Event Consultation: Contracts and Contract Review

Contracts are critical to event planning, and it goes without saying you should read every word of every contract before you sign and make sure you understand everything you are agreeing to. A contract is a meeting of the minds, and if you do not understand something – it should be clarified in writing. It also goes without saying that all your contracts should be reviewed by professional counsel. Not everyone can afford this, but it is always advised.

When beginning to finalize your details for your events always be sure to have a written contract of the agreements with all your Vendors so to protect you (and ensure the terms and details of your contracts are fulfilled on the event day). Your method of payment might depend upon the vendor, but regardless — it is imperative to clearly outline all your specific details on paper or via email. It is also highly advised to provide these written contract copies to your coordinator and event producer so that it she can ensure all the fine details are proper and can be fully executed.

When a contract is signed with most venues and vendors, they will usually require a non-refundable deposit to hold your date. If you are unsure, you can always issue a “Soft Hold” (see previous article about Soft Holds). If you have a preferred venue and/or vendor it’s essential you lock them down sooner than later. (View Blue Lotus Insights Top 5 Vendors to Book First)

Aside from needing a contract, it’s always great to review the details twice – especially the date, time and any particular specifics that can be costly, such as parking fees, or hidden charges for valet, etc. Lastly, it is always good to discuss the financial terms as well as the rigidity of the contract.

Financials are important so that you know how and when payments are due and rigidity so that you know what minimums you might be required to pay — and if you can change some of the details after the fact, without affecting price. Event producing is a fluid endeavor, so things may change. You don’t want to find that you are boxed into something that won’t work. Blue Lotus Insights Event Planners are happy to answer any question you may have about your contract, and recommend potential solutions.

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Event Planning and Design: Outdoor Events

Outdoor events are always pleasing for the guests and look beautiful. If the weather where you live permits outdoor events then most definitely take advantage of it. Even if you decide to just have cocktails and tray pass appetizers outside, and the rest indoors – your guests will enjoy the fresh air, especially with ambient lighting and music to set the mood.

Naturally, you should always think of your guests and their comfort when it comes to an outside event. If the weather is scheduled to be hot then be sure to provide a tent, parasols, or fans so that they are not discomforted. In the case of hot weather be sure to always have water, cold drinks and ice cream (which is always a nice touch) available.

If the weather is forecasted as a bit chilly then let your guests know ahead of time to bring warmer jackets and shawls to ensure they have cover. If your event is too cold it will clear out before the party can even get started. We also ALWAYS recommend heaters except in the dead of summer — as even southern california evenings can get chilly in the autumn and spring. Pit fires (which also adds to the ambiance) are a great alternate provided the venue allows for is/can accommodate – and of course warm tea, coffee or even tasty soup will warm up anyone on a chilly day and make you forget about the cold.

Events in an outdoor setting always adds more character to the event and provides a great way to move your guests from an indoor walled space to an open air space seamlessly. The experience will be sure to please, but just be sure to have your Event Planner check the weather well in advance in order to guide you to create the perfect outdoor set-up for your guests.

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Event Planning Timelines: Insights into timing out your day

The Timeline is the bible for the event day. Contained on the timeline is virtually all the information gathered during the planning phases laid out in great detail. It’s your blue-print for the event, and a good Event Planner creates one for every vendor and every member of their staff so everyone is always on the same page. Literally.

When planning an event it is always important to remember two important elements: your timeline and staying organized. It is essential that all creative and logistical elements of an event have been set into your timeline as early as possible so that the last two weeks are left for potential trouble-shooting. When creating your timeline it’s essential to manage it on a monthly level in the beginning, but then move to planning elements six weeks out of a event. A great rule of thumb is to always aim to have all vendors, their contracts and final details all arranged at least 4-6 weeks month prior to the event. This will allow you and your coordinator to fine tune the details with the venue and vendors.

Through the process of creating your timeline it is essential that you and the coordinator stay organized through the various forms of tools available, be it google docs online or passing a word document or spreadsheet back and forth. The planning process for you as well as the execution process for the coordinator is always easier when items are neatly organized and executed in a timely manner. Because there are many moving parts to any event, it is always easy to lose track of time on any one task – so a strong event designer and planner are always there to help you stay on track and remain organized by keeping to the timeline.

The timelines at Blue Lotus Insights are legendary. Ask anyone who has ever worked with us. It is such a valuable tool, that many of our clients say they really only truly visualize their event, once we issue our BLI timeline. Included below is a sample of a page 1 of a wedding/reception day timeline. You can see the level of detail — and all before 8am.

Event Planing BLI Timeline Sample

Be sure your event planner has sketched out your day in a similar fashion, as even if it is not followed exactly – it is your guide and blue-print to a timely and successful event.

