Small Event Planning Basics

Create your dream event…

In the world of Instagram and Pinterest, events have become competitive, visually driven, and heavily focused on the “Like” button…. Whether you’ve accepted and embraced this fact, or you scoff and eye roll at those manicured event photos, anyone can benefit from some basic  event-planning tips. 

Step 1: Rough Headcount

Whether it’s 5 or 50, this is crucial to have an idea of headcount for your event, in order to take the next 3 steps.  This rough headcount consists of the “invited” guests. A good rule of thumb is to expect 70% of the invite list (unless a large portion are out of towners).   If you have a “List B” for filler, then you likely have a number in your head already. Work from that.

Step 2: Pick a Date

Picking a date so early on may feel high risk for change, however it’ll help with a few things.  Who’s the party for, and who are the “must have” / VIP guests. Once they are all on board with a date your chances of moving it go down. Does it need to be a Saturday, or a specific month, etc. ?  If it does have to change due to high decline from guests, it can. But usually it won’t if you’re planning far enough out. Smaller Scale events should be no less than 5 weeks out, but no more than 9 weeks. (Unless travel [any flight or drive more than 1 hour] is involved, then add 3 weeks to those timeframes ).

Step 3: Save The Dates 

For major / formal events you would actually do this after step 4.  For smaller events like Bachelor / Bachelorette parties, bridal showers, etc, it’s common to go first. If you get a large amount of regrets early on, it may impact your date or location.  But you can’t send a Save the Date, without a date 🙂 

Step 4: Venue

Picking a location for an event is crucial to begin planning decor, food, entertainment, etc. Primary decision making factors: Price, distance for primary guest, distance from majority of invitees, ease of access, theme.  If you’re offering to host, or a friend is, remember that a home will dramatically reduce the fantastical element of a party. So if you want it to “shine” ask the host to allow you to strip the room down a bit to allow for decor to really do its thing! (Ex. Remove clutter, space furniture out for prime standing/sitting space, replace home good with party decor)

Step 5: Pick a theme

While many would argue you pick the theme before the venue, I strongly suggest the other way around.  If you are married to a theme, but the perfect venue (Price, location) contradicts that theme, it’s difficult to backtrack (especially if you’ve started shopping).

EXAMPLE:  You’re committed to a “roaring 20’s theme” but your venue has mid century decor, tables, backdrop, etc.  It’ll be hard to fit into the space. You would have to reconsider.

Step 6: Send the Invites

The invites should reflect the theme and expectations for the party.  For formal / larger events, these should be delivered as physical invites.  It has recently become acceptable, however, for most modern smaller-scale parties to rely on digital invites.  Use something that’s free or very low cost, but creative, customizable and that can track RSVPS ( is a personal favorite for evites)

It’s the smallest details people remember most

Step 7: Decor 

WORK WITH YOUR SPACE. This can’t emphasize this enough.  If you have wood panel walls or neutral furniture, don’t use hot pink decorations.  It’s the number 1 reason events don’t end up looking “Pinterest Perfect.” Don’t fret if the space you pick doesn’t match the board you’ve started building.  Just take a step back and rethink it! EXAMPLE: Bachelorette parties don’t have to be pink!  It can be elegant creams and browns too. Pearls and lace come in every color…

Decor is one of those factors that truly can make a good party great.  You can have a fabulous venue, excellent music, food and flowing drinks.  However, a well decorated party is what makes people truly remark on the fantastical element of a party!  Never underestimate the power of Balloons, drapes and table cloths

The Dollar Store is your friend.  So is ROSS, Marshalls, and other discount retailers.  You can find inexpensive food platters, plates, buckets (for drinks), etc. that match your party theme or are neutral / plain enough they provide a blank palette for stand-out decor.  (And if you’re truly savvy, save those receipts …for the most part returns are readily accepted at those retailers).

Example: This color palette would be great for a beach party theme!

Create a Color Palette! This is easier than it sounds.  Find the colors of your space, and create a color wheel for your decor.   This will come in handy if you are hiring someone to do a cake or balloons. I mention this in other places, but be sure this color palette compliments your Venue! Remember, don’t fight your venue’s aesthetic.

This step is where Pinterest or Google images really come in.  Sure, it’s easy to become discouraged looking at insane DIY decor and photos of events  with obviously insