Planning the Flow of Your Celebration
Planning the Flow of Your Celebration
by Janet Bihun
Congratulations on finding and booking the perfect event venue for your celebration!
Here at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center (MICEC), we look forward to being part of your special day. We know that finding the perfect event venue and getting the right date can at times feel like a monumental hurdle. Despite that difficulty, it is the first and often most important step in creating a memorable celebration.
You may have visualized the look of your décor, the taste of your appetizers or even the ambiance your music will create, but have you nailed down an effective timeline? Many people have difficulty planning the flow of their event. While an event planner can be immensely helpful in this aspect, planning the flow of your celebration can be done by anyone – yourself included! Use our experience to your advantage; follow these tips to create an unforgettable celebration.
One key to a well-flowing event is the layout of the event venue. A poorly thought-out layout can result in guests getting “bottlenecked” in to one area, or a lack of space. Keep in mind what kind of event you are planning. What unique needs does your event have?
Will you have a bar, or a DJ? Weddings and other special events often require space to dance. All of these things require forethought and planning to comfortably accommodate them.
Hosts and planners should consider how the layout will impact the guests. No one wants to attend an event where everyone is crammed in like the economy section of an airplane! A good setup has “elbow room” in the seating areas and clear and accessible walkways. One way to ensure sufficient space is to rent a larger room than you think you may need. The Mercer Room, for instance, is the largest banquet room rental at the MICEC. Features include:
- State-of-the-art media system
- “Air” walls that allow the 2,940 square-foot room to be divided into smaller thirds.
- Round banquet tables with a diameter of 60” and rectangle meeting room tables are included with the rental of the room. The meeting room tables are six feet long, two feet wide, and are most commonly used for buffets, bar, guest books, and as gift tables.
The Mercer Room can seat a maximum of 225 guests theater-style. Theater-style seating consists of chairs in rows, and a smaller presentation space in the “front” of the event room, wherever you deem the front to be.
The Mercer Room can seat a maximum of 200 people banquet style. Air walls are used to decrease the size of the Mercer Room for smaller, more intimate banquets, but caution should be used when considering size. While 100 people will fit into two thirds of the Mercer Room, your guests could potentially feel crowded, if also using meeting room tables or other furniture. Renting the entire Mercer Room allows for a more comfortable use of space. A larger space for the same amount of people can help prevent overcrowding.
More space also allows for the setup of additional features. Events previously held in the Mercer Room have had photo booths at their wedding receptions. A proper layout allows the photo booth to be a fun, inviting feature. Other, more familiar pieces to consider are a bar, comfortable couches to lounge on, or a live band. Some corporate event venues do not allow additional features.
The MICEC’s Reservations Coordinator, Rachel Gilbert, is an excellent resource to connect with regarding specific features and amenities you may wish to include with your banquet room rental.
Easily one of the most popular features at an event venue is the bar. A bar is visited by many guests and, depending where it is placed, it can cause traffic jams. Placing the bar in an area that is outside of the normal flow of guests can alleviate many potential problems. If offering a buffet, it may be a good idea to place the bar away from the head of the buffet tables.
Another option during warm summer months is to place the bar outside on the terrace. Directing guests outside can help maintain a sense of space. It also provides a pleasant spot to cool down. Outside on the MICEC covered terrace, guests can admire the scenic views of Lake Washington and the Cascades, while also enjoying the cool shade of the terrace awning.
Food & Beverage Amenities
Sharing an equal level of importance with the layout and bar is how you serve your meal. Is it a plated dinner? A buffet? Or are you planning on having food stations around the room?
A plated dinner can take more time than a buffet, so speak honestly with your caterer! The time difference comes in the service time; serving and removal of plates. A knowledgeable caterer knows how long each meal takes to serve, consume and clean up.
A buffet can be faster, and when it is a double-sided buffet, that faster serve time multiplies.
A third option is to offer food stations. One of the benefits with this serving style is a noted decrease in the chances of experiencing traffic jams or bottlenecks. Food stations consist of smaller tables, usually set up in several spots throughout the event venue. Each station serves one type of food. The portion size is similar to that of an appetizer. When considering food stations, remember that each station’s portion is not equivalent to a full meal, so multiple stations are necessary. Depending on your event or your event venue, this may not be a reasonable or viable option. This option is best at a cocktail style reception, where a full dinner is not expected.
A compromise between a plated dinner and a buffet is offering a plated meal, followed by a dessert buffet afterwards. While there may a rush of people to the dessert buffet, guests often do not frequent dessert as heavily, so you likely will not be confronted with a continuous throng of people as usually seen at a bar. Even without as many visitors as the bar, our prior experience, is that 2 to 4 small pieces of dessert are needed for each guest.
Your DJ can help cue guests throughout your event, making him or her a key component to a smoothly running banquet. Ask your DJ if they are used to running a detailed timeline – if they are not, you may also consider adding a Master of Ceremonies or MC, who is familiar with running a detailed timeline. Referrals are a great way to find an experienced DJ or an MC.
Ways you can utilize your DJ include:
- If serving a buffet dinner, utilizing your DJ or MC to release tables to the buffet can help prevent traffic jams.
- Your DJ can also be helpful in informing guests of your schedule. At weddings, the bridal party will often step away from the reception to take formal photos. As a guest it can be frustrating to wait an unknown amount of time for an unknown reason. Having notice can help relieve tension. Guests may step out to visit the MICEC art gallery or to admire the views, on the partially covered terrace.
- To announce a speaker or a bouquet toss.
- Your DJ can announce the beverage “last call” and last song of the evening.
The last song often leads into the end of your event and cleanup. It is absolutely necessary to designate cleanup help ahead of time. Ensure the team you have designated for cleanup knows that they are responsible for it! If your point of contact at check-in is not the same person at check-out, take the time to introduce him/her to your MICEC Rental Host. Your Rental Host will work with your point of contact to go over client responsibilities for cleanup, and all that it entails.
Here at the MICEC, we require that the last hour of your rental is used for cleanup. For instance, a rental that ends at midnight translates to an event that is wrapped up and over at 11:00 pm.
Using the last hour for cleanup means you or your point of contact can check out on time, and you can avoid additional fees for a late check-out. If you do not wish to be responsible for cleanup, many caterers have an option that includes event venue cleanup. This is something to work out in your contract with the caterer. The MICEC will work with your caterer and you as the point of contact during the check-in and checkout process, making sure they understand the cleanup process, and responsibilities of the contract holder.
Crucial to a smoothly running event is open and honest communication. Being sincere about what you expect for your event allows for open communication between your planner, caterer, DJ and anyone else that is helping you. Communicating in a straightforward manner with your support staff about your expectations will ensure that everyone is on the same page and your event will flow smoothly. A smoothly running event filled with your décor, appetizers and music will provide a satisfying and memorable experience for you and your guests. Staff here at the MICEC are always glad to have the opportunity to be part of these moments in your life, and we wish you the very best on your important day.
For more information or a personal tour, please contact:
Phone: (206) 275-7840
Mercer Island Community & Event Center
8236 SE 24th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040