Before this year, I had never planned an event larger than a birthday party for myself, which was no major feat. My idea of a party is really not a party at all but rather a small get together with a few close friends. So, it was interesting to find myself planning anything larger this year. I’ve still not planned an event any larger than the scale of about 75 people. However, there are a few useful tips I can give that I learned in the process.
Be organized: Keeping track of what you’d like at the party and what’s already done is important. How many guests are there approximately? Who are they? Are there any special guests like a speaker or a D.J.? Where are you having this event? The questions start tumbling through the mind. Is it themed? How formal is it? Is there going to be a meal or just light refreshments or nothing at all? It’s easy to see that all this information could turn into a mess. Write it down in one place. I recommend a small binder or a folder with a few sheets of paper and a pen.
Start early: If the location is anywhere besides your own home, you’re going to want to look into it early. You don’t want to risk the location you’d like being booked already or, worse yet, all the locations still available being outside your price range. Email or call venues to ask about their availability for the date and their pricing. Looking into other areas early helps too. You’ll want time to look into anything you might purchase and leave time for making alternate plans in case something doesn’t work out like you wanted.
Make no assumptions: When looking into pricing, read all of the fine print. It will likely say some phrases like “not included in room rental.” Some of these items that are not included might be surprising and may not be cheap. For example, you’re going to want tablecloths and napkins if you’re having a dinner, but you can’t expect it to be included in the cost of catering. In fact, you might not be able to expect the silverware, having the food served, or having it all cleared away after the meal to be included either. Read that fine print.
Mind your money: If you’ve made it through all the major details and know what you want, it’s tempting to just start ordering. Don’t do it right away. Instead, set up an organized spreadsheet to keep track of expenses. A computer program that will update automatically as you put new numbers into place is nice. This also lets you see right away whether or not a possible expense will break your budget, even if the math isn’t just a simple addition. There are likely taxes on some purchases and also some daunting service charges that are in percentages as well. For example, serving food may not cost a flat rate. It might be a percentage based on the overall cost of the food you’ve ordered. Adding one more person to that guest list could really cost you more through the food, the sales tax, and the service fee.
Design and deliver: If you decide that you’re ready to make the event official, then take the time to design a simple ‘save-the-date’ style flyer or card about it that you can distribute to your invited guests with some basic information about what and when. If you’re planning for an organization, then email is probably easiest. Getting the word of your party out there early is the easiest way to make it a success when it comes to attendance. Everyone is busy, but advanced notice makes it easier to clear a spot on the calendar or keep it clear. Make sure that everything you send out is presentable. Use good spelling, good grammar, polite wording, and a simple, but attractive, design where appropriate. Once you’ve announced the event, wait to send the invitations until they can be complete with all the details of who, what, when, where, and why.
Do not claim anything that won’t be true: You don’t want anyone to show up and immediately leave in disappointed disgust at your false advertising. Finally, you might want to update your information with anything you’ve overlooked. Answer one person’s question by sending the information to everyone if it seems like useful information about the event.
Ask for help: If you find that the event is close, the tasks aren’t manageable, and there are still a lot of smaller details like place cards to put into place, get some help. Ask other people involved with the event to take on smaller tasks, or send a nicely worded request out for help.
If it seems like a minor task but still needs to get done in order for the event to come together according to plans, then let someone else put his or her talents to work. This event is keeping you busy, right? That other person likely has the time to do it better, since he or she volunteered.
This might not be all there is to planning an event, especially on a larger scale. However, these few simple tips can help you get started.

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