Features Industry Profiles Product Features

July 29, 2022 • Sarah Schwartz
The State of Affairs

Whatever the event, personal and personalized touches add a note of distinction.

 

It’s been a long few years, especially for those wanting to throw a party. Fortunately, wherever the event falls on the circle of life — from baby shower to retirement gala — since they can now be celebrated safely, they are again happening!

Rust Belt Love
Weddings are back, and upscale elements like silk ribbon, custom envelope liners and deckle edges elevate this Rust Belt Paperie suite from simply celebratory to completely extraordinary.

But, they look different, emphasized Ashley Withey, co-owner and managing director, Friendlily. “People have a lot of catching up to do from the two years we lost. They want to make sure that no matter the event, they are aiming towards what makes the most impactful and positive memories versus doing what’s expected of them. The party industry will thrive on creativity and product versatility in the years to come as brides and other lovers of celebration voice their suggestions, ideas, and wishes, resulting in an expansion of art and products for events. I genuinely believe we are entering a modern-day Renaissance!”

Indeed, every professional interviewed spoke of a new focus on structuring the event around the celebrant, not vice versa. “I think COVID-19 made us all masters at improvisation, which has led us to be more comfortable breaking tradition and formality,” described Kelly Lees, CEO, Meri Meri. “People are looking for intimate events that provide a unique, personal and memorable experience for their guests.”

Weddings & Wedding Weekends

This year, some 2.5 million couples will marry — that’s 15% higher than usual. Not only does that mean more clients, there’s also higher labor costs and inflation to navigate. Meanwhile, supply chain issues can suddenly impact any element from flowers to stationery.

Erickson Design
Erickson Design created this menu card to replicate a special Chicago venue.

As a result, Alyson O’Connor, co-owner and designer at Rust Belt Love Paperie, has switched up her invitation timelines. “Normally we recommend a three month-prior mail out. This year, we are recommending a minimum of four months. For a destination wedding, or events where more than half the guests are traveling, we consider a Save-the-Date almost mandatory, or sending invitations as much as six months prior. Because of this, in February we had to close our schedule through the fall of this year, something we’ve never done.” 

Rebecca Meixner of Rebecca Illustrated sees weddings extending into many events over several days. “A large portion of my clients have moved to three-day weekend weddings. Most say that weddings just seem to go too fast and everyone is so excited to celebrate … so they do it for days! I work on the design of websites that list itineraries, but also almost every invitation set now includes a details card and a map.” 

Oblation Paper
Oblation Papers & Press’ letterpressed suite harkens back to Old School invitations carefully calligraphed by hand.

Speaking of websites and RSVPs, COVID-19 has transformed these as well, O’Connor continued. “We’re seeing more and more online RSVPs. With the invitations going out so much further in advance, and with supply chain issues, many caterers are unable to commit to meal choices when invitations go to print. A simple solution to this is many couples are opting to go with an online RSVP that can be updated.’” 

O’Connor finds this blend of tradition and technology successful. “Hotel rooms book quicker than ever, so couples sometimes have to add new blocks at other hotels after invitations go out. We’ve also seen last-minute changes to shuttles or valet parking due to staffing issues. We always include language that pushes guests to the website for updates, so they can have a central location to connect with their guests without needing to field a million texts or phone calls. However, the website (should be) separate, either on a details card or a small business card-sized insert. The main invitation is never the place for a website.” 

Rebecca Illustrated
Rebecca Illustrated puts the venue front and center.

More events over more time necessitate more complex invitations, O’Connor observed. “Couples are adding separate cards/enclosures for the welcome dinners and brunches. We’re also seeing a resurgence of pocket invitations. With the extra information being provided, couples are going back to the option of holding everything together in one tidy pocketfold.” 

The excitement around being able to gather in-person is often expressed through printed pieces, O’Connor added. “We’re seeing couples opt for more bells and whistles (like) more elevated Save the Dates, with specialty printing and silk ribbons. For the invitations, more envelope liners, wax seals, vellum wraps, etc. The invitations themselves feel like a little celebration, and builds anticipation.” 

Lambert has also noticed that a lot of couples are doing “more small touches” than before. “We’ve been in business for over 20 years and it’s just so exciting to see couples embrace their personalities and make things more fun. We’ve seen an increase in popcorn boxes and custom menus. It’s given us the opportunity to design additional items that will help continue the theme and vision of the event. For instance, we designed a new menu that is arched for a wedding at Chicago Cultural Center (to mimic) its amazing arched ceiling. We’ve done many menus throughout the years, but to design one specifically for the venue was so much fun.” 

Rust Belt Love
Rust Belt Paperie is fully equipped to share postponements and reconfigurations in the height of letterpress style.

