Diary of an Event Expert

First off, what gives us the right to call ourselves event experts? Well, we have had the privilege of owning and running a gorgeous event space in Houston, TX for the last 13 years, the beautiful Chateau Polonez. And as a result, we have personally taken part in hundreds of events from setups through execution for a myriad of weddings, galas, engagement parties, corporate shin digs, and the list goes on.  But this is not a plug for the event space...merely to show our credibility in the event industry. Does this make me an expert? I would say I’m still learning every day, but I have seen a lot (oh the stories I could tell). But back on topic...although our expertise and careers have been in larger upscale events, there are certain truths that apply to any event, no matter how small or casual. So, here are 6 common event planning issues you will run into, and our ten cents….cause we’re experts you know.  

PROBLEM 1: Nobody has RSVPd! How do I know what guest count to prepare for?

I don’t know why, but people are straight up awful at RSVPs. With our experience in weddings, almost every client complained that they only got half of their replies from guests. This is even worse for casual events such as birthdays or showers. The problem is that some of your guests feel you will assume they are coming cause yall are best buds, but some other guests think that by not replying- that means they’re not coming. NOT TRUE PEOPLE! How will the host know to assume one or the other? Do they know your schedule? I think not. (rant over)

SOLUTION: So, there are 2 things you can do as a host needing a count:

  1. Call/email/text every person that has not replied to pressure them for an answer. This will get you a solid guest count. But depending on how large the event is and the time and energy you want to spend, this may not be your preferred solution.
  2. *Lazy Hostess Cheat* Fret no more! I have an expert tip for all of us busy and/or lazy people of this world- The average ratio of guests attendance for most events is 75-80%. Personally, this was right-on-the-dot true for not only my wedding, but all of my kids’ birthday parties. You will never have to chase replies again!

PROBLEM 2: Why aren’t the guests doing what I have planned?

Like most hosts, when you started planning your event, you were super excited and came up with all these great activities for your soiree that the guests are just gonna love!!! But why won’t they participate? Don’t get bummed. If there is one thing that is true about any event- you can’t always control guests.

SOLUTION: Personally, I’m not a big fan of being forced into activities. A lot of people, myself included, attend events to catch up with people they haven’t seen in ages, and just want to mingle. But if you absolutely feel strongly about planning activities, here are a few tips...

  • Know your guests. If you are gathering all kinds of people for a baby or bridal shower and not all the guests will know each other, they may not be keen on gathering into small groups and doing intro games to get to know each other or want to be called upon to speak out loud. Instead choose games or activities where they participate as individuals.
  • Make sure logistics are in place. If activities are in different areas, make sure to put up ample signage or make announcements as needed. If they do not know about the activity, how will they partake?
  • Don’t plan too many activities. As I mentioned before, guests enjoy mingling (or playing with each other freely if you are planning a kids function). So, don’t go overboard and plan so many things that your guests don’t get to just hang out.

PROBLEM 3: Why do I always go over budget?

I hate to tell you, but everyone goes over budget. (Oh you don’t go over budget? Well, you no longer get to be part of the collective group called EVERYONE. Go on...get out of here!...Just kidding. You are awesome, and I praise you.) For everyone else, you are not alone.

SOLUTION: This is going to sound obvious, but the first step to not going over budget is to set a realistic budget. If you truly want to stick to a budget, you have to do some research first. Most people just write a list of things they will need, and stick a number to it based on nothing. You should do some quick searches for pricing just to get an idea, and base your number on some averages. Secondly, don’t forget all the tiny details that add up at the end (ice, tips, bottled water, tape, string, etc.). Factor in all the items. And lastly, always always put a 5-10% budget for miscellaneous. This could be for things you didn’t account for or if you end up spending over in one area of the budget cause you just fell in love with that linen...I know girl...It’s gorgeous. And yes, you do have to have it.

PROBLEM 4: What is a cocktail hour, and why do I need one?

People always seem to be confused at what a cocktail hour is exactly. And does it require cocktails? A cocktail hour is just the name of the very beginning of your party. It usually takes guests about 30min to an hour for the majority of guests to arrive. And yes, you need one for every type of function. You don’t have to be fancy and call it a cocktail hour, but you need to plan for it.

SOLUTION: If you’re party starts at 6pm and you are serving a hot meal, you don’t want to set dinner out at 6pm cause it will get cold or dried out before anyone even gets to it. Delay setting dinner out until 6:30/7pm, and instead have snacks or appetizers available for your guests that begin to arrive. This will ensure you are offering the freshest yummies.

*Lazy Hostess Cheat* If you don’t want to deal with the logistics of a hot meal, plan for food items that can be made in advance, set out early, and hold well. Blam! Done! Go mingle!...but don’t get too lazy and forget to refresh any items that may need tending to.

PROBLEM 5: The DIY Balance

DIYs are great. They give you the ability to be creative. They give you the ability to customize. And in most cases, lower your costs if you are trying to stick with a budget. But the more DIY you do for an event, the more time and work for you my dear.

SOLUTION: Simple, find the right balance. It’s simple math. The more DIY you plan, you either have to add more people to the mix to help, plan and start your projects well in advance (don’t kill yourself doing it the night before), or just focus on the few items you are passionate about. Maybe cater in the food and make all the decor by hand...especially if you are not a wiz in the kitchen. Otherwise, you will be exhausted before the main event, and don’t you want to be “present” during your baby’s first bite of cake or enjoy the company of good friend’s celebrating milestones. This is supposed to be fun after all.

PROBLEM 6: When do I need an event coordinator?

Does every event need a coordinator? Heck no! I think you will be fine hosting that BBQ without assistance from a pro. So, when do you need one? When you see your guest count start to grow past normal house party numbers, when you start hiring multiple vendors from catering, bar service, live bands, entertainers, decor or party rentals, etc. Just because it’s not a wedding, does not mean you should not consider a coordinator. When you have hired so many vendors with different start and end times and you start having to make a detailed timeline of what is happening every 15 minutes, you will need a coordinator. Otherwise, be prepared to walk around with a clipboard in hand, and forget about enjoying the party.

I hope these are some easy tips that you can apply to any function. Most importantly, have fun, and create some great memories! Anybody else got some other *Lazy Hostess Cheats?

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