It’s May, and while that hopefully means the arrival of the month’s eponymous flowers, the end of April showers, and a chance to eye-roll at the internet’s favorite JT meme, it also coincides with the start of wedding season.
We’re feeling especially celebratory this spring over at CatalystCreativ, as we just returned from our own event mastermind Robert’s gorgeous wedding outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, to his awesome—now-husband!—Anthony.
Of course, we have a hard time turning off the engagement portion of our brains here, so while we ate, drank, danced, and made merry, we couldn’t help but think about the wedding itself through the lens of our Seventh Level Engagement Framework.
Everything from the proposal (at least on an engagement pun level), to the planning, to the execution of Robert and Anthony’s perfect day, can be better understood when analyzed this way.
Let’s start at Level One, disengagement: suppose that after invitations were sent out, someone didn’t RSVP to their wedding. They’d be avoiding or idle from the task at hand.
This of course, wasn’t an issue for R+A, who took extra precautions to ensure that guests were being informed and nudged at all the right steps of the process.
- They set up and sent out links to an online portal with an easy-to-navigate digital experience, containing all the necessary information, prior to the save the dates going out.
- They next sent a save the date far enough out so that guests could keep their calendars clear.
- Lastly, they made sure guests received their invitations, by hand-delivering them locally, so they wouldn’t get ruined, lost, or delayed in the mailing process.
Level Two is unsystematic engagement (confusion over messaging), which, if you’ve ever organized a big event, you know is a major hurdle to jump over. People ask a million questions when participating in something new or unfamiliar.
Robert and Anthony had a destination wedding, and foresaw unsystematic engagement being a potential issue. They knew that laying out a clear, detailed plan was crucial. So—with the help of Mike Mason, Catalyst’s Creativ Director—they created a series of attractive, printed assets, giving guests all the information they’d need around their arrival. These were included in welcome bags for all guests, and daily printed schedules were handed out each morning at breakfast.
The next level obstacle, was Level Three: frustrated engagement. People tend to be distracted. They have a ton going on besides attending a wedding. So Robert and Anthony clearly laid out not only the logistics for the weekend, but their expectations as well (no sense having a guest worry about whether their outfit is sufficiently formal). Driving directions, expected weather, and a list of phone numbers to call with any questions were provided. They made it as simple as possible to be present, by ensuring the logistics of the wedding were not an additional distraction.
Level Four is structure-dependent engagement: at this level, people are likely to engage with an event, as long as the barrier to entry is low. Robert does events for a living. He knows that when groups of four or more gather, they want to be told what to do. Guests arriving early were invited to an informal, but still structured dinner their first night. Robert spoke to everyone who would be in town for the dinner, and had them all make reservations within the same timeframe, to allow for some flexibility, but also to make sure they’d be in the same place at the same time. Guests felt tended to, appreciated, and ready to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Level Five—self-regulated interest—is engagement that comes out of self-interest. This example is less applicable for a wedding, as guests come out of love, but R+A didn’t want to take advantage of that fact too much. They knew a lot of guests were coming from out of town, and that finding a hair or makeup person far from home can be tough. So to make sure distant-travelers felt appreciated and excited about looking good for the big day, Robert and Anthony arranged for anyone who wanted to have their hair and makeup done.
Of course they wanted their wedding to be fun, but they also wanted it to be inspiring. So they prioritized engaging with guests at the Sixth Level—critical engagement, where people are inspired to make a change in their own lives—or higher. For the ceremony itself, they included passages that were meaningful to them, like an excerpt from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion that legalized gay marriage in the United States. They also incorporated Jewish traditions like stomping the glass for Anthony, and Christian traditions like Bible verses, read by Robert’s brother.
Lastly, Robert and Anthony wanted guests—even those not related to them—to leave feeling like family: connected, loved, and part of a beautiful experience. To engage with them at the Seventh Level (a direct alignment of personal beliefs), Robert and Anthony wrote personalized cards to everyone in attendance, expressing the importance of each person so them. Additionally, Robert’s grandfather had recently passed, so handkerchiefs monogrammed with his initials were handed out and sewed with a small piece of his old favorite tie were given out to family at the rehearsal dinner.
Orchestrating the perfect wedding is clearly a massive undertaking, but it’s an accumulation of tiny details, executed to perfection, that makes the day truly special and memorable for guests and betrothed alike. And by considering possible steps where guests might feel left out, neglected, distracted, or confused, and proactively ensuring those things never happened, Robert and Anthony’s wedding day was the perfect celebration—and encapsulation—of their love.