Party Plan Pivot
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Party Plan Pivot

Three event planning professionals discuss how weddings, b’nai mitzvah and other events have changed during COVID.

Anna Levy is the Online Content Coordinator for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

A bridal vendor Zoom session.
A bridal vendor Zoom session.

The age of COVID has presented unique challenges to those celebrating simchas and those planning them. Atlanta videographers, photographers and event planning professionals had to shift their businesses to adjust. The AJT spoke to three event professionals about how their businesses have been impacted by COVID, and how they’ve adapted to help clients safely celebrate their simchas.

Robin Vogt
Blue Orchid Productions

Robin Vogt, who heads virtual events for Blue Orchid Productions, explained that the biggest hurdle for families right now is trying to readjust. “Many people do not know what their options are, so they immediately go for Zoom. But there are plenty of other ways to create virtual events that are more user-friendly.”

She cited a program called Event Live, a streaming service, which is popular with Blue Orchids’ clients. It is simple to use in that to join, all one needs to do is click a link that is sent to them. The program also offers options to make comments, sign a guestbook, and watch the event without having to worry about background noise or having your camera on. Vogt jokes that you can even “watch a wedding in your pajamas with popcorn” with Event Live.

Blue Orchid films Jay Kessler at Zoo Atlanta for the Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta’s anniversary last month.

As recently as last week, the company used the program to host a wedding with viewers as far as Australia, Hungary and South Africa, she said.
“Some of our clients have relatives that are all over the world, and they want their family to be able to attend,” Vogt said. “Part of our mission is to make their vision a reality and show our clients that virtual events can be both intimate and engaging,” she explained.

“In videography, things change a lot. There’s nothing people aren’t doing today in video that isn’t new and refreshing. So, we keep up too because that’s the way of the world now. We’re happy to evolve, and happy to take the technical side off people’s shoulders so they can just enjoy their events.”

Envato Elements // Blue Orchid professionally orchestrates livestreaming productions.

She added that being flexible and keeping her customers’ needs front-of-mind has helped the company flourish through the pandemic.

“We aim to make things easy for everyone,” Vogt said. “Whatever plans change for our clients, we change too. Our business has always been about saving memories and family moments for some of life’s happiest occasions. For us, COVID has just been another way we have adapted to help fit our clients’ needs.”

Shelly Danz
Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza

Shelly Danz is producer of the Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza.

In normal times, the Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza attracts a crowd of more than 1,000 people. The event is filled with booths of wedding vendors, live entertainment, food, gifts and giveaways. However, once COVID hit, founder Shelly Danz had to make some modifications to the usual festivities.

“My goal was to make things as interesting and interactive as possible, despite it being virtual,” Danz said. “We’re covering all the most-loved aspects of a wedding expo: fantastic samples, vendors in action, getting questions answered, inspiring with creative displays and images, and fun activities that make it feel like a party. And we’re doing it in a way that protects the safety of our attendees and vendors.”

The most recent event, July 25-29, featured COVID-friendly ways to celebrate. The event was a combination of virtual booths and daily Zoom calls with nightly entertainment. Daily guest speakers spoke on popular wedding topics such as wedding planning, ideas for virtual ceremonies, and how to find a dress to flatter the bride’s body type. Those wishing to attend could also get VIP tickets, which entitled them to extra gifts and other privileges.

A bride with some of her gifts from the curbside pickup of the Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza.

“The VIP curbside experience allows brides and grooms to enjoy a drive-through celebration with live music and gorgeous décor to pick up vendor gifts to sample at home, at their leisure,” Danz said.

During the week of the event, participants could log onto the website to learn more about the vendors. Every vendor had a special offer, and there were giveaways during the entire event. Some of the giveaway prizes included a honeymoon, a wedding photographer, a DJ, and discounted wedding dresses. At the end of this year’s event, 75 prizes were given away.

Brides who bought VIP tickets to the Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza were able to pick up their gifts curbside.

“For me, the most exciting part of this was seeing how happy our brides were,” Danz said. “People have been so upset and so lost during this time because everything has changed. But when they joined our event, we would see them laughing and chatting with everyone and just having an amazing time. They forgot they were even on a Zoom call and not together in person.”

The next Atlanta Wedding Extravaganza virtual event is planned for Jan. 23-29. New for next year, brides can book mini consults with wedding vendors through their virtual booths. There will also be a New York-style fashion show pre-taped with a limited audience. The fashion show will screen during the online show with pop-up details for viewers, followed by a video chat with wedding fashion experts.

Duane Stork Photography

Duane Stork is a triple threat. He specializes in video, photography and audio. When the pandemic began, his business took a sharp drop, and he lost out on about $75,000 worth of events he was scheduled to work.

The sudden drop in business forced Stork to get creative. For a few months, he led a class called “Putting Your Best Foot Forward.” It was designed for Zoom professionals, where Stork coached them on how to look and sound better on Zoom. He also helped professionals with lighting on Zoom calls to make sure they were presenting themselves as well as possible.

Duane Stork photographed the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, among other events and celebrations he captures.

However, Stork says he did not make enough money on the classes, so he came up with another idea. He created the website Livestream ATL. After that, Stork said business became a “madhouse” again. Since then, he has livestreamed weddings, funerals and other events, and has turned all physical events into virtual events.

Stork recently did a full production for the Sequoyah High School choir in Canton. He was able to do full audio and video of the choir’s performance, and the video was sent to all of their families and friends. In addition, he also filmed astronaut Jessica Meir as a guest star for the ARCS Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting upstanding scholars in Georgia whose research could lead to advances in science, engineering and medical research.

And he did all of this from the comfort of his own home.

Stork, who has a background working with companies such as The Coca-Cola Co. and Chick-fil-A, says he is continuing to do commercial photography, but business is slower. He recently photographed a law firm and did some family portraits.

“I’m very grateful and beyond thrilled that my business has been able to still grow and thrive during the pandemic,” Stork said.

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