Sunday, 13 September 2015

Bring It Home

Events in Ghana are beginning to look very much like events in the UK, USA, France and Nigeria. While it is a good thing that our events now meet international standards, I am beginning to get bored with seeing the same ideas that I see online being replicated at events here in Ghana.

At a time when the cedi is struggling, and there are calls for Ghanaians to patronise local products, we still prefer event elements – centrepieces, flowers, music, traditions – that are imported from abroad. Yes, I understand that we do not have local substitutes for everything we need for an event. But, we certainly need to start looking out for local alternatives.

I get excited when I see event stylists incorporate some of our local arts and craft (straw hats, earthenware pots, etc) into their work. Imagine what it would look like if cane vases, woven right here in Ghana served as immaculate centrepieces at a wedding reception. How about using brightly coloured tie-dye napkins to add colour to the tablescape at an event? Consider using kente strips as wedding favours. How about getting a live band to play old-school hilife tunes at a party? Also, try incorporating local arts and craft as well as adinkra symbols into invitation cards as well as other event stationery.

I am confident that infusing elements of our culture and local arts and craft into our events would add a special touch to the events industry worldwide. We could even start exporting some of our unique event elements to other countries. How cool would that be?

So next time you plan an event, think of ways in which you can add a special touch of Ghana. Let us share our rich Ghanaian culture with the rest of the world through our events. Let’s bring it home.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

How To Get the Best Out Of Your Wedding Vendors

When planning your wedding, you may work with no less than twenty vendors – décor, rentals, DJ, photographer, live band, security, and many others. The beauty of the event depends largely on how well all the vendors work together to produce an event that flows seamlessly from start to finish.

Although it can be overwhelming communicating with so many people and companies for a single event, these five (5) tips are sure to make vendor coordination much easier and more effective.

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1.     Select Vendors Within your Budget Range
Stay true to your budget. If you’re planning a wedding on a GHS 50,000.00 budget, don’t contact a top-tier event stylist whose fee could very well swallow up your entire wedding budget.
I know many people love a good bargain. But it is unfair to ask a vendor to slash his/her fee by 70% just to fit your budget.
If you would like a luxury event that would break the internet, then take the time to save up so you can have enough money to have the wedding of your dreams.

2.     Get Reviews From Past Clients
Beyond photos on social media, ask past clients for their experience working with your shortlisted vendors. Such reviews are priceless because they tell the story behind the photos and videos. They give you an idea of the real-time experience of working with a vendor, and many of such sentiments cannot be adequately captured in photos and videos online.
For instance, you may see a photo of a lovely set up and décor, but only a past client can tell you how helpful the vendor was in capturing their vision and bringing it to life. Only a past client can tell you how the vendor went out of her way to assist another vendor on site to produce a lovely event.

3.     Schedule a Consultation
Once you have narrowed down your vendor options by looking at your budget and seeking reviews, the next step is to schedule a consultation with the vendor. This will give you an opportunity to connect with the vendor on a personal level. Ideally, this initial consultation should be in person or via video call (e.g. Skype). Phone calls, Whatsapp and email will not suffice, because they cannot accurately capture the personality of the vendor. Some people may sound cold and brash in their emails or texts, but once you meet them face-to-face, you realize how warm and friendly they are. So make the time and schedule an in-person consultation so you can get to meet the person behind the photos and reviews.

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4.     Sign a Contract
Now that you have selected the vendor you would like to work with, go ahead and make it official by signing a contract. Unfortunately, many people get overexcited and forget to pay attention to documentation. A well-written contract should include the following information: date and time of event, payment schedule, details of services/products to be delivered, etc.
A contract eliminates ambiguity and misunderstandings because the obligations of each party care clearly outlined and accepted by both parties. So avoid any disappointments and sign a contract with your vendors.

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5.     Hire a Wedding Planner
Are you overwhelmed at the thought of communicating with over twenty separate vendors for a single event? Keep calm and hire a wedding planner. Wedding planners have already established relations with trusted vendors, so they are in a good position to take care of your vendor coordination needs. Wedding planners can recommend vendors that fit your wedding budget and style. Also, since the wedding planner’s reputation is linked to the performance of vendors, he/she will ensure that vendors deliver quality work to meet your expectations.

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Happy planning :-)
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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Etiquette for Wedding Guests

Now that wedding season is here with us, here a few etiquette tips to consider ....

1.     RSVP
RSVP is an abbreviation for Respondez S’il Vous Plait (Please respond). The essence of RSVP is to help the couple to keep track of the number of guests to expect on their wedding day.
Having a good estimate of guest numbers is helpful in planning for the set-up as well as food and drinks. However, in Ghana, it appears that we only call the RSVP contact when we need directions to the venue.
So couples usually have to estimate how many people will show up at their wedding. When they underestimate the number of people attending, some guests are left standing and the food runs out before everyone is served L When they overestimate, there are empty tables, and food goes to waste L
So next time you receive a wedding invitation, do well to RSVP.

