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How to Plan an Event – Ideas & Tips

Party entertainment advice

Party entertainment advice

Whether you’re organising a surprise birthday party or an end-of-year staff social, successful events require great planning and attention to memorable details, from the food to the entertainment.

How to Plan an Event – Ideas & Tips

Why, who and where?

Before you even start brainstorming ideas and themes for your event, make sure you can answer three key questions.

  • Why are you hosting your event? Do you want people to network, donate money, celebrate a marriage or just let their hair down? Whether you’re marking the end or beginning of something, or just need an excuse to throw a great party, make sure you keep the ‘why’ in mind as you plan your event, so you can stay on the right track and achieve your goals.

  • Who is invited? It doesn’t matter if it’s a small circle of your closest friends and family, or a few thousand members of staff from all over the world, the more you know about their tastes, the better you can cater to them.

  • Where will it be? Think about where all your guests are based and find a location that’s convenient for everyone to get to – especially if it’s vital they attend. Make sure the location is suitable for the attendees. If it’s a large company event and there are poor transport links, you’ll probably need to organise private transportation.

Pick a date and set a budget

Your timeline and budget are the next two key factors to set down. If you’re planning in a hurry, get the date and approximate location out to everyone on your guest list as soon as possible - you can send out official invites later.

If you are planning an event with more than 200 people, or a wedding, allow yourself at least six months. Some very simple weddings have been organised in weeks, while other couples like to allow themselves a couple of years to really put their mark on every last detail.

Make sure the expectations you have are realistic and achievable within your timeframes. If you’re on a tight budget or timeline, work out what your priorities are and check those off first - that means not getting distracted by homemade wedding favours before you’ve booked the venue.

With your timeline in place, start plotting start and end points for the key elements such as ‘book venue', ‘confirm catering’ and ‘research entertainment’. Same goes for your budget - if you can’t dip into deep pockets, get a rough idea of your big costs and get your priorities booked and paid for first.

If you don’t quite have the budget for everything you’d like, see those limits as opportunities for your creativity and flair - and for friends and family to help out.

How to Plan an Event – Ideas & Tips

Find a suitable venue

Once you have a general idea for a location, start searching for a venue within that area that will meet your guests' needs. Is ‘venue’ top of your priority list? Will you want a stately home and gardens, a village hall with green for your guests to spill out onto, or a hotel or conference centre?

If you’re inviting a range of people, make sure it meets people’s access needs. Think about the size and layout of the venue. Too small and you’ll have to limit your invites, too big and you’ll risk it looking empty, so don’t pay for empty rooms.

Catering

If good food and wine are your priorities, work out the amounts you need for your number of guests early on. Your venue or catering company will be able to advise on amounts, but this is where the ‘who’ comes in. If you know your crowd aren’t big drinkers, then you probably don’t need to go for the usual alcohol allowance.

Of course, make sure you find out and cater to dietary requirements, and if you’ve got a long day planned, food and refreshments will need to be plentiful. Hungry people don’t make happy guests.

Depending on the number of guests and length of the day, work out what sort of atmosphere you want to create - a formal sit-down dinner or a casual buffet? Is a free bar important to you, or would you prefer guests don’t get too rowdy.

Whether you decide to make the food and drink your biggest outlay or not, make sure there’s enough to go round and that you stick to budget.

How to Plan an Event – Ideas & Tips

Health & Safety

Accidents happen. But as an organiser of an event, it’s your responsibility to look at the potential risks, take steps to minimise them, and have a plan in place if something goes wrong.

Organisers usually dread health and safety planning, but it's largely about applying common sense. A health and safety planning checklist for larger events might include:

  • Producing and sharing all relevant risk assessments
  • Ensuring the event is fully accessible (think ramps, lifts and parking)
  • Ensuring a qualified first aider is present at the event
  • Ensuring the right entrances are open and free from obstruction on the day
  • Setting up a safe traffic management system for the day

For more information, check out our definitive guide to health and safety at events.

Go for a theme

Not all events need a theme, but they can be a great way of tying everything together. It might be comic book characters or a James Bond, if you’re planning something grand, a great theme can help inform your choices for everything from the invites and decor to the food and live music.

Entertainment

Last but by no means least, the entertainment for the day needs careful thought. For big events, you’ll probably want entertainment throughout the day, whether it’s a jazz pianist during a drinks reception, a wandering magician at dinner or full-on dancers and circus performers.

Consider hiring a comedian to do a short act or even compere your whole event - especially if it’s an awards ceremony or corporate function.

For an evening dinner and party you’ll very likely need entertainment for after-dinner dancing, and that means a party band or DJ. The best entertainment can be costly, but it’s a great way to inject some atmosphere into an otherwise dreary event, and make it truly unique.

For weddings, remember that many bands will also offer add-ons, which means you could get an acoustic duo, full band and a DJ for one fixed fee, instead of paying and liaising with multiple acts.

Music isn’t the only option for entertainment but it’s one of the best ways to set the tone and create a truly memorable event.