Showing posts from 2009

Gift Giving 101

I answer etiquette questions on a couple of web sites. From time to time we receive questions about gifts, usually from people wanting to know how to tell their guests what to give them, but occasionally from people confused about gift giving in general. Take a look at a few recent questions (grammar and spelling are exactly as the question was submitted):

“How do we ask for no gifts because we have a small house but instead for people to bring cards and insert money into them to help us on our 2nd honeymoon cruise?”

“How much money should be given by a couple attending a Saturday evening wedding reception?”

“I have a question about a couple who eloped and after the elopement registered for gifts and had a bridal shower. Now almost two years later they are having a ceremony in the Catholic Church with a reception. They want money now from the same people who gave them wedding gifts after the elopement. Would like to know what is right.”

“My best friend was invited to my daughter’s w…

Christmas at the White House

Do you get stressed just planning one or two holiday events for family and friends? Then, be glad you don't work at the White House. According to staffers, preparing for a White House Christmas "is the single most mentally and physically challenging thing you can do." Preparations begin several months in advance. It is common for staff members to work 80 to 100 hours per week baking, cleaning, setting up, tearing down, decorating, redecorating, and attending to all the other tasks aassociated with a large party.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas President and Mrs. Obama will host 28 parties and receptions attended by as many as 50,000 people. Many of the events will occur during the week, leaving weekends free to spend with their daughters. The first family will send approximately 200,000 Christmas and Hanukkah cards.

One feature of the decorations is a gingerbread house, but not your ordinary gingerbread house. The "official" one weighs 390 pounds. A band s…

Planning a New Year's Eve Party?

Are you thinking of having a New Year's Eve party? There's still time to invite family and friends to a casual get-together, though you may need to have it at your home, since most facilities are already booked.

A casual party might include deli trays from your favorite grocery store or Costco. Just be sure to order them ahead. Costco has tasty desserts or you might order pies from Marie Callender's or pick up cookies or brownies at your grocer's or from Pastry Perfection. Or, you can order take-out from your favorite restaurant.

Be careful about serving too much alcohol; perhaps a champagne or sparkling cider toast at midnight would be sufficient. You don't want your family and friends to greet the new year with a trip to the poky and you can be certain the police will be out in force.

If you serve only a small amount of food, you may not need seating for everyone. If you want seating, ask family members to bring folding chairs. Alternatively, you may still be abl…

Winter Garden Aglow

Its that time of year again, when the Idaho Botanical Gardens host their annual Winter Garden Aglow event. The entire garden is transformed into a wonderland with thousands of colorful lights. The event runs Thanksgiving day through Sunday, November 29, then December 4 through January 10, including Christmas and New Years Day, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Admission is charged and hot beverages are available for purchase.

New this year, the Garden has added a party tent where wedding ceremonies and family and corporate events can be held. Though it may be too late to schedule your special event this year, the Garden would be a unique venue for your company party or your organization's holiday get-together next winter.

Etiquette for Office Parties

The holiday season is rapidly approaching and, with it comes the annual company holiday party. Chances are you will be invited to at least one party and perhaps an additional one with your spouse or significant other. The economy has changed the way businesses hold their parties, but the etiquette issues remain the same, whether the party is a formal dinner or a potluck. You should plan to attend the party unless you have a valid reason not to; consider it a work obligation. Remember, your supervisors will be watching your behavior and that of your spouse or SO, so be careful. You want to impress, not depress.

Some businesses hold their parties immediately after work or during a long lunch break. These parties are often attended only by employees, but be sure to find out. If your spouse or SO is invited, be certain to get all the details - date, time, location, and dress code. If the meal will be a potluck, find out what you are expected to bring.

Don't bring your children unless th…

Planning an Event at a Private Home

I just returned from looking at a home where a spring wedding will be held in the beautifully landscaped yard. Having an event at a private home may make it more personal and recall special memories, but it isn't necessarily the least expensive way to go and there can be numerous drawbacks. Before deciding to have an event at home, consider the following:

Is there enough space to accommodate the anticipated number of guests?

