You’ve decided you’re going to have a party – maybe it’s your wedding reception, your husband’s 50th birthday or your best friend’s engagement party. Whatever the occasion, it’s special and you want everything to be perfect. As a seasoned event planner, I know there are, a million things to consider when booking an event. No joke! But there is no need to fret or have a mile-long to-do list. If you simply focus on the six topics listed below, you will plan the perfect party, ensure everyone has a fabulous time and feel good when it is all over! You may even be ready to start planning your next party! 

#1 What Is The Theme Of Your Event?

One of the first things to think about when planning your party, get together, or celebration – is what type of event do you want to have? Is it formal, traditional, modern, trendy, casual, shabby-chic? Is it themed around a certain holiday or a specific occasion? The theme will impact the rest of your planning process and decisions you make. In most cases, the theme of the event will dictate the type of venue, the decor, the vendor team you hire, what people wear and the amount of time and effort you put into the event. 

If you are looking for a casual and trendy vibe, then you can, probably, rule out the country club or hotel ballroom and focus on a hip downtown loft or local brewery.  Spaces like these pair well with food options like Bar B Cue, a fajita bar or fun heavy appetizers. Vice versa, if you want a formal, traditional event you will want to look at venues that cater to this style of event. You may also consider a plated, sit down meal with servers vs a buffet. As with everything, there is also the in between, a mix of the two, with upscale unique venues like wineries or barn style spaces that dress up nicely. These are just a few examples of how the overall theme you desire for your event will affect all other aspects of the planning process.

#2 Your Budget, It Is Not All About The Bottom Line.

Next on the list of things to consider when planning your event is the ever dreaded budget. If you want an event you will truly be happy with, try not to focus too much on price. Instead, focus on the value you are receiving for that dollar amount. Don’t scour the web for the least expensive caterer, why not find caterers that offer the type of food and services you want and work with them on a package that fits within your budget? Similarly, when looking at a venue consider what is included in the rate. Are they including tables and chairs for your guests, buffet tables for food and setup needs, linens, or event staff? Also, how much event support are they providing versus what you’re responsible for doing? Who’s handling set up and breakdown? What about parking for your guests?

Another big expense or value add could be items such as AV equipment and decor. These are all important things to look into from the beginning. If you only focus on the base cost and don’t consider all that goes into the price, you could end up spending at a lot of extra money later down the road. Not every vendor will fit your budget, but most will be willing to try. Or, at least, offer value to make it worth spending a little more.

Along the same lines, when planning your event, you should prioritize what aspects of the event are most important to you. If food is important, then you will want to put more of your budget towards your caterer. If entertainment is important, a live band or DJ will cost more than creating a playlist, but will also add a different experience for your guest. Creating a list of what is important to you will help you decide where you want to spend your money and where you can compromise or do it yourself. 

#3 What To Eat And Where Do You Get It?

Food! A major part of any event. Food might not be on the top of your priority list, but, most likely, it is important to your guests. Not only is it highly anticipated by those attending your event, food can aslo be one of the main time consumers when planning. At the beginning of the planning process determine where food falls on your priority list and then allot your budget and time from there. Do you want an easy turn-key option where you don’t have to think too much and have a few menus to choose from or do you want to be more hands-on in the food selection? Either way is totally acceptable – it depends on what matters to you.

That said, when considering your menu, do keep your guests’ dietary concerns in mind. If you know there will be vegetarians attending, make sure to have at least a few substanial items they can eat. Don’t order from the Bar B Cue place that cooks EVERTYHING with pork! When it comes to more restrictive dietary requirements, there can be several factors that will determine if you want to provide a more varied menu to accommodate these guests. Is the maid of honor allergic to gluten? If so, then you may want to have a special plate or a food option you know she can eat. Are there several guests who only eat Kosher, then you may choose to use a Kosher caterer to meet the specific standards they need. 

