to Ask at a Food Tasting

Think about staffing, pairings, decor, and scale when meeting with caterers.

 A pre-event food tasting is more than just an opportunity to sample the cuisine that your guests will enjoy. It’s a chance to create an open dialogue with your caterer, plan for last-minute fire drills, and confirm even the smallest details. Here are eight questions to help you get the most out of a food tasting.

What is your specialty? What do you do better than other caterers?

Being open to new ideas and capitalizing on what your caterer does best can help ensure that an event runs as smoothly as possible. “It’s important to tap into what caterers are good at and not try to reinvent the wheel, especially if the event has time restrictions,” explains Shai Tertner, C.E.O. and founder of Shiraz Creative in Miami.

Plus, letting a chef execute a signature dish can elevate a menu from great to exceptional. “I always appreciate it when a client asks what we’d like to make,” says Sigrid Helgason, director of sales at Farm To Market Catering in Dallas. “It gives us a chance to showcase our creativity and our chefs’ talent.”

How do you accommodate dietary restrictions? Is there an extra cost for these options?
In today’s culinary climate, even small events are likely to include guests with everything from peanut allergies to gluten sensitivities. “I recommend asking what the caterer can do to create a great experience that takes into account everyone’s dietary needs,” says Julie Lindenman, owner of New York-based Julie Lindenman Events.

Offering options ensures that everyone is properly cared for and able to fully enjoy the cuisine. Jenn Day, director of catering at Charlie Palmer Group, suggests getting as specific as asking what types of milk will be available to guests. Be sure to confirm whether providing vegan, gluten-free, or other alternatives will come at an extra cost or if those dishes are included as part of the standard catering package.

How will this dish scale up from a few plates at a tasting to hundreds at an event?

Executing a handful of plates at a tasting differs greatly from serving an entire ballroom. Ask the caterer how each dish will be affected when produced on a mass scale.

Tertner recommends discussing how the venue will come into play. “Ask where the kitchen is located, how long it will take for a waiter to get from the kitchen to the table, and how that distance will affect the temperature of the plate they’re serving,” he says. Off-premise events in particular come with their own challenges, as the venue might not be equipped with a professional kitchen. “I want to know that the caterer is mindful of these factors and is setting us up for success,” he says.

Is what I am tasting and seeing today exactly what will be served at the event?

To limit the chances of unwelcome last-minute surprises, be sure that both you and the caterer are clear on how what is being showcased at a tasting will be replicated for the actual event.

“Ask how the portion size will compare to what you’re seeing at a tasting and exactly how the finished plate will look,” suggests Day, who also recommends confirming that fresh ingredients won’t be substituted later. “The kitchen should be putting its best foot forward at a tasting, so it’s best to confirm that what you’re seeing is exactly what your guests will get.”

If a dish includes seasonal or hard-to-find ingredients, confirm that there is an alternate plan in case they are not available on the day of the event.

How can we customize the menu to best represent and complement my specific event?

More than just a vendor, a creative and collaborative caterer can be a crucial partner in making an event unique and impactful, using food as a way to enhance the guest experience.

“I love asking about customization and personalizing things,” says Lindenman. “I have a lot of clients interested in customizing a menu in ways that the caterer didn’t show initially.” If you’re planning a corporate event, for example, ask if the caterer can include the company logo on a cookie or if the brand’s color scheme can be reflected in a cocktail.

For a themed affair, see if the dishes or presentation can be tweaked to reflect and complement the decor. “If planners don’t ask those questions, our hands are tied when it comes to tailoring dishes to the needs of the party,” explains Brad Widish, senior account executive at Presidential Gourmet Catering in Toronto. “Give your caterer as much information as possible so that we have a complete understanding of the event.”

Can you create dishes to pair with a wine or liquor?
If your event has an alcohol sponsor, share that information with the caterer. Ask for the bartender to create a specialty cocktail using that specific brand of liquor, or for a wine-sponsored event, request that each course be paired with a specific bottle. “Caterers often have a knowledgeable staff, and even an in-house sommelier, that can help choose dishes that pair well with the event’s designated vintages,” says Lindenman.

If the event doesn’t have an alcohol sponsor, ask the caterer for recommendations for wine and liquor that are the best fit for your audience, food menu, and budget.

What serveware options do you offer? For a buffet, what will each station look like?
Food and drink presentation, from tabletop items to linens to serveware, should match the feel of the event.

“Nowadays there are so many party supply rental companies that caterers use because keeping inventory in stock and up to health codes is difficult,” says Tertner. Experienced caterers often have relationships with rental companies and thus have access to several options for everything from napkins to stemware. Think about details like the colors of the tablecloths on buffet stations, and consider what decorative elements can be included on serving dishes and stations to make them blend with the event’s overall look and theme.

What will the staff-to-guest ratio be?

Caterers also handle the details of service. Staffing plans should consider the layout of the venue, as expansive spaces require more staff. “Everyone is watching their dollars, but compromising on the number of servers can have a big impact on the event,” Helgason says. “You don’t want guests to be cranky or ‘hangry’ because there isn’t enough service staff.”

For a 100-guest cocktail party with a full bar, Tertner recommends staffing of two bartenders, four waiters, one or two busboys, and one captain. At more than 150 guests, he suggests adding a sanitation caption. For a 100-person seated dinner, Tertner recommends 15 to 20 waiters plus two to five busboys, two bartenders, one captain, and one sanitation captain. At 150 guests, he would add an assistant sanitation captain.

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Expert-Approved Wedding Invitation Etiquette Tips

An etiquette expert shares seven tips every couple needs to read before choosing their stationery.

Etiquette advisor Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick is best known for dispensing protocol and manners-training services at The Etiquette School of New York. So when it comes to wedding etiquette? We think it's safe to put your trust in her, starting with these seven simple stationery tips. After all, your wedding invitations are the first things your guests will see from your day. Don't you want to start off on the right foot?

Inviting guests to your big day isn't as simple as choosing stationery you love. From when to send your save-the-date cards and what your design should like to the wording on your envelopes and how to address an "adults-only" event, we're answering all of your burning wedding invitation etiquette questions, and breaking down what you need to know before you drop your stationery suite into the mail.

You Can Never Give Too Much Notice

Save-the-dates typically go out three to four months prior to the wedding, but if guests are spread far and wide—or you're throwing a destination wedding—more time is better. No one will complain about having extra leeway to plan. Send invitations six to eight weeks beforehand, with an R.S.V.P. request of two to three weeks prior to the event so you can get a final head count.

Be Creative (But Clear)

From telegrams to invisible ink, couples are doing fun things with their save-the-dates and invitations. If you're getting innovative, just make sure that all pertinent information is included. For save-the-dates, the names of the couple getting married and the date should be most prominent, along with a note that invitations will follow. You don't have to name the venue, but if you have a website, save-the-dates are a great place to share the URL.

Keep It Simple

Wedding invitations should include the full names of the couple marrying and those of the hosts (if they're different), the place and time, and that’s it. "No children" isn’t included on the invite; it's implied by the names on the envelope. Nor should you list registry information on the invitation—family and attendants can spread the word when asked about it, or you can provide it on your website.

Spell It Out

"Street," "Post Office Box," and "Apartment" should all be written in full. The same is true for city and state names and house numbers smaller than 20. "Mr. and Mrs." generally are abbreviated.

Play the Name Game

Your guests' entire names should be written on the outer envelopes. Address married couples as "Mr. and Mrs.," followed by the husband's first and last name. It's also fine to list both full names. When a woman keeps her maiden name, the names are written in alphabetical order: Ms. Susan Jones and Mr. John Smith. For an unmarried couple who live together, write the names on two lines.

Titles Do Matter

If the wife is a doctor, her full name comes first, as in "Doctor Aharon and Mr. Gary Lawrence." When the husband is a doctor, the titles appear as "Doctor and Mrs." and if both husband and wife are doctors, the envelope should say "Drs. Sharon and Gary Lawrence." A single woman (unless she's a doctor) should be addressed as "Ms." If she's under 21, use "Miss."

Be Gracious—In a Timely Fashion

Thank-you notes should be treated with a sense of urgency. Send them within two weeks of receiving the present to express your true appreciation.

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9 Smart Tips for Creating Authentic Events

“We are craving authenticity as a society right now more than ever before,” said Little Bird Told Media’s Alex Plaxen during BizBash Live: Los Angeles on July 18. “We want to see how the sausage is made.”

Plaxen was speaking at a social-media masterclass, a new addition to BizBash's annual trade show at the California Market Center. While he was specifically discussing social media, he touched on a common theme that speakers throughout the day mentioned frequently: the quest for authenticity.

Speakers at the Event Innovation Forum, the morning workshop series, and afternoon masterclasses discussed how emerging technology, influencers, careful spending, sponsor integration, and more can create effective events that feel authentic and meaningful for audiences. Here are some of their insights.

1. “Branding” should not be the focus.

At the Event Innovation Forum, Scott Dallavo, the director of events and strategic alliances for the Los Angeles Times, discussed how events can effectively engage the public and communicate a company’s values. The key to creating meaningful experiences, he advised, is to start by focusing on an organization’s core mission and purpose.

