How To Plan Events
Whether it's a wedding, a retirement dinner or an anniversary party, at some point in your life you're probably going to need to know how to plan events. The key to success is to plan the event ahead and anticipate every possible eventuality. Here's how:
- Gather the basic facts about the event and get organized. You can't do this step too early. The minute you know you'll be planning an event, get a notebook and start gathering information. How many people? Where will it be? Will you need entertainment? A band? A DJ? A photographer? Are you doing a meal or appetizers? Leave no stone unturned when dealing with preparation.
- Once you know or find the venue, check it out thoroughly. Is there a kitchen? Adequate facilities? Seating? Coat racks? A dance floor? Think about decorations or flowers, the flow of traffic as people get their food or walk a reception line, and accessibility for any guests with special needs. Imagine yourself as a guest and mentally walk yourself through the evening, searching for potential snags in your event plan. Check outside for adequate parking and lighting. Be sure to consider climate issues as well—will that sidewalk be underwater if it rains too much that day? Put all of your notes into your event notebook.
- Think about staffing. Don't skimp on this. If you want your event to go smoothly, you have to be free to run it. You can't be washing dishes and checking coats. You'll probably need a caterer with ample wait staff and kitchen help. Will you want a photographer? A DJ? A band? You might also need a bartender, valets or parking lot attendants, as well as someone to check coats. If hall or facility provides a staff, confirm that there will be enough for the event, and plan to hire additional people if you think it's necessary.
- Get what you need. Make a list of what you'll need and order ahead, so if something goes wrong you have time to correct it. This list might include food, beverages, invitations, mints or other amenities, center pieces, napkins or other paper products, gifts, decorations, candles, flowers, a sound system, and door prizes with tickets.
- Think about your guests. Consider sending "save the date" cards, and send the event invitations in plenty of time for the guests to mark their calendars and plan ahead. Use your notebook to track RSVP's and make note of any food allergies or other special needs.
- Sketch the sequence. Draw up a loose plan of what events will occur as well as in what order. Delegate responsibility to others as much as possible, but keep them written up in your event notebook and follow up often.
- Communicate. Once you have your venue and services booked and your guest list populated, your to-do list becomes very short. However, you may be busier than ever as you deal with a million details that either ran aground or took you by surprise. By keeping your event notebook up to date, you've equipped yourself to deal with every new eventuality as it comes along. Keep your caterer and venue manager informed of all changes, and check regularly with everyone involved in the event planning.
No matter how much work you delegated, you are ultimately responsibly for making sure your event comes as planned. Go into the actual event rested and prepared, and keep your notebook handy. Instead of trying to make sure everything goes perfectly (which it won't), prepare as much as possible for the things that don't go smoothly. Calmly deal with the issues as they occur at the event.
Whether you're planning a bar mitzvah, an annual business meeting, a wedding or a funeral, if you plan carefully and use your event notebook to stay on top of things, you'll ensure that every guest at your event has a wonderful time.