happy volunteer looking at donation box on a sunny day

4 Things to Keep in Mind When Supervising Volunteers

When organizing large events, you are going to need assistants. Sometimes those people are employees, in which case the general rules of the office apply to the event. However, if you’re working with volunteers, that relationship becomes more complex.  Keep these points in mind if you’re using volunteers to staff an event.

Lack of Authority

In theory, you are the supervisor. However, that role is primarily one of guidance rather than discipline. If a volunteer is grossly inept, you can send them home, but that only makes sense if their presence is truly more of a detriment than their absence. But the disciplinary dynamics of the office don’t apply. Threatening repercussions, for example, will likely only encourage the person to remain problematic rather than work to find solutions.

What does that mean for you? Work for foster positive relationships rather than adversarial ones. You want volunteers to perform well because they are proud of what they are working on rather than out of fear of reprisals, which are largely non-existent.

Need for Guidance

People volunteer because they value the purpose of the event. If they don’t have the skills to perform their tasks, everyone gets frustrated. As the supervisor, it’s your duty to assign people to tasks they can perform and to provide training when skills are lacking.

 female personal assistant working at registration desk at corporate event. business and entrepreneurship concept.

Keep People Busy

I volunteered with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and got stuck in an overstaffed staging center. As such, my experience was seriously marred by a lack of work. Volunteers want to contribute to the success of your event. If you leave them hanging around without tasks, they feel their time is being wasted. Make sure everyone has something to do throughout their shifts.

Don’t Understaff

The flip side of keeping everyone busy is you don’t want to understaff either. Keeping volunteers on the run is stressful and often detrimental to your event overall as tasks are not addressed in a timely manner. Take time to consider every aspect of the event which will need volunteer staff and schedule accordingly.

One of the problems with scheduling is some time periods may need more volunteers than others. For example, large numbers might be helpful when vendors are loading in, but far fewer are needed once the event actually begins. You don’t need to use all your volunteers all the time. Schedule shifts so the right number of volunteers are in attendance during different phases of the event.

Of course, many of these points are relevant even when you are dealing with paid staff. Still, it is particularly important to recognize supervising volunteers is not like supervising employees. The relationship is considerably different, and that needs to be recognized in all interactions with them. Recognize their time and assistance is valuable and don’t take them for granted.

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Guests toasting at a wedding

Etiquette When Attending a Wedding

Attending a wedding may seem like a simple thing, but failing to follow basic rules of etiquette can cause huge headaches for the people planning the event, people who are already facing a lot of stress and a million things to do. Be a considerate guest by respecting the time and money of those who value you enough to invite you in the first place.

RSVP

RSVPs are immensely important to wedding planners. They tell them how many meals to prepare and tables and chairs to be ordered. Wedding planners may also invite additional people if a lot of invited guests are having to decline.

People who do not RSVP force the planners to guess. Do not think failing to send an RSVP will be taken as a decline. Such inaction causes huge headaches for the people attempting to wrangle the guest list and everything associated with it.

Do Not Bring Uninvited Guests

RSVP requests are directed to specific people. Sometimes invitees are allowed to bring a guest, but if that’s not expressly stated, don’t presume it’s appropriate. Extra guests mean extra spending on things like food, and limited space can easily become an issue. Don’t call the bride or groom asking for permission, either. That puts them in the awkward position of saying no to a friend or saying yes out of politeness. It’s not fair to them.

Turn Off Your Phone

Like many events, a ringing phone is completely inappropriate. Turn off both the ringer and the vibration mode for the ceremony, and consider how to handle the phone at the reception. You don’t really want it going off in the middle of the best man’s toast, after all, although it’s probably fine to escape the Chicken Dance because of a call.

Wedding guestbook on table

Sign the Guestbook

Guestbooks may seem clinical and unmemorable, but if the couple didn’t want it signed, they wouldn’t have put it out in the first place. Most importantly, the guestbook helps them keep track of who they need to send thank you cards to. And while you may feel a thank you to be unnecessary, it’s a common point of etiquette, and the couple will likely feel bad if they overlook someone.

Don’t Interfere with the Photographer

When the photographer is at work, leave him be. It can be tempting to sneak in a few pics of your own. After all, the bride and groom are already very nicely posed. But you’ll likely get underfoot, especially if you’re using a flash, as it throws off the photographer’s calibrations.

This isn’t just about pictures of the couple either. When the photographer is working with guests, steer clear.

Also, resist to photobomb, no matter how funny you think it is. Professional photographers are hired precisely because they can create memorable, classy pictures of the entire event. You making funny faces in the background ruins what they are trying to do.

