Success Story: Planner vs. Venue

April 29th, 2013
It all looks as if it is going smoothly.  Only the planner knows for sure.

It all looks as if it is going smoothly. Only the planner knows for sure. Courtesy of

Once in a while I have to toot my own horn.  I have a story for you that is interesting and also answers that age-old question, “Why should I hire a wedding planner or coordinator?”

I worked on a wedding last year that was excessively well planned.  The bride is, herself, an event planner and had everything organized down to the last detail.  Someone with less experience than she had might have concluded that between her exceptional planning and the professional staff at the venue, everything would go smoothly.  Maybe sometimes that is the case, but not here.

I won’t name the venue–to protect the guilty–but let’s just say that it is a medium-size place that is accustomed to large events.  It’s the kind of place one might reasonably expect to know what it is doing when there is a large wedding on site.

Both the bride and I had expressed to them how important it was to set a sound level on their equipment for the recorded recessional music.  I began asking the venue staff to set up the sound equipment soon after I arrived.  Thirty minutes before the ceremony, the catering manager was still trying to set up his own equipment, and clearly didn’t quite understand how it functioned.  I did manage to set a sound level before the guests were seated, but only barely.

Things went well for a while.  The ceremony went off without a hitch, and the guests moved to the next room while the venue staff, the florists, and I turned the room over for the reception.  Once the meal began, though, it became clear that the venue was under-staffed.  No one poured wine at the head table, and it was hard to find a server.  Not only that, but the venue manager disappeared.  I simply didn’t see him after a certain time.

That meant that I became the point person for everything, even things I couldn’t possibly know.  But that’s all right:  I can find things out when I need to.  I spent the rest of the wedding day answering questions and solving problems that should have fallen to the venue staff.  The guests never knew anything  was awry; even the bridal couple never knew.  Only the bride’s mother and I were making sure that everyone else had a happy time.

The moral of the story is this:  Good planning is very important, but no one can foresee everything.  If you want your wedding day to go as planned, it is also important to have someone who is your advocate on hand to solve problems and smooth over difficulties.

Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2013

With the increase of interest in all things sustainable, I’d like to re-run an article I wrote a couple of years ago on compostable disposables. Things have actually improved slightly on this subject, so here is an update:

Compostable disposables are a great idea for an eco-friendly party, right?  Well, maybe.

Let me back up a minute.  What is a compostable disposable?  Well, plastic (like, for plates, cups, flatware, etc.) can be made from petroleum.  That kind is definitely not compostable and you have to throw it out.  Alternatively, plastic can be made from corn, and dishes and so on made from that kind of plastic are marketed as being compostable.

007Technically, yes, it is possible to compost corn plastic.  But the best authorities I can find (Smithsonian Magazine, for instance), say that it can only be composted in very hot, commercial composting facilities.  Being curious about this claim, my husband and I tried some experiments, with the help of a friend who has a very good home composting pile.  We took some cups and lids from my husband’s coffee roasting business to our friend.  The cups were paper lined with a very thin layer of corn plastic.  The lids were somewhat thicker plastic, but thinner than a plastic water bottle, and far thinner than a plastic plate.

The cups were shredded (with the assistance of the friend’s gentle pit bull) and put in the pile.  The lids went in whole (since the dog wasn’t interested in them).  In a reasonable amount of time (a few months, I believe), the paper and thin layer of corn plastic disappeared into the pile.  So far, so good.  Nine months later, we were back at the friend’s house, and she handed us a lid that had been in the pile for the entire time.  It was intact, whole, undisturbed.  Even her warm, active compost pile had not been able to digest even that much corn plastic.  Apparently, it does take a hotter compost pile to compost them.

Here is the lid after sitting in a nice, warm, active compost pile for almost a year.

Here is the lid after sitting in a nice, warm, active compost pile for almost a year.

But where do you find a commercial composter that will take corn plastics?  You can search for them at Find a Composter.  There seem to be more commercial composting facilities now than there were three years ago when I first looked for them.  You might find, however, that many facilities do not take composting materials directly from households.  Fortunately, there are now composting services (such as Collective Resource) that can take your compostable materials and drop them off at a local commercial facility.

Are compostable disposables your best choice?  Maybe.  If you are throwing a party and want to keep it as eco-friendly as possible, you could use ceramic dishes.  Rent them from a nearby rental house to reduce transportation waste.  If you have to use disposables, also consider plain paper dishes.  Paper is a renewable resource, like corn, and is much more compostable.  And, as we discovered, paper cups lined with corn plastic are actually compostable, even in a home compost pile.  If you need disposable utensils, consider using corn plastic and hiring a composting service.  Actually, consider it, anyhow, so you know that the food waste will also be taken care of.

Composting food and utensils from a party is getting easier every year, but it still takes some extra thought.  It’s encouraging how much progress has been made in three years.

Vendors I Know: Spilled Ink Press

April 15th, 2013
Spilled Ink Press, as they appear on their website.

Spilled Ink Press, as they appear on their website.

The husband-and-wife team of Tony and Amanda is Spilled Ink Press.  They are a small press with a big impact.  Both trained as architects, they bring their design sensibilities to all sorts of paper products:  invitations, thank-you notes, greeting cards, etc.

Not only does Spilled Ink do custom and semi-custom designs for all your paper goods, but they also have a dedicated eco-conscious focus.  They make sure to purchase all the paper they use from sustainable and recycled sources and even make sure their designs use the paper as efficiently as possible.

For something unique and sustainable, look up Spilled Ink Press.

The Great Wedding Recyclery

April 8th, 2013

I mentioned this event a couple of weeks ago.  The Great Wedding Recyclery is a chance for those who have extra wedding items to donate them to a good cause, and for those who need wedding items to find unique pieces at excellent prices.  Think of it as a giant wedding garage sale.

This is a great opportunity to green your wedding–or your wedding business.  Instead of throwing those things you don’t want out, make sure they get into the hands of someone who needs them.  It’s also great for couples on a budget!

The Recyclery will be on Sunday, April 28 at Loft on Lake, 1366 W. Lake St. in Chicago.  See the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance website for all the details.