Updated: 50 minutes ago
Next, pictured are my son Josh and my (now) daughter-in-law Sydney. This article recaps the suggestions I provided them when they were planning their wedding. Just like the strong, independent people they were raised to be -- they heeded some of the advice, did not use some of it, but were appreciative of all of it. I hope this may help you as you plan your next big event or wedding.
This article provides a wedding example for event planning. However, the ideas of this article may be applied to any event.
Photo Credit: Sarah Peterson
Weddings are super special occasions, abundant with love and hope. On the practical side, weddings and significant events may be expensive. Also, there is much excitement and some peer pressure tending to put upward pressure on event costs. To have an amazing event while managing costs, make your planning decisions by applying this single guiding principle as a decision rule objective.
Event Success Principle: How guests FEEL after the event will govern their perception of the event.
This Event Success Principle is supported by 2 pillars.
Pillar 1 - The Community Trade: The guests attending your event are the true arbiters of event success, not the hosts. This may seem a little strange since the hosts are paying for the event. However, it is the guests the hosts wish to please. Events are centered upon the community. Hosts and guests are entering into a symbiotic relationship. They are trading community validation and community connection. In effect, the hosts provide community connection in return for community validation. I appreciate this transactional way of positioning an event, especially a wedding, is a little unsettling. But let’s face it, if the couple didn’t want to engage their community, they would just elope! This may be generalized in the context of any big event, like a corporate event with important customers and prospects. The hosts are trading their company's brand validation for the networking connections or education themes provided to the attendee community.
The Wedding Trade
The Corporate Event Trade
Pillar 2 - Event Emotions: It is how someone feels and not the “things” of the event that people will remember. As an example, for my wedding, I do not remember details of our clothes, the food, how much we drank, the decorations or many details of the venue. My bride will remember more. Since she ran the show, she does not represent a typical guest. My wedding role was much closer to that of a guest! What I do remember is the joy and love of our family and friends. I remember happy, smiling faces, many warm conversations, and many warm conversations between people that just met. Just like a corporate event --
How did you feel about the connections you made? or
How did you feel about the curiosity you were able to satisfy?
These are typically remembered more than the training details or the quality of the food.
There is significant academic research concerning event emotions and how they impact memory. In fact, after an event, most people do not have a permanent memory of the event facts. (E.g., the kind of food or drink served, table arrangement, or the decorations) They are likely to remember event emotions or how they felt during the event. Event emotions are mostly “free” and are activated by connecting people at the event. Also, it is important to have a finish to the event that will make your community feel especially good. This could be the last dance or a heartfelt toast that brings everyone together.
As research shows, our “remembering self” puts greater emphasis on the following:
the peak emotional intensity during the event, and
the emotions related to the last part of the event.
As such, it is good to finish strong! This Event Success Principle is well-grounded in behavioral economics and psychological research by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and others.
Warren Buffett is a well-regarded investor and one of the richest people in the world. The following quote is advice that gets to the heart of event planning. Mr. Buffett encourages focusing first on the value of your investments and expenditures, in the service of paying the optimal price for that value:
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
For the rest of this article, we will focus in on the wedding event as an example for our event principal and helpful event decision solutions. You may apply this example to many big events!
A Wedding Example
As a rule of thumb: If you keep the joy and love of your wedding community as the focus, you should be able to reduce the cost of lower-priority event facts.
Your family and friends look forward to bringing love and joy as your value. You need to provide a safe, supportive environment enabling your community to keep that love and joy as a memory. Anything more is likely overpaying.
As with any significant event, like a wedding, it is important to set a budget. The budget will lead you to make prioritization trade-offs. The resulting trade-offs are in the community-related context of event facts and event emotions. A budget will enable you to assign utility value to each cost. As you apply your Event Success Principle, the event decision criteria and trade-offs will become clearer. For example:
If people don’t really remember event facts like food and drink, work to keep those costs down. As an example, a buffet is less expensive than a plated dinner. Plus, buffets have the added benefit of increasing community interaction. In the context of the prior event symbiosis model, this “buffet for plated dinner” trade lowers the cost of “community connection” and provides higher value “community validation,” a high-value trade and a win-win!
The day of the week matters. If you can do an event during the week, or at least have part of the event during the week, that will help.
Venues tend to drive significant event costs. Would you consider a barn wedding over a ballroom wedding? I bet your friends would not care much either way! Also, seek less expensive geographies. Dense urban areas like Washington D.C. or New York City are traditionally more expensive than the suburbs or smaller, close proximity cities. For example, Richmond, Virginia is only 90 miles from the D.C. area. A 90-mile drive is do-able for a day trip or a single night sleepover.
Do you have a friend or family member that is an amazing speaker? Ask them to provide a toast. Some people have an amazing talent for giving moving speeches. This will help deliver the "end of the event" emotional impact and will provide the desired memory impression.
Involve your friends, they want to help! Give them an avenue to participate in a way that makes sense to them AND provides value to you. For example, some guests may wish to take and share photos. The important thing is to make this optional so they may both enjoy the wedding and take pics to the extent they wish. The guests who opt-in will feel more invested in the event and the host will get the added benefit of unique picture keepsakes.
These are just a few examples, you will naturally come across your own "high-value trade" ideas as you make your Event Success Principle trade-offs.
Further, you may decide this Event Success Principle is not for you. Perhaps "Damn the torpedoes! Go Big or Go Home!" is more your style. Certainly, that objective may work as well. This is more a value and cost tradeoff decision between consumption today (spend on the wedding) or consumption in the future (save for the future / build a nest egg). This is a complex decision because it often includes the soon-to-be-married couple and their families. Everyone has an opinion. The point is, being clear about your event objective is critical. This will align event criteria and event alternatives to your event objective. In the next section, we provide a decision support solution to help manage the event decision process.
With event objective alignment, the criteria will become clearer and easier to weigh. However, there are still a number of alternatives to consider. For example, once you decide on the kind of venue, you will need to decide between venue alternatives and apply your venue criteria to make a good decision. The same decisions must be made for other event considerations like food and drink, photo and video, and even the bridal party! The decision process is very involved. It is the kind of decision where people naturally struggle. Our brains do not easily handle multi-criteria, multi-alternative decisions. Fortunately, there are event decision support solutions that do much of the analytical heavy lifting and help you make great event decisions!
As a Dad, I am fortunate, my son and his betrothed 'killed it.' They had an amazing event. I'm proud of them for being very thoughtful and practical about the inevitable event trade-offs they had to make. It was a test they passed with flying colors to initiate their future life together.
Event decision support solutions
Decision support solution: Definitive Choice is a smartphone app that provides a straightforward user experience and is backed by time-tested decision science algorithms. It uses a proprietary "Decision 6(tm)" approach that organizes the criteria (what is important to us?) and alternatives (what are our choices?) in a series of bite-size ranking decisions. Since it is on your smartphone, you can use it while touring a venue or doing online research. It is like having an event planner in your pocket! The dashboard provides a rank-ordered list of "best choices," completely tailored to your preferences! Definitive Choice allows decision collaboration. For a corporate event, it facilitates including the event planners, stakeholders, subject matter experts, or anyone else important for building decision confidence. For a wedding, it facilitates including the bride, groom, moms, dads, or anyone else important for building decision confidence.
Also, Definitive Choice comes pre-loaded with event and wedding templates. You will want to customize your own criteria, but the pre-loaded templates provide a nice starting point.
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