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Party Planning: Picking the Date and Venue

Sarah Reuangrith

This is our second blog in our Party Planning series.  If you missed the first one, Brainstorming please check it out first.

Party Planning Step 2

Now that you have taken some time to do some brainstorming and have some ideas on what you want your event to look like, it is time to stop thinking and start making it a reality.  The next step is to pick the date as well as figure out where the party is going to happen.  

Date or Venue First

I would normally recommend following the steps I have outlined below where you select the date you want and then go from there.  However, if you have a location that you must use, such as a very popular mansion for your wedding and the venue books quickly you might have to start there and see what dates are available and then work backwards.

When Do Want To Have Your Event

 It is a good idea at this point to get out the calendar.  Most likely you have a basic idea on when you want to host your party based on the time of year you want to get married or you want a date near the actual birthday, etc. Picking a single date at this point is probably not practical as we don't have a venue yet and there are a few other key factors that should be considered.  Instead the goal is to narrow down potential dates to three or four.  These three dates would then be the ones you use for the next step.  Don't worry, it doesn't mean you can't be flexible if you find the perfect venue and they not available on the dates you came up with but it is much easier to start with the three dates you know you have cleared and will work.

Sit down with the other party planners (or just yourself) and see what options you have.  If you are like me, the calendar fills up quickly so you may only have three options or if it is far enough in advance you might have lots of choice.  Either way narrow it down to the three that work with you.  

There is no one perfect date that works for everyone but there are some things to keep in mind when considering options:

  • Long weekends are great if you have lots of out of town visitors as they can use less holiday time but they are also the times many people choose to take vacations so attendance might be lower as people already have plans.
  • Travelling during Christmas or other holidays is more expensive, if you have flexibility in your schedule and expect out of town guests you may wish to travel outside of the holiday season.
  • Venues tend to book up quickly during peak time so having a holiday party at the end of November for example may give you more options than the week before Christmas.
  • If you are inviting children or adults in school it might be worth considering if anything special is going on during that time.  For example hosting your grade 12's birthday party during diploma exams is a bit of a buzz kill and may result in low attendance. Bumping the event back a week when exams are done would make everything less stressful.
  • Are there any other events that might compete?  For example you don't want families to have to choose between attending your wedding or your cousins...  A quick phone call to see if the other couple has chosen a date yet is a nice gesture that will save a lot of headache later.

Is there anyone who MUST attend?

Alright so you have your three possible dates.  The next thing you need to do is confirm that the people who MUST be there can attend.  This does not mean that you take your guest list of fifty people and call all of them...  It merely means that you need to think about who you would cancel the event for in the event you found out they couldn't come.  For example if you are planning a baby shower for your friend, it is kind of important for them to be in attendance.  For a wedding this might mean your parents and siblings or your wedding party; for a kids birthday party it might mean their best friend.  Either way these are the extremely important people and you want to make sure they can be there.  Depending on the event it could be a larger group or no one at all.

Make sure these people are truly MUST haves.  This is not about who should attend for propriety's sake, you can invite these people later and hope they can come, these really need to be people you will cancel the event for if they are not there.  If you have too many people who must be there it will be impossible to come up with a date and you will keep going round in circles.  Understand that not everyone may be able to attend and be fine with that.  Just make sure the people you really want to attend can be there as then if no one attends but you and your best friend you know you will still have a great time.

Do not continue to the next step until you have touched base with these important people and have had a chance to confirm that all the dates you have picked would work with them.  If one of the dates doesn't work, cross it off the list and move forward with two possibilities or go back and add a third.  If one or none of the dates work it might be worth going back a step and coming up with a list of new dates.  

What to look for in a venue

Now that we have our three possible (or two) dates we need to find somewhere to hold the event.  Not sure where to start, here are some things to consider:

  •  Consider the guest list you started, make sure the venue you select can fit EVERYONE you want to invite.  There is a good chance not everyone can attend but always plan for everyone just in case.
  • What is your budget for the event as a whole?  If you have a budget of $5,000 it would be a really bad idea to select a venue for $4,000 that doesn't include decorations, food or tables...
  • What is included?  Does this include food, servers, bar staff, tables and chairs?
  • Do you need to use the venues food or alcohol and what are the costs like?
  • Are there any additional costs (cake cutting fees, gratuities)
  • If the venue is outside what options are there for if it rains?
  • If your guest list changes are there options for adding more space or downsizing to a smaller room?
  • Will the venue set things up for you or do you need to do it yourself.
  • What your theme is?  If you are looking at a western theme then picking a new modern, trendy restaurant won't really fit.
  • What activities are you wanting to do at the event, will the venue be able to provide space for it (you want to dance, is there a dance floor)

Of course there will be other things to consider depending on the specific type of event you are planning as well as the size but these points should get you started.  Likely someone has already done a lot of the work for you on the different venues in your area and the sizes of events they can host with price range. Doing a quick google search should find you someplace to start. 

Remember to use your theme, it can help you to think outside the box or may help narrow down the list of potential place.

Hosting at home

If you event is not too big, consider hosting the event at home or in someone else's home (with permission of course).  Having a home party can be a lot of fun, is cheap, people know how to get there and you can set up in the days leading up to the event instead of just before.  If you have a small budget and want a great party, saving money on the venue is a great thing. Your chances of forgetting to bring a knife to cut the cake or having the venue "surprise" you are also minimized.

On the other side of things though is that hosting at home can also be an insane amount of work!  If you don't like to clean or are a bit of a hoarder this might not be for you.  You are also on your own unless you hire staff which means you might play multiple roles such as: waiter, bar tender, tour guide as well as the director of fun.  Also don't forget about the clean up...

What time & Itinerary?

Before you can finalize the venue you will need to consider what time your party should happen as well as what you plan to do at your party.  This will be the topic of our next party planning blog.

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  • Erin B on

    Some good ideas to consider. Thanks for the suggestions

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