Drink in Moderation

There’s no reason not to drink at a wedding. If there was, the couple wouldn’t give you the option. But drunks are obnoxious in so many ways. In addition, people shouldn’t be left wondering about your safety when, for example, you leave for the night.

Weddings are complicated affairs. You have been invited because the wedding couple wants to share their happy day with you. Don’t impose on them. Do everything you can to lighten the load they bear concerning wedding preparation and participation.

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High school students on graduation day

5 Tips for Great Graduation Party

It’s graduation season, and if your son or daughter is taking the leap from an institution of learning, you probably want to celebrate it. Whether it’s high school or college, the move is a major stepping stone in the grad’s life, and it’s worthy of a great celebration.

1. Don’t Go Overboard on Family

Your kid loves you, but graduation is about school, and the graduate is going to want to spend time with friends made during their time there. Family certainly needn’t be banned, don’t push aside the friends in order to fit in every second cousin once removed.

And don’t smother the graduate at the actual event. Give them and their friends space. For some, this may be the last time they see each other as everyone goes their separate ways, whether it be to college, grad school or a career in another city.

2. Create a Photo Booth

Set up an area where people can have photos shot. This might be the decorated corner of a room where people can take their own pictures, or perhaps someone good with a camera can volunteer to take snaps.

You can also rent a photobooth. These set up allow users to press a button and have a series of four photos snapped, which are then printed on the spot.

hispanic student and family celebrating graduation

3. Collect Memories

Offer up something that allows attendees to share memories with the graduate. A notebook with a fancy, formal cover works well. It could also be a drop box where people put notes or photos, or some sort of decorative feature where those same notes can be clipped.

4. Use School Colors

Parties always look more complete when they have a unifying theme, and often that theme is color. Use the school’s colors for balloons, plates, napkins, centerpieces, streamers and so on.

5. Make a Graduate Collage

To be clear, this party is all about the graduate, so include them in everything you can. Create a collage out of photos from the last four years of their life. You may want to shape the collage into letters or numbers such as the grad’s name (if it’s short), the year of graduation or even just the word grad.

No matter how you throw one, graduation parties are meant to be lighthearted and focused on the accomplishments of the graduate in question. Find clever ways of celebrating this milestone and you’ll make plenty of new memories for the grad to take with them.

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appetizers to the holiday - cheeses, fruits and jams

4 Tips for Providing Food at Parties

Last week, we talked about the ins and outs of providing drinks at parties. Food of course, is just as fundamental, existing in some form at nearly every kind of event.

1. Keep Food Fork Free

Unless your party includes a formal meal, go light on the cutlery and heavy on the napkins as you provide food which can be eaten with fingers.

Party-goers like milling around, and the necessity of a fork and knife forces them to not only sit but sit at a table. Finger food allows people to nibble while they continue to socialize, keeping their attention on the conversation rather than their meal.

Dishes which need only a fork, such as cake, can be doable. But the food must be soft enough for the fork to easily cut through it.

2. Avoid Messy Foods

If you’re going to have people to eat with their fingers, give them something that isn’t going to smear across their hands and leave streaks on your furniture. The problem isn’t just the damage it can cause, but also how uncomfortable it can make guests. They don’t want to damage your carpet or your chairs, so they’re likely to be extra fussy about eating to avoid making a mess.

various dip sauces on wooden table

3. Always Get a Party Platter

Party platters are kind of the best of all worlds: they provide variety, they’re affordable and all of it is finger food. If you’re not serving dinner, party platters can keep friends going all evening. If there is a scheduled dinner, party platters make for great appetizers.

They’re also a great way of not running out of food. Not sure if you have enough? Get an extra platter. Might there be some last minute drop-ins? You don’t have to spend a lot to make sure you have a little extra, just in case you underestimated who all was likely to come.

4. Be Prepared

It’s your party. You should be socializing, not slaving away in the kitchen. Prepare as much as possible the night before or the morning of. Keep food warm in crock pots. Keep cold food in the fridge, ready to be set out without additional preparation.

Planning on grilling? Get everything organized ahead of time. If you have a mix of special seasonings for your hamburgers, put it all together the night before.

It’s no fun if the party’s host is stressing over the food. A little planning goes a long way in this department. Serve food which can be eaten by hand and aren’t overly messy. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. And don’t be afraid of using pre-made items such as party platters, which can save a ton of prep time. Create a menu great for both you and your guests, and you’re on your way to a great party.

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colorful cocktails close up

Getting Drinks Right at Your Party

Drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, are a foundational element of any get together. No matter what kind of party you’re throwing, some manner of drinks will have to be provided. However, it’s a little more complicated than just throwing a few six packs in the fridge. Keep these points in mind when organizing drinks for your party.