“Branding is the enemy of mission and purpose,” he said, noting that a carefully controlled brand image becomes more about the organization than the audience—which makes marketing feel like manipulation. When brands and organizations return to their true mission and purpose, they can create events that genuinely reflect their values and goals—and focus on how they can benefit an attendee’s life.

“Then marketing can become a sincere expression of who you really are,” he added.

2. Use your experts to gain credibility.

Vanessa Fontanez, the general manager of experiences and conferences for Vox Media, also spoke at the Event Innovation Forum, where she explained that the media brand “believes in the power of building amazing, deep, impactful experiences” as a new way to communicate with audiences.

The main tenant of Vox Media events is to bring editorial voices to life in a new, deeper way, she said, noting that Recode’s ultra-exclusive Code Conference has speakers and programming curated directly by editors Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka.

The Los Angeles Times’ Dallavo also puts editorial voices front and center, noting that at the newspaper’s massive Festival of Books, panels featuring journalists are always standing-room-only. The same event also has a popular “Ask a Reporter” booth. People want to feel like they're getting special access to smart people.

3. Know your audience and build specifically for them. 

Todd Hawkins, founder and president of the Todd Group, gave tips for building better nonprofit events during his Event Innovation Forum session. “Who are your donors, volunteers, sponsors? Program for them,” he advised.

According to Hawkins, nonprofit events should have three main goals: to “ignite, excite, and engage.” Have a lineup that ignites ticket sales and attendance, excites the audience once they’re through the doors, and engages with them so they’ll leave the event thinking, “I’m going to write a check, get friends to donate, volunteer, use my resources however I can for this organization,” he said.

Fontanez also touched on the importance of understanding your attendees, calling Vox Media’s audience “the curious class”—a group that craves deeper storytelling. Think about, “Why are they engaging with us? What are they coming to learn? What are they able to discover?” she said.

“We are craving authenticity as a society right now more than ever before.”1

4. Influencers are a great marketing tool—if you let them be themselves.
During a workshop session, Branden Meck of MarketKings and influencer Chris Villain shared tips for creating an effective influencer campaign. They stressed the importance of partnering with the right influencers—who is not always the obvious person. Look at the demographics of a person’s followers. If a bikini model has mostly male followers, Meck said as an example, she’s probably not the right person to actually try and sell a bikini.

The most important thing, according to both Meck and Villain, is to let the influencer be themselves. “Let them do the post how they want to do the post,” advised Meck. “They have their following for a reason, and they need to be authentic.”

As an example, Villain spoke about a time a bra company approached him to promote its product. Once he saw that his followers were 60-percent women, he decided to partner with the company—but with a twist that felt authentic to his own personality. He created a funny, superhero-theme video that appealed to the female cosplay community; when the numbers came back, Villain’s bra promotion was more successful than many women the brand had partnered with.

5. Use emerging technology to turn attendees into active participants.
Of course, an event won’t feel effective and memorable if attendees spend the entire time staring at their phones. New technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality is designed to make guests the “co-creators of the experience,” said Brent Bushnell, C.E.O. of Two Bit Circus during the Event Innovation Forum.

Immersive entertainment and nonlinear design that presents guests with a set of options forces them to create their own journey—thereby crafting one that they will enjoy and remember.

But one key thing to remember is the issue of consent, noted Bushnell. Immersive theater can sometimes lead to actors and staffers touching guests or putting them in uncomfortable situations. “Different people have different levels of comfort,” said Bushnell, and hosts need to be aware of that and add ways attendees can opt-out.

Bushnell also explained that we haven’t even seen the possibilities for emerging technology in the event scene yet. “Think about movies in 1930s, when we were just figuring out how to add audio,” he said. “Think about computing in the 1970s. That’s where we are right now for immersive entertainment. The doors are wide open and it’s up to us to define this space.”

6. Spend money on things that matter.

During his session on nonprofit events, Hawkins noted that benefits should be “simple, understated, and to the point.” Audiences—and especially donors—don’t want to see their money spent on lavish affairs. Don’t blow your budget on things like gift bags, expensive entertainment, advanced technology, and more—unless it really furthers the event’s cause. “Stay true to your organization—and your budget,” he said.

Heather Mason, C.E.O. of Caspian Agency, also touched on budget issues during her workshop on effective event strategies. Crunch the numbers to show clients the value of the event—whether it’s increased sales, brand awareness, or networking—and compare that to the cost of the event. “If events are to provide real value, the business needs to provide real resources,” she explained.

7. Integrate sponsors in thoughtful ways.
At the Event Innovation Forum, designer Troy Williams, principal and event designer of Simply Troy, stressed the importance of integrating sponsors in surprising and strategic ways. Brand logos should not be “vomited all over an event,” he said. Incorporate them in a way that feels authentic to both the event and to the sponsor’s mission.

Hawkins also talked about the importance of sponsor relationships, saying that planners should “Integrate sponsors in the planning process from the start.” For nonprofit events especially, sponsors—and the host committee—are crucial to the event and need to help craft an effective experience.

8. Create a social-media plan that resonates with your audience.
During his masterclass, Plaxen noted that 63 percent of global consumers claim they would buy from a company they consider authentic—and a big part of that image comes through social media. Brands with a social-media presence need to listen and respond to their followers, have a consistent voice, and be transparent with issues and problems. 

He cited the Wendy’s Twitter account as an example: The fast food chain’s tweets are filled with personality so its followers feel like they’re interacting with a real person. “Show the face behind the brand,” advised Plaxen, noting that followers love to see behind-the-scenes content on social media.

He also mentioned Instagram Stories’ new music option—where a clip of music can be played during a story—as a way to keep viewers there for the whole thing. “Music resonates,” he said, because it causes an instant emotional connection.

9. Work with kind, educated people—and make them feel appreciated.
Williams shared what he looks for in an employee: someone who is hard-working, fun to be around, great at what they do, respectful, and most of all, kind. “I can teach you other skill sets, but if you’re not a kind person, you will never work with me,” he said.

And he practices what he preaches: After every single event, Williams sits down the next day to write a long thank-you email that credits everyone’s contributions and thanks every vendor. He adds the client as a bcc, so they can see how many people helped bring the event to life. “Gratitude is so important,” Williams said.

During a workshop session, Shane Terenzi, director of events for High Beam Events, also shared ways to build an effective staff. “Our team works vertically,” he explained. “Each planner owns the event from start to finish.” That means that each staffer is trained to focus on both creativity and logistics, using both their left brains and right brains. This leads to a better experience for clients, and a team that’s more invested in creating strong, authentic events.

Brett Hyman, president and founder of NVE Experience Agency, also touched on an important note for teams during his workshop session: Don’t be a yes person. It’s not helpful to your clients, vendors, or staff. Stick up for your ideas and create events you believe in.

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5 Women Share Their Best Wedding Planning Advice

Wedding planning can have its ups and downs, and sometimes the only way to get through the hard parts is to hear that you're not alone. To help you tackle everything from buying your wedding dress to choosing the reception meal, we asked five recent brides to share their very best pieces of planning advice. Let their experiences guide yours. 


 The Dress

"Make sure you're very detailed when explaing which wedding dress styles you like and how you envision yourself looking on your wedding day," suggests recent bride Avery. "Bring pictures of dresses and looks that you love and be open to new ideas. I had my mind set on a white, long-sleeved, lace gown and ended up leaving the store with a blush pink wedding dress with a sweetheart neckline!" She says brides-to-be should try on at least five different styles to get the best understanding of what complements their specific body type. And never—ever!—try on a dress that exceeds your budget. "As much as you may love it, and just want to see how it looks on, just don't do it. It's a recipe for heartbreak," she adds.

The Food

Maryalice, another recent bride, can't stress enough how important great food is at a wedding. It shouldn't just be tasty though—you'll also want to pick options that are universally appealing. "You might want to forgo the fancy prime rib and roasted chicken and serve more unexpected food choices instead," she says. "Nobody will miss the bland vegetable medley and pats of butter shaped like flowers, but everyone remembers a delicious plate of barbecue."

The Spouse

Your spouse-to-be wants to be included in wedding-related decisions. Just take it from new bride Emily, who says that although your future husband may say, "Whatever you like is fine!" he may actually have tons of great opinions and ideas. "Have conversations about what you're planning and what's important to them on the wedding day. For instance, my husband always dreamed of wearing a kilt on his wedding day. It was important to him because his family is from Scotland and he knew it would mean so much to his parents and grandparents," she explains. "The look on their faces when they saw him before the ceremony was priceless! The men on his side of the family wore kilts, and I still get so many compliments to this day on how unique and special that was for the guests to see."

The Budget

Making and sticking to your wedding budget is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning. Like many brides, Ashley explains that making a spreadsheet was crucial in staying on track. "Include all the different components that will make up your wedding day. Talk with your fiancé and create an estimated column of how much you're willing to spend on each item and then create an actual price column to help you stay on track once you start planning and paying for things," she says. "This will help keep you on budget and make the experience less stressful and more enjoyable."

The Details

Everyone wants their wedding to be a reflection of their relationship, and new bride Erin says the best way to do just that is to choose details that say something about you, your future spouse, and your love story. "Include details that embody your relationship. It's your time to celebrate everything fun and unique about your love! Don't focus on what you think others might want. You do you," she says.