Is adequate parking available?

Will the noise disturb neighbors?

Will the homeowners need or want to make repairs or landscape? Some people use a special event as a catalyst to make home improvements; just don't start remodeling the kitchen 3 weeks before a major event.

Do the homeowners or neighbors have pets that might be a problem, such as an excitable dog?

Do any guests have allergies or asthma that might be triggered by plants or pets?

Is the home or yard handicapped-accessible, if necessary. Could someone in a wheel chair or using a walker get throu…

The Great Pumpkin Launch

Do you enjoy smashing big things into tiny little pieces? If so, you would have enjoyed Canyon County Habitat for Humanity's annual Great Pumpkin Launch, held this afternoon at a farm near Nampa. Attendees could purchase tickets to launch a pumpkin from any of four cannons toward targets across a field.

In addition to the launch, food was available, both to eat on site and to take home, such as potatoes, onions, and pumpkins. A raffle of several donated items also occurred. All proceeds benefit the work of Canyon County Habitat for Humanity.
Mark your calendar for the last Sunday in October next year and plan to attend this fun event.

Local Baker Featured on Learning Channel

In late September Greg Marsh, the owner of Greg Marsh Designer Cakes in Eagle, was featured on the Learning Channel's program "The Ultimate Cake Off." Greg participated in a contest to design a cake to celebrate the Peterson Automotive Museum's anniversary. Greg's completed chocolate chip espresso cake was 7.5 feet tall and included motorized parts. The cake won the contest's taste test and was runner-up as best cake. Unfortunately, TLC does not allow photos of the cake to be shared, but you can see it at You can also find the recipe on the same site.

Congratulations to Greg and staff for a fine job!

Consign Your Event Leftovers

Are your cupboards filled with vases, centerpieces, tulle, and other items left over from a recent event? Would you like to sell that bridesmaid's dress hanging in the closet, or even your wedding gown? If so, you might consider consigning the items. Be Twice Inspired Wedding Sale, LLC holds semi-annual consignment sales in Boise and Spokane. The two day sale is usually held at the Powerhouse Event Center in Boise.

The next sale is scheduled for October 16 and 17. Friday the 16th the sale begins at 5 p.m. Admission is $2.00 per person and the Powerhouse will provide hors d’oeurves and champagne while you shop. On Saturday the hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.

If you have items to consign, visit to register and to learn how the sale works.

Consigning your items or purchasing gently used items is a great way to earn or save money and it helps the environment as well.

New Trend: Save the Date Videos

We have all received save the date cards and magnets alerting us to a future event so we can make plans to attend. Now, a recent trend is save the date videos. These short clips, usually about 60 seconds long, are similar to a TV commercial; they pack a brief story into a very limited time. The completed video can be uploaded to a personal web site, a blog, YouTube, Facebook or another social networking site, or it can be sent via e-mail or mail to family and friends, such as Grandma or Great Aunt Sally, who would never find a web posting.

Creating a video isn't cheap. If a commercial videographer is hired, the price can range from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand, depending on where you live, the complexity of the shoot, and the video's length. If you are planning to hire a videographer for your wedding, you might check into having him/her also create a save the date video. If you have a friend or relative who has a camcorder, you might ask them to help you creat…

Are Party Favors a Victim of the Economy?

When the economy is booming people think nothing of spending several hundred dollars for party favors, little gifts for their guests. In the current economy when every dollar counts, omitting favors has become one way to save money without impacting the quality of an event. If you want to provide a favor, there are several creative and cost-effective ways to do so.

Generally, guests enjoy a consumable favor rather than something that will sit on a shelf and collect dust. Guests love candy, cookies and similar items, such as small jams, jellies, or honey. Thanks to Martha Stewart, candy tables are a popular trend. The party hosts set up a table containing several large clear glass containers, each holding a different type of candy, usually in the wedding or event colors. The candy can be purchased in the bulk foods section of most grocery stores. Small scoops, which can be purchased at a dollar store, are placed in each container. The hosts also provide clear cellophane bags and twist …

Change the Look of Your Venue with Lighting

I recently coordinated an event for lawyers from San Francisco who chose the ballroom of a local hotel for their event. Most hotel ballrooms look somewhat alike - same nondescript beige or light brown walls, airwall tracks in the ceiling and air walls pushed against the end walls. Some of the better hotels try to improve the look by installing decorative light fixtures, which help to lessen the "conference room" feel, but can't disguise it entirely.

