She was calling us in desperation, saying she had spent a few weeks trying to organize it herself, but quickly found out planning a party for 100 people is hard. Really hard. Now, with the big day three weeks away, and zero planned, it’s panic time.
We can’t tell you how many times we get calls from executive assistants, marketers, human resources, and even just the random employee who didn’t duck and cover fast enough when the boss came round asking who wanted to plan the annual company picnic.
It could be the DIY phenomena, perhaps you could blame it on Pinterest, maybe even point a finger at Martha, but the bottom line is, being a guest at a fabulous party is a heck of a lot different than being the host of one.
Other reading: How to Throw a Stress-Free and Stylish Cocktail Party
We’re not sure why companies subject their employees to this: those executive assistants, marketers, human resources workers and random, slow moving, employees have enough to do without having to be the host with most and execute the party of the century.
Still, it’s done all the time and is likely not to stop anytime soon. So if you’re staring down the cold barrel of a confetti cannon, here are our best hints and tips for pulling your party off with panache.
So many times people will call us up looking for a wine tasting for 50 people, but have no idea what they can or want to afford.
True story: last month we received a call from an executive assistant looking for a wine tasting, but she had no idea what her company was willing to spend. We put together a quote for her, and she returned with, “Oh, that’s way too much. Thanks anyway.” Wait a second, didn’t she just say she didn’t have any idea of budget? If she had told us from the start what she thought was reasonable we could have created something that was more inline with her needs.
It’s fine to put out feelers, but remember, more often than not caterers, sommeliers, rental companies and other vendors and entertainers will have a service range of entry level to premium options and need to know what you have to spend before they can return with a reasonable quote that will get you the information you need in the shortest time possible.
Another true story. We got a call from someone looking for a wine tasting to entertain clients, a number that ranged somewhere between eight people …and 40. That’s a pretty wide spread.
The reality for us, and most of the service providers we work with, is that you can’t simply put out a cost per head, as often volume can work to a client’s advantage. If a wine tasting for eight people costs $60 per person, that same experience for 40 people can drop to $40 per person, because there’s more people to amortize the overall cost.
Before you reach out to your caterer, mixologist or sommelier, hone in on a smaller ball park so they can give you the most accurate quote they can. If you really can’t get exact numbers, you may have to get a quote for each group size.
Other Reading: Our Top 10 Rules for Throwing a Great Party
Spend sometime daydreaming about what you would like the party to look and feel like. Is this casual, afterwork cocktails with a few canapés or is this a sit-down formal dinner with speeches and a wine paired to every course? Having a rough sketch in your mind (or even mapped out on Pinterest) about what the event looks like will give you the guidance you need to plan the menu, drinks and entertainment.
Once you have that vision, use it as your guide for the details. Let’s say you’re planning a day at the boss’ cottage for a fun-in-the-sun team build. Ok, now you know good activities to consider are beach volleyball, tug of war or blind-fold Inukshuk building. Decor could be gingham table clothes, picnic blankets, Muskoka chairs and hammocks. Drinks can be a mixture of beer, lemonade and barbecue-friendly wines. And food is easily and deliciously taken care of with picnic fare and barbecue … you decide if it’s the winners or losers who have to cook. Everything ties together and makes sense. Now let’s say you hold that same event, but instead of team sports you’re doing yoga and landscape painting. Decor is Moroccan tents and pillows, drinks are margaritas and mojitos and food is burgers and dogs. All great options on their own, but not exactly a cohesive unit.
What are you going to do if it rains during your patio party? If all your guests arrive wearing coats do you have enough space (and hangers) to handle it? Did you alert the building manager and security of the party so doormen know to expect and influx of guests and elevators don’t get shut down? What about air conditioning – did you ensure it will be running and you can keep the room cool when 100 of your nearest and dearest pack into your place? What about the washrooms? Do you have attendants on hand so they stay clean and well stocked throughout the event? And did you remember to book servers and bartending staff? The last thing you want is a hoard of guests trying to serve themselves around piles of dirty dishes and balled up cocktail napkins.
And this is just the tip of the ice sculpture. Make sure you mentally walk through the party from beginning to end to ensure you have everything you will want and need for a flawless fête.
This may sound a tad self serving, and perhaps it is, but a party planner will not only save you time, frustration, anxiety and stress, they’ll also save you cold, hard cash. The connections event planners have combined with favourable vendor pricing means you’re getting a whole lot of fabulous for less. Now that calls for a celebration.