Why Your “Neighbor” or “Friend” Isn’t a Substitute for “Day-Of” Coordination

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With the rise of Pinterest, Weddingwire, The Knot, and more; having a private planner every step of the way for your Wedding, Mitzvah, or other social event seems more like a luxury than a necessity. While we would still argue that the benefits of additional planning (beyond Day-of) more than cover any perceived additional expense, it’s important to note that many people still choose “Day-of Only.” So when looking for a day-of planner, or really all of your vendors, there’s one rule above all else …

Hire a professional who is licensed and insured for the job you are hiring them for.

First, a quick lesson in what those terms mean. A licensed vendor is one who has registered their business and pays all business associated expenses, including taxes with the state. They are provided a number for being a registered business, and you can confirm their existence with the Better Business Bureau.

An insured vendor or company typically has two types of insurance: liability – also known as general liability or commercial liability insurance; and workers compensation. This means that should an accident and/or damage happen while work is being done they have insurance to cover it.

Why are those things necessary for your event? Well, let’s start with licensed. On a basic level, you should only hire companies that pay taxes and follow all the necessary steps because simply put, it’s the right thing to do. Supporting businesses that do not do these things encourages more vendors to not follow the rules. If you hire a vendor who is not licensed, they could disappear tomorrow and you would struggle to get any assistance from the state because they are not registered. A licensed business will have a number that you can confirm, which you should do. A licensed vendor is someone who is serious about their business and has demonstrated a commitment to their profession, and therefore, likely goes to the effort and expense to obtain and remain educated in their industry.

Now let’s talk about why insured vendors are essential to your event success. Simply put, if you hire any vendor (planner/coordinator, venue, caterer, photographer, etc.) and they make a mistake, you have opened the door for a lawsuit that will very easily hit your pocketbook (and being frank, rightfully so). Let’s say your party planner is lighting the candles at your event and accidentally burns a guest – if they are insured, their policy will cover medical expenses. If they are not insured those expenses could fall to the host. This applies for all vendors at your event. On that same subject, it isn’t enough that they are insured for another business or type of work, they must be insured for the job they are working. For example, if your friend’s friend owns a licensed and insured business specializing in selling clothing and is “super organized” and “looking to jump into events” that does not mean they are insured for party planning and you are putting yourself at risk. Insurance for a Party Planner is typically a million dollar policy because of the “high risk” associated in the profession.

Another reason why it is essential to hire licensed and insured party planners (and all your vendors), your venue requires it.

Whether or not it is in the contract, and whether or not they ask for an insurance policy to be provided to them, the place you are having your event expects that you are hiring licensed and insured professionals, not Joe Schmoe off the street. Some venues do not require your “day-of contact” to be a professional planner as they allow you to have a friend serve that role; however, make no mistake, if a payment is being made you are hiring someone, and then they must be a professional who is licensed and insured. If they aren’t, you are putting yourself, your guests, and the rest of your vendors at a higher risk.

Here’s the final piece of why hiring a neighbor or friend who does this casually is an unsound choice. That’s an individual that you are close to on a personal level, it’s hard enough to choose to risk your friendly relationship by moving it into a professional one, but it’s simply too risky to do that with a person who isn’t even a “professional” in the industry you are hiring them for. As stated, you are chancing your friendship and bank account by making that choice.  

As an event planning company for over 25 years, it always amazes us how rarely we are asked by clients and other vendors whether we are licensed and insured or not. We guess it’s because everyone assumes that we would not have a positive reputation were it not for those things; however, we can only think of three venues (a temple and two hotels) where they request to have us provide proof that we are insured and can therefore work in their space every year. We wish more would ask for this as it protects everyone involved in planning, working, hosting, and attending a party. Ultimately, when choosing, remember that a judge will be more sympathetic to a person who hired professionals than one who did not.

For more helpful tips/suggestions similar to this, like or follow us on Facebook , Twitter , or Pinterest . Or if you have a story to share, email us at Parties@SAVETheDATEMD.com .

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Cell Phones: A Mitzvah Planners Best Friend and Worst Nightmare

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It goes without saying that Cell Phones are a great invention. They help us get from point A to point B (sometimes without thinking); they make it easy to keep in-contact with friends, family, and business associates; and so much more. Cell Phones have become a staple of life, and the age at which one has a cell phone keeps getting younger and younger. According to recent studies, the average age a person gets a cell phone is 10 years old. Given that the average age is 10, it is safe to assume that the majority of your 13 year old’s friends have cell phones … so what does this mean for your party?

Just like in everyday life, cell phones are useful and entertaining at your event. Here are some of the ways they assist both the hosts and the vendors.

