When party planning, once you have decided on a theme, ask your client if they might have any old draperies or fabric that might work with the theme. Hanging swags around the room complete with Christmas lights sets a festive atmosphere. Children love lights. Here are some ideas that will help keep the revelers busy:
- Girls can make their own name bracelets with some craft elastic purchased at most discount and craft stores.
- Try setting up a mini-golf course in the back yard with a small reward for each person completing the course.
- Let each child decorate their own party hats. As each child arrives, sit them down at a table with hats, stickers, pom-poms, and sparkle pens. Children can vote on the best hat, which will be rewarded.
- No matter what the party theme is, keep the music going.
- Include games that can be played in groups to save wear and tear on the tears.
Everyone loves a luau party. Think waves crashing on a white sandy beach, Tiki torches lighting up the night, Hawaiian music drifting through the air. In Hawaii, a Luau is a feast that usually includes pig, poi, salmon, beer, music, and hula. On the mainland, other tropical influences can be added. The goal is to create an escape filled with tropical ambiance and a party atmosphere.
Center the luau around the pool, on a patio, or lush green lawn. Create a relaxing atmosphere where guests can kick off their flip-flops and sip a Mai Tai. Ambient lighting, great food, luau attire, and lots of soft island music round out the scene.
Add floating candles to the pool, and string lights, designed as parrots and surf boards, around the yard. Anything you can do to create a relaxing mood will help make your luau a success. Keep the food simple, but definitely with a tropical touch:
- Coconut shrimp and bowls of macadamia nuts make great snacks.
- Barbecued pork
- Grilled sweet potatoes
- Teriyaki chicken
- Grilled pineapple slices
- Kiwi and mango
- Mai tais or pina coladas are a delicious island drink -- and don't forget that paper umbrella.
Pour the first drink for your guest and they are on their own after that, unless you can con someone to be bartender, or hire a professional. The host and hostess deserve to have fun also.
Party Invitations and Guest List
Always give guests a deadline for responding to invitations if you ask them to RSVP. This ensures you meet your own goals and deadlines. If you fail to give vital information to a hotel or caterer, you could lose discounts offered for advance reservations. All invitations you send to potential guests should include the following:
- Party or event
- Host's name
- Date of the party
- Location (an enclosed map to the location with parking instructions is a thoughtful touch).
- RSVP phone or email
- RSVP deadline
- Significance of the event (Birthday, Anniversary, Bar or Bat Mitzvah).
- Cocktail or informal dress
- Entertainment, dancing, or speakers
- Complimentary ticket enclosure, where appropriate
Invitations can be plain or decorative, monogrammed or pre-printed with a phrase: You're invited, please come to our party or please join us.
People with children may ask if their children are welcome at the event. This should be established up front and noted on the invitation: "Children welcome," or "Adults only."
Deciding on the Venue
Be cautious of restrictions. Historic sites may have limitations on the type of d cor you can use. Other sites may not allow alcohol to be served. Always thoroughly check and read any contracts to see if a location offers all the amenities.
If your planned site is outdoors, anticipate making provisions for water, electricity, and restroom facilities. Where will you put your guests if it rains? You can't be too careful when selecting a site. If you're new to party planning, use a trusted site with a good track record that you can pitch to your client.
Party Vendors and Suppliers
You'll be looking for professionals who can handle these important elements. Caterers and linen rental companies are essential vendors. You'll want to offer your client the latest in bar ware, glassware, linens, tables and chairs, and current specialized techniques that can save time and energy. By pulling together the right team, you can meet or surpass your expectations,and your client's expectations, time after time.
Establish a list of the professionals you can count on, such as photographers, linens, floral, people who set up and tear down tables and chairs, who meticulously put together gift bags, and hand-address wedding invitations. You'll want a vendor for every type of event or party you plan. You'll also want to reward those outstanding vendors with more business and recommendations. Where do you find good vendors?
- Trade magazines
- Culinary institutes
- Industry groups
- Chambers of commerce and networking groups
- Referrals from other party planners
- Referrals from hotels and event facilities
- Professional trade shows and conferences
- If you live near a college or university, college students are always looking for weekend or evening work. Meet with them.
Elements of Style and Design
Much of this can be done by florists and caterers who can help you design decor for your events. As your confidence grows, you will be more inclined to build your own sense of design. It's best not to attempt the larger decor jobs unless you are experienced. Design elements can include signage, fountains trellis, palm trees, swags, lighting elements, and even furniture. Consider taking an adult education class that specializes in centerpiece arranging and flower arranging.
Many decorators use black and white to make a bold statement with red floral arrangements. Scale is important. Large arrangements should be used at entrances to create an impact. Preview with a critical eye and remove any decor that does not add to the decor. The right lighting can make entrances and reception areas more photogenic.
Always keep in mind the goal of the event (attendees may need to move around more freely), the age of the guests (senior citizens may require more seating), and where you expect photographs will be taken.
Formulas for Success
Almost every event planner has a horror story to tell: The hot coffee urn was knocked over, spilling hot coffee on two of the guests, The florist was a no-show who ran off with the deposit and didn't deliver; the bartender didn't show; the electricity went out when the caterer was serving a sit-down dinner; the list goes on and on.
The decision-making phase is intense and extremely busy for planners. You will rent the site, hire vendors (always have a signed contract), plan a menu, appetizers, and beverages, and so many other details ─ more than you can imagine. The larger the event, the more lead time is required. Would you believe some major conventions are planned years in advance?
Mentors and Networking
If you are lucky enough to have a mentor, someone in the industry who takes you under their wing and puts you to work helping out at parties and events, you will move ahead much faster. These professionals have seating charts, serving requirements, checklists, and so many other materials to make a party planners' life easier. Stay in touch with the professional party planners you meet along the way. Buy them lunch and they may share some secrets like:
- Will one buffet line serve 350 people? No!
- One gallon of liquid fills about 16 eight-ounce cups.
- Thirty percent of the coffee provided should be decaffeinated, 70 percent regular. As the day progresses into evening, the percentages change to 50/50.
All party planners should put networking at the top of their list for developing a strong client base. Networking is necessary to any successful business. It's been known to be even more effective than print advertising. Networking can be accomplished successfully by using traditional methods, such as being active in industry organizations: National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) and International Special Events Society (ISES). When you're ready to put up your own website, check out your competition and how they market themselves on the web.
The Power of Customer Service
You and your staff provide the image of your business. When your staff or vendors come across to clients as dedicated, helpful and knowledgeable, you increase productivity, sales, and morale.
To Be There or Not to Be There
To summarize some of the best and reliable strategies from event planners throughout the country, here's some solid advice:
- Always dress like a professional. Old jeans and tennis shoes is a sign you run your business the way you present yourself to the world. A business suit and well-coordinated separates should be your uniform for the day.
- Keep up with your career continued education.
- Provide the service you say you will do in the contract, and then some.
- Create a reliable team.
- Mentally walk through each event.
- Always have Plan B.
- Make your clients happy.
When emergencies arise, stay calm. It's the main reason event and party planners should be available at their own parties. Try to anticipate and be one step ahead. If you have planned for emergencies and a change of plans, you've got to be ready for that.