When combined with smaller, coronavirus-era headcounts, this novel “personal and personalized” approach creates events of distinction, Withey underscored. “COVID-19 required many restrictions regarding how many people could attend an event, which meant brides had to be more selective about who they invited. In this way, COVID-19 has helped the wedding industry because brides still want to have lavish, beautiful weddings, but by decreasing that overall headcount, they can include more personalized features and pieces that truly put the finishing bow on everything. More vendors are seeing business they may have not otherwise received because brides can further disperse their wedding budgets.” 

With this shift, brides are thinking of guests’ experiences versus the overall event looks, she detailed. ‘For example, signature drinks are up because they give guests more insight into the couple they’re celebrating.” 

That DIY Magic 

Over the past several years, DIY has gone from a diversion to serious business. To fully understand it, look beyond the pandemic, a recent Forbes article noted. “A generational shift had already been laying the groundwork for its increased acceptance. Millennials came of age with the internet, and the rise of sites like YouTube quickly led to the burgeoning popularity of online tutorials.” 

HER Craft Collection from Kids Craft
Kids Crafts.

This “democratization of the tutorial” sparks self-empowerment and deeper personal satisfaction through autonomous adult learning. And, such projects elevate both a regular day and a special event, emphasized Pei Sim, owner + founder, The Paper + Craft Pantry. “It’s a way to enroll those around you to seek out inspiration and create not just a fun activity but memories. It’s not just about the end product, finding some pause during an event allows everyone to connect.” 

For shops, incorporating DIY crafts into events makes a lasting, positive impact that now encompasses your venue, observed Kirsten Field, Founder of Kids Crafts. “Children that attend the events spend time crafting and creating their keepsake. When it’s completed, they (can) display the creation proudly in their room and each time they look at it remember the place they created it, the story behind it, and the sense of accomplishment they felt with their finished product. The event is suddenly transformed from a one-time, fleeting activity to a memory that reemerges each time the DIY keepsake is glanced at.” 

The Paper and Craft Pantry
The Paper and Craft Pantry.

These events can elevate any retail space into a bona fide party, Field continued. “Hosting DIY crafting events for mothers/daughters is a really fun idea. As the pandemic restrictions lift, we’re seeing more boutique stores offering these types of events. We’re also seeing DIY collaborations. For instance, a cookie decorating class, combined with local caterers, floral designers, balloon designers and boutique shops coming together for one event. They also open this up for a certain price to influencers and photographers to get special photos.” 

Inklings Paperie
Inklings Paperie.

Whatever you create, ignore more complicated projects, Sim concluded. “Ones that are simple tend to do better as not everyone is “crafty” and it gives those who are more creative an opportunity to expand on their creativity. Adding some DIY to your event or celebrations don’t have to break the bank 

Party On! 

Providing an upbeat, safe atmosphere for guests at any celebration remains top of mind, Lees opined. “After two years of isolation, we want heartfelt events that bring us together and make us feel connected. People are looking for intimate events that provide a personal, memorable experience. I think we’ll see serving staff continuing to wear face masks, at least through the summer, (and) hosts, now more sensitive to the health vulnerabilities of their guests, will still want hand sanitizer and face masks easily available. (Meanwhile), lush floral statements or fun, festive balloon installations all serve to create a unique and intimate environment. We are also seeing a trend in the “Kids’ Table,” creating a fun, entertaining setting for kids.” 

Mermaid Party from Colorfull Plates
Colorfull Plates incorporates DIY elements into its mermaid party décor for a welcome interactive element.

Another huge influence is sustainability, she explained. “Dried flower decor (can) be reused for other events. Avoiding plastic and opting for compostable or reuseable products are the top choice for environmentally minded guests. Handmade, personalized table settings and keepsake party favors that can be used after the party help minimize waste.” 

Mermaid Party from Colorfull Plates
Colorfull Plates.

For some, all the delays and postponements increased budgets, Lambert noted. “Our B’nai Mitzvah clients seem to be having larger events, with more personal touches. We just did 500 pretzel bags for a Bar Mitzvah; normally it would be a smaller order just for the VIP guests. I think these families waited so long and maybe were able to save to give their kid a bigger party.” 

Cocktail Sticks
Offerings from Friendlily Press add extra flair to signature cocktails.

Setting dictates the approach, Lees pointed out. “Climate-friendly locations, such as Miami, are seeing a surge in large, glamorous events due to the plethora of outdoor venue options. Indoor venues are still maintaining some semblance of social distancing with seating plans and reduced capacity. Innovations in outdoor heating have opened the options as to where one might celebrate. This, plus the pashmina shawls and lap blankets, has extended the season for outdoor venues.” 

Regardless of what is being celebrated, to say nothing of where and when, knowing what’s truly important lets everyone enjoy the process more, Meixner finished. “It’s not a Broadway production, it’s a joyous union, and we’re fortunate to get to have these. Enjoy every second!” 




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P.O. Box 128
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616.520.2137

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