  1. Guests take their own photos at your event and post them on social media. These photos are available instantly and allow you to see photos prior to the edited ones from your professional photographer. As planners, we have been taking photos, and videos, not only to keep for our records, but as something we share with our clients the following Monday. It is a way for them to see and relive their party immediately following the event. One way to up the ante is to have a personalized geofilter or hashtag to make it a more interactive experience for your guests.
  2. Just like in everyday life, emergencies can occur at events. They can be as simple as a child no longer feeling well and wanting to go home, to fires and other types of life-threatening emergencies. The child having a cell phone allows them to contact their parent directly, or if necessary provides a planner with the parents’ phone number in the event a child can no longer call themselves. One way we personally benefit from this is having parents call either us (we encourage our clients to include our cell phone numbers in a email to parents as an in-case of emergency contact), or their child when they arrive to ensure kids do not simply leave the property. Then we have security escort them to their parents if the parent cannot easily walk into the building. This makes for a safer and easier experience.

With all of that said, if you ask party planners, MCs, and parents what the biggest challenge is at parties, they would say keeping guests off their cell phones. It is difficult to keep a captive audience if the kids would rather spend their time on their phones, especially when there are sporting events. As a company, we have yet to find a perfect solution to this problem, and it’s likely that there isn’t one; however, we have come up with a list of tips that we find discourage cell phones from being used as much.

  1. A parents letter. Before the party, the hosts/parents should consider sending an e-letter to the teen guests’ parents explaining multiple things: covered shoulders at the temple, not talking during services, etc. In that email you can ask the parents to discourage their kids from using their phones and reminding them that they are attending to celebrate with the honoree. While this will not solve the problem, it encourages the parents to get involved ahead of time which often helps.
  2. Have exciting activities at the party – photo entertainment, airbrush, pop-a-shot, patch hats, tattoos, zap-shots, live-video-stream, etc. Having all these options will give kids who do not necessarily enjoy dancing alternatives that do not involve their cell phones.
  3. Give the younger guests a “cocktail hour” room. Having a group of 13 year old stay in one room for four or more hours means that they get used to the space and are more likely to get bored. In venues that have enough separate areas, this can be extremely beneficial in building the excitement throughout the evening. If a separate room is not an option, consider doing something to change the space; beginning with blacklight, or very specific activities like laser tag or giant twister that take over the dance floor allow for constant change that keeps teens more engaged.
  4. Have the MC start his or her time with the teens by announcing teasers regarding prizes (gift cards, giant candy bars, etc.). Include in the categories for potential prizes that there will be a prize to the teen that stays off their phone the longest. You can also have the MC start by encouraging them to put all their “stuff” in cubbies or at their seat – if you combine this by starting with an active game they are more likely to do it as they cannot hold personal items in their hands while doing the activity.
  5. The opposite of staying off the phone the longest: bringing the cell phones into the planned party. Have a trivia game that encourages them to search their phone for the answers. Have a selfie contest, or a specific time for photos. Create a geotag or put their hashtagged posts on the screens throughout the party. By encouraging them to use their phones for specific reasons at specific times, you can help “get it out of their system” and allow them to focus on the party when they should.

The one thing we feel you really should not do is collect cell phones. While in theory it should work just fine, it becomes a liability. At one of our parties a couple years ago, cell phones were taken out of two cubbies and they were never recovered. While those two guests were certainly encouraged to put their phones in the cubbies, they were not forced; therefore there was no specifically responsible party. If a person – planner, MC, etc. collects the cell phones and one is damaged or goes missing it is a liability issue for the vendor who collected the phone, and the party host who agreed to have the phones collected. Similarly what if they have a family emergency and cannot be reached. Again, in theory it should all go fine, but is it really worth taking that risk? Besides it being a liability, you don’t want to start a party by taking something away from a teen; it doesn’t necessarily set the right tone for a fun-filled evening or afternoon. As they always say, making something “against the rules” increases the appeal. Instead, we suggest creating fun signage that sets the tone, “This is a Cell Free Zone”, “Our Event is Unplugged” or “We want you to be in the moment” all nicely remind guests to get off their cell phones.

Obviously, everyone feels different on this subject, but these are some proven tips that we have found help set the right tone.

For more helpful tips/suggestions similar to this, like or follow us on Facebook , Twitter , or Pinterest . Or if you have a story to share, email us at Parties@SAVETheDATEMD.com .

Not Quite 27 Dresses: Photos from a Cham (Cambodian- Muslim) Wedding

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Michele Naideck, a family friend of Cara Weiss, CEO of SAVE The DATE, LLC has been in the Peace Corps in Cambodia for eight months (out of a two-year service) and lives with a Cham host family. She is a Community Health Education volunteer and works at her local health center and in schools to teach about child nutrition, maternal health, non-communicable diseases, and more.

In February Michele’s host uncle got married and she took these photos and shared a video (available on SAVE The DATE’s Facebook Page) with us. Michele explained that, “I wanted to document it because a Cham wedding is a big affair, taking place over several days and in several locations (including several outfit changes for the bride – in this particular wedding, she had no less than 12 extravagant dresses!). The whole community comes together to help cook, set up, and of course – celebrate. It’s quite different from the typical American wedding.”

While we agree with Michele that this is very different from the weddings we’ve helped plan, we did find some similarities (chair covers, floral wall backdrops, family-style food service, and more) and inspiration that we hope to incorporate into our events.

Thanks again for sharing this Michele, and we hope you all enjoy these photos and the video as much as we have. You can learn more about Michele’s experiences in Cambodia on her blog .

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