For this event, the clients chose to use decorative lighting to totally change the look of the room, as seen in the photo (compliments of Tana Photography). Columns of purple light shined upward, against the walls, creating a deep purple glow close to the floor and suffusing the room with a soft lavender glow. The room looked elegant and inviting.
You can use lighting in various ways to add to the ambiance of your event, wherever it is held. Though lighting an entire room can be expensive, there are ways to minimize cost, suc…

Planning a Quinceanera

Many quinceaneras are held in southern Idaho each year. Like a Bat Mitzva in the Jewish culture, the party celebrates the transition from childhood to adulthood for Hispanic young women. The party is held on or near the young woman's 15th (quince) birthday. The event often includes a celebratory Mass followed by a reception for several hundred guests. The size and elaborateness of the party depends on the honoree's preferences and her family's budget. It is often larger and more complex than her future wedding.

Planning usually begins a year in advance and will include the honoree's personal preparation for the religious Mass, choosing a location for the party, selecting sponsors and members of the court of honor, as well as choosing and booking vendors. Sponsors are adults who are close to the honoree and who are willing to help finance the festivities. They may include aunts and uncles, godparents, and close family friends. Sponsors should be invited to participate w…

The Latest Tacky Idea: Host Your Own Shower

I just read an article about a couple in Tennessee who hosted their own bridal shower. In the invitations the couple included a "wish list" of gifts, the first of which was money. The party was a co-ed potluck, so guests were expected to bring both food and a gift of the couple's choosing. I wonder if guests were also told what dish to bring?

If the couple wanted to have a party, that is great, but to turn it into a host-your-own shower is not only rude, but greedy as well. Surely someone in their circle of friends and family would have been happy to host a shower if given the opportunity. Or, oh no! (gasp), they could have not had a shower at all and it would have been okay.

What's next - a host-your-own baby shower, asking guests to provide everything from bibs to the crib? Let's hope this tacky idea dies a quick death.

Wedding Etiquette for Men

Gentlemen, does it seem as if all your friends are getting married? Are you receiving a wedding invitation nearly every week? Joe is getting married on the beach; Susie is having a formal wedding in a cathedral. What is expected when you attend these weddings? How should you dress? What should you not do?
These questions and more have been answered in an article, How to Behave at Weddings, published by and found at The article provides recommendations for responding to a wedding invitation, choosing a gift, and goes into ceremony and reception etiquette. The author does a good job of covering the issues with one exception. He states that gifts be chosen as follows:
"The rule of thumb is to give the equivalent of the cost of your meal, so if you're attending as a couple, double the amount."
That information is inaccurate. Gifts are chosen on the basis of your budget and how well you know the bride or groom…

The Dos and Don'ts of Making a Toast

You have been asked to give a toast, perhaps at a wedding reception, anniversary party, rehearsal dinner, or another event. If the idea of speaking in public makes you very uncomfortable, feel free to decline. You don't need to ruin your day by stressing over what to say or how to say it. If you agree to give a toast, the following tips will be helpful in creating a meaningful one.

*Be certain all guests have a drink of some type with which to toast. The DJ or person making announcements can ask guests to fill their glasses a few minutes before toasts begin. It is not necessary to toast with champagne or alcohol; any beverage will do. It is the thought that counts, not the contents of your glass.

