Category Archives: What the Pros Know

Insider tips and tricks

Choosing a Wedding Officiate

You’re engaged! Amidst the hugs and flurry of excited congratulations from family and friends you’re asked about the date of the ceremony, a venue for the service and reception and what kind of dress you’re hoping to find. All very legitimate questions and ones that many couples can answer because they’re the first to get crossed off the never-ending list of things to do before their special day.

One thing that doesn’t get asked and usually doesn’t even make the never-ending list of things to do is “who is going to officiate your ceremony”? Not as much fun to think about as decorations, dresses and wedding cake flavors however, you’ll need an officiate to perform your ceremony, sign your marriage license and register it with the state to be legal. Unless you’re planning on the clergy of your church, you will need a person who has their credentials registered with the state you are holding your ceremony. State laws do vary, if you are in question, check with the state marriage license office located in the court house.

Every officiant will have a different way to handle the weddings they preside. I am basing this article on the way I officiate weddings. I specialize in non-denominational and non-traditional weddings and consider it an honor to be included in your special day. My goal is to make your wedding ceremony to be exactly as you’ve pictured it. I believe that you and your fiancee’ should be comfortable with whom you choose to perform your ceremony. If at all possible, ask for a face to face meeting BEFORE you make the decision to book your date with an officiate. That isn’t always the case if you’re from out of the area. If a meeting isn’t possible, personal calls, texts and emails should be utilized.

Be sure to bring your list of questions you might have to your meeting. When I meet with a couple, I ask questions to determine what you’re hoping to accomplish and try to offer ideas and helpful suggestions. A good officiate will try to anticipate the needs of the couple and their guests, for example if it’s an outdoor wedding with no chairs, I will ask if there are grandparents or elderly guests that we be more comfortable during the service in a folding chair. Or, the suggestion of an agreement with an indoor facility as a back-up in case of inclement weather.

The ceremony script should be personalized to the couple. I share previous scripts as a template and work with my couples to write their own. Some couples find a ceremony script that fits them perfectly, most take different paragraphs to piece theirs together and still others will write their own completely. When I am complimented on the ceremony, I am proud to tell them that the couple wrote their own service. With my officiate services it is entirely up to you to decide how much, if any, religion is included. You make the decision if you will have a sand, candle, marriage license signing or another type of ceremony within your service. You choose if you want music, scripture or poem readings, a rehearsal or if you want to use a sound system during the ceremony. (whichI offer at a slight additional charge).

If you are not enlisting the services of a Wedding Planner, a thorough officiate should be able to conduct your wedding rehearsal, should you want one. They are also responsible for making sure your marriage license has all the proper signatures and information required and must mail it to the appropriate state marriage license bureau within five days after the ceremony.

I always tell my couples to laugh and enjoy the time you spend together planning your wedding, those moments are just as memorable as your wedding day itself. Again, I can only speak for my services, but during the ceremony it isn’t unusual for the bride, groom and myself to form an intimate bubble. A conscientious officiate will allow that to happen while still making the guests and wedding party feel as if they are also part of the ceremony and not just looking in from the outside.

Remember, while choosing your wedding officiate may be the last thing you cross off your list, it is also one of the most important decisions of your ceremony.

By: Cathy Holman, Wedding Officiate

Do I need security for my event?

By Rick Minotte


     Although not always required, all too often security is overlooked when planning an event of any kind. Most people believe that they can keep their event/reception organized and secure without any outside help. Even the most organized person will be overwhelmed when the caterer says they are blowing breakers, the photographer is saying it time for photos, and the DJ needs to know where to setup. Oh…and the cake just arrived. So while all this is happening your guests are making their way in, and no one is there to greet them. If you are dealing with running the event, who is guarding the entrance in case of unwanted guests?

    A good Security Officer is more than a bouncer or rent-a-cop. Most of my time working at events deal with greeting and helping guests find their seats, directing vendors where to setup, and help the event organizer work problems out These are the things you don’t always plan for. Also, it’s a great help when Uncle Al has had a couple too many and is voicing his opinions on politics loudly… or a person who no one can identify is in the buffet line. Security personnel can take care of the problem and prevent the host from being put in an uncomfortable or even compromising position. Liability-wise, you will also be prepared in case there is a problem.

