Small Events & Intimate Celebrations Are The New Normal
Planning a wedding, a pre-wedding celebration, a bachelor/bachelorette trip or big corporate event amid the coronavirus scare is mired in uncertainty and scepticism. Here are a few essential must-haves and things you must check before picking a venue for your event.
If you were a 2020 Summer bride or were planning a corporate event between March-June this year, we cannot fathom the barrage of emotions and stress that you must be going through. While the Delhi government has issued directives for public gatherings that allow up to 50 persons to attend an event, other states are yet to issue their directives. Nonetheless, with smaller events and intimate celebrations as the ‘new normal’, we hope this checklist will motivate you to start planning and help you squash the hesitations you might have.
1. Less Is More Important
For the next 4-8 months, guestlists are going to be trimmed drastically. Since wedding functions will transform into beautiful intimate celebrations (instead of 1000-people gatherings), destination weddings in private estates are your go-to option. These unconventional venues allow guests to maintain social distancing on their spacious lawns, where guests can celebrate safely. You can now celebrate with only those who actually matter to you.
As for corporate conferences, seminars and offsites, small teams will lead the way. Corporates will bank on technology and virtual players like WeeVirtuall for on-ground events that can go digital, or opt for smaller, private venues for those that need to be held in-person. Given the lacuna, employers can opt for quick day-picnics to boost employee morale and team bonding. While hotels are hubs of strangers within a common space, private villas and estates that follow WHO and FSSAI guidelines are safer options, with the guest list limited to your discretion.
2. Wander Close To Home
Numerous trend reports, including this survey by Business of Travel Trade, suggest that travel by air or rail will take a backseat to travel via private vehicles. It is important that you choose a venue that is easily accessible by all guests. A venue that is 1-4 hours driving distance from a metro (ideally the hub where most of your guests reside) is a wise choice. Look for private vacation homes 1-3 hours from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. If you have to make travel arrangements, consider booking double the number of buses you would Pre-COVID.
3. Parking Paradise
One important thing to check before picking a venue is parking. As a general rule, look for a venue that has a parking space that can fit approximately 40% of your anticipated guest count. For destination weddings, travelling by buses will never fade out. Ensure the roads that lead up to your preferred destination are wide enough for buses to drive and turn on.
4. FoSTaC Compliant
Hygiene should be top of mind for you, as it will be for your guests. FoSTaC has issued certain guidelines and training practices for all hotels and vacation homes. Basic markers include trained staff that are wearing appropriate attire, food handled per FSSAI standards, maintaining distance and hygiene practices between, and in kitchen and service areas. More importance will be given to vendors that supply organic, local produce, than those that offer exotic (read: imported) options.
Not only will buffets be every germophobe’s nightmare, most events will skip this set-up entirely. You can take this opportunity to craft table menus and seating charts a la western ceremonies, that give a personal touch to your celebration.
5. Trained Management Support:
Top hygiene practices and management support will be a mandatory requirement in banquet halls, hotels, private villas and rental estates. When choosing your venue, it is critical that you understand the level of management support you will be provided with during the planning and course of your event.
Vendor verification and management is going to be a focal discussion between organisers and host venues. Host venues should conduct thorough background checks and empanel vendors for all aspects of corporate and private events including event planners, wedding management companies, caterers, decorators, valet services as well as photographers. While corporate functions like seminars and conferences will lay strict guidelines for stall set-ups, catering and social distancing, for private functions and celebrations, opt for local vendors and visit their workshop before you sign up anyone.
6. Insurance and Rescheduling/Cancellation Policies:
Given the air of uncertainty, read between the lines before you sign the dotted line. Economic Times suggests that wedding and event insurance is a prudent investment, and we could not agree more. Given the widespread nature of the coronavirus, everyone that is party to an event will be impacted in one way or another. We recommend taking a collaborative approach, working together with partners, suppliers and other stakeholders and crafting creative ways to protect everyone and mitigate loss. Talk with your hotels, venues and vendors. They’ll want to work with you, not against you.
7. Budget Allocation:
Looking for a silver lining amidst the setback? Doling out the same budgets you would have previously drawn up for a large-scale occasion to a smaller function means that you can get the best for all your guests.
Hosting a family gettogether, cocktail party or pre-wedding function? You can now put together personalised favours and gifting kits or opt for boutique destinations to host your event, like this Hamptons-style mansion for 35 guests that has an expansive lawn, 15-people dining table mini theatre and spa.
You may not be able to send your star employee to Spain this year, but you can book a quick, safe, sanitised getaway for him and his family, or crat your next big strategy from the comfortable luxury of a private vacation home near Mumbai, instead of that stuffy conference room in a 5-star city hotel.
Coronavirus or not, the ambience of a venue is its key decider. Instead of sticking to the done-and-dusted banquet halls, switch up your celebration destination. A private beach for an intimate wedding? A private pool for a bachelorette? Misty hills as or verdant valleys as a backdrop? India has incredible options that you can choose from. Each state has gorgeous gems that are waiting to be discovered; vacation home and boutique rentals that can bring all your Pinterest dreams to life.
9. Additional Services:
We all look forward to getting a little more out of a deal. A great package is one of the things you much check before picking a venue. Essential additionals for corporate events include stable WiFi connectivity, provision for signages in and around the venue, ample space for setting up various activities and mini theatres.
As for celebratory functions and occasions, bear in mind the cut-off time for loud music and facility to set up a bar and/or dance section, lawns and outdoor areas for games and the extent to which you can customise your entire event.
10. Accommodation Layout:
The last thing you must check before picking a venue is the accommodation layout of the venue. Given social distancing norms that will be woven into the blanket of our day-to-day lives, it is imperative that you do not crowd your guests in rooms. Plan for no more than 2 guests in a room, with a contingency for extra rooms, in case a guest requests single occupancy.
While we know not when you can tie the knot, let’s be real – while Indians are alive and kicking, weddings will go on, albeit on a slightly smaller scale now. And though corporates have faced a speedbump in their quarterly plans, employee retention through engagement and vendor gratification via barter partnerships is going to be a cornerstone.