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2.     Dress For The Occasion
Make an effort to dress to suit the occasion. Remember that a wedding is a solemn ceremony, so modesty should guide your outfit of choice.
If the ceremony is at a place of worship (church, mosque, etc), ensure that your outfit complies with the dress code and religious beliefs of that place of worship. When in doubt, ask the couple.
It is also important to consider the venue of the ceremony/reception when choosing your outfit. So while a sundress or a shirt and trousers will be perfect for a garden wedding and reception, an evening gown or tuxedo will be ideal for a reception dinner in a ballroom of a five star hotel.

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3.     Be On Time
Gone are the days when brides were blamed for lateness. These days, a bride who arrives to the ceremony on time, is likely to walk down the aisle in a half-empty church.
On my wedding day, as I walked down the aisle, I was surprised to see that the church was almost empty. “Where is everyone?” I wondered. Thankfully, by the time the ceremony was over, the room was almost full to capacity.
The worst offenders are those who skip the ceremony altogether and show up at the reception.

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4.     Be Present in the Moment
Once you arrive at the wedding ceremony/reception, make a conscious effort to be present in the moment. Be part of the programme. Sing, pray, dance ….. enjoy the event. Resist the urge to browse the internet during the ceremony. Don’t distract others by chit chatting with a friend during the sermon.
At the reception, try to enjoy yourself too. Some people can be so distant that you wonder if they were dragged there. Have fun. Loosen up - applaud the bridal party as they enter, listen to the speeches, dance. I guarantee you that if you make an effort to be present in the moment, you will have a good time.

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5.     Send a Gift

Give the couple a meaningful gift as they start a new phase of their lives. If they have indicated a gift preference on the invitation (e.g. cash only or gift registry) respect those preferences. Sadly, these days, the gift table at weddings is usually empty. Guests show up empty-handed and expect to have a good time. Bear in mind that the couple has spent a lot of money so you can share their special day with them, so return the favour and go along with a gift.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

60th Birthday Party at an Orphanage

My Pastor, Rev. Daniel Amoako Nyarko, turned 60 last Friday, July 18, 2015. He decided to celebrate his birthday with the children of the Safe Haven Foster home at Adenta in Accra. So as a gift to make his 60th birthday memorable, we took over the event planning, design and coordination for the day.

With the horror stories of how children are treated in orphanages, I was skeptical about the motives of the people at the orphanage. But when we visited the home unannounced, I was highly impressed with the neatness of the place. The home was established by a Ghanaian couple, based in Switzerland. They have built a beautiful home for the 15 orphans. The children are in the care of Uncle Sam and his wife, as well as two other women, who also live at the home with the children. The children attend a good school in the neighbourhood, and they speak very good English.

The children thoroughly enjoyed the birthday party. They wore their party clothes and were truly ready to party. The joy on their faces as they enjoyed the food, drinks and good music was incredible.

I was touched by this trip to the orphanage because recently I’ve been complaining about the harsh economic conditions in Ghana and not having enough money to cater for all my ‘needs’. But this visit was a wake-up call to look beyond my own needs.

The founder of the orphanage could be making a lot of money by renting the house, yet he chose to make it a home for the orphans. The joy on the children’s faces showed that I don’t need much to be happy.

I was particularly touched by a three-year old boy called Kwame. I had a soft spot for him because he’s about the same age as my son Nana Yaw. I was sad that he didn’t have his biological parents taking care of him. However, thanks to the management of Safe Have Foster Home, he now had a family.

I’m sharing this post to inspire you to think of the less-privileged in the society. Don’t wait until you have met all your needs before you give to others. Remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive. So the next time you’re organizing a party, consider extending the celebration to the children in an orphanage.


                                                  Little Kwame Dancing 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Five Most Memorable Elements of a Wedding

Many elements come together to make a wedding unforgettable. Today, I have put together a list of the five most memorable elements of a wedding. Weddings cost a lot of money, so while you’re at it, you might as well make it unforgettable. Go big or go home!

1.     The Invitation
The wedding invitation sets the tone for the wedding. Personally, I decide whether or not to attend a wedding based on the invitation. For those weddings that I simply cannot get out of, the invitation helps me decide whether to wear that gorgeous dress I have been saving for an extra special occasion, or to wear that sundress that I have already worn to five other events.

Photo credit: Team 1000 Words Photography

2.     The Venue
The venue of the wedding ceremony and reception also make a lasting impact on your guests. We all remember that wedding we missed because we drove around in circles for hours trying to find the venue. For the convenience of your guests and vendors give clear directions to the venue. Other factors to consider about the venue are the cleanliness of the washrooms, availability of parking space and handicap accessibility.

