Planning a party is like choosing what to wear: there really is no wrong outfit, just the wrong time and place to wear them.
There are two things I tell all my clients - first, think through the type of event you would like to have, and then plan the environment and setting to suit that type of occasion – second, I tell them to plan the event, determine what it will cost you per person to have the type of event you want and invite the number of guests you can afford.
All too often people come to me with a number of guests and a budget, and we have to determine what we can make fit. The guest list should come after the preliminary planning so you have some idea of what you will need to spend per guest. If you must have 300 people and only have $3000 don’t plan an event at dinner time. Have the event in the afternoon after lunch before dinner and have light refreshments like cake and punch or fruit. Alternatively, you could plan that party very late after people have had dinner and just have beverages and desserts or late night snacks.
The time of day will help dictate the type of event. Traditional meal times are 8:00am, noon, and 6:00pm. Also dictating the type of event is the environment - if you have a ballroom full of big round tables that seat8 people, that dictates a sit down meal; not a cocktail party with light hors d’ouevres.
If you want to have a cocktail party don’t plan any more then a third of your guest to sit at ay given time. Standing bar tables and lounge furniture say “cocktail party” to mingle, drink and graze. You could serve tray passed hors d’ouevres and grazing stations.
Meals can be a plated meal, a buffet style meal, or you could serve the meal “family style”. All consist of at least three staples: vegetables, starch and a protein. Buffets offer more variety to choose from - with the ability to pile it on or take just a little. Plated meals typically have all the same portion size, but presented beautifully presented. Family style service offers a combination of the two: big platters of food served to long tables of guests. The guests serve themselves and pass it along like a “family” would.
Sometimes we simply have to work within a space. So if your event has to be in your back yard and there is not enough room to seat everyone, don’t! Have grazing stations, tray passed Hors D Oeuvres and standing tables. Twice the amount of people can come, enjoy the food, mingle and leave. Only the grannies and Aunties really will need a seat.
If the venue you select is already filled with round tables and chairs consider a plated or Buffet dinner. Large tables don’t work for cocktail parties and grazing stations.
It is best if your planning a wedding to have three locations within your space to move to. Start in one for the ceremony, move to the other for the Cocktail hour then the third for dinner. After dinner you can move back to the same location you used for cocktail hour for dancing or have the dance floor in the center of the dining tables.
So remember when your considering the location, consider the style of event and the time you want to have it. Five hours is a normal wedding reception, Less formal events are 3 hours. The best night to host a corporate event is Wednesday or Thursday starting at 4:00 People will cut their work day short to stop by but not want to go home and come out again.
Plan your next event at the right time, the right location and with the right style of food service for the most success.