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5 Reasons to Send Your Staff to Industry Events

On the fence about sending your staff to an event? In this post we’ll explore why it just might be worth it.

 It’s easy to see why many managers don’t prioritize sending staff to industry events or conferences. They can be expensive, they require time away from the office, and the return-on-investment isn’t always clear.

But, professional events provide opportunities that your staff simply can’t get elsewhere. When employees attend an event, they learn new skills, make new connections, expose your brand to new audiences, and so much more.

If you’re still skeptical, keep reading! 

1. Networking Opportunities

Industry events give your employees the opportunity to interact with other professionals in their field. They can meet members of other companies, converse with industry experts, and make lasting connections during their time at trade shows or conferences. 

In today’s era of virtual communication, we often forget how effective in-person interaction can be. When your employees attend industry events, they have the ability to forge meaningful business relationships that simply can’t be duplicated via email or telephone conversation. A spontaneous conversation at an event may just lead to a long-term business relationship for your company.

Fortunately, many events put networking front-and-center. Take for instance, Agency Nation’s Elevate. This two-day event is filled with networking opportunities for those in the insurance space to connect and even boast and even leverages event management software to make introductions easier.

2. Skill Development

Most events feature presentations and workshops from industry experts and influencers. These presentations aim to teach attendees new skills, best practices, and actionable ways to achieve long-term success. As long as your employees are attentive and eager to learn, they’ll leave with new tools and ideas to incorporate into in their day-to-day workflow.

Consider how events like Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference offer workshops and one-on-one consultations with company engineers. This type of practice isn’t only familiar to technology conferences—it can be seen across industries.

Whether events have dedicated workshops or not, think of them as training opportunities. Your employees can then return and present what they learned to their coworkers, and your entire organization will benefit.

3. Content Creation

Before the rise of blogs and social media, employees attended events strictly to learn new information and network with other attendees. Now, they can be active participants and create one-of-a-kind content during and after the event. Here are some examples: 
  • Live coverage: Your employees can post updates on social media throughout the event – everything from Instagram photos to tweets featuring quotes from a keynote speech. Make sure that they use any event-specific hashtags to boost exposure to their live coverage.
  • Video: Generating ideas for videos can be a struggle for marketers – but live events offer a number of opportunities for unique videos. Your employees can capture key moments from the conference, or even run a live stream from inside the event hall where they update followers in real time.
  • Blog posts: Following the event, you can publish a follow-up blog breaking down key takeaways and top moments for those who are unable to attend. 

Keep in mind: if you want to leverage events for your content marketing strategy, you need to prepare accordingly. Research the event ahead of time and develop a list of sessions and activities your employees should prioritize for optimal content creation. 

4. Brand Awareness

Your employees represent your brand at an industry event, even if they are only there as attendees. According to branding best practices, when your company has a presence at an event, it establishes your brand as a recognizable and important player in your industry.

Make sure you only send employees who will represent your company in a positive light at any event. Not only should your staff be professional, but they should have a comprehensive knowledge of your company so they can discuss it with other attendees at the event.

It may be tempting to send only sales representatives, but sending a mix of employees from different departments will provide a more complete representation of your company and enable knowledge to flow more openly across your company. 

5. Inspiration

Every employee’s motivation dips from time to time. When you go through the same routine every single day, it’s natural to lose focus or burn out. An event provides a great opportunity to step away from the day-to-day monotony of work and experience something fresh and exciting.

Your employees will build skills and gain actionable insights while at an event, but they will also feel reinvigorated after spending some time in a new, high-energy atmosphere. You may think that spending time out of the office will hurt productivity – but once your employees return, they will likely be more productive than ever thanks to their newfound motivation and inspiration. 

Speak with your employees in the days following an event – you’ll likely discover that they are rejuvenated and more motivated than they were before they left. 

Key Takeaways 

We understand sending your employees to conferences and tradeshows is a costly investment. But industry events accomplish much more than just sending your stuff on a fun trip. Events can have a major positive impact both on your employees and on your brand.

Events can lead to:
  • Networking opportunities
  • Professional development
  • Content opportunities
  • Brand exposure
  • Inspired morale

Remember to prep your employees prior to sending them to an event so you can be sure to maximize these benefits. Then, you’ll begin to see that attending events is more than worth the cost.

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A Florist's Guide to Wedding Flowers

A wedding florist shares her advice for choosing the bridal bouquet, centerpieces, and more.

electing flowers, a focal point of wedding décor, can seem foreign and costly to many brides. Here, floral designer Meredith Waga Perez of Belle Fleur NY offers advice for picking the right arrangements for your big day.

What do you need to know before you start planning the flowers for a wedding?
The venue and date are obviously important so we have an idea of what will work stylistically and the flowers that will be available. It’s also helpful to know what the dress looks like, but that shouldn’t be rushed. If necessary, we can start on the overall scheme and wait until the gown is selected to decide on the design for the bridal bouquet.

What should brides bring to the initial meeting with their florist?
Before the first meeting, we ask brides to collect items and images that might inspire the palette and mood. These don’t have to come from traditional sources. You could bring in paint chips, tear sheets from interior design magazines, or pictures of gardens you took on your iPhone. One thing that’s extremely helpful is when a bride creates inspiration boards on Pinterest. I recently joined the site, so people can take images from my boards as well. With everything laid out clearly on the screen, it’s easy to edit the ideas down to a concise concept.

What are your favorite bouquets to pair with different dress silhouettes?
There are no rules, but I personally love the way a cascading bouquet echoes the long lines of a sheath dress. If the gown is really modern and clean, a minimalist, single-flower bouquet, such as tightly clustered mini calla lilies or French ranunculus, can also look stunning. With a ball gown, I prefer a traditional, round bouquet that mimics the shape and proportions of the skirt. A-line and empire silhouettes are simpler and can work with any bouquet. The thing to keep in mind is the level of embellishment. If the dress is ornate, I’d go with fewer varieties of flowers and maybe a matte duchess satin or sheer silk organza wrap. If the gown is on the plain side, you might want more texture in the bouquet and some sort of beaded fabric or embroidered lace trim. Think of the bouquet as an accessory that complements, but doesn’t overshadow, the dress.

If cost is a concern, where should couples focus their flower budgets?
People spend four to six hours at the reception, so I think centerpieces are key. At the ceremony, I would concentrate on a couple of fabulous arrangements flanking the area where you’ll exchange vows. If your reception is at the same location you can reuse them—have the banquet manager place one on either side of the band. You can also repurpose the bridesmaids’ bouquets on the cocktail tables. Ask your florist to leave some extra vases to pop the bouquets in after the ceremony. I would forgo pew or chair decorations at the ceremony because so many venues are beautiful on their own. In general, you can save about 20 percent per arrangement by incorporating a moderate amount of foliage, as opposed to doing all flowers. The greenery we’re working with now—geranium, hellebores, lamb’s ear, peppergrass, umbrella fern—is so gorgeous and chic, we use it even when cost isn’t a concern. As far as a splurge, save it for the bridal bouquet. This is your statement and it will be in tons of pictures—don’t even look at what the florist is charging you.

Is it true that using seasonal blooms saves money?

This is common advice, but it’s not always accurate. White hydrangeas, for example, are available year-round from South America and cost a fraction of what you’d pay during the late summer growing season here in New York. Lilacs, on the other hand, are three times more expensive if you import them from Holland versus order them from a local farm in the spring. Local tulips are often the same price as ones from Holland, but you can get hundreds of different varieties overseas, whereas here we only have access to a few dozen. It’s important to support local growers whenever possible, but your florist should also present you with all the options so you can make informed decisions and get the best value.

What are your thoughts on preserving the bridal bouquet?
I’m not a fan. I have done extensive research and sent bouquets to professionals who do floral preservation, a service that can cost hundreds of dollars. The process usually involves submerging the flowers in silica gel, a drying medium, or freeze-drying them. In both cases, I’ve found the flowers lose vibrancy. With silica gel, the blossoms may also yellow and those that are freeze-dried crumble easily. You can air-dry your bouquet yourself, but everything gets kind of brown and withered. In my opinion, the bridal bouquet is meant to be enjoyed on the wedding day and maybe for a few days afterward. If you want to save something, pull out blossom, fold a piece of paper over it, and press it in a heavy book—you can then frame the flower or put it in a scrapbook. You can also keep the ribbon treatment for your daughter to use on her wedding day.

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How to Design for Powerful Connection and Learning at Large Meetings

Although you’d never guess it from reading meeting industry trade journals, most meetings are small meetings, and this is a good thing if you want effective and relevant connection and learning to take place.

Large meetings stroke owners’ and leaders’ egos, can supply impressive spectacle, are appropriate places to launch campaigns and mass announcements, and can be very profitable. But they are poor vehicles for creating the useful participant learning, connection, and outcomes that well-designed small conferences can deliver. So if you are (un)fortunate enough to be the owner or designer of a large meeting, what can you do to maximize participant value?

You need to satisfy four core requirements for optimum learning and connection:
  1. Provide sessions focused on content that participants care about.
  2. Design for small sessions and/or have participants work together in small groups.
  3. Use interactive formats.
  4. Include closing sessions that consolidate learning, build community, and explore the group’s future.
Let’s take a look at each of these requirements in more detail.

