Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Party Planning 101: Budget, Location and Date/Time

The Martha Initiative’s Party Planning 101

Topics to discuss:
Occasion and Event Style (covered in yesterday's post)
Guest List
Any extras: such as a photographer/videographer, entertainment, music, etc.

After you’ve announced the occasion and determined the event style (relaxed, formal, etc.), it’s time to start the hardcore party planning.

Budget: Every event needs to have a budget. Even if you are hosting a potluck at your home and everyone is bringing a dish to share and even their own tableware, a $5.00 budget may be all you need, and that covers the cost of the dish you are preparing. Choose an amount that you are comfortable spending on an event, and aim to spend 15% less. That 15% cushion will come in handy as you get closer to the event date: more guests, additional favors, more food and drink, etc.

For larger events, you’ll need a larger budget. Keep in mind, though, that there is no occasion so grand that it calls for breaking the bank. Skipping the movies a few times in the course of a month to reallocate that money to your party budget is acceptable. Living off Ramen and Kool-Aid for eight weeks so that you can scrape enough together to host a party and still pay rent is not. You can have nearly any kind of party on any kind of budget—it just takes thought, planning and prioritizing where you want that money to go.

Most formal event budgets follow these general guidelines:
Food and Drink = 65%
Invitations = 5% (this number includes postage)
Favors = 10%
Decorations = 5%
Extras (photographer, music, etc.) = 15%

Obviously, these numbers change according to the needs of your event. If you don’t need to hire a photographer, or favors aren’t necessary, then clearly that money can be reallocated to something else.

Location: this is largely determined by the type of party you are having. And any place for any kind of party is certainly doable—just be sure that you have plenty of room for the number of guests you are expecting, that the space is easily accessible for all of your guests, and that there are plenty of restrooms available. If you have a party with many elderly guests, a bathroom on the second floor just isn’t going to work—the stairs are an issue. Likewise, a baby shower honoring 4 mothers-to-be calls for more than one restroom in close proximity to the guests of honor.

For more formal events with a large number of guests, you might consider having the party at an outside location (ie: reception hall, church basement, restaurant). In the event of large bridal/baby showers, this is the way to go.

Just think of the amount of time and energy it would take to host a bridal shower for 40 people—cleaning your house, making the food, preparing the favors, decorating the house, cleaning up after the party…at that point, it may be worth your time and sanity to simply have the event at a restaurant and let them worry about the food and clean-up. You might even save money (and time and energy) in the long run, and you’ll certainly have a better time visiting with your guests. Remember: happy host = happy guests.

Date/Time: the foremost consideration for picking a date and time for your party is what is convenient for you and your guest/s of honor. Then, think of the date/time that would most work for your guests. If your guests have full-time jobs and work all week, a weeknight party might not be the way to go. Conversely, if your party is during a busy time of year (holidays, graduations, etc.), a weeknight party could be an option as most guests will have their weekends already booked. Also, think of how far your guests will travel for your party. If it’s a gathering of neighbors and they’re within walking distance, the date and time can be more flexible. If many of your guests have to drive a long distance for your get-together, it’s best to have it on a weekend day when they can drive to/from at a safe pace.

For hubby’s party this weekend, we went with the open house style. It’s relaxed, it’s informal, and it allows us to spend time with our guests. The budget for this event covers food, drinks and tableware. The date was a no-brainer: we’re having the party on his actual birthday. As for the time, it is an open house, but we do have a set start and end time. This is not to say that people MUST show up at that start time, or that they MUST leave at the end time, but it lets people know that we really aren’t ready for them until a certain time (I guarantee you that at our house, we are cleaning and running around up until the second that doorbell rings!), and that at the end, we will take a small break from the festivities to tuck our little guy into bed. Also, it lets them know that they shouldn't be surprised if we return from said bedtime routine with our own comfy pants on. So, to our guests, bring your own comfy pants--we'll be changing into them at promptly 8:10pm.

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