Mixers, Mixers, Mixers

Even if you’re planning on heavy drinking at your event, you need a serious quantity of mixers. Buying an equal amount of alcohol and mixer means guests will end up mixing equal parts Jack and Coke. And if the mixers run out entirely, people may turn to straight shots.

Moreover, there are people who won’t want alcohol or will want to pace themselves. You need drinks for them too, and tap water doesn’t count. Providing non-alcoholic alternatives emphasizes your get-together is a social event, not just a night of drinking.

Stocking up a good supply of soda, juices, and pre-made mixers will help keep your event under control and your guests from overindulging.

Have Enough Glasses

One person, one glass is a recipe for disaster. When people switch drinks, they’ll want a fresh glass. And if they walk away from their drink, they may well grab another glass when they seek out a refill. Over the course of several hours, most people will go through multiple glasses.

This makes disposable cups practically a necessity. They take up minimal space when stacked, can be discarded as needed, and there’s no deed to pile them next to the dishwasher. They also aren’t breakable, which means fewer spilled drinks and a lack of picking broken glass up out of your carpet.

group of friends enjoying drink at outdoor rooftop bar

Let Guests Mix Their Own Drinks

It might sound cool to stand behind the bar mixing up sophisticated drinks for your friends. The problem is you end up trapped behind the bar all night rather than socializing. Sure, you’ll trade a few words with everyone who asks for a drink, but it won’t be meaningful conversation.

And since you now expect your guests to serve themselves, make sure the drinks are obvious. People don’t like poking through other people’s fridges trying to figure out what’s up for grabs. Putting available drinks in coolers is one way of indicating exactly where guests should be going. Pitchers of pre-mixed drinks also work well. It’s convenient for your guests and keeps them from mixing super-strong drinks.

Don’t Forget the Ice

Nearly every event can benefit from an extra bag of ice. Whether it’s to fill coolers or chill individual drinks, ice can be in high demand, even if the party is indoors. It’s also cheap and never goes bad, so if it isn’t used you can toss it in the freezer or just let it melt in the sink.

Keep the Drinkers from Driving

You may well end up with guests who have no business behind the wheel of a car. Have a plan ahead of time, such as whether you’ll suggest a taxi, Uber or Lyft. And maybe the guest can’t go home at all, in which case you’re going to need crash space. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just be sure you know where a couple extra pillows and blankets are in case someone needs to sleep it off.

Every party plan needs to devote time to drinks as well as the aftermath of drinking. The plan doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be thorough. Consider all the needs needing to be met. And think about yourself as well. Simplify arrangements as much as possible so you can enjoy the party as much as everyone else.

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receptionist at hotel reception handing over a key to guest or customer

A Hotel as Home Away from Home

For most of my life, I stayed at my grandma’s home for a few days twice a year. Then she moved into assisted living, and I – and the rest of the family – relocated to a hotel when visiting. Finally, she passed, and the question became “where do we go now?”

Like many families, we couldn’t easily move the gathering to another person’s house. We’re scattered across the Midwest, and the closest anyone got to being a central point was Grandma.

So we just keep visiting that same hotel in Grandma’s town and, really, very little in our routine has changed.

We get up in the morning and have breakfast together. Any number of things might happen in the afternoon, but we’d certainly regroup for dinner. Then it’s back to the hotel, where we have reserves the conference room for the evening. One cousin also orders a suite instead of a basic room so we have another place to retreat when the conference room isn’t available.

It doesn’t have the coziness of grandma’s family room, but it’s utterly practical. People can bring in whatever food they want. We can play games. The table and chairs may be basic, but they are also easily moved.

small child playing in a shallow children swimming pool with toys.Entertainment

If the hotel has a pool, you’ve got instant entertainment for the kids, who probably don’t enjoy sitting around all day with the relatives anyway. You might even choose a hotel based on its swimming facilities, particularly if several children are going to be in attendance.

You can also kick the family gathering up a notch by relocating to a resort and turning this into a full scale vacation. This can be particularly attractive if there aren’t many plans outside of the hotel anyway.
Resorts offer a variety of activities throughout the day which individuals can choose according to taste. This could be anything from swimming to golf to spa visits. Resorts also after restaurants, often more than one.

Scalability

Hotel gatherings are also infinitely scalable. In fact, the more people you have, the easier the process can be. A few people are left to their own devices as far as getting reservations, but a larger group can have a block of rooms set aside, and very large groups can get discounts.

As families continue to spread out geographically, it becomes harder and harder to bring them back together. If no one can offer a convenient meeting point, there’s absolutely no reason why that should kill plans for a get-together. Find a location convenient for everyone, consider what amenities you would like, and find a suitable hotel to host your reunion.