Content that participants care about
Traditional large conferences use the “kitchen sink” {aka “spray and pray”} approach of stuffing sessions on every potentially interesting topic into the program. Slightly more sophisticated conferences attempt to determine in advance the topics that attendees say they want included. Unfortunately, years of research by yours truly has shown that when conference sessions are chosen in advance, the majority of them are not what attendees want and need {here’s an example}. It’s like John Wanamaker describing advertising: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” There’s no way to know in advance which sessions you’ve prescheduled will meet participants’ wants and needs. To be sure of scheduling sessions about content that participants actually care about, you’ll need to uncover and satisfy their actual wants and needs at the event. Luckily, doing this isn’t rocket science — I’ve been crowdsourcing programs in many different ways for 26 years. Want to learn more?  My 2009 book Conferences That Work describes one way to create an entirely crowdsourced multi-day conference, here’s another way to do it for a one-day conference, if you have only a few hours Open Space is useful (though, in my opinion, overrated), and I’m writing a new book that covers everything I’ve learned about crowdsourcing programs at meetings.

Small sessions and/or small group work
One of the reasons why small conferences with a well-defined niche audience work well is that participants don’t have to waste time meeting people with whom they have little in common. Large meetings attempt to create the same environment by scheduling multiple conference tracks and concurrent breakout sessions. Often, however, the resulting sessions are still too large for people to easily make useful connections and/or learn from each other. Unless you use interactive formats (see below), not much useful learning can happen in an hour with a hundred attendees. One simple approach to reduce the size of large sessions is to run them simultaneously in several rooms or repeat them at different times. Interested participants can be distributed between multiple sessions, either by preallocation (for simultaneous sessions) or personal choice. I use this approach to run The Three Questions as an opening plenary at large conferences. Small sessions, with thirty or less participants should be the goal. Such sizes invite less formal formats where it’s easier for participants to ask questions, influence what is covered and discussed, and contribute their expertise and experience to the learning environment. Finally, large sessions can work effectively if they are have a significant small group work component. For example, some of the session formats I design and facilitate — for example: The Solution Room, RSQP, and The Personal Introspective — scale to work with any number of participants because most of the important work is done in small groups. Remember, small is beautiful!

Interactive formats

Designing genuinely useful sessions for large groups is challenging work, and typically requires incorporating small group work as described above. However, I have had great success facilitating highly interactive discussions of “hot topics” with hundreds of people. By interactive, I don’t mean that five people monopolize the entire discussion; typically about forty people are “up on stage” at some point, most of whom had no inkling beforehand that they had something useful to contribute. I call the format I’ve developed the Fishbowl Sandwich, and you’ll find full details on how to design and prepare such a session in The Little Book of Event Crowdsourcing Secrets.

Closing sessions

Most meetings squander the experiences they create by failing to provide structured time to consolidate and reflect on individual and group learning, and explore consequent future change. All meetings can be improved by including closing sessions that help participants consolidate what they’ve learned during the conference and determine next steps and that provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on the event, build community, and uncover new opportunities for future activities together. Luckily, formats that satisfy these important needs — The Personal Introspective and Group Spective — can be run for meetings of any size. Include them!

One final thought

If you’re planning to incorporate sessions like the ones I’ve outlined above, bear in mind that interactive sessions typically require more time than traditional lecture-style presentations. Active learning is messy and risky, and creating an effective and safe learning environment takes more time than simply listening to or viewing speaker content. Before scheduling crowdsourcing, interactive formats, and closing sessions, investigate the amount of time they’ll need, so you don’t sabotage them by cramming them into a timeslot that can’t do them justice. The links above are good resources. Investigate them, apply their principles, and make your large conferences better!

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How to Incorporate Lawn Games Into Your Wedding Without Wrecking Your Design

Summer months are among the most popular dates for weddings and for good reason - there is a happiness and blissfulness in the air during those warm summer days in general, but even more so when you add love to the mix. Adding aspects of fun, like a game of croquet or ring toss, to your wedding reception or pre-ceremony moments can up the ante for how much fun your guests will have!

Mirror the Game Selection to the Feel and Style of Your Wedding 

Lawn games can be laid back and casual, or you can fancy up them up if you are having more of a classic fete by adding upscale design elements such as incorporating your event color palette, fonts, etc. into the design of the games. These details will tie the activities to the event itself without it feeling like the games were an afterthought.

If you are having a classic outdoor ceremony with modern design details, yet want your guests to feel comfortable and enjoy the in-between moments of your day, opt to include games with design features that speak to your "theme" and style of your overall event. Think your wedding monogram or family crest as an addition to your croquet mallets, Jegna pieces, or cornhole bags.

Choose Games With a Bit of Meaning

The fun thing about adding lawn games into your wedding entertainment is the ability to curate the games based on your relationship and style. Meet the love of your life in college and associate some of your favorite college days playing cornhole while tailgating? Opt to include this as a sweet memento to your early relationship days. Or maybe you have a favorite game, such as Jenga or Connect Four, you like to play with your partner on a date night in - opt for giant versions of the games for your guests to play. This is also a great way to speak to your relationship and make the day even more "you" as a couple.

Limit the Number of Games 

While having several different game options for your guests is a great idea in theory - hey, something for everyone! It is best to keep the games to two to three count per one hundred guests. This way, you are adding a dash of personality and giving your guests activities, yet the games are still organized and serve just as much in the decor department as they do entertaining your guests.

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Event Promotion: 6 Advanced Tactics To Promote Events with Social Media

Millions of events are being promoted on social media every day. These 6 tactics are very powerful to promote events on social media and ensure your event is a sell out!

The top 4 social networks to promote your events are:
  1. Facebook
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Twitter
  4. Instagram

So how do you make sure your marketing campaign is fresh and that you can make the most of reaching billions of users on social media?

Let’s have a look.

Tactic #1 - It's All About Visuals

Pictures and video are the new social currency. Nobody reads anymore. Not enough time, not enough focus.

On the other hand it’s very easy to double tap on a picture. Collect as many assets as possible from your current event that you can repurpose. A solid photography investment is the basis of modern social media strategies.

These visual assets will be key on pretty much every social network. Whether it is Linkedin or Snapchat, you will need an enormous amount of assets to create a coordinated campaign that delivers.

Tactic #2 - Create FOMO

The whole purpose of your social media marketing campaign is to create FOMO.

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out

Hire influencers to attend your event and spread the word about your event. Entice them with targeted registration codes, get them to participate in the lead up to the event with interviews, takeovers, behind the scenes.

Remember that your performers or entertainers or speakers are the prime influencers, so give them collaterals they can share on social networks.

Tactic #3 - Gamify Promotions

Get people talking about your event online.

You can use tools such as event apps or special discount codes to create community before the event.

Tactic #4 - Be Present All Year Round

If you wake up two months before the event, it’s not going to work, you will not get the exposure. Social networks now have algorithms that assign visibility based on your activity and performance of updates.

If you want to give it the best shot, you need to be engaged and present all year long.

Tactic #5 - Quality Not Quantity

Back in the day, there was one golden rule about the use of social media to promote events: the more updates and content the merrier.

Nowadays, attention has shifted from quantity to quality.

The only exception is for stories. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat give you more prominence if you create more stories. The same is not true for regular updates though.

Curating less updates but providing the highest quality content. It’s really about curating that one daily or weekly update that is going to give you the maximum exposure. Algorithms will favour you if you focus on less updates but of higher quality.

Tactic #6 - Combine Social Ads

Combine Social ads for maximum effectiveness

There is no chance anyone will see your updates on social networks such as Facebook if you don’t combine your strategy with a strong ad budget. The same goes for Youtube.

You should allocate some budget to seed your content, especially at the beginning. Organic opportunities will kick in later but always allocate a budget that can range anywhere between $10 and $1,000 dollars per update if you really want to increase the visibility of your updates.

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The Perfect Signature Cocktail According to Your Netflix Binge

There are some wedding planning tasks that are equal parts fun and difficult. Settling on the perfect signature cocktail to concoct for your wedding is often one of them. While I like to believe I'm an amateur mixologist, the options for a well-crafted wedding signature cocktail are endless and can feel daunting.