Event Coordination: “Soft Holds” and “Bookings”

When planning an event there are many details, vendors and options that you have to sort through and keep in your mind – while not always knowing if that particular venue or vendor is your perfect fit just yet. The problem is that if you don’t book them, by the time you’ve done your research, explored other bids and proposals, and have decided to book them — they are unavailable.

To bridge the gap, you should always be honest with your vendors and tell them you can place them (or a potential venue) on a ‘soft hold.’ This allows you a little more time (which might range from 72 hours to 2 weeks) to make the decision – but it will give the Vendor an indication that you are interested, and want to know if any other party contacts them for the same time.

By placing your name on a soft hold it places you first in line for that particular venue or vendor and date, which ultimately gives you the time that you might have needed to completely your research to your satisfaction.

Any good Event Planner will do this for you with clear indication you are interested – and likewise it is just as important to contact the vendor and venue to make them aware of your decision as soon as you have one (so that they can book you or release the date for other potential clients).

The Event Planners at Blue Lotus Insights can most definitely assist you in booking your most ideal vendors and venues in a timely manner, and can give you insight into who to place right away on a ‘soft-hold’.

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Event Planning: Catering and Dining Options (FOOD!)

Catering and Dining Options at your Event:

Delicious food and its presentation are always both at the center of every event. Hosts are remembered by their guests for providing scrumptious food that enhances the guest experience of the event. Guests who are satisfied with your food selections will not go home hungry and will be raving about your event for days and weeks follow. Food is one of those things that is so important to the overall satisfaction of your guest experience – that is included in the Top 5 Vendors post above. Blue Lotus Insights has worked with a number of caterers that appreciate what they do, and are bent on provided the client with more than what is asked – and are prepared to go ‘above-and-beyond’ on event day. Your event planner should have several options for every type of food regardless of ethnic origin.

Part of the experience of food is the manner which the dining is presented to your guest. Blue Lotus Insights outlines for you here, three dining options and two cocktail hour options that might be best for the type of event you would be having:

Cocktail Hour – Guests will begin to experience your event through the cocktail hour. It is always great to provide them with a great teaser of what is to come for the rest of your event. Tray pass appetizers complimented by signature drinks and wine always sets the right mood. For those who would like to dabble with something a bit ‘more’ – we recommend having a large display of your food options set out in beautiful chaffing dishes through a buffet set-up. This will allow all your guests to explore for themselves and enjoy the various delicacies and enchanting beverages that you have customized for the event.

Course Plated Meal – A multiple course meal that is individually served to your guests at their seat is a great way for your guests to enjoy the the ambiance you have created. Course meals can range from two courses to as many you would like to have. Most events will choose the traditional three course meal – soup, salad, and main course – so that the guests have a variety of food that they get to taste. A course meal is always best for an event that might serve dishes that are signature items that guests would have a substantial portion of. It is always a great idea to provide the guest with options, especially for the main course since some guests might have dietary restrictions. A course meal is usually recommended for awards ceremonies, corporate events, intimate gatherings and weddings of certain sizes.

Family Style – When an event will have multiple dishes that the guests will get the opportunity to taste, it might be a nice change to try ‘family-style’ over buffet, which has certainly re-gained popularity in recent years. Family style meals requires the guest to remain at their tables and be served a gourmet meal without having to lift a dish. When deciding to do family style serving be sure to have various dishes, as well as wait staff that attends to every table. Be sure to also have numerous catering and hotel staff efficiently plating the dishes into smaller containers in the kitchen to keep things warm, fresh and flowing.

Buffet – For dishes that might contain curries, rices, breads, meats, and vegetables with a large guest count, a buffet meal service might be the most efficient and least expensive way to serve your guests. Buffet meal service is very popular for good reason: often it is a great way for your guests to be able to eat as much food as they would like to eat, and mingle with each other while at the Buffet. It also provides the opportunity to taste test items that they otherwise would not have tried, and reduces waste. Blue Lotus Insights recommend to all its clients that there be at least two double sided buffets of event sizes of 300 guests or more. Also recommended is to have your event team of coordinators escort four to six tables at a time — so that your guests don’t have to wait in line for long periods of time.

With any choice, there are certainly more logistics to consider, but an experienced event planner will make the experience a seamless and fun meal service. If you choose Blue Lotus Insights as your premium event planner – rest assured, we have the right kind of experience with Dining Options like these described above to ensure your guests are raving for weeks.

Event Planning: Cinematography & Videography Insights

Things are rapidly changing with regards to event videography. Both in terms of the videographer’s capabilities but also in terms of the technology now available to them. Bringing Jibs and Sliders, shooting on DSLR HD cameras (from 1080 HD to 4k), Live Broadcast, and “Same-Day Edits” are now commonplace at many events. This is a seismic shift in this business, and this is one area where quite often you “get what you pay for” if you go the cheaper or untested route. We’ve heard one-too-many horror stories to take Cinematography lightly.