*Keep it short, but sincere. Plan to speak no more than 5 minutes. You don't need to recount the entire hsitory of your relationship with the guest of honor. Don't mention that you are nervous or you hate to speak in public, or didn't really want to give the toast. To do so wi…

New Rental Resource for Outdoor Concerts and Back Country Events

If you are planning an outdoor concert or festival, a back country family reunion or wedding, you may need generators, lights, tents for sleeping, sound equipment and other items. Evergreen Resource, located in Idaho City, Idaho, can provide those items and more. The company also offers shuttle bus service and IT and internet support for large events. They will also help with publicity for your event, if needed. If you need items the company does not provide, such as tables, chairs, party tents, and linens, they can help you find vendors. The company also networks with caterers and other vendors whose services you might need.

Check the company's web site at or give them a call toll-free at 866-270-1749.

Wedding Cake Woes

It is tradition to serve cake or another special dessert at weddings, anniversary parties, birthday parties, and similar events. The cake or special dessert appears in numerous photos, both by itself and when the bride and groom or guest of honor cuts it. Therefore, it is important to carefully choose an experienced baker to provide your special dessert.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen at a wedding last week. The bride allowed a friend's mother to make her cake. Apparently, the mother makes nice sheet cakes and figural cakes, but a multi-tiered wedding cake was another issue. The cake was delivered in separate layers, which is usual. When it was assembled, it was immediately obvious there was a problem. The cake looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and was in imminent danger of totally collapsing. The icing was beginning to melt and bare places could be seen. It had to be disassembled, then placed in a refrigerator until time to be served.

Refrigeration helped a little. Whe…

Plan your Business Retreat in the Mountains of Idaho

This week a group of business owners from Arizona are enjoying a challenging and rigorous team-building retreat in the mountains near Garden Valley. Each year the group travels to a different state to experience team building combined with different outdoor activities. Last year it was Hawaii.

We have worked on this retreat for the last 11 months to create a unique and totally "Idaho" experience. Today the goup is enjoying ZipIdaho, the zip line at Horseshoe Bend. Tomorrow they will go whitewater rafting on the north fork of the Payette River. In addition to paddling their rafts, they will have to portage them in some areas. After they return to the starting point thoroughly exhausted, the rafting company will host a riverside barbeque.

The highlight activity occurs the day after tomorrow when the group, divided into teams and equipped with GPS instruments and riding ATVs, will have to find five geocaches hidden in the forest surrounding Garden Valley. Lunch will be the thi…

Unique Cards and Gifts for Your Wedding Party, Family and Friends

I received a unique card from a bride thanking me for being her wedding planner. The card was personalized and drawn with cartoon-style characters. The bride ordered it from This site contains a wealth of specialized cards for many different occasions, including a variety of styles designed for inviting friends to be a bridesmaid, maid of honor, groomsman, flower girl; even a card to ask someone to walk you down the aisle. In addition to the wedding coordinator, there are thank you cards for the DJ, photographer, and other vendors.

In addition to weddings, special cards are available for business events, birthdays, graduations, announcing a pregnancy, and much more. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable, in most cases less than the cost of a generic card from a store. The site employs artists from around the world to design cards to the purchaser's specifications.
Another unique item I recently discovered is a book for your flower girl. A…

A Fun and Unique Wedding

Saturday I coordinated a wedding for a radiologist from San Francisco. I met her 2 1/2 years ago when she was a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding. I didn't see her again until the rehearsal the day before the wedding. The bride's mother and I planned the wedding with in-put from the bride via phone and e-mail. The groom is finishing a post-doctoral program in astrophysics on the east coast, so they will have a bi-coastal marriage for awhile.

The bride's tastes are traditional except for her gown. She wanted something she can wear again, so she chose a black Vera Wang retro-style cocktail dress. The wedding was held at her parent's home with guests standing for the brief ceremony. The couple had no attendants. The reception was cocktail-party style with heavy hors d'oeuvres provided by the Basque Market, which were wonderful. The flowers, from Boise at its Best, were beautiful. The bride carried a bouquet of white hydrangeas and all other flowers were white as…