Whether you binge on seasons of British royal dramas or tween socialite flicks, we have the one stop shop guide to finding your perfect wedding signature cocktail, based on your current Netflix binge! From fruity and fun to brilliantly bitter, your guests are sure to love these quintessentially cinematic sips.Gilmore Girls: Irish coffee
Bring a taste of Luke's Diner to your reception by offering a fun twist on Lorelai's favorite beverage.
  • 2 2/3 oz (4 parts) Hot coffee
  • 1 1/3 oz (2 parts) Irish whiskey
  • 1 tsp. Brown sugar
  • 1 oz (1½ parts) Fresh cream

Unbreakable  Kimmy Schmidt: Moscow Mule
This zesty favorite is a must-have for lovers of TV's favorite ginger. Plus, serving these up in quaint hammered copper mugs is the perfect on-trend decor detail your guests will love!
  • 4 oz Ginger beer
  • 1 1/2 oz Vodka
  • 1/6 oz Lime juice

Black Mirror: Gin and Tonic
If you're a frequenter of this British Sci-Fi anthology, then a gin and tonic appropriately garnished with black juniper berries is a perfect choice.
  • 1 1/2 Oz Gin
  • 3-4 Oz Tonic water
  • 1 lime wheel
  • 1 strip lemon zest
  • 1 lemon verbena leaf
  • A few juniper berries
Served over ice in a rocks or highball glass

Master of None: Negroni

Aziz Ansari is often spotted on screen sipping Negronis in this comedic masterpiece and fans of the show will remember his girlfriend complaining about Ansari's character leaving spilled Campari on the kitchen counter.
  • 1 oz (1 part) Gin
  • 1 oz (1 part) Campari
  • 1 oz (1 part) Sweet red Vermouth
Garnished with an orange peel

The Crown: The Twinkle Elderflower Cocktail
Preferably served in a vintage coupe, this cocktail is the perfect royal-inspired l'apéritif. With Meghan Markle's royal wedding on the horizon, one has to wonder whether royal wedding guests may find themselves sipping a similar cocktail.
  • 1 oz vodka
  • .5 oz elderflower cordial, such as St. Germain
  • Topped with Champagne
  • Lemon peel twist, for garnish

Mad Men: Old Fashioned

Nothing says Don Draper more than an Old Fashioned.
  • 1 1/2 oz Bourbon or Rye whiskey
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 Sugar cube
  • Few dashes plain water
Garnish with an orange peel

Stranger Things: Maple Bourbon Smash
If you love Eleven, then waffles obviously have to make an appearance at your wedding! Serve up a late night snack of chicken and waffle sliders accompanied by a crowd-pleasing maple bourbon smash!
  • 1/4 oz Lemon juice, fresh
  • 1/2 oz Maple syrup, pure
  • 1/2 oz Orange juice, fresh
  • 1 1/2 oz Seltzer
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 orange wheel

House of Cards: Southern Peach Mint Julep
Perfect for TV's darkest whiskey-loving southern politician. Or opt for a whiskey bar offering your favorite single malt scotch, if you want to pack a punch with Underwood's favorite.
  • 8 to 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 peach, sliced
  • 2 oz sweet tea vodka 
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 6 oz club soda

Narcos: Prickly Pear Margarita

If you spend your Friday evenings chronicling the rise of the Colombian drug trade then consider a festive twist on a south of the border cocktail classic.
  • 2 oz Silver Tequila
  • 5 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Prickly pear syrup
  • Coarse pink salt for rim
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Gossip Girl: Grapefruit and Rosemary Mimosa

Perfect for a daytime wedding or in lieu of a champagne toast, consider serving up a reimagined take on this Van Der Woodsen brunch staple!
  • 2 Tbsp. Rosemary Infused Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 Glass of Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • Top with Champagne
  • Spring of rosemary to garnish

Queer Eye: Whisky Ginger

Inspired by Queer Eye's resident food and wine expert, Antoni Porowski, who makes 'Whatever Whisky Punch' in episode six, a whisky ginger is the perfect signature cocktail!
  • 2-3 Oz whiskey
  • Top with Ginger ale
  • Garnish with Lime wedge

How To Get Away With Murder: Sangree

This cocktail, often referred to as the grandfather of Sangria, is perfect for people hooked on one of TV's bloodiest primetime dramas.
  • 4 cherries, muddled
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 1½ oz. merlot
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1 lemon slice for garnish
Served over ice in a rocks glass

Grey's Anatomy: Spicy Paloma
An ode to TV's favorite tequila swigging surgeon, the Paloma is a fun option for a tequila cocktail that isn't a margarita.
  • 1 oz. Tequila
  • 3 oz. Fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. Jalapeño simple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Splash of grapefruit soda water (Pamplemousse La Croix works great!)
  • 1 jalapeño slice for garnish
  • Sugar and sea salt mixture for rim

Friends: White Russian
What better way to pay homage to your favorite Central Perk regulars than with an espresso laced signature cocktail?
  • 2/3 oz (2 parts) Coffee liqueur
  • 1 2/3 oz (5 parts) Vodka
  • 1 oz (3 parts) Fresh cream
Served over ice in a rocks glass

The best part about selecting your wedding signature cocktail is that you get to test out each contender with your fiancee while binging your current Netflix obsession! Cheers!

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Developing Content, Choosing Presenters

How planners can boost their role

The role of meeting planner in many organizations has grown in scope in recent years. The one area where many planners still aren’t fully utilized, however, is meeting content.

“At the core of every business meeting is this question: How do we get the best sessions and presenters for this audience,” says John Nawn, founder of The Perfect Meeting Inc. and consultant to senior management in organizations looking to optimize learning at their events. “It’s a multi-step process, and too many planners are brought into the process somewhere in the middle or even later.”

Nawn, a former director of education for PCMA, says planners are still held at least partly responsible for quality of programming, “So, planners need to be proactive and take more of a participatory role in what’s being presented within the formal and informal educational sessions. In short, they should act like a meeting designer,” he says.

Building a Blueprint

In fact, Nawn has a blueprint to help planners play a role in effective meeting design.

1. Job Analysis: The blueprint starts with asking management whether there’s been a job analysis conducted of the meeting’s audience. “A job analysis is created from interviews of the target employees, their managers and perhaps their customers,” Nawn says. “It’s a 360-degree data-gathering process to determine the audience’s job tasks and core skills.” Useful templates can be found online for most job types, from sales, operations and IT to accounting and meeting planning. As a result, planners can easily access a relevant template and recommend its use if management doesn’t yet have a job analysis completed for the target audience.

2. Competency Model: A competency model is a collection of knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes that determine successful performance for a particular job. A job analysis allows management to create a list of skills, which then guides meeting designers in building an educational curriculum that matches the model’s elements.

3. Call for Presentations: What’s more, the competency model also sharpens the subsequent call for presentations so that meeting designers and potential presenters don’t waste time. “Most calls are too broadly defined, so meeting designers don’t get exactly what they want,” Nawn says. A clearly defined idea of your goals and objectives not only helps potential presenters pitch more relevant session ideas: It also helps planners and management assess whether each submitted idea is sufficiently important to become part of the meeting agenda. It helps assess whether professional speakers who respond will customize their presentation sufficiently for the specific audience.

Nurturing Untested Experts

Nawn suggests casting a wider net for knowledgeable people who aren’t necessarily polished presenters. “Unless it’s an emerging subject or issue, peers generally provide more specific and useful information than professional speakers do,” he says. “But they might have to be coached or otherwise guided in order to create and deliver an effective session.”

To prepare inexperienced presenters, Nawn asks them the following questions: What is your overarching message? What are your strengths and weaknesses in being able to deliver that message? How do you think we can tell this story in the best way for the audience?

“Meeting owners in upper management tend to use the shorter TED Talks as a benchmark—but those are so highly curated and they spend a lot of time getting those just right,” Nawn says. “Many attempts at simply creating shorter presentations don’t work because presenters don’t have the competency to hit the mark in 15 minutes.”

Instead, a planner could hire a professional moderator to work one day of an event, when the less-experienced presenters on the program are scheduled. The moderator can lead each presenter in a one-on-one conversation in order to draw out the relevant information and lessons in a way that’s most engaging for the audience. “The presenters will focus more on conversing with the moderator, and won’t be preoccupied with shouldering the entire performance themselves,” Nawn says.

Alternatively, to refine a presentation (and its presenter) in the weeks ahead of the meeting, that presenter could conduct a webinar and lead a follow-up chat forum to understand attendee needs and expectations for the topic. And after the session happens at the in-person event, the presenter can be made available for audience interaction at a dedicated area in the prefunction space, a breakout room or a show booth.

What’s more, an opt-in conference call for attendees one week after the event can deepen and refine attendee learning, while another such call 60 days out can keep the conversation moving forward by seeing how attendees are applying their new knowledge. “Learning should not stop after the in-person event, and these outlets make learning continuous,” Nawn says. “They also inform the meeting owners on how to approach version 2.0 of that topic at the next event.”

Meeting Evaluations

To measure the true business benefit of all this content creation and speaker preparation, meeting owners must make a point of evaluating event sessions properly. In next month’s column, we’ll cover the various ways planners can query attendees on their retention of event content, their opinion on its importance to their work and specifically how they’re using what they learned for tangible business benefit.

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The 7 Worst Wedding Planning Tips Every Bride Should Avoid

When you're engaged and jumping on the wedding planning train, advice will suddenly start to surround you. Every article you read online will be about wedding dos and don'ts and every friend and family member will try to feed you tips and tricks that they think you absolutely need to hear before it's your turn to walk down the aisle. So when all of this advice is coming into your life, sometimes unwarranted, it's important to recognize what advice is actually helpful and what advice should be, well, kicked to the curb. Want to know to spot terrible advice? Well, here are seven wedding planning tips you should 100% avoid.

1. Skimp on the Food
Past brides will try to tell you that nobody eats the food so don't go above and beyond with premium food packages that offer a selection of appetizers and main courses. But the truth is, the food is one of the main things guests remember about your wedding. So, if it's within your budget, try to make sure there are several food options, as well as something that even the pickiest eaters will want to devour.