Creating a short cinematic film of your event is always a great idea whether it’s to share the event and memories with those who were not able to attend or to use the film to further your brand and marketing strategies in the case of our corporate clients. Cinematography also preserves the motions, emotions and actual live moments that pictures otherwise make still. It’s a wonderful way to capture your event for future purposes whether they be personal or professional.

Technology has also afforded a really talented new crop of cinematographers the ability to shoot on incredibly small cameras and create your film as it were a movie. The best videographers don’t have an intrusive presence but are always there at the right moment to capturing your cherished memories as they happen. What a good cinematographer offers in your final film is what will exactly takes you back into the event space and your big day.

Lastly, with the wide array of sharing capabilities online including Vimeo and YouTube, your film can be viewed by many all around the world. This is especially great for those who were not able to attend, and for companies who would like to see their company branded at various international markets. Cinematography is an incredible tool to capture your moving event into a movie and distribute it on a global scale.

One major thing to remember when you work with your Event Planner to find the right cinematographer for your exact needs: Always ask for ALL the raw HD files on a hard drive RIGHT AFTER your events are completed (i.e. give them a hard drive to copy everything during the week after the event). This way, no matter what happens, you have at the very least all of the footage from your event.

Event Planning: Insights on Cocktail and Reception Entertainment

Enchant you guests upon their arrival to your Reception Cocktail hour with entertainment that they will never forget. Live musicians often set the mood in the background, whether it’s a saxophone, mandolin player, a classical trio, or a guitarist and Event Planners love them because they are self-contained and often don’t need amplification from the DJ. They can also play some of your favorite songs, as their instrumentals will be the theme music for your cocktail hour.

Many clients elect to have a photo booth for their guests to be creative and take away tangible memories. Photo and video both that upload directly to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to engage your guests through the evening, while having a nice record of the festivities on social media afterwards.

You want to make your guests experience an evening that doesn’t their social time with their friends and family, yet entertains them when they want to sit back and relax. So considering your entertainment program, not just fun distractions like the Photo booth are key. Your guests will always love to be entertained with non-intrusive yet engaging entertainment.

As the evening continues it’s important to remember to continue the thread of entertainment once you have Wowed your guests into your beautifully decorated reception room. Your guests have been asked to move from locale to another, so they can experience a new environment that will fill them with new forms of entertainment. So remember to engage your guests with a reception program that is right for the evening – and not to overextend the program as to exhaust your guests.

It’s always a great idea to break-up the speeches through performances, video presentations, unique personal stories, and live entertainment. If you have a guest or family member that is schedule to speak and is known to be verbose (or worse, boring) be sure to limit their speech from the get-go to two minutes. They will still go over, but it won’t turn into a 20 minute opus. That’s 20 minutes your guests have to sit and patiently wait for it to pass…

It’s also great to have your host or your DJ continually engage the audience so that they become involved and invested. There is a fine balance between bothering guests, and enticing them to participate and keeping things lively – and the best DJ’s / hosts carry a great personality that can sustain 2-3 hours before dancing can start.

Lastly, it’s best to let ALL of those who might be speaking to keep their speeches, short, sweet, funny and entertaining so that guests don’t lose interest. An ideal reception program is just under an hour so that guests can still continue to enjoy the food, music and friends and family. If it definitely going to go well over two hours, you may want to have a contingency plan to start dinner and continue the program after. (this is far from ideal)

Your Event Planner will be critical in helping you schedule your event so that it runs smoothly, with proper breaks between speeches and performances, and a contingency plan if things are running late. Please speak with her early on about your Cocktail and Reception entertainment so that she may plan a successful program for you!

Event Planning: Event Insurance

Event insurance as carried by the host/client is a great way to protect yourself from any potential liability that might and can occur at your event. Many venues will now require that the client provide proof of a Million Dollar Policy for their event so that in case of any emergency the client is covered. For the price of a few hundred dollars, it is always a great idea to protect your assets when hosting as large event that has a possibilities of occurrences. Blue Lotus Insights strongly recommends you carry Event Insurance on your event.

For a great way to see the options available to you, you should consult your event coordinator or the venue itself – since they will be most familiar with a process that can be expedited on your behalf.

Aside from the Million Dollar Policy to protect yourself, many of your chosen vendors will also be required to show proof of insurance to secure their ability to perform services. Vendors who have any type of physical labor involved, will all be required by all venues to produce a copy of their insurance (and often worker’s compensation) and many venues will also ask for ‘additional insured’ certificates with their venue name and address listed on the policy.

Have your coordinator check with the venue to find out their exact insurance needs and be sure to have the coordinator relay that information to your vendors (if they haven’t done so) as you begin the planning process. It always better to have protection against any potential liability involved on your special day.

