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How to Plan an Event (Part 1)

Venn Crawford

For the past several weeks, our firm has been attending event after event – Big Hair Ball, Operation Smile, JDRF, and coming up, the PTI Run on the Runway. We even had a baby shower in February. Today I’d like to take some time to talk about what all goes into planning an event.

Decide the Budget

This is the biggest part. Before you set your heart on that spacious ballroom or the bottle of Port Sandeman that needs to be on the dessert menu, you have to know how much room there is in the budget for it. This is one of the first constraints you need to consider when making your choices.

The budget should also address exactly how much money can go towards each component of the event, including venue, catering, decoration, printed materials, advertisements, and transportation. Set a maximum amount for each area, and communicate these clearly to the vendors you hire.

Estimate the Guests

Before you can start looking at venues, you need to know how large of a venue is needed. You don’t need RSVPs yet, but you do need to find out roughly how many people will be attending. You should also collect information about any allergies or food sensitivities your guests might have so that you can inform catering in advance.

Pick a Date

Pick out that perfect Friday night for your event – and then pick a second one too, just in case. This part can be done hand in hand with choosing the venue. Make sure to consider the weather for these dates – are these months normally rainy or snowy? If so, keep that in mind during the rest of the planning process.

Choosing a Venue

Choose a venue that is spatially and thematically appropriate for your guests. Some choices about your venue might be made for you due to lack availability. If you are considering an outdoors venue, make sure to have a weather backup as well. Once the venue is chosen, you should visit it yourself to see what you’ll be working with. Make sure to get all the information you need at this time. Here’s a list of questions to consider:

Is there Wi-Fi available? Are there outlets available for phone chargers or laptops?

Does the venue provide catering?

Is parking paid or free? Is there a valet?

Will guests need to sign in or go through a front desk?

Is there a coat check?

Are there any other big events happening at the same time?

Choosing Catering

When selecting catering, consider the theme and nature of the event and how the food can complement that. When you book a caterer, let them know how many guests you expect and any food allergies guests may have. If you plan on providing alcohol, consider what the limits should be on this and how it can be served to uphold those limits (guests serving themselves may not adhere to these). Make sure to find out the price per person so that you can factor this into your budget.

Let the venue know that a caterer will be coming.


If a vendor is decorating the event for you, inform them of your event’s start time and make sure to find out when they plan to set up. Tell them how the room will be set up and the event’s theme so that they know what they’ll be working with. Find out if the decorators will dismantle their work, or if you are responsible for clean up.

Let the venue know when the decorator will be coming, and let the decorator know if the event is catered.

By this point, you should have a good idea of how your event will look, and should have most of the planning details laid out. On Thursday, we’ll talk about what needs to be done as the event draws closer.

by Venn Crawford

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