                                                                                        Photo credit: Team 1000 Words Photography

3.     The Ambience
Ambience is the total look and feel of a space- the set up/décor, the lighting, the temperature, etc. All these work together to make guests feel comfortable. These days, a lot of couples are opting for outdoor wedding ceremonies. However, accurate timing of the event is very important to provide the perfect ambience. As a rule of thumb, outdoor events should start after 3:00 pm when the scorching heat from the sun is subsiding. For indoor events, ensure that the room temperature is just right – not too hot and not too cold.

                                                                                            Photo credit: Team 1000 Words Photography

4.     Food and Beverage Service
Now that your guests are comfortably seated, it’s time to impress them with the food and beverage service. Everyone loves a good party where food and drinks flow freely. Since food and drinks also form a huge chunk of the wedding budget, work with a guest list that you can comfortably cater for. Never compromise on the quality of your food and beverage service. The waiting staff is in direct contact with your guests, so use a professional company with well-trained staff. Also, use a registered catering company that complies with health and safety regulations. Have enough buffet stations so that guests do not have to wait for hours before getting their food.

                                                                                             Photo credit: Team 1000 Words Photography

5.     Entertainment
Many couples complain that guests leave right after eating. Well, what else is there to do after eating? To keep your guests partying late into the night, you need to entertain them. Speeches should be interesting and straight to the point. No monologues allowed! Get a good DJ and a good live band. Make sure that you play different genres of music so that both the old school and new school folks are entertained. The MC is well, the Master of the Ceremony and s/he sets the tone for the event, so go all out and get a great MC! You’ve already spent so much money and time on your wedding, so you might as well go the extra mile to make sure that you and all your guests have a great time.

                                                                                               Photo credit: Team 1000 Words Photography

Monday, 29 June 2015

5 Biggest Wedding Planning Blunders to Avoid

1.     Micromanaging your Vendors
Once you’ve chosen a team of talented professioinals who ‘get’ your bridal vision, let them do the job you’re paying them to do.

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2.     Telling Everyone About Your Wedding Details
The more specifics you share, the more opinions you’re going to get about your choices. Also, you take away the element of surprise when you share every single detail with others.

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3.     Starting Your Hair and Makeup Late
Schedule your appointment in the middle of your attendants. It’s not a big deal for a bridesmaid to switch to a less complicated hairstyle if the stylist is pressed for time. But the bride’s hairstyle simply CANNOT be rushed.

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4.     Speeding Through Photos
Squeezing photos into the first half hour of your cocktail hour will make you feel anything but relaxed. If you refuse to see your groom before the ceremony, take pictures separately beforehand.

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5.     “Hiring” a Friend Instead of a Professional
You’re better off paying a professional to take care of things like the music and food, so your friends can enjoy the day too.

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                                                                Adapted from “10 biggest wedding planning blunders to avoid”

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Can I Have My Dream Wedding Without Going Bankrupt?

The answer is, “Yes you can!”

Your wedding is quite possibly the biggest (and most expensive) party you’ll ever throw.

But it could also be the happiest day of your life.

Yet, after all the fun and excitement of the wedding celebrations are finally over, many couples are left bankrupt :-(

This is definitely NOT the way to start your marriage.

So how can you have your dream wedding without breaking the bank? Simple.

1.     Start a Wedding Fund
As soon as you decide to get married, start a wedding fund. Ideally, this should be done at least one year before the wedding.
Each month, put away some money into the wedding fund. A good way to do this is to set up a standing order with your bank so that money is transferred from your current account into a savings account set aside for the wedding.

2.     Develop a Budget

The budget is a benchmark for all activities related to the weddings. Yet, it is also the most neglected item in wedding planning.

A budget asks two important questions: “How much money is available for the wedding?” “How much do we want to spend on each specific item- décor, photography, etc.?”

A budget also helps couples to prioritise their wish list. For example, with limited funds, would you rather splurge on a plush reception venue or a destination honeymoon?

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And of course…….

3.     Hire a Wedding Planner
Yes. Although this comes at an additional cost, hiring a good wedding planner would save you lots of money!
With years of experience planning weddings, a wedding planner can easily match your wedding style and budget with suitable vendors who would give you good value for your money.

A good wedding planner will also tweak a couple’s budget to match actual wedding costs. This is extremely helpful because many times a couple’s dream wedding and wedding budget are completely out of sync, causing unrealistic expectations and inevitably leading to disappointments and frustrations.  

So, yes, you can have your dream wedding without going bankrupt if you follow these three steps:

1.     Start a wedding fund
2.     Develop a wedding budget
3.     Hire a wedding planner

I wish you all the best as you embark on this incredible experience of planning your wedding - the happiest day of your life.

Happy planning :-)