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woman thinks how to organize her wedding

The Value of Event Planners

Pulling off a big event, whether it be a corporate gathering or a family wedding, can be exhaustive. One alternative is to hire an event planner. Event planners free up your time and let you get through the big day stress free.

The Downside: Cost

The big downside is cost. Some planners charge a percentage of the total event bill, as much as 20%. Others charge a fixed cost, which it may well be based on an estimated percentage. Adding an event planner will definitely put a dent in your budget, but it may also be more than worth it.

They Know What They’re Doing

Hiring an event planner isn’t just about getting someone to keep track of all the necessary things. It’s about hiring someone who knows what’s necessary in the first place. So you’re planning a wedding, and you have the church, the reception hall and the caterer. What about alcohol? That’s usually an entirely separate bill potentially provided by a completely separate company. An event planner knows this. Hiring a planner means you’re not going to show up for dinner and wonder where the beer is.

 close-up of businessperson reading list of work in diary

Managing the Day

Event planning isn’t just about making arrangements beforehand. Event planners are also generally on site in case anything comes up, letting you be free to lead your meeting or celebrate your daughter’s marriage.

Providing Options

Not having enough options is a problem, but just as troublesome is having too many. You’re looking at twenty cake shops. Where do you start? You certainly don’t want to visit all of them.

Event planners are well versed in local options. You tell them what you’re looking for, and they can provide a helpful number of options without throwing the kitchen sink at you.

They may also know of some real gems you wouldn’t find on your own. Perhaps a certain shop carries the exact type of cake you want for a bargain price. You would have never found it, but your event planner has worked with them before and knows.

Planners also know who to avoid. A planner isn’t going to use a company which has repeatedly delivered poorly, as that reflects badly on the planner as well. Also, planners have standing arrangements with some companies which provide discounts. All of this adds up to you getting the best service for the least amount of money.

Do I Need a Planner?

There’s no rule of thumb concerning how big an event needs to be to warrant a planner. In the end, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you should consider one. They can be pricey, but they can also save you money in dealing with suppliers. Mostly, however, they take over much of the burden of planning so you can get back to whatever is most important to you.

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closeup of the hands of a young man at his office holding a smartphone with the text you are invited holiday party in its screen

An Argument for Online Invitations

Invitations have long come in two forms: casual invitations offered verbally and formal printed invitations. But, like so many other things, party organization has been reinvented by the internet. Now there is a third option, and one that is increasingly popular: the electronic invitation.

The Reasons People Resist Online Invitations

People are resistant to change. Verbal invitations seem to work well enough for casual events, so why complicate it? And not using a traditional paper invite for a formal event may feel too laid back. But online invitations offer a lot of things other ones do not.

For one, they can keep track of the invites sent and responded to. That means you’re not going to forget who RSVPs and who you should follow up with to make sure they know they’re invited.

As far as not being formal enough, our culture is already following that trend. People aren’t expecting the same formality they were 20 years ago. Change is OK. Digital invitations save money which you can use to make your party an even bigger success.

The Benefits of Online Invite Services

Services like Invitecast offer a variety of options to help you in your party planning, including:

  • Custom fields which allow you to include all necessary information
  • A wide choice of background images to help make the invite feel more traditional
  • The ability to upload your own images for display on the invite
  • The ability to track selections made by invitees, such as meal preferences
  • The ability to sort the guest list by a number of different factors
  • The ability for you to include notes on every response

In addition, Invitecast allows individuals to be organized into groups which keeps, for example, a husband and wife from double RSVPing. It also allows parents to RSVP for a child, even if the parent is not invited.

There’s also the simple fact that people find email convenient. Many people would greatly prefer to click a couple buttons online than to fill out an RSVP card and walk it to the mailbox. That may sound like a trivial chore, but the fact is people are avoiding it more and more. This is a digital age.

While some people are still resistant to online invitations, many find them highly convenient. They offer many time-saving features which are simply impossible with conventional invites. Compiling responses is far easier with online invitations, saving you time and lessening the chances of something going wrong. It also saves money, which is a favorite of just about everyone. And they work for any event, from the small and casual to the large and formal. Consider how online invitations can help you plan your next gathering.

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Second hand clothes ready for a new home at a swap party

Hosting a Swap Party

Over time, we accumulate things. Too many things. Did you know there’s a party for that very situation? It’s called a swap party. Besides being a fun excuse to get together and, well, party, it’s also eco-friendly and good for your wallet.