2. Improv Your Vows
Nope! Don't do this. Spend quality time writing your vows and even memorizing them if you can. You'll be so chocked up by nerves and emotion on the day of your wedding that you may not be able to speak from the heart off the cuff.

3. Wait for Your Wedding Dress to Go on Sale
Think the longer you wait to buy your wedding dress the cheaper it will be? Don't wait for flash sales or a coupon to arrive in the mail. The longer you wait to buy the dress, the more expensive alterations may be if you need it in a rush. Plus you'll have the added stress of waiting until the last-minute.

4. Skip the Open Bar and Do BYOB
Depending on your crowd, expecting guests to bring their own booze can be a problem waiting to happen. If you're not able to afford an open bar, consider doing an open bar for an hour or two and then switching to a cash bar to save a bit of money.

5. Don't Compare Your Wedding
The best thing you can do is compare what you want your wedding to be and look like to other weddings. You'll get ideas of things you may never would have thought of on your own and you may change your mind about things after seeing other people do it first.

6. Randomize the Seating Assignments
It may sound like a good idea at first and it will save you a ton of time and hassle trying to figure out where everyone should sit, but on the wedding day, it might be quite awkward if your Aunt Sue is sitting next to your sorority sisters from college.

7. DIY as Much as You Can
You may think you'll save a ton of cash DIY'ing your whole wedding, but you'll start to notice that you're spending a lot more time on arts and crafts. You also may end up spending more than you think on the bits and pieces, totally counteracting paying someone to help do your decorations for you. Remember: Time is money.

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Tips For Developing A Successful Integrated Marketing Plan

Successful businesses have an integrated marketing strategy. Just think of the reasons why you buy a specific product or service. Most likely some sort of marketing was involved, like a Facebook ad or a commerical on television. No matter if you connect planners with meeting facilities or sell ketchup, an integrated marketing plan is a must, which is why we wanted to take a second and discuss proven strategies for developing one.

An integrated marketing plan consists of blending online and offline marketing strategies implemented in the most cost-effective manner and providing the greatest return on investment (ROI). These strategies could include social media ads, email campaigns, print brochures, direct mail, and more. Blending these online and offline strategies is important because you really want to reach as many people as possible. Although digital marketing strategies may be used to attract younger audiences, those over 40 may prefer traditional offline methods.

Of course, when developing an integrated marketing plan, cost is going to be a factor. Not only will you want to choose the best marketing strategies to reach your intendend audience, but also strategies that are cost-effective. A good ROI is about 20 times what you invested in the marketing strategies.

So what are some things you should be doing in order to develop a successful integrated marketing plan? Our own Chuck Salem spoke about this exact topic in a video we released earlier this year. Here are some of his main points that can help tell your brand’s story and educate the public on a new product or service:
  • Harvest Data through Email Lists, Vendor Relationships, Past Customers, Corporate Lists and More
  • Make Yourself Findable Through SEO, Lead Generation Strategies, and Social Media Marketing
  • Create an Effective Website that Tells Your Company’s Story and Provides Users with Critical Information in an Easy to Access Manner
  • Highlight the Features, Benefits, and Advantages of Your Products and Services
  • Produce Engaging Video Content Relevant to Your Targeted Audience
  • Utilize Paid Advertising through Google AdWords, Facebook Promotion, and Local/Regional Media
  • Share Content Regularly about Your Company Like Recent Hires, Awards, and Testimonials
  • Be Social on All Platforms that Make Sense Including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Various Blogs
  • Offer First-Time Discounts and Perks to Convince People to Take a Shot on You
  • Implement Pre-Sales and Loyalty Programs to Attract New Customers and Retain Old Ones

Although these are not the only ways to create an integrated marketing plan, we encourage you try these strategies out to grow your business. 

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10 Ways To Zap Honeymoon Stress

Regardless of what cloud you're on after the wedding, the unpredictable nature of traveling and uninterrupted "together time" on your honeymoon can take its toll. What can go wrong drinking margaritas on the beach for a week, you ask? Silly, avoidable stuff, mostly. Here are 10 tips to keep moods in check.

1. Plan Ahead
The best way to avoid stress during your trip is to take some preliminary planning steps before you leave: sketch out the trip together (so each of your interests are addressed), agree to a budget before you leave, and read our honeymoon countdown to cover all the bases.

2. Ease In
Try to avoid leaving for the honeymoon immediately after the reception. Instead, check into the honeymoon suite of a local hotel for your wedding night, catch some ZZZs, and get a fresh start the next morning.

It's also smart to declare at least the first few days of your trip off-limits for sightseeing. Why? These first few days are crucial to setting the tone of your trip. Catching up on your sleep first (without guilt for a change!) can help you fully appreciate and max out the rest of your days. If you're not a relaxer by nature, force yourself to slow down by starting your vacation on the beach or in the countryside, and then tackling a big city.

3. Be Healthy
You've just run your body ragged for months on end. It's no wonder that sleepless nights, a diet of junk food and stress, an emotional wedding, too much drinking, and jet lag combine to make your body crash -- you finally have time! Physically and mentally, you'll likely be very fragile; don't be surprised if you feel unusually tired or if tempers flare during the first few days of your trip. Speed your recovery -- and save the rest of your trip -- by balancing your time at the bar and in bed. (Knot Note: Bring along a bottle of water on excursions so you don't get dehydrated and cranky.)

4. Respect Each Other's Interests

You want to shop; he wants to learn how to surf. No problem: Divvy up the day. You watch him swallow seawater all morning, he window shops with you in the afternoon. Don't battle, balance!

5. Respect Each Other's Limits

It's the end of the day and he's tired, you're wired. An important rule of happy travel is: Don't push. Allow each other to relax and recoup in your own way. If he tuckers out, call it a day or do your own thing. (Yes, splitting up for a few hours is allowed -- even encouraged! -- on your honeymoon.) Scout out a place for dinner, read by the pool, or jog along the beach. Your reunion will be all the sweeter.

6. Don't Overplan Your Days

This can be tough, especially if you've flown halfway around the world to soak up a cultural hot spot. Avoid the temptation to do and see everything -- and the regret you might feel if you don't -- by choosing a honeymoon destination where there's just enough to do in the time you have allotted. Once there, don't assign every day a long to-do list. You've just spent months overtaxing your system with work and wedding planning -- this is your chance to chill. Having to do something or be somewhere every minute will fray your nuptial nerves in no time.

7. Take Breaks
Build downtime into your days, especially if it's hot outside. Take lots of breaks for a pint of beer or cafe au lait and people watching. It's a great opportunity to adjust your plans, read up on the next thing you're doing, write in your journal, meet the locals, and simply absorb a destination's ambience.

8. Follow Your Nose

Try to loosen the reins of control on your honeymoon. True, you've just finished micro-managing your big day, but traveling is a different animal. The memorable parts of a trip are often found when you let serendipity be your leader: a little boutique off the tourist-beaten path, a bakery hidden around a corner, a sudden change of plans from a formal dinner to a jazz cruise. Stay loose and swing your mind's door open to suggestion.

9. Speak Up

Nip petty arguments and testy conversations in the bud right away. On your honeymoon, time is precious. Don't let a day -- even an hour -- be wasted bickering or not speaking because this is not just another day in hometown, America. This is a day in Paris, or Hawaii, or Thailand. You're paying a lot for this day! Be the bigger person and extend the olive branch first. If your new spouse insists on stewing, take a break and don't let it ruin your trip. He or she will come around.

Likewise, if your vision of the perfect trip starts to derail, don't be shy about tweaking its course. Again, time is of the essence; the trip will be over before you know it. If, for example, you meet another couple and friendly hubby keeps inviting them to do everything with the two of you, gently put the kabosh on your new full-time foursome. Don't let peer pressure or "trying to be nice" gobble up your honeymoon.

10. Be Patient
The honeymoon is a transition time for both of you: you're tired, you're relieved, you may be nervous (after all, you just tied a permanent knot), and suddenly, after a year of planning, you suddenly have all this free time on your hands. Believe it or not, post-wedding blues can come into play. Be patient with each other: The honeymoon is the fun part, but each person likely has other emotional issues stirring under the surface. Don't be surprised if this manifests itself in mysterious ways.

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5 VIP Perks Your Meeting Attendees Will Appreciate

Go above and beyond for your attendees by offering these special services at your next event.

Planners can arrange for guests to get massages from licensed therapists provided by Zeel, an on-demand massage company that operates in 70 cities.
Photo: Courtesy of Zeel

Digital communication dominates the day-to-day life of business people across nearly every industry, yet attendance at meetings, conferences, and trade shows remains strong. The value of face-to-face interaction is indisputable, but the fact, is the effort to come together—the travel, the cost, the work that piles up while away—can be taxing. So why not consider doing something extra to show your appreciation to your attendees? In recent years a variety of services have emerged that provide unique, and likely unexpected, perks for weary business travelers.

Here’s a look at five that may be a fit for your next event.

Luxury Car Rental
Provide a premium travel experience for your guests by offering them a rental car from Silvercar. The company only rents Audi A4s (silver of course) that are loaded with Wi Fi, Bluetooth, navigation, satellite radio, and leather seats. And the rental process is entirely app-based. Guests receive a special code to book the complimentary rental in the Silvercar app. When they arrive at the airport, they use the app to activate the reservation, unlock the car, and start driving. When they are finished, they simply return the car to a designated space at the Silvercar facility. The service is available at 17 airports, including popular meeting destinations such as Orlando, Chicago, New York, and Las Vegas.