You will want to have food in mind when considering your venue. Some venues have a in-house kitchen or one caterer who manages all their catering requests. Some venues don’t have food, but require you to work with caterers on their preferred vendor list. Others allow food to be brought in and have spefcific requirements that must be met by whoever you choose. If you have a caterer that you love and want to work with, like a local restaurant that has some meaning to you, you will want to make sure the venue you choose allows outside catering. If they do have a preferred vendor list, ask if they have a caterer buyout rate that you can pay to bring in whoever you want. If they do, ask your caterer if they can work with you on the budget to account for this rate.  

Whereever food lies in importance to you, take some time to answer these key questions to make it easier on you to decide which way you want to go.

Couple pouring drinks at Wild Heaven Avondale for Micro Wedding Packages

Photo by Tim Redman with Redman Photo at Wild Heaven Brewery Avondale

#4 The Bar!

How imporatant is the beverage selection to you and to your guests? To some this is just as important as the food you serve. You may have a specialty cocktail you want to serve that represents the theme of the event perfectly. Mint Julep, anyone? If you are a wine or beer lover, you may even choose to host your event at a brewery or winery where the beverage is one of the main features of the event. These days there are so many fun options in both what you serve and how you serve your guests. From specialty cocktails to private labeled wines to the cutest cocktail and prosseco trucks you have ever seen, you can get just as creative with your bar as with the rest of the party to let your personality shine through.

What ever your preference, find out what options your venue has to offer and if there are any specific minimums you must meet. When doing your research, if you find out they don’t have the selection you want, ask if you can bring in outside alcohol. Again, check to see if there is a cost for this. If you are allowed to bring in your own alcohol, are you required to provide a bartender? Ask what other regulations you should consider or must follow. 

Dancing at an event

#5 To Dance or Not to Dance?

Do you want a mix and mingle kind of vibe with lots of conversation or do you want people throwing down on a dance floor and dripping with sweat by the time they leave? Your choice of entertainment will dictate the mood you want to want to create.

One basic question you can start with is – live entertainment or a playlist? If live music, a band or a DJ? Live bands will usually be more expensive and be more limited in their song selections. That said, it is hard to beat the energy and feel a live band brings to a party. However, depending on the event, a DJ is not there just to play some music. They become the Emcee or director of the event. They make announcements, they keep the timeline on track and provide additional ambiance like uplighting and smoke machines. They keep people engaged when needed. 

If having live music is high on your priority list, make sure you choose a venue that can accommodate the space needed for the band and the dance floor. Also, make sure they have the electrical capacity to support the power needed for their equipment.  

If a playlist is more your style, find out if the venue has a sound system to connect to for a playlist. Is it via Bluetooth, Aux chord, something else? Are you required to provide any adapters or do they have some on hand? Make sure you know all the requirements and formats you can use so there are no glitches the day of the event.

If have a video component, like a slide show presentation, find out if the venue has a screen and projector or TV. If they don’t, it’s not the end of the world – simply ask if you’re able to provide the equipment you need.

Picking your vendor team

Picking Your Team

The last item on our list is one that is really done throughout all the previous steps we’ve discussed. When determining your team – who and what vendors you want to work with, ask yourself the following questions. Are you wanting a more “all-inclusive” partner that handles decision making and provides you with options and solutions? Or do you want to be more hands-on while your vendor simply provides a specific service or product? Determining which vendors you want to solicit for their services is a big decision and absolutely matters to the overall event. Contrary to what you may think, bringing in professionals like event planners, photographers and caterers will usually save you on time, money, and stress. They are the experts and will guide you through the planning process. More often than not, choosing the route of doing it all yourself lends to a lesser quality event, more (even if smaller) bills and vendors to deal with, and exponentially more stress on your part. 

As the old adage says, you get what you pay for and this cannot be more true with your vendor team. Making an investment up front can often save you money and frustration down the road. Remember, this is what these people do all day every day – they should know more about how to do it right!

Overall, don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s your event, your day – you get to have what you want. 

Drop us a comment below about your party planning experiences. We’d love to know what has worked well for you and what you may have questions on.