Advice: Better Together
Two husband-and-wife vendor teams give the inside scoop on working together—now and forever
Imagine showrooms filled with countless cutlery styles, dozens of table options, and serving pieces galore. Actually, don’t imagine them. Go see ABC Special Event Rentals by Cort’s Mukilteo and Tukwila studios for yourself, and say hi to the Heidts—who took over Phil’s parents’ tool rental company in 1996 and turned it into the event enterprise it is today. “I liked renting trenchers so clients could fix their problems, but it’s more enjoyable helping young couples create their events,” Phil says.
Q | Do couples work directly with rental houses such as yours, or do you typically just deal with wedding vendors?
A | A large portion of our business is working with engaged folks, their parents, and other friends or family. Our sales and operations teams have the knowledge and experience to guide and assist as couples build their event. We have areas where they can put together their own place settings, select linen colors, and see which chairs work best with their theme.
Q | What do couples acting without a planner or designer need to keep in mind?
A | We recommend having someone—other than a member of the wedding party—act as the point of contact or coordinator. This person would be on-site to receive deliveries, assist with setup, resolve issues that arise, and organize the cleanup and prep of orders that need to be picked up or returned. This is one of the most important days of your life and can be stressful; having someone else take care of these details will help ensure a successful and memorable event.
Q | The selection process might seem overwhelming; what can you share about how you’ve seen couples jump in and get to work?
A | Lately our customers have been starting with the chair and building their look from there. Whether it’s our Country Vineyard chair, the Chiavari, or one of the hundreds of styles available in the Chameleon Chair line, this piece of furniture can make an impact in the look and feel of the day.
Q | Let’s talk about the weather.
A | It can really change by the hour around here. We recommend planning in advance for the unexpected. Customers view our tents as guarantees that we have them “covered.” Tents, canopies, and other structures are like venues, which have deposits and cancellation fees. We require those to plan our capabilities and staff accordingly. Generally, we build tents on-site one to three days prior to the event and dismantle them one to three days after. The additional days allow our customers the flexibility to customize décor and arrangements.
Q | How has working together allowed your relationship to grow?
A | We view situations from different perspectives, which creates balance in many areas. We rely on one another for support and creativity whether at work or at home, and we have high expectations for ourselves and for our company.
Q | Agree or disagree: Never go to bed angry.
A | Disagree. There is not enough time in the day to resolve all issues, so we can live with the fact that we may need to discuss things the next day with a clear mind.
Get extra place settings and glasses in case of breakages, allow lots of space for the comfort of guests, make sure there is ample power available.
We danced the night away with 200 guests in the Space Needle at our October 13, 2001, reception.
Grape and Grain
If we did it all over again, we’d be under a tent in Woodinville wine country.
Sean & Leslie Wheatley
Owners, Seattle Parties
Is it too cheesy to say they make beautiful music together? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be a lie. The duo behind the Seattle Parties crew started in the club scene in 1995; wedding and event entertainment was a natural progression, especially after their own nuptials in October 1999. When it comes to getting the party started and keeping the vibe romantic, electric, and pitch-perfect, the Wheatleys aren’t just professionals, they’re participants.
Q | DJs do more than play records, right? What’s typically included when booking a service like yours?
A | We include basic dance floor lighting with all of our packages. We can also do up-lighting, environmental lighting, video art projects, and more. Those are add-ons, and we can also partner with other great lighting companies to accomplish even more. Emceeing is always included. Some couples like us to be more interactive with grand announcements into dinner, letting guests know what is coming up on the timeline, and introducing the toasts, while others prefer that we’re more invisible and only make minimal announcements.
Q | What are couples paying for when they book an entertainment team?
A | Our equipment includes two or more sets of speakers, mixers, wireless microphones, laptops, iPads, and more. Each wedding has different technical requirements, and each of our DJs has their own core system that we add to accordingly. Day-of prep and teardown adds up to three or more hours. We are fortunate to be preferred vendors at many top venues, so we have a proven track record collaborating with them and respecting requirements, noise ordinances, and other site-specific issues.
Q | What’s the best way to really get things moving?
A | We don’t stress too much if the dance floor isn’t immediately packed. We understand that it’s all about energy; creating an upbeat and warm environment that eventually spills onto the dance floor. When people are conversing over cake, we’re not going to put on an extra-loud song and expect the crowd to perform for us. It’s all about working with the grain, not against it.
Q | How involved do couples get in their party soundtracks?
A | Some have everything worked out to the minute, while others just say, “Do your thing.” Somewhere in between is good for us. We work with our clients to get all the essential songs picked out and the timing dialed in, but on the big day our main concern is that they’re in the moment together and not thinking about us at all.
Q | How do your individual styles mesh?
A | We do separate events and very rarely work together. Leslie is sort of the “fabulous” personality, while Sean is more laid-back. Leslie is the face of our company; Sean does more of the technical and logistical work.
Lives of the Parties
If we were going to get married again, we’d have a loft theme reminiscent of Leslie’s time in New York City as a budding DJ.
Third’s a Charm
We wed in the Greystone Mansion gardens in Beverly Hills, flew to the East Coast for a yacht-club bash, and had a Chinoiserie-themed party in the International District after that.
With all the LGBT weddings we’ve been doing, “At Last” by Etta James has made a surprising comeback.