     Whether you are required by the venue or not to hire security, you should evaluate your ability to create a safe and secure environment. It will be your responsibility since some venues open the doors or give you a key, and then leave.
It’s your job to:
· Control access to your event
· Control guests at your event
· Breakup instances that turn ugly
· Protect the venue from damages
· Control Beer/Liquor consumption
· Assess your guests as they leave (i.e. taxi cabs) when necessary



     Outdoor venues can be particularly tricky. Especially with perimeter control, bathrooms and noise. Most of City of Duluth Parks are rented in four hour blocks. So if you don’t want to pay for the morning, someone else may have the park rented before you, or the public can use the park (unreserved) and have a family reunion up and running when you arrive to set up. This is another plus where having the security start an hour before you have it reserved and stay for your whole event is a smart idea.

     I know it might be tempting to ask a family member or friend to help with “security” duties. This can save you money, but it could also cost more in damages, and be dangerous for the person you assign the duties to. It takes a huge amount of time to create a great event and only a minute to ruin it with a disturbance. Be aware of how much more effective a professional security officer will be. A good Security Officer will evaluate the site continually, and ensure that your guests are well cared for.

Publishers note: Rick Minotte has worked in security services for over 35 years.

What to Ask When Planning a Class Reunion

When should we start planning?

Begin preliminary planning 1-2 years in advance, and start working on event logistics 9 months to a year in advance.

Who will plan it?

Some classes may have selected officers that were deemed “in charge” of the future reunions, but the fact is that as life has passed those people may be uninterested or unable to fulfill those duties. If people are interested in helping and dedicating the time to planning the event, let them! It will take a few dedicated people to get the event planned; don’t turn someone away just because they weren’t voted in for the position 10+ years ago. Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved to plan the reunion; share the work amongst those interested and willing to help. By including a variety of former students it will encourage diversity and creativity. Be sure to appoint a reunion chair, and other key individuals such as a treasurer and other subcommittee chairs.

How often should the committee meet?

Once a month is a good guideline to follow in the beginning, as the event draws closer it may be beneficial to meet bi weekly or weekly. These meetings may be done in person, through video chats or online message boards due to potential distance and scheduling conflicts that the committee members may have. Communication among those planning the event will be important in order to plan a successful and organized event.

Who’s in charge of what?

At the first or second meeting the committee should determine who will take charge of each subcommittee or task. It would be a good idea to also determine a person or two who are willing to be the committee chairs and take the lead to oversee the overall planning and subcommittees.

What subcommittiees should be considered?


Guest List/classmate contact

Website or Blog Development


Entertainment & Activities

Registration & Mailings

Venue & Food

Deceased classmate tribute/Mementos

Marketing & Communications

Vendor Liaison (Caterer, photographer, entertainment)

What’s the budget? Where does it come from?

Some classes may have funds left from fundraisers completed while in school, but most will have to cover costs with tickets sold to the event. Upfront costs will have to be covered either by advance ticket sales determined by the budget (can be very difficult to get people to purchase tickets that early), by sponsorships or donations from local businesses, or by committee members. If committee members pay for the expenses up front be sure to budget and set ticket prices so that those costs can be covered and reimbursed.

Who will attend?

Do your best to make sure that all alumni are invited. Ask the school if they have records of contact information for all students in the class, and make sure to ask everyone to help to spread the word. Facebook and other social media sites will help tremendously with this, but don’t rely solely on those methods. Also, consider inviting teachers, coaches, and other staff that may have had an integral role during your high school years.

When and how many days will it be?

Friday or Saturday are generally the most desirable days for reunions. The most popular time of the year to hold a reunion is early summer to late fall, especially in the Northland. When deciding on a date consider: weather, classmates who will be traveling to attend, other activities that may be taking place during that day(s). Planning a multi day event allows for various different activities and more time to catch up with classmates, but does make for more planning.

What will we do?

