It's no secret weddings carry more emotional weight than corporate events. Spilled malbec on a guest doesn’t have the same impact as it does splattered on a wedding dress; a missing officiant is a bit more problematic than a forgetful assistant; and a smashed cake is a tad worse than rubbery chicken.
Not to say these corporate mishaps aren’t important—they are. But when something goes wrong at a wedding, it has the possibility of ruining—or at least tainting—an event that two people have looked forward to their entire life.
All this and more is what make wedding planners the people to turn to for any corporate event woes and also a perfect source of inspiration. They have the wherewithal to confront any problem and make it look easy. With their help, you can host a successful event with or without a bride and groom.
The Key to Success
With high emotions comes high stress. There’s nothing quite like rain during an outdoor wedding or a hyperventilating bride. Levelheadedness is imperative to fixing every issue behind the scenes.
“We learn early on how to handle all sorts of stress related to the wedding from family stress to emotional stress, everyone’s emotions are running so high,” says Krista Ross, owner of Park Place Planning & Events in Minneapolis. “It’s essential for us to stay cool and be a calming presence on the wedding day regardless of what may be going on behind the scenes.”
Without a doubt, the general consensus is that organization and time lines are key to managing stress—both for weddings and corporate events.
“No matter how stressful an event is or how unorganized the couple might be, if I’m going in organized, I’m able to manage my stress right from the get-go,” Ross says. “Learning to stay calm regardless of the stressful situation has taken a little practice, but it is essential.”
Rachelle Mazumdar, director of events, Style-Architects, agrees. And as a corporate event and wedding planner, she truly is in the know.
“[The couple] moves on their schedule—not yours,” she says. “If they decide to wait until the final month to make a decision you wanted made six months prior, there really isn’t anything you can do. To manage this, I stay extremely organized and work a lot of long hours.”
Sarah Trotter, owner of Lasting Impressions Weddings in Minnetonka, planned corporate events before opening her wedding company. She starts brainstorming ideas and themes the minute she meets with a couple. She also chats with them about any potential pitfalls, something she thinks corporate event planners could do to make everything run smoothly day of.
“I try to have everything figured out really far in advance to reduce any stress on the wedding day and throughout the process,” she says. “Over the year, I have learned that the earlier we talk about all the potential problems and obstacles, the earlier we can find solutions.”
Additionally, this helps to keep the stress off the couple, and also can help keep the stress off your client. The more organized and dedicated you are, the more professional you’ll look.
Planning out an entire event schedule—from the first meeting with a client to the last few minutes of an event—is the perfect way to stay on track and on top of things. This keeps you organized and documents every last detail you need to address. Email recaps are also essential; they keep you in touch with clients and provide written copies just in case you forgot something.
“We all have our own wonderful styles for event planning, whether it be planning a corporate event or wedding,” says Joan Nilsen, owner of Ambiente Wedding & Event Planning in the Twin Cities metro. “The key for any event is a detailed time line—it’s all about having an eventday agenda.”
Let’s Get Personal
The advice each planner iterated was to personalize the event. Of course with a wedding it’s easy—but corporate event planners, too, can customize an event for each client. Get to know the organization and how they function. Why are they hosting the event? What, as a whole, is their company interested in? And not just in satisfying the bottom line—ask them where they like to dine, what their favorite brands are and even favorite song choices, movies and hobbies. This may not seem relevant to an organization, but getting to know the client can spark inspiration and personalize the event.
“The one piece of advice I would give to planners about making an event more personalized is to ask a lot of questions about the client’s backgrounds and what they would like to do to convey to their guests through this event,” says Julia LaCroix, owner of Julia LaCroix Styled Events. “The more information you have about them, the more personalized and customized the event will be.”
Ross agrees, noting the roots of the organization are also important when considering all event details.
“Really dig into a company just like you would with a couple,” she says. “Get to know the history behind a corporation. Everyone and everything has a story, and that’s what makes events personal—finding ways to tie in elements the guests may not be expecting or maybe didn’t know about the event subject.”
Mazumdar has ways in which to personalize every aspect of an event and make sure it is reflective of the client. For venues, think warehouse spaces, airline hangars, museums or even sporting venues.
Centerpieces can hang from the ceiling instead of standing atop a table, and monogram gobos should be done away with in favor of more decorative lighting. Even food can have a special touch. Buffet stations are standard; try cheese carts or after-dinner drink carts to spice things up.
“There are many things that planners can do to make an event more personalized and interesting to guests,” says Mazumdar. “Special touches that hit all the senses are what make an event unique and memorable.”
Trotter recommends adding a design that carries through the event— it’s a great way to make sure the theme continues from the first attendees hear of the event to the last of them rolling out the doors. LaCroix urges planners to really get to know clients.
“The uniqueness and personality of the client or the couple should be reflected in every major element of the event,” says LaCroix. “Go about the planning process with focus and intent, and always refer back to the initial concept to ensure you are staying on track.”
All in the Details
At weddings, it’s all about the details. Both brides and grooms have been dreaming about this day their entire life—and for some the entire event is already mapped out in their heads. To fit expectations, planners can’t miss a single tiny detail.
Mazumdar remembers the time she attended a Primetime Emmy Awards. At the after-party, the escort cards for dinner had names cut out and were pasted to bi-fold cards.
“I was aghast,” she says of the event. “Little details like that should never be overlooked.”
Don’t make that same mistake. Be meticulous in every aspect of the event. Checklists, spreadsheets, old-school notebooks, whatever works for you to keep everything in line; nothing can be overlooked. LaCroix’s musts include a detailed time line with must-hit dates, a budget tracker, a guest list manager and a floor plan for ultimate organization and success.
“I thrive on details,” says Nilsen. “[The planning] is all in the details. Similar to peeling back an onion, there are many layers of planning.”
Details about the attendees are a great way make them feel acknowledged. The importance of ensuring each guest feels welcome cannot be understated. While learning more about the client, also try and get information on what their guests will be like.
“I see weddings really focusing on the guest experience, whereas corporate events are often more focused on relaying the corporate brand and messaging,” Mazumdar says. “More focus on the attendee is always a good thing.”
Incorporating guests and adding tiny details they will remember well past the event can really have an effect on future business from that same business. These details are a must. “It all goes back to the details,” says Ross. “Making sure guests feel like they are appreciated goes a long way.”
Ross notes food trucks, food stations and restaurant venues as top choices for weddings right now.
“In the same way [food trucks, food stations and restaurants] create a fun and interactive atmosphere for wedding guests that get people up and mingling, they would do the same for corporate events,” Ross says.
Mazumdar’s company has started playing around with time lines— cocktails are served before the ceremony or guests take a spin on the dance floor before dinner. Corporate events typically follow the same pattern; changing it up a tad can really make an event stand out.
In terms of actually planning the event, LaCroix has begun constructing 3D event layout diagrams. This shows the client what the space looks like and confirms you’re going in the right direction.
Ultimately, the biggest takeaway for corporate planners is to develop some sort of relationship with a client—not one that simply focuses on business, but one that in some way has a stronger bond.
“The key difference [between corporate and wedding planners] is that wedding planners work with very hands-on clients who are less educated on the event-planning process and who have a lot of emotional energy tied up in the event,” says Mazmudar. “Therefore, the hand holding is more intensive with our clients than with corporate clients. We establish close relationships with our clients that foster trust. By corporate planners doing the same, it not only helps with the trust factor, but also improves client retention.”