Ethics in Business

Yesterday I was "attacked" in an on-line forum when I questioned a post by someone who suggested doing something that may violate consumer protection laws and certainly violates basic business ethics. The person, who posted the comment in a business-to-business forum, suggested doing something that would benefit the businesses, but result in increased costs being passed on to the customer without the customer's knowledge. Consumer protection laws require disclosure of all costs; there are to be no hidden fees, and customers are to receive value for their money. The person's suggestion also violates the Better Business Bureau's standards of conduct.
When I mentioned the ethics of the person's suggestion and reminded him of the law, he said the law was stupid and people should just look the other way. To me, that seems to be a naive and self-serving attitude. If we are in business to fleece the customer, we won't be in business long. I was disappointed to …

Brides Against Breast Cancer

Brides Against Breast Cancer is a unique organization dedicated to granting wishes for women suffering from late stage breast cancer. The wishes are funded through the sale of new and gently used wedding gowns. Wedding gown designers, manufacturers, and bridal shops donate their excess stock to the program and individuals can donate their gowns after their wedding.

The gowns are sold at special sales held all over the U.S. in cities such as Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Washington DC and other locations. Most gowns sell for $99 to $799 and may originally have cost as much as $8,000 or more. This is the 32nd year for the sales. Pre-registration is required to attend a sale and attendance is limited. To register, visit

Through the years, the program has received over 50,000 donated gowns with a value of more than $4 million. Currently, the program is in need of donations of newer gowns (2000 or newer), slips, and…

Helping Students Succeed

Today I had the opportunity to speak to a high school class about event planning as a career. Last week I met with a student from another high school who is interested in becoming an event planner. Through the years I have had the opportunity to mentor both college and high school students. Some are writing papers for management or communication classes. Others want to job shadow for a day or two.
One high school student did her senior project on event planning. We worked together for a semester, during which time she attended meetings with merchants, attended a wedding rehearsal, helped decorate for the wedding, and various other things. Then, as her final project, she planned her mother's wedding. I had the opportunity to attend her project presentation and see what she had learned.
Sharing with students, youth groups, 4-H groups and other organizations is one way to give back to the community and help students as they explore all the options available to them for a future caree…

Hiring and Working With a DJ

This evening another event planner and I were invited to speak to a recently formed association of local DJs who are trying to improve the image of their industry. There is a trend with the current economy to not hire a DJ. In some cases it is a cost issue. In others, it is because of a bad past experience with a DJ. The group wanted to know what clients look for when interviewing and hiring a DJ. The following thoughts came out of the discussion.

Clients want to know that their DJ and other professionals working at their event will provide the best possible experience; they want to know that the DJ is there to serve them and help make them and their event successful.

Clients want to meet their DJ in advance; they don’t like having a stranger show up at their event. They want someone they know and with whom they can share any special issues related to their family or another situation. They don’t want to be blindsided by insensitive, and possibly embarrassing, actions, even if it’s u…

Wedding Trends for 2009

I read an article that stated that the number of weddings held in 2009 will hold steady at about 2.2 million nationwide. However, as we have all observed, the economy is changing the way we plan events. The article suggested the following as current national trends: Smaller weddings with fewer guests Destination or destination-type weddings closer to home Accent colors on dresses and cakes with the most popular being greens and blues Increased reliance on family and friends to help plan, pay, and provide some of the services Increased use of green "eco-friendly" products and services Simplified decorations, centerpieces and wedding invitations Increased use of online RSVP's vs. traditional mail-in RSVPs Off-peak weddings - mornings, afternoons, Fridays, Sundays; October becomes the new June Buffet meals, hors d'oeuvre, and cocktail receptions Cheesecakes, cupcakes and miniature cakes instead of a traditional wedding cake Though these may be national trends, so…

Praise for Good Customer Service

After my last couple of posts about the lack of customer service, including from caterers, it was refreshing to spend time with Mike, the owner of TableRock Grill & Brew Pub. I have clients in town from California who have chosen TableRock to provide the catering for their August wedding. A couple of months ago I gave the bride a list of caterers' web sites. After looking at menus, she e-mailed 5 caterers to set up appointments. Mike was the only one to respond. In talking with him, he said the others are surely not too busy to need the business. His business is down and he is sure theirs is too.