In-Room Massage

Zeel is a massage-on-demand company that operates in 70 cities around the United States. Planners can make the arrangements in advance or offer gift cards so guests can book it themselves using Zeel’s website or mobile app. Massages can be booked seven days a week with as little as one hour’s notice. Zeel’s massage therapists are licensed, insured, and go through in-person screening by the company. Upon booking, customers receive a confirmation with the therapist’s full name, photo, bio, and massage license number. Zeel can also provide chair and table massages at meeting venues.

Luggage Service
Give your guests a completely hands-off luggage service with Bags. Planners can arrange for Bags agents to pick up their guests’ luggage from baggage claim at more than 250 airports nationwide for delivery to destinations within 100 miles of those airports. At the end of the conference or event, Bags offers remote airline check-in at your venue so guests can check in for their flights, receive boarding passes, and check their luggage without standing in line at the airport. Customers receive notifications about their luggage movement via text or email.

Personal Concierge
One Concierge offers a variety of services for your guests in 115 countries around the world. Planners can arrange for a concierge to be at the event to assist guests in person or as a virtual concierge available via phone, email, and Web-based communication. Guests can use the service to secure restaurant reservations, arrange travel services, book nightlife and entertainment experiences, run errands, and more. After the event, planners receive a detailed report including program usage, request types, cost of requests, and more.

The Babysitting Company provides individually-screened, C.P.R.-certified child caregivers in a dozen cities around the country, including Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Orlando. The service can be performed as in-room care for one or a few children, or in a ballroom or other space for a large group, and can include arts and crafts activities, character visits, and more. Off-site excursions, such as a trip to a local museum, also may be arranged. Planners can either plan the services themselves, or pass along information for attendees to coordinate them.

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7 Ways To Be More Mindful While Wedding Planning

Here’s how to take a different approach to that daunting to-do list.

Admit it: Even if you’re trying to not be that person who talks about their wedding all the time, it’s likely still the first thing friends and family ask you about. So how can you plan your wedding without feeling like it’s taking over your entire life? Practicing mindfulness—a concerted effort to be more aware of how your thoughts, actions and emotions affect you as they’re happening—is a smart way to focus on the right now, not just your wedding date, and even put anxiety at bay.

Plus, multiple studies show that mindfulness can also strengthen your relationship with your partner by helping you be more compassionate and better at resolving conflicts (which, no surprise, can crop up a lot during wedding planning). “The gateway to being more present is through your breath,” says Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga, which has studios all across the country. “If you get better at breathing deeply when life gets tough and staying present rather than worrying about the future, regretting the past, or thinking about your to-do list, it’s going to make a real impact.” Ready to get started? Here are seven ways to be more mindful as you plan your wedding.

1. Set boundaries. 
We get it: Wedding planning can feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t need to become all-consuming. Carve out a little time each day, or every other day, to handle wedding-related tasks. Although there may be some exceptions, try to limit your wedding-focused convos and decisions to this time slot. Keep track of to-dos with The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner App; it features an interactive checklist and message inbox, so you can talk with your vendors without a constant flood of wedding emails in your personal account.

2. Practice yoga.
Doing an exercise like yoga that focuses on the mind-body connection is a great way to break a sweat and release tension, while also reaping the benefits of mindfulness. But it takes more than holding a strong Warrior II pose to achieve that last part—you have to make breathing a priority. “If you have conscious, focused breathing while doing hard things with the physical body, your mind will become more present,” Peterson says. It can be tricky (particularly for beginners) to focus on breathing, especially when flowing into a difficult pose. Setting your intention at the beginning of class, and bringing your focus back to that intention after every series or flow, can help you have a mindful practice, she says. Not to mention, training yourself to breathe through difficult moments will definitely come in handy outside the studio (more on that below).

3. Trust your intuition.
If you have trouble making decisions (or find yourself doubting the ones you’ve already made), Peterson suggests asking yourself yoga-esque questions like: “Does this feel right for me? Do I feel good about these decisions?” Instead of obsessively scouring Pinterest for more DIY ideas or second-guessing your wedding dress choice, practicing mindfulness in this way can calm your mind. “Getting better at staying present and breathing deeply when life gets tough can help when it comes to worrying about the future or regretting the past,” Peterson says. 

4. Write things down.
When frustrations pop up during wedding planning, they can make you forget the small victories and happy moments. To bring your attention back to the positive, Peterson suggests keeping a gratitude journal in your bag (or as a note on your phone)—a place to keep a list of things you’re grateful for, you’re delighted about or just excited for that day. “It only takes 30 seconds to do, but can completely change your perspective,” she says. 

5. Schedule date nights.
If you’re constantly multitasking, it can be tricky to concentrate solely on what’s in front of you at the moment—like that person you’re about to marry. To help the two of you stay in the present, book regular date nights where you both agree to go screen-free. Whether you set a recurring weekly date or make more impromptu plans, setting aside time with the intention of simply enjoying each other’s company will keep your bond strong and your stress levels in check.

6. Choose your battles.
Whether you’re dealing with an overbearing mother-in-law, a vendor who’s pushing their vision, or your maid of honor who just doesn’t get your bachelorette party idea, Peterson suggests taking a one-minute break to decide when it’s worth pulling your “I’m the bride” card and when to just let it go. “Doing something as simple as six counts of deep inhale/exhale breathing can help you get out of ‘flight or fight’ mode and make critical decisions with ease,” she says. Bigger-picture or persistent issues you feel strongly about are always worth tackling directly. But chances are, if your mother-in-law’s dress doesn’t match the rest of the wedding party, or the caterer serves an hors d’oeuvre that’s not your favorite, it won’t make a noticeable impact on your day. In those cases, you’re better off letting them get their way and moving on to more important decisions. 

7. Remember why you’re doing this.
Repeat after us: Your wedding day isn’t the end, it’s the beginning; it’s one day that symbolizes the official start to your life together. A simple mantra like that can give you perspective when plans go awry. (And remember—no matter how much time and energy you put into planning your wedding, your guests won’t be laser-focused on every tiny detail.) So just take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment.

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How To Increase Attendance At Your Events

Events are great opportunities for small businesses to promote brand advocacy and increase employee morale.

Whether your event planning duties focus on an intimate event attended by colleagues or a big blow out for the whole company, there are certain strategies you need to focus on to increase attendance at your next company event.

Planning events comes down to asking the right questions and making knowledgeable decisions. Making the right choices when selecting an audience based on the purpose of the event and the location of an event will have a significant impact on its success.

How to Increase Attendance at Your Events

The six event planning tips below will help you plan a successful company event.

  • Identify your Audience
The first entry on your event planning checklist needs to focus on the audience you are targeting for the event. By knowing the right type of crowd to invite to your event, you can concentrate on ways that increase attendance.

Knowing your audience helps your event be more engaging and memorable because you can ensure that the elements and activities associated with the event are appropriate. 
  • Identify the Purpose of your Event
Identifying the purpose of your event also helps you identify the correct audience to target for the event.

By clearly understanding what you are trying to accomplish reduces the risk of low attendance.

For example, if your event purpose is to increase brand awareness, create an event app that creates an emotional connection to your brand by increasing engagement, asking questions, shows your logo and provides an up-to-date event itinerary. 
  • Location! Location! Location!
If you want butts in seats at your company event, you take the event’s location into consideration.

Location is an important component in event planning because certain types of locations attract a certain kind of crowd. So it’s important to figure out if your target audience is likely to go to that location, if the place is easily accessible, and if there are options when it comes to transportation.
  • Get a Media Partner
Every party planner knows that large events work better with partnerships and sponsorship. If your event is a large-scale function that requires a large audience, ask yourself if your customer base is large enough to attract the required number of attendees.

In most cases, small businesses do not have enough numbers in a particular area for large scale events. So by partnering with associated businesses or getting sponsorship from appropriate brands can reduce costs while increasing your pool of attendees.

This is also a great way to target like minded individuals to engage with. It’s a great opportunity to attract new customers and increase your reach.
  • Pay Attention to the Numbers
Before you send out your invitations, take the numbers into consideration.

If it’s a free event, it’s a good idea to send 40 percent more invitations. If it’s a paid event, your signup will be lower, but the percentage that shows up will be higher.

Where you and your target audience are located can also influence how many people attend.

For example, in big cities you’ll experience more competition for the time and attention of the target audience. So be aware of these variables when you send the invitations out.
  • Engage in Social Media
Once you get the ball rolling, create a hashtag for your event and a social media page. 

It’s a great way to connect with your audience during and after the event.

Pay attention to their feedback (make changes, if necessary), start a dialog, and build community around the event.

Initiating and maintaining contact with your audience is a great way to build brand value and foster band advocacy. Further, nurturing this engagement can ensure that your next event will increase attendance and be successful.   

Even if your company is small without a large workforce, this won’t be a mammoth task to take on if all the steps are followed correctly. By having a few dedicated individuals working on the event, you are already on your way to working towards a successful company event.

