Whether it’s a family reunion complete with all the cousins you’ve never even met, or a corporate cocktail party you agreed to coordinate and host, planning large events may be something you’re new to. That doesn’t mean planning them and coordinating them has to be difficult. In fact, with the right event planning tips, it can be simple!
The Early Planning Stages: A Checklist
No matter what type of large-scale event you’re planning, one of the most important things to do at the outset is to make a checklist. As the ideas for your event get set in stone, you’ll have more formal ideas. But for now, concentrate on some main ideas:
- Have some theme ideas in mind. Of course, these will vary wildly depending on what type of party you’re going to throw. Themes for a bar mitzvah will not be the same as those for a work-appropriate cocktail party.
- Have a budget with a floor and a ceiling. The ceiling, is, of course, the most important part, but make a budget with a range, and make sure that the ceiling is a steadfast, fixed amount: you’re not willing (or are unable) to spend more than that amount.
- Have several dates in mind. It’s a good idea for any event to send feelers out for the people who absolutely must attend. If it’s a family reunion, it’s the matriarch and patriarch. If it’s a surprise milestone birthday, you want to ensure you pick a date that works for the unknowing guest of honor.
- Have at least five venues that you like. Prepare a list of venues that will work for the occasion. Once you have firmly decided on a date, then narrow down the list of venues and find the one that best meets your needs.
- Work on the guest list. Obviously, you don’t have to finalize it in the very early planning stages, but prepare a preliminary guest list so that you have an idea of your event’s size.
Family and School Reunions
Family or class reunions are typically large events, depending on the size of your class or your family. Once you get some of the initial ideas worked out, you may need to enlist the help of others.
Locating Classmates or Family
A few decades ago, finding classmates or family you lost touch with would be a pretty monumental task. These days, tracking down old classmates or family is easier thanks to social media. Chances are, your family or high school/college class already has a group where they communicate. If you’re trying to locate other people, reach out to those who may know them. This task might be the most time-consuming, so start early.
It can be useful to delegate tasks to smaller committees once you have the venue picked out and the date set. Ask someone to take charge of the guest list, have someone take charge of entertainment, and have someone coordinate food and beverages.
Planning the Best Cocktail Parties
If you’re planning a large-scale cocktail party, chances are, it’s on the corporate level. This means that your boss is likely depending on you to do a great job. Even if you’ve planned some flawless backyard cocktail parties before, this is a different animal.
Tips for Indoor Parties
For an indoor party, make sure you find a space that has plenty of room for guests to move about. Remember that a cocktail party focuses more on the drinks than the food. Guests know they are there to snack, mingle, have a few drinks, and leave. Just ensure that your few menu items are interesting and delicious
Flawless Outdoor Parties
The same goes for outdoor parties – make sure guests have plenty of room to move around. In case of inclement weather, ensure the venue has an indoor backup.
Corporate Cocktail Tips
One of the first rules of thumb regarding a corporate event is to plan it on a weekday. Corporate cocktail events often don’t take place on a weekend – and it’s less likely your guests will come. Plan for immediately after work, similar to a happy hour. This way, you have the best chance of good turnout.
Open Bar or Beer and Wine?
Beer and wine are a less expensive choice for those on a tight budget. However, most guests coming to a cocktail party will want to have just that – a cocktail. If you can’t have an “open bar,” which is ultra-expensive, at least find a venue that gives the option of a cash bar, so your guests can have their beverage of choice.
Planning School Gala Fundraisers
Fundraisers can be one of the trickiest events to plan because unlike “regular” parties, you want people to donate to a cause. While school gala fundraisers are slightly different, a lot of the basics are the same.
Promoting Your Cause Without Being Pushy
The chief difference between a fundraiser and other events is your guest list. In lieu of a guest list, you want to boost ticket sales. Have a select number of tickets as you begin to plan your event and a price in mind for each ticket. Do keep in mind the price of each has to cover the venue, food, beverage, and entertainment costs, while also turning a profit.
Successfully Using Online Tools
Sending home papers in each child’s backpack will only go so far – use all of the online tools at your disposal to promote the fundraiser. Email the local (town) newspaper. Use Facebook and other social media to promote the fundraiser. Reach out to the local police and fire departments to help promote the school fundraiser. Through a strong online presence, you can really get the word out.
Think of things that can help draw people to the fundraiser. A gala fundraiser typically will require formal or semi-formal attire, so make that clear on the announcements and marketing. Perhaps a local business can donate catering, beer, and wine to the event, which can be included in the price of the ticket. You can also see if local businesses can donate items to be raffled. Think of as many perks as possible to get people to buy tickets and donate extra money to the cause.
Milestone Birthdays, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs & Wedding Anniversaries
Milestone birthdays bar/bat mitzvahs and wedding anniversaries can be some of the most fun events to plan, especially if they are a surprise. These also can be some of the most expensive events to plan because you’re likely paying for the event out of your own pocket.
Making Sure Special Occasions Are Special
Whether your loved one is celebrating a milestone birthday, is coming of age for a bar or bat mitzvah or a wedding anniversary, what will make these events memorable is ensuring that they are special. This doesn’t mean that you have to make the budget big or invite a lot of people – think of what would make the person of honor’s day. Do they like a certain type of music? A certain color? A certain flower? Sometimes it’s the little things that make the event stand out.
Planning Surprise Events
Planning a surprise event can be tough, particularly if you’re close to the person being surprised. One of the best things to do is to create a “secret” event on Facebook – this way there’s no paper trail and there won’t be RSVPs coming into the house. Make sure you pick a venue that won’t arouse suspicion. Once you’re at the venue and the person has already been surprised, keep the surprises coming throughout the evening to truly give them a night to remember.
Hammering Out the Details
Like family and school reunions, you may want to have a group of people to delegate to, if you’re planning a larger-scale milestone birthday, bar/bat mitzvah, or wedding anniversary. When it comes time to choose the menu, beverage options, entertainment, and venue, you may want the input of others, or you may simply want to delegate some duties and get some extra help.
If you’re looking to make your event extraordinary, CORT Event Rentals has you covered. With everything from design inspiration to furniture rental for large parties, we can help make your large-scale (or smaller-scale!) event a success.