How eventprofs volunteered to make a couple’s wedding day a reality
Like millions of other couples across the world, Mantao Schwab and Jay McLean’s wedding plans were put on ice when the pandemic struck.
Event professional Mantao and her fiancé Jay had planned a spring wedding in Mantao’s home country of Germany in April 2021 with lots of guests and a big celebration, but as Mantao explains, “as the pandemic hit right at the start of our planning, we realised quickly that there is no point in planning the big one.”
With the ‘big wedding’ plans cancelled but a longing to tie the knot, Mantao and Jay attempted to plan a civil ceremony for their nearest and dearest to attend at the end of 2020. At the same time the bride and groom had got their heads around having a more intimate wedding with fewer guests, the restrictions changed again with wedding party attendance going from 30 guests to just 15 guests.
To add insult to injury, Mantao had been made redundant from her role as an event project manager at Wedgewood DMC Group in September 2020 where she had worked for almost two and half years.
With ever-changing rules and an unexpected redundancy to contend with, planning a wedding was made even more difficult. But out of the ashes of despair grow the most beautiful roses and when Mantao joined the UK Event Professionals Redundancy due to Corona group on LinkedIn, set up by AMTEvents founder Anna-Marie Trzebinski, the challenge of planning a hybrid wedding was solved.
The group was set up in March 2020 at the beginning of the UK Covid-19 pandemic. As of June 2021, the group had more than 1,600 members and a highly engaged community. The group gave a platform to out-of-work event professionals and in time, saw recruiters and in-work event professionals who needed to fill positions, also join the group.
The group’s weekly coffee mornings saw members come together to support one another and ultimately solve problems. In the case of Mantao and Jay, their wedding conundrum was solved by generous group members who offered their services so that the couple could tie the knot in a true hybrid style.
When Mantao and Jay set their June 2021 date, they knew it would be a hybrid event, but weren’t sure exactly what that would look like. Then, through the power of a virtual coffee morning, event planners, technology suppliers and artists began offering their services, free of charge, to ensure miss Mantao Schwab could become Mrs Mantao McLean, in front of all their loved ones.
“We were just not clear on how and what we wanted to do, we had originally planned to just use Zoom for the ceremony streaming, but with the help of Anna-Marie, Stuart Mitchell from Catch the MICE and Intelligo, we had a really immersive experience, where guests could really interact with us,” Mantao says.
With less than a month to the wedding, the volunteers, including event managers Anna-Marie Trzebinski and Stuart Mitchell had their work cut out to pull the hybrid event together. With help from the virtual event platform Intelligo headed up by Jordan Tomkins, the team were able to build bespoke features into the platform to ensure it was easy to use and interactive for the guests attending virtually. “Having recently got married myself, I know how important it is to share your day with the people that you love,” explains Jordan. “When I heard about Mantao and Jay’s story, I immediately wanted to do what I could to help out – luckily, I was in a position where I could!”
The Intelligo platform is primarily designed for corporate and business events. “We had to do some lateral thinking and modifying certain features to make it fit the unique scenario,” adds Jordan. Creative problem solving included having to give guests job titles such as ‘chief mischief-maker.’
Jordan adds that while all Intelligo’s customers are important when it comes to highly personal events, there is a real sense of importance. “We took the care and attention to make sure it all worked on the day. What’s more, because a lot of the other people involved were volunteers too, we all had to band together and make sure we did what we could with our limited resources to ensure a top-notch experience!”
There was a personal aspect for all the volunteers which motivated them to offer their services. For Stuart Mitchell of event representation and consultancy firm Catch the MICE, it was about making sure the mother of the Bride was as involved in her daughter’s day as possible, even if they were separated by 600 miles.
“When I heard that her mother was not able to attend her own daughter’s wedding, I thought – we have to step in here and see if we can assist. I approached Intelligo with the mad‐cap idea and we all jumped at the opportunity to help an industry colleague on her special day and deliver our first hybrid wedding,” Stuart explains.
The hybrid format and programme had to be decided quickly so that the logistics could be cemented. The night before the wedding, the family had a virtual meet up and a hybrid rehearsal for the big day. The full ceremony was streamed on the day, and the wedding breakfast was an entirely interactive affair, with speeches and a special song performed by Mantao’s mother.
To keep costs down and to ensure the day ran as efficiently as possible with a limited staff to oversee the event, the team kept the streaming as low‐key as possible utilising small high-quality webcams rather than production cameras.
“Lighting was incorporated by clever positioning of existing lamps rather than professional lighting,” Stuart explains. “However, we were keen to make it as interactive as possible, briefing the registrar to make sure he included and welcomed the online guests, as well as the live guest.”
For Anna-Marie, the emotion of the day was reinforced as Mantao walked down the aisle while looking directly into the webcam. Anna-Marie was sat in the back office monitoring the virtual element of the event. “I know Mantao was looking into the webcam because she knew her mum was watching, she was looking at her mum.”
For Mantao, the highlight of her day was seeing and interacting with the virtual guests. “Being able to see your virtual guests and see how they are watching us getting married was very special, some of the virtual guests sent us videos and pictures of them being ready and their home set-up before the ceremony, so that was really sweet.”
The in-person element of the wedding was held at The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel in London, the original venue Mantao and Jay had booked. “Mantao was a former colleague of The Chesterfield Mayfair hotel, and we were delighted that she chose to return for this special occasion,” The Chesterfield Mayfair assistant executive manager, Suzi Pagett explains.
“From the hotel side, we ensured that we were compliant with the varying restrictions at each stage and were flexible with changing plans and thinking outside the box to allow for them to enjoy the day as far as possible. With extensive Covid-secure practices in place, we were pleased that Mantao and Jay entrusted us in hosting their wedding day,” she added.
The smallest touches such as the artwork provided by Mark Compton from Valve graphic design tied Mantao’s love of nature and flora into the wedding.
“Overall, we think it was actually way better than what we had anticipated, everything went really smoothly and I, as an event manager myself, was actually able to let go of the controlling and wanting to do everything myself, due to trusting Stuart, Anna-Marie and the hotel to have everything under control. It felt really reassuring to have them on-site on the day,” Mantao added.