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Event Planning: Rentals

Insights on Rentals for Event Planning:

Many event spaces may require that the client provides all the rentals, wait staff and any other necessary event needs. Let your coordinator know that these requirements need to be meet so that there is ample amount of time to ensure all the needs of the venue and your event are met.

Let’s begin with rentals. Rentals at Blue Lotus Insights include everything from the smallest fork to the dance floor your guests will dance the night away on. It’s essential to have a general guest count in order to have an estimated costs of rentals that might include but not limited to:
dessert forks and spoons,
dessert plates,
tables of rounds,
rectangles or square tables,
chafing dishes,
serving spoons,
urns for coffee and tea,
picture / photo Frame stands,
and many more items.

Be sure to always order rentals of silverware, chinaware and glassware for an additional 25 to 45 people just so if there were additional guests or multiple usage you will be covered. Also when considering to place a dance floor consider the size of the party as well as that of the space. Should there be dancing at your event then be sure to provide a sizable comfortable dance floor.

Along with rentals you as a client can also provide wait staff, which is a great way to save some costs as well. Be sure to consult your coordinator on the type of wait staff and be sure the company you hire is bounded with insurance. Depending on the size of your event and the type of meal service (reference Dining Options article) the number of wait staff can easily be decided. It’s always great to hire a few extra just to ensure that your event runs smoothly.

Lastly, when deciding to pick an event space that allows for you bring in all your rentals please be sure review the specific rule and regulations about caterers, trash and restroom usage as well as event insurance (as needed).

Your Event Designer and Planner should ensure that there are no unnecessary costs that arise after your event is over. If you have any questions or ideas you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to call or email one of BLI’s Event Planners today.

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Event Planner: Top Five Vendors to Secure

Top Five Vendors to Secure First for a Wedding:

Upon deciding to have an event, be it a corporate event, film festival or a wedding, the task at hand might feel daunting. So many creative new ideas, staying within the budget, needing to meet with various vendors and venues are all merely the tip of the iceberg. We hope that this article will make the process a little less daunting and a lot more fun! In our experience we find that tackling your most important top five vendors will put you at ease significantly and get the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing. We have listed below the top five in order of importance to book and the reasons why. The case below, we are talking primarily about weddings (and #2 ideally happens before #1).

1 – Venue: It is essential to begin your search for venues and narrow a list of top 5 as soon as you are aware your event will be happening. Venues very quickly get booked and you want to be able to have your choice open to many options. A venue (as we had posted earlier in our Venue article) also sets the foundation of the type of event you will having. It’s a great way to build upon a strong foundation.

2 – Event Designer and Planner: Deciding on hiring an event designer and planner is an essential part to keeping you stress free, timely and organized. Hiring an event planner is close to the first spot as the venue. Event designers and planners through their experience have amassed a large amount of knowledge about all aspects of an event; so if you hire one close to or prior to deciding on a venue, they will be able to help you decipher the contracts for a venue and potentially get you more concessions all the while possibly negotiating a better price. Once the hard part of locking down a venue is over, the planner can then guide you to select the most suitable vendors according to your style, budget and needs. Event planners like those at Blue Lotus Insights truly can make the whole process a breeze.

3 – Design-Florist, Decorator, Lighting: As the venue sets the stage for your event, your florals, decor and lighting will add the additional creative personal character for your big day. Many times florists will also be able to great your decor in regards to specialty chairs and linens, mandups, hoopas, canopies and elaborate stage stet-ups for a reception. Floral and decor are enhanced by beautiful lighting design which usually is the first form of decor your guests will experience. Work closely with your coordinator and decorator to ensure their a harmony and beautiful balance between all the decor elements. Most florists and decorators tend to take only one event a day (as they should) so if you have someone you highly prefer begin the conversation!

4 – Caterer: The one element of any event that the guests will forever remember is the food. As the host of the event it is essential that the appropriate caterer is secured for the various kinds of food that you would like to serve your guests in order to enhance your guest’s experience. Food, at times, might be your next most highest expense on the budget but it’s important not to find the less expensive option here. Delicious food always makes the guests feel as though they were taken care of. It’s important and imperative to do taste testings with your potential favorite caterers and also speak to previous clients who have used them. Your Event Planner can arrange all your tastings for you.

5 – Photographer: Memories that will last you a lifetime will be those beautiful photos that captured the most important day of your life. Photographers who have a great eye are highly in demand, therefore soon after you have booked your venue and secured your planner it’s essential to interview a few photographers to understand their style of photography and packages that they offer. Stunning images from your special day will be cherished and valued for your lifetime, so be sure to efficiently book the photographer of your choice right away. Your Event Planner should arrange to introduce you to the best in the area.

Once you have secured these five then you can relax a bit, and let the new vendors woo you with their samples and proposals. Always remember that if you have your Event Planner – she can be your middle-man to ensure all your needs are met without always paying a premium. An experienced and honest event planner will tell you when you are getting ripped off.

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