valley & co. planning :: jump-starting your plans in 2021

Happy 2021! Welcome to a fresh year filled with brightness on the horizon. We enjoyed a restful and quiet holiday break, complete with hot cocoa on tap! This year (well, later into the year) is brimming full of celebrations for our clients – and we can hardly wait until we safely resume in-person parties and weddings. We’ve been full-steam ahead in planning since the pandemic began for our clients – and putting some twists on everything from seating to entertaining, and even different ways of clever and stylish dining for guests so that we have sufficient Plans A, B, or even C if needed.

We took a poll on Instagram yesterday, asking for your top wedding and party planning questions for 2021 (yay, New Year!) and are putting our pens to paper answering them today. We had a slew of questions but chose these 5 that stood out and cover something for everyone. Here they are:

Q1: What is the best way to talk with our guests right now? Getting married in September 2021 and sent out save the date cards last summer. It’s always so important (and nice) to communicate with your guests during your planning process, and even more so with the pandemic and the uncertainties of the world and travel. We suggest that our couples gather email addresses for all guests and keep them privy to any changes (even a fun note saying: plans are still on and we can hardly wait to see you! is welcomed) in a wedding update email. For guests without email, you can mail them a postcard stating the same or give them a call leading up to your day. Fill them all in on how your plans are coming along and anything they should be aware of: think – travel restrictions, rapid testing on site, or lodging changes. For weddings past this summer, so much could possibly look different, so letting your guests know that all systems are currently a go! will be so helpful for them to plan for. 

Four of our easiest (and creative) ways to communicate with your guests right now (and always!) after a save the date has been mailed off: send a wedding newsletter with key wedding and travel details, send a fun postcard to guests 6 months prior, DM a cheeky video message 3 months out, email out another newsletter the month of your wedding, or make a reel on Instagram to get guests excited!

Q2: What are people doing for baby showers – virtual or drive-by? What are thoughts on party gifts to give to people during a drive-through shower? Depending on how close in proximity you are to most of your attendees, drive-through baby showers are so much fun! We planned a walk-through shower this past September and staged a seating area for the parents-to-be to sit and placed directional signs down their long driveway prompting guests on where to walk.

The groups of guests (per household) were given timeslots every 15 minutes so the couple had a chance to visit with each group. We also had a guest book for wishes for the baby (with hand sanitizer nearby, naturally!), beautiful decor that fit the woodland motif, and take-home favors that guests could enjoy at home. They were decadent gourmet s’mores in quilted jars – they not only looked so lovely but tasted amazing and fit the motif. Most importantly: there was a video set up for the guests that weren’t local. They could visit during the entire shower! Think about weather and your location – if the shower is this winter think about a favorite restaurant that has a big pull-through awning you can stage in – they could serve up petite boxes to-go of your favorite appetizers or mini desserts and you can stay dry while guests drive through!

Calligraphy: La Happy Design

Q3: When should we book our venue (newly engaged)? The time to book a venue for your wedding depends greatly on when you’d like to marry, BUT more than ever we are telling couples to book now! After seeing most all 2020 weddings and winter 2021 weddings postpone, the venue game is strong and very competitive – now more than we have ever seen in 18 years of event planning. The early couples will definitely get the prime choices for venues and top creative partners. We’re already booking *nearly* into 2023 and our couples who are doing this know they want to enjoy the planning process and take a slow approach, but they’re doing it primarily to lock in the best of the best and to not compete during the process!

Photos: Charity Burggraaf for Seattle Met Bride & Groom Magazine || Cheeses: Paris Madrid Grocery

Floral & Styling: Valley & Company Events || Rentals: Vintage Dish Company

Q4: What is the best way to tell guests we’re keeping our wedding date? Sending out frequent correspondence is a fantastic idea (see above). Whether it’s a postcard or an email newsletter, giving guests the heads-up that you are so excited to see them, plans are a green light, lodging is available, etc., etc. is not only a courtesy, but a necessity in these wild times of changing dates. Guests may have several wedding invitations during one weekend with postponed dates, so be sure to let all guests know your intentions early on, which means now! 

Q5: How should we design our ceremony seating for this coming summer? We think about 150 guests will attend. While the words “socially distant seating” are very much a trend right now, we also see couples and guests enjoying a more intimately laid out ceremony, which we think will forecast creative seating sticking around over the traditional 20 rows on either side down the aisle. With 150 guests, think about a Plan A – the seating at this current moment in time you would need with guest safety and restrictions at front of mind. Consider a beautiful cascading aisle that curves its way through your venue’s grounds, allowing for larger aisles but not skimping on the aesthetic. For a guest count under this number, a ceremony in the round would be stunning – a favorite layout of ours. Stage the officiant and the couple in the middle with the wedding party and family sitting in the first smaller row. Then arc guests around you two in the middle.

For weddings under 100, a very clever way to create an unforgettable setting is to create elegant vignettes with small cafe tables or settees that guests in pods can enjoy. Even after “socially distant seating” is hopefully a distant memory, this kind of a thoughtful layout feels so intentional and just so fresh and fun!

We are so bright-eyed for the future of celebrations and we hope you are able to apply our clever tips! Cheers,

Aleah, Nick & Team