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30 Essential Wedding Planning Tips

Cover all your wedding planning bases with these expert tips no to-be-wed should be without.

When planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know, and there are things you need to know—advice so essential any bride who's lucky enough to hear it thinks, "I'm so glad someone told me that!" If you're wondering whether there's something you may have missed (or even if you've got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets below. 

1. Guests Come First
Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there's ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it's really not if you count the space you'll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band and a dance floor.

2. Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk or other local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Here's a handy list of potentially problematic wedding dates coming up in the calendar.

3. Listen to Mother Nature
Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deer flies and mosquitos) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests' gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking Oh—and always, always have a Plan B for unexpected weather snafus.

4. Check Your Credit
Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

5. Pay It Forward

Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist's blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band consistently packs the dance floor.

6. Lighten Your List

The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it's costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

7. Ask and You Might Receive

Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on (which might turn you off of them). Later on, though, they may be less inclined to meet you halfway.

8. Make a Meal Plan
Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you're not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don't forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

9. Get Organizationally Focused
In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone. For on-the-go planning that keeps everything in one place, download the The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner app to keep all of your planning info digitally on-hand at all times.

10. Tend to Your Bar
Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you're serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

11. Leave Some Room in Your Wallet
Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 percent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 percent for flowers; 8 to 10 percent for attire; 8 to 10 percent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 percent for photo/video; 2 to 3 percent for invites; 2 to 3 percent for gifts; and 8 percent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It's essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 percent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day and ribbons for the wedding programs.

12. Don't Be Afraid to Ask
Your wedding vendors should be your go-to, most-trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to really explore what it is you want—maybe it's serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session. The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation with them about what it is you want. Their job will be to tell you what you can and can't make work given your wedding budget.

13. Wait for a Date

Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding venues at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings.

14. Manage the Mail

Of course you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for oddly shaped envelopes.

15. Prepare for Rejection
Know that as a rule, about 10 to 20 percent of the people you invite won't attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday plans).

16. Make a Uniform Kids Policy

You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an "adults only" wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member's home. To prevent hurt feelings, it's wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).

17. Prioritize Your People
Pare down your guest list with the "tiers of priority" trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can't imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents' friends, neighbors, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

18. Take It One Step at a Time
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don't take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don't hire any vendors before you've confirmed your date; don't design your cake before you've envisioned your flowers; and don't book a band before you've settled on a space.

19. No Ring, No Bring
If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it's a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you're all set. If it's a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it's a table of singles where she won't know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you're not allowing single friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents' never-ending guest list are always good reasons. 

20. Release Rooms

As soon as you've picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no—you don't want to be responsible for rooms you can't fill.

21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions
Make sure guests know where they're going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong or there's a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the routes yourself. Then include the best directions on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they'd like.

22. Keep a Paper Trail
Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, "Hello, just confirming that you'll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight." Don't just assume everything's all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for a certain may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

23. Schedule the Setup
You must make sure there's ample time for setup. If you're renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. See if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.

24. Learn About Marriage Licenses
You can check your state's license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk's office to see when they're open. Even if it's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

25. Go Over Ground Rules
Be prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you'll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you're exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?

26. Classify Your Cash

Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can't fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

27. Help Guests Pay Attention
Make sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You'll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

28. Write Down Your Digits
Keep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts on you on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you'd like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

29. Call the Fashion Police

Don't go dress shopping on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can't make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best.

30. Be Realistic With Your Time

When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you're particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things you just don't feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting "Just Married" signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Cross them off and make a pledge not to think about them again.

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6 Event Planning Tips for Businesses on a Budget

Want to bring in the cash, attract clients with ease and network like a ninja? It all sounds great, right? These are just a few of the benefits of hosting your own business event. The good news is that hosting a successful event that achieves your goals can be done, even on the bare minimum budget.

The question is, how?

We’ve put together seven essential event planning tips and important things to consider when organizing small business events. These tips will help you save money and time while ensuring your event is a hit with your guests. You’ll be hosting and running a top-notch business event in no time, all without breaking the bank!

1. Set Clear and Measurable Goals

First things first: Sit down and set clear, measurable goals that you can use to guide all future decisions. The biggest money and time wasters are due to a lack of clarity, so defining your goals will help you avoid any unnecessary costs that aren’t serving your main purpose.

Some examples of clear goals you might set:
  • Sell 200 Tickets
  • Invite/book 3 Speakers
  • Start promoting the event and selling tickets in 20 days
  • Host the event in 60 days
  • Spend less than $500

Moving forward, you can relate every decision you make back to the goals you set. Per the example above, you won’t procrastinate and drag out the planning process because you’ve set a goal of promoting and selling within 20 days—and, for example, you won’t get distracted and tempted by every speaker opportunity that arises because you’ve set a goal of having only three.

When you’re ready to take action on your goals and bring your event to life, EventBrite’s got a handy timeline and template for taking the next steps.

2. Hone In on Your Audience
It’s important to have a great understanding of your audience so you can plan an event that will generate a lot of buzz and interest. Your event will be a reflection of you and your business, so you want to make sure it brings value to those who attend.

Some questions you should ask yourself to understand your audience better:
  • What are my target audience’s interests? (What sponsors would they relate to?)
  • What time and location would suit their needs? (Do they work late? Are they local? Could inclement weather affect the event?)
  • What price is suitable for my audience? (Are they students or professionals?)

When you are 100 percent sure on who the audience is, you can effectively use your marketing spend through tools like social media targeting and creating your marketing collateral in the language and style that most attracts them. When it comes to things to consider when organizing an event, defining your audience is perhaps the most vital.

3. Budget at the Beginning
One of the most important things to consider when organizing an event is outlining your budget from the beginning. It’s also necessary to define what you want to achieve with the event—is it to network, get new clients, raise your profile?

Work out how much a new client is worth to you, and use that to help guide your budget. For example, if a new client is worth $1,000 to your business, how many clients will you need to acquire to cover the cost of your event?

Setting your budget at the beginning will help you identify what you can and can’t afford. You can answer questions such as: Will you print paper tickets? Or will you save money and send electronic tickets? Furthermore, 10 percent wriggle room gives you the leg space to handle unexpected circumstances and expenses.

4. Use Free Event Management Software

Using event management software is one of the most important things to consider when organizing an event on a limited budget. Fortunately, there is a ton of free event management software you can use to help make the planning and organization of your event a breeze. Most software will include features such as ticketing, custom branding, event schedules, data management and registration forms.

At Little Tokyo Two, our favorite options for free event management software are EventLeaf, RSVPify and Odoo. One of the most popular and comprehensive platforms for event management is EventBrite. It’s free to get started on EventBrite, but you will have to start paying once you make a sale. You’ll also find plenty of event management tips for beginners within the platforms.

5. Implement an Social Media Strategy
Social media is a powerful platform you can use to promote your event and create buzz. Did you know a social media presence can increase attendee engagement by 33 percent? Facebook is the most powerful platform for marketing events, and if you can spare some money in your budget for Facebook Ads and the time to target well, they will be well worth the investment.

Facebook’s in-depth targeting features will allow you to deliver your ads to the right people, maximizing your chances of converting viewers to ticket sales. Offering a limited-time discount is a great way to get more people to buy. Consider starting a Facebook Event to raise more awareness and to keep in contact with people who have purchased a ticket.

LinkedIn is another great platform to use to promote your business event. You can update your LinkedIn status, publish a post promoting the event, post in relevant groups, and even advertise on the platform. EventBrite have also written a great article on how to use LinkedIn to promote your business event.

During the event, Twitter and Instagram are great platforms to use for attendee engagement and promotion of your brand and event. Using your event hashtag will not only raise awareness of the event, but it will also result in a great collection of photos and videos from the event that you can use later.

Having a social media strategy in place allows you to keep your guests updated before the event as well as engage with them after the event to get feedback. Some other effective social media strategies you can use to help your event succeed include creating an event hashtag, sharing behind-the-scenes content and streaming live video from the event. The best thing about social media: It’s only the time it takes to manage and enhances your public business profile.

6. Find Event Sponsors 

Finding sponsors for your event is a great way to save money if you’re on a tight budget. First, consider your event topic and the audience and then brainstorm what sort of businesses might be interested in being a sponsor.

You don’t need to think of big, wealthy companies when considering sponsors. Get creative and approach some local businesses that might be interested. For example, approach a local caterer to sponsor the food, or find a local business to sponsor gift bags for the guests. Relevant companies will also be interested in having their name displayed on emails, tickets and signs at the event and will consider the sponsorship as brand awareness and exposure.

You can also enhance your business’ social conscience by partnering with sponsors who donate a percentage of their profits to charity. For example, you could use The Good Beer Co., a social enterprise beer company, to supply beverages for the night. The Good Beer Co. donate 50 percent of profits to their charity partners.

Hosting an event on a shoestring budget will be a challenge, but it’s certainly possible, and the benefits you’ll receive will make it worth the trouble. If you use the event planning tips above you’ll be well on your way to planning a low-cost event with big rewards.

At Little Tokyo Two, we have event spaces in each of our locations, with the perfect space suited to your needs, body count and the environment you’d like.

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