When you host an event, you want to create a memorable experience your guests will talk about for years. One of the best ways to make your event fun, unique, and engaging is to add local flair by infusing cultural elements from the region.
This technique is especially useful if you have guests visiting from other parts of the country or world. An event infused with local culture lets them experience something new and exciting.
In this article, we’ll cover how and where to add local flair to your events.
Break Your Guests Expectations
Commodities like fancy hotel rooms, filet mignon, or trendy swag bags are nice luxuries, but they don’t impress people like they used to. Why? Because they’re expected. Even if your guests enjoy these kinds of perks, they won’t create unique memories of the event.
If you want to really impress your guests, your first step is to break their expectations. You have to give them something vastly different than what they’re used to. This how you get people talking about your event long after it’s over.One of the best ways to make your event unique, and engaging is to infuse cultural elements from the region. Click To Tweet
Generally, there are two ways to do this:
- If you live in a culturally diverse area (like most of us), focus on a single culture. For instance, you might celebrate the area’s tropical climate or the local ranching industry.
- Focus on a historical element of the region’s culture. For instance, a train-themed event would work in a town built around an important railroad point.
However you do it, try to create an event that’s substantially different from anything else your guests would attend.
Avoid the Cheesy and Cliché
One of the most common mistakes event planners make when they try to add local flair to events is opting for a cliché, on-the-nose theme. This usually happens when they don’t know much about the local culture, so they go for the first thing that comes to mind, which is often obvious and lame.
For instance, a cajun theme doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw a Mardi Gras party. There’s a lot of nuance to cajun culture (like all cultures) that’s worth exploring with food, costume, dance, decor, etc. Mardi Gras is too obvious. Your guests will expect it.
When you add regional flair to a party, take some time to research the region. Consider the area’s historical and modern elements. Talk to people in the area and ask “How would you celebrate this kind of event?”
Visit the Area Before Your Event
Browsing pictures on Google Images is better than nothing, but if you want to create a powerful event experience, you should really go to a place that lives the culture you want to express.
When you visit the area, try to take as much in as you can through your senses. Ask yourself these questions.
- What everyday things happen around here?
- What odors (good or bad) do I smell?
- What do people in the area tend to wear?
- What sounds do I hear?
- How are the buildings and home unique?
- What kinds of businesses are in the area?
- How do local people decorate their spaces?
- What color palettes do I see?
Take photos and videos to remind you of your experience. These will help jog your memory if you ever need inspiration during the planning process. It also helps to eat some local food.
As you plan your event, create elements that replicate those sensations. For instance, you don’t necessarily have to serve a local dish, but you can create something unique using local flavorings and spices on a traditional food.
If you can’t travel to the location before your event, take some time to read travel guides (by non locals so you learn what sticks out to them) and reach out to locals.
Where to Add Cultural Flair
Okay, so you’re ready to infuse local culture into your event. Here are the five places to add local flair.
1. Venue / Event Space
Look for a venue that has a historical significance to the area. It should ooze the local culture without seeming tacky and artificial. It should be owned or managed by someone who knows the local culture (they might become your biggest resource).
It will always be easier to use an event that naturally fits the local culture, rather than trying to turn a neutral space into something regionally specific. If you take your time looking for the right venue, you can save money on decor.
Many regions of the world have their own defining styles of dance, music, comedy, and drama. There are countless variations of performing arts that exhibit a particular region’s culture flair. Look for unique kinds of entertainment that are specific to the area.
One clever way to add local flair to an event is to hire musical entertainers to play popular songs in the local style. For instance, hire a mariachi band to play pop music in that signature Mexican style. This creates a nice blend of local culture and the familiar.
3. Gift Bags / Swag
Instead of giving out pens, calendars, and small USB drives, give your event attendees something from the area that’s truly unique. This way they won’t dump your gifts into their drawer of anonymous swag from other events.
We can’t tell you exactly what to get because that depends on your event, your guests, and the local culture. But your swag should meet these qualities:
- It should be unique. Guests can’t get it anywhere else.
- It should be somewhat practical. It doesn’t have to be something they use every day, but it should have a purpose beyond looking pretty.
- It should ignite memories of the event. E.g., a bottle of the BBQ sauce used on the ribs at the event.
4. Food and Beverage
This is the most obvious place to infuse local culture. Cuisine is an important part of everyone’s experience, so take it seriously at your event.
Every culture has foods that pair with certain kinds of events. Cake, for instance, is great for celebrations, but inappropriate at funerals. Consult with a local to combine dishes into a menu that makes sense for the area.
Consider the practical side of local foods as well. Enchiladas, while delicious, require a bowl/plate and somewhere to sit down, so they’re a poor choice for an outdoor stand-up event. Tacos and burritos would be easier to carry around. Ask your local helper to give you insight here.
Another great way to add local flair is to source your products from local vendors. This adds regional flavor you just can’t mimic. Look into local wines, coffees, candies, produce, baked goods, and even locally raised meat products.
One last piece of advice: Offering unique food options is fun, but not at the risk of alienating your guests. Don’t offer foods far outside their comfort zone unless you have some standard options as well.
While your venue should exhibit local culture, that’s just the starting place. Spruce up the event space by infusing it with more elements of local flair.
Great decor creates a “wish you were here” vibe. Other than entertainment, your decor is the one part of your event that functions well digitally. Decorations, furniture, artwork, and backdrops make for superb photos and videos. People love to flaunt these kinds of things in text messages to their friends and on social media.
Look for ways to bring local styles into your venue by examining the things local people fill their lives with. Take some time to study patterns, colors, architecture, imagery, and furniture. Visit local antique shops or stores that sell home goods (not Walmart — the mom-and-pop stores). Ask if they’ll rent you culturally inspired decor for your event.
The last piece of advice is probably the most important. Whenever you work with someone else’s culture, it’s important to be as respectful as you can. Little elements that don’t seem important can be quite offensive in the wrong context. Make sure you consult with someone in the area who can tell you how your local flair will be perceived.
Adding local flair to your events requires an understanding of local customs and people. The more you know about the area, the better you’ll be able to represent it at your event. Use this advice to create an event that is unique and memorable.