Finding the Right Time

Spring is a great time for swap parties, when people are making a push to separate the things they use from the things they do not. Also, give people plenty of warning. You’d hate to get invited the week after you donated all your old stuff to Goodwill.

Getting the Right People

Inviting guests can be a bit tricky, particularly if you’re swapping clothes, which people generally do.  There needs to be some similarity in  people’s style. Not that everyone needs to be a size 12 and into florals. There can be ranges. But there also needs to be significant overlap. Otherwise, no one’s stuff is going to suit anyone else.

This also means the more people, the better. Your chances of finding someone with the same style as yours increases as the number of participants grows. That does mean a big party, so plan accordingly.

Box of unwanted stuff taken to a swap party

What to Bring?

Make it clear on the invite what kinds of items are welcome. Is this just for clothes? Make sure they’re gently used. Appliances? Kids toys? Sports equipment? If everyone has their own idea of what to bring, it might be difficult for others to find something they want. Also, consider space limitations. Few people can handle twelve beach balls in their living room.

Informality is Key

This isn’t an auction (unless, I suppose, you really want it to be) nor a competition. Everyone brings their goods to the event where they can be casually examined and selected. If two people have their eye on the same piece, it’s ultimately up to the owner who it goes to, but usually people are pretty civil about it. I mean, these are your friends, after all. They aren’t strangers.

If you want to add a little order to your evening, everyone can draw numbers and take turns selecting items. In that case, you’ll want to limit everyone to taking home no more items than the number they brought.

Get Crafty

Some swap parties also become crafting parties as people decide to make alterations to their newly found treasures. If that’s the direction you want to go, you’ll need to do more planning so supplies will be within easy reach without being tripped over.

Don’t Forget the Party!

This, like many parties, is ultimately an excuse for friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company. There are memories attached to some of the goods up for grabs. Share them!

And swapping items certainly doesn’t have to be the only activity at the event. Everyone could step away and have dinner together, or they can munch on snacks as they consider what to swap. Throw in a favorite movie in the background. Open a bottle of wine.

Swap parties are a great way of spending a night with friends while clearing out your closets. So gather up last year’s fashions and a plate of appetizers, and settle in for a fun night of swapping.

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Divorce party cake - angry bride because her husband doesn't leave the computer alone.

The Divorce Party: A Parting of the Ways

Marriages are one of life’s great milestones, so it’s no surprise they generally come with a party, often a highly extravagant one. But if the beginning of a marriage deserves such fanfare, why doesn’t the end of one do the same? Obviously, some people are highly distraught after a divorce, and certainly no one should ever feel obligated to make a big deal of it. But sometimes a divorce party is just what is called for by another of life’s milestones.

Reclaiming One’s Life

Divorces are sometimes the result of a very dark, abusive environment. Maybe the abuse was physical, or maybe it was emotional, which can be just as crippling. Often, the abuser convinces the victim they can accomplish nothing on their own and won’t be able to function without them.

In these cases, a celebration marks an escape from a bad situation. More importantly, it focuses on where the host goes from here. They did make it this far, and with the support of friends, they’ll continue to successfully live their own life beyond the reach of their toxic ex.

Saving a Friendship

Not every divorced couple end up hating each other. Some just figure out they make better friends than spouses. These are the best divorces, if such a thing exists. It’s about two people committed to remaining friends, and that’s something worth celebrating.  Such a party needs both exes to be present. Otherwise it’s kind of a mixed message.

This co-hosted divorce party is also great for letting people know there should be no hard feelings. People often take sides in relation to divorces, and this is where the ex-couple can make it clear they’re still friends and don’t have an ill wishes for each other.

Divorce parties tend to be irreverent affairs, looking far more like bachelor or bachelorhood parties than weddings. They tend to mock elements of traditional marital celebrations. Gag gifts abound. Cakes are silly, featuring everything from a broken ball and chain to a husband in a tux or a wife in a wedding dress being pushed off the top of a tiered cake.

Etiquette

It can be a little awkward attending a divorce party. Are you supposed to gossip? Are you not supposed to gossip? How irrelevant is too irrelevant?

A good rule of thumb is to keep things upbeat unless the host does otherwise. A lot of people going through divorce need emotional support. You might think they want to hear you trash their ex, but they might not want to talk about the ex at all. They’re moving on, and gossiping simply holds them in the past.

On the other hand, if your host does decide to roast the ex, you’re certainly welcome to play along.

Most divorces are messy affairs, the culmination of months or years of unhappiness. Some people emerge from them shattered. Others are charged up to move on with their lives. A divorce party is not for everyone, and the tone of them must be dictated by the divorced individual. However, for some, a divorce party isn’t merely entertaining, but is also therapeutic.

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