This will be largely dependent on when the event is and how long it lasts, but entertainment and activities are going to play a major role in appealing to guests. Make sure to allow time for classmates to socialize though as this is the main reason for the event. If planning a
multi day event you could do a low key mixer at a local bar or restaurant on Friday night. A family friendly BBQ and golf scramble on Saturday afternoon followed by a formal dinner and music with a slideshow and tribute to classmates lost in the evening. Sunday could be left for individual plans, brunch, or just for traveling for those who live out of the area.

Where will it be?

The high school itself, a convention center, park or beach, party venue, a local restaurant, are just a few examples of places that the event can take place. Take into consideration the cost of renting the venue and the theme or overall atmosphere desired for the event.

How do I get people to come?

Pick a dynamic venue, have exciting entertainment, build buzz, communicate through a variety of methods, offer a variety of activities and notify guests early so that they can plan to attend.

How will I communicate with the guest list?

Social media, a reunion website, direct mailings, and phone calls are all ways to communicate with guests. Mass emails or social media groups may be the easiest way to communicate to all guests collectively, but mailings or phone calls may be necessary for invitations or RSVPs.

Who will staff the event?

Not only does the committee have to plan the reunion, they’ll also have to make sure that the event is staffed either by volunteers or themselves. Registration, vendor setup, decorating, and clean up are just a few things that will have to be covered for the event.

What to do when it’s done?

Make sure to thank anyone that had a part in the event. Decide if you will be having more reunions in the future, and if anyone on the committee will be willing to continue to help plan those, and then relax!


So…You've Got Stuff to Sell & Want to Have a Rummage Sale

First things first

Do you have enough stuff? Nobody likes a skimpy sale, and if you don’t have enough it may not be worth your time to plan one just yet. Plus, having a variety offers more opportunity for success and can be more alluring to customers. You do need to make sure that you have enough space for the amount of inventory that you have. One of the most important aspects of having a sale is being organized, so you want to ensure that you have ample space to do so. Before you get too far along in the planning process, make sure to let your neighbors know that you will be having a rummage sale and what date it will be occurring. It is a courteous thing to do as traffic and parking will be busy, and maybe your neighbors want to join in on the fun by having a joint sale or a neighborhood sale. The more the merrier.

Spread the Word

If you’re hosting a sale, you’re going to want to make sure that people come to shop. Take advantage of FREE advertising! Post on local Craig’s List and facebook pages. There are several Rummage Sale Sites on facebook now that are specifically for that purpose. There are still folks that do refer to the local newspapers for weekend rummage sales though, so you may want to consider
purchasing an ad to spread the word of when and where your sale will be taking place. It’s very important that you have signage to direct those coming to your sale, and to catch the eye of others to draw them in. Bright-colored poster board works best with legible and bold information. Many people post signs at busy intersections with address, date, and time of sale. Balloons are also a great way to draw attention.

Make it easy for the shopper

Make sure the items you are selling are clean and in working order. If you are selling anything electronic, have an open outlet/extension cord and batteries available so folks can test things out. Keep things tidy and organized; Display like items together (Garden tools
with garden tools, toys with toys, etc.) If you have small toys, kitchen gadgets, or other items that can be grouped together, place them in plastic bags to sell. They can then be marked as $1.oo a bag (or whatever.) If you have several like items, there is no need to price each one individually. For instance, you can box all the books
together and display a sign that says “Paperbacks $.50 each.” If you have clothes in your sale, it is much easier to keep things neat if they can be hung. String a rope, hang them on a dowel, or use a rack. Make sure to sort everything by size, gender, etc. Stickers will inevitably fall off of clothing, so try using a sticky (masking) tape or use a tag with a safety pin. You could even consider supplying a “dressing room” for shoppers to try things on. For instance, an area enclosed with a tarp. If you do so, put up a sign on the tarp so it is visible to all. We wouldn’t want any mishaps.

During the Sale

Greet each customer with a smile and “Hello.” Often people are uncomfortable walking in to your space. A friendly face and good customer service will go a long way to make your sale inviting to customers. If possible have a designated “Hold Area” (with a visible “Hold” sign) so folks can set their items down and keep shopping! This area should be near the “Check-Out” table so you can keep an eye on the items. Let all shoppers know that these items have been set aside for customers that are still shopping.


Remember to take down the signs and balloons you put up around your neighborhood. What will you do with the leftovers? There are charities in our area that will gladly accept your donations and some even come and pick it all up! Call ahead to see what day they are in your neighborhood.

Happy Selling!!!


Fundraisers: Think Outside the Spaghetti Dinner

You want to throw a fundraiser or benefit to help raise money for a cause near to you, but what’s the best way to do that? Whether it is a family member with an illness, a friend who just endured an
unexpected accident, a co-worker who lost everything in a house fire, or a scholarship fund for the local school you’ll want to be as
successful as possible to help them out.

This area is notorious for its Minnesota nice attitude and genuine
caring personalities, which bodes well for those who are hosting a benefit or fundraising event. “Tug at the Heartstrings” of the public to gain their interest and support. Make sure to know the full story of the beneficiary including background information, current situation, and any future predictions so that you are able to effectively motivate donors, community members, and media in order to make the fundraiser as successful as possible.

We’ve all been to and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, but the community will tire quickly if that is the only type of fundraiser that is ever offered. Think outside of the noodles and meat sauce, and choose something that relates to the recipient. Is the beneficiary a big fan of Basketball? Why not host a 3 on 3 tournament? Maybe a wine tasting in honor of your bestie? Offering something unique and related to the cause will help to bring the event full circle, and really bring some excitement to the party.

Swap Spaghetti Sauce for Awesome Sauce
with these tips & ideas.

Unique Fundraising Ideas:

• Zumba-thon (or other athletic event like a 5k)

• Kickball Tournament

• Poker Night

• Yard Games (Bean Bags, Ladder Golf, horseshoes)

• Entertainment (Concert, Dance, Theater)

• Food a must? Try a nacho bar, pizza buffet,
pig roast, or fish fry

Promote like a Pro:

• Flyers – everywhere possible

• Sponsor/Donor Locations – use their outdoor sign, hang up flyers, include info in email blasts and newsletters

• Social Media is a free, easy way to spread the word

• Press Release to the Media – tell your story to the local news stations, radio, papers, and magazines

Pro Tips

Start planning early, so that you have plenty of time to get donations, spread the word, enlist help, and stay organized.

Combine other fundraisers with your main event. Ex: Silent Auction, selling t-shirts or other merchandise, door prizes, 50/50 raffle, etc.

Set up a bank account specific for the cause, and include the information on all promotions so that people are able to donate directly.

Also, set up a donation website such so that those who are out of town or unable to attend the event are able to quickly and easily make a donation.

Grad Party Insights from a Dad

Planning a high school grad party is seemingly a bigger endeavor as each year passes. It used to be a few family members and friends would be invited to drop by. Now, in many instances, grad parties are quite the production with as many as several hundred attending. In 2015, some kids are even adopting themes for their parties beyond the usual school color theme.

Having been an event producer/promoter for my entire career, I was thinking that planning a grad party should be a snap for me, but it’s a different sort of event and something I’d never done before. Now, after planning three grad parties in five years for both boys and a girl, I have quite a perspective for what goes in to making one work. One thing to immediately consider is that, in most cases, large numbers of people will be coming to your home; these people are of all ages and some you don’t even know. So…. there are many dynamics to consider. Regardless of what you are planning and where, here are a few grad party tips from my perspective.

  1. If you are planning a large party, make your house “off limits.” Utilize a garage, driveway, back yard with tent or, as I did, take the “all of the above” approach. I was fortunate to have a bathroom that could be accessed without going into my home, but I would strongly suggest renting a “porta potty.”
  2. Pick a date that works for you. There are bound to be other things happening that day, but keep in mind, some attendees will be attending other parties and will not stay for long periods of time (other than close friends and relatives). Just try to avoid a date when your grad’s best friends/relatives may also be hosting their party. And remember, there may be other parties on your date but you have control over what time your party is. I found that 1PM to 4PM worked really well.
  3. Establish your invitation list and make sure you create a spreadsheet or list so you can track RSVPs, if required, and you can also use that for entering contact information such as mailing
    addresses and can even keep track of gift info. This makes it much easier to personalize thank you cards.
  4. Be organized with your food and beverage ordering. Make sure you have a nice mix of items, and use our EventPro guides to help you determine amounts of food to order if you need help with that. A keg of 1919 Root Beer was always a hit at our parties along with bottled water, other soft drinks and coffee. Your
    coffee and beverage consumption, to a large degree, will be dictated by the weather.
  5. Cupcakes vs. cake. We did both using a small quarter sheet cake with the grad’s photo and “congrats” as a centerpiece and then cupcakes around the cake as they are less messy and all around easier to deal with. I really like the cupcake trend because they are easier to grab and no cutting or plates are needed.
  6. Are you going to have any kind of entertainment? I find for almost any kind of event background music keeps things more festive. We used a sound system and played a nice variety of music at a comfortable volume. Because the grad is the center of attention,
    I don’t recommend hiring any kind of live entertainment but the background music is a nice touch.
  7. Awards, photos and other memorabilia items are a big part of the celebration. We stuck with the more traditional photo boards and displays BUT power points and videos have become very popular and something that doesn’t take much to put together.


Each gender focuses and puts more emphasis on different aspects of the party. Boys and Girls grad parties are going to require different menu selections and decorating themes. Make sure you include your grad in all the planning. After all, it is their party.


Throwing a Holiday Party for Your Business

The holidays are approaching and you’re contemplating doing something nice for your employees by throwing a company party. You are in good company; according to a national survey, over 70% of business owners indicated that they were planning some sort of holiday party. Holiday parties have changed over the years, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one or that they can’t be fun.

A Little History
It wasn’t that long ago when nearly every available venue was booked solid on weekends in December hosting large scale business holiday parties. In fact, demand was so high that parties began
spilling into January just to have more choices and to free up the busy December social calendar.  Major employers, ranging from construction companies to auto dealers to department stores hosted fairly lavish holiday parties, many that offered a full dinner and open bar followed by a live band. Today many have scaled back or even eliminated their parties all together.

What Happened?
Nothing in particular caused the change. Much has happened going back to the 1980’s that has affected liability including liquor liability and dram shop insurance laws. Changes in legal drinking ages and limits for alcohol consumption for operating a vehicle are some other factors, and taking employees out of the workplace and into a “party atmosphere” with alcohol consumption can incur other problems with sexual harassment law suits.  Additionally, rough economic times in the late 70’s and early 80’s contributed to these expenditures being trimmed from company budgets. Many parties discontinued and were never revived.

Some Suggestions

There is NO need to throw the company holiday party to the wayside in the 21st Century. You just have to be smarter and protect yourself. Company parties are a great opportunity to celebrate the holidays, mingle and relax with coworkers. So here are a few simple guidelines to minimize potential liability and/or issues:

Avoid any discrimination, and remember when inviting employees, invite them all. Don’t exclude anyone or any department. If you plan on inviting spouses be sure the invite includes both spouses and domestic partners, and be very specific whether or not children are included. Also, be crystal clear that attending is NOT mandatory.

Here is your biggest risk factor. When you serve alcohol at a party you are accepting responsibility for your guests. Make sure plenty of non-alcoholic beverage options are available, serve food to
avoid anyone drinking on empty stomachs, and consider having designated drivers or cabs available for transportation if need be. Having a licensed caterer provide the alcohol service is highly
recommended regardless of where your party is being held.

Don’t let your party become an environment for problems. Consider a dress code and encourage spouses and significant others to attend. Remember, particularly with social media, what happens at the holiday party does not necessarily stay at the holiday party. Keep it as professional as possible.

Your business holiday party can and should be a fun and rewarding experience. There are many options and things to consider. Keep it simple and at the office, if space permits, or move off site to a banquet facility or restaurant where you can really put work aside. Most importantly plan, be organized and be responsible!