We met yesterday so the couple could meet Mike and share their ideas. I was impressed with Mike's desire to serve them and help them have a successful wedding. He is bringing 5 people; they will handle rental of tables, chairs, and linens and they will set things up and take them down rather than leaving after a couple of hours, as many caterers do. They will cut the wedding cake…

More Customer Service Rants

It seems the economy has had a negative impact, not just on the bottom line, but on customer service as well. Businesses are shortsightedly trying to save dimes at the expense of dollars, as experienced this past week. My last rant was about caterers; this one is about hotels.

I managed a two-day conference for nearly 200 attendees held at a local hotel. The problems began before the event with the front desk employees, some of whom were apparently not trained in how to make a reservation. When attendees called to reserve a room, some employees transferred the calls to a toll-free number at a national call center rather than handling them locally. The call center had no information about our conference, the special rate we were receiving, or those individuals we were paying for (about 20), so they charged credit cards. Just try to get the charge reversed. That was like pulling teeth. One person called several times and insisted to the desk clerks that they make his reservation locall…

Wedding Planning Seminar and New Product

Last weekend a local rental center held their second annual wedding planning seminar. They invited businesses that regularly rent from them to set up displays. They also invited two wedding decorators and me to speak on the various aspects of the wedding planning process. About 15 tablescapes were set up to showcase the rental center's linens, chairs, and centerpiece items.

Eleven caterers were present, 10 of whom offered food samples! Two cake bakers and a chocolate fountain were also present. It was a great opportunity to network with the participating vendors and to meet a couple of new caterers. One caterer was offering a new product, wedding cake truffles, which were delicious. The one I tried was carrot cake covered in chocolate.

The attendance was small, but those who did attend had the opportunity to visit with vendors in an unhurried manner, to get some great decorating ideas, and to narrow their choice of caterers.

Everyone Needs to Feel Appreciated

We are planning a 40th birthday party for a single gentleman. That may not seem unusual, but this gentleman has never had a birthday party before. How many of us can say that we reached adulthood, much less a 40th birthday, without having anyone want to help us celebrate our special day, even once. The birthday guy was raised by an alcoholic mother in a single-parent home. There were years when his mother didn't even remember his or his sisters' birthdays, much less plan a celebration.

Chances are you know someone who comes from a difficult background and who may have rarely had the opportunity to be the guest of honor at a birthday celebration. Maybe it is an elderly person living alone. Or perhaps you know an older couple who haven't celebrated their anniversary in years. Maybe your children have friends who live in difficult circumstances and you can be a beacon of light and stability in their lives. If we take time to look around, we will find many people who need som…

International Special Olympics Comes to Boise

Nearly 3,000 athletes from around the world have arrived in Boise, Sun Valley, and McCall to compete in a variety of winter sporting events as part of the International Special Olympics. The opening ceremonies held on Saturday were amazing. The Idaho Center was sold out and you could feel the emotion as the athletes entered and the torch was lighted.
Irene Deeley of Woman of Steel gallery in Garden City created the huge cauldron and its rainbow-colored supports. After the ceremony, it was moved downtown to the Grove plaza for all to enjoy. What an awesome event this is and what an honor for Boise to host it.

Return of the Potluck Reception?

Last weekend I participated in our largest annual wedding show in this area. Nearly 800 brides came through. In visiting with them and with other vendors, it was apparent that one way couples are reducing costs is by reducing the amount they spend on food. Several couples are choosing to have a potluck reception rather than hiring a caterer. Though it is considered bad manners to ask guests to help with the expenses of a wedding, which you are technically doing when you have a potluck, many people seem to be happy to help. I worked with one couple who had a potluck reception last year and it was a great success. The bride and groom provided the meat, beverages, and wedding cake and guests provided the side dishes. Before going this route, however, be sure your family and friends won't find it rude to be asked to bring a dish.

Another trend we saw was people choosing to have a caterer or restaurant drop-off food, then having the coordinator and her staff oversee the buffet table. …