Inclusion and accessibility are essential aspects of successfully executed events. However, these are often the most overlooked aspects of event planning. Too often, hosts find themselves stressed out at their big event by thorny situations that pop up around accessibility or inclusion.
It is in everyone’s best interest to avoid this by incorporating inclusive options from the get-go.
As a black-owned event planning company, we are passionate about helping our clients plan events that offer diversity, accessibility and inclusivity. Here are seven things to keep in mind when aiming to accommodate everyone.
Events should be celebratory and fun. However, some destinations are less friendly to certain groups of people, and some activities can be more financially prohibitive to guests than they are to you. This may put some of your friends in an uncomfortable position as they can’t afford all the things that are planned. Know your audience. Plan your festivities accordingly. Try to be sensitive to everyone involved in the festivities. There are always inclusive options that are every bit as fun.
Addressing Your Guests
Whether you’re doing snail mail or virtual invitations, deciding how to address your guests can get a bit sticky. Is it Mrs. or Ms.? Military titles add another layer of confusion.
One option is to ditch titles altogether and stick with first and last names? While this may not be appropriate in every setting, many people favor this option because it ensures greater uniformity and inclusivity. Nobody minds being called by their name, and this allows you to shake off any worries of misaddressing an invitation and possibly offending someone.
Choosing who can bring a plus one and who cannot often cause heated arguments. So how about we make it simple and fair? Either everyone gets a plus one or nobody does. This way couples who are not married don’t feel less significant than those who are. This makes it equal for everyone. If you decide nobody gets a plus one but you want your best friend’s partner there, then send him/her their own, individual invitation. Bam, problem solved. Now they aren’t a plus one, they are an invited guest.
When choosing a dress code for your guests, make sure to be considerate of everyone. Is a specific code going to burden attendees with prohibitive costs? Dress concerns can be particularly fraught when you are dealing with wedding party attire. For example, a particular bridesmaid dress may not look good on all body types. Just because a dress comes in all sizes doesn’t necessarily mean it feels comfortable and flattering for everyone. One way to address this issue is by giving your bridal party a color palette and letting them choose their own dress.
Many people have food restrictions due to allergies, belief systems, culture or health. When hosting an event that includes meals, the best approach is to ask your guests ahead of time about their desired food accommodations. That way they won’t feel awkward when they have to turn down a meal or drink in the middle of your event. We also recommend checking the calendar for any religious dietary restrictions that may be related to the day of your event. Is it Passover? Ramadan? Lent? If so, will this affect any of your guests? Being considerate of these different accommodations will help everyone to feel included and respected.
Are some of your guests in a wheelchair? Do others have disabilities that require some extra space? When selecting your venue, be diligent about searching for alternate paths and ensuring proper space. A federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires most businesses and facilities to provide reasonable access and accommodation for all disabled customers, clients, and members of the public. However, many facilities built before 1993 don’t live up to this standard so it is still important to do your due diligence. Is it level or ramped? Does it have an accessible or automatic door? Are the bathrooms handicap accessible? Does your venue have accessible parking? Does the venue provide options for inclusive seating? Make sure it checks all the boxes.
We love supporting vendors who stand for diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s choosing a photographer who features couples of diverse races, genders and ages, or caterers who are equipped to handle different dietary restrictions, consider working with vendors who will be accommodating right alongside you and take inclusion to heart. You’re going to be spending money anyway, why not support a company that shares your values.
You want to make your event special and memorable, but make sure you view it through the eyes of all potential attendees. What extra measures can you take to make sure that everyone has a good time while also having their special needs met? If these things are carefully planned ahead of time, everyone will naturally feel like a key part of your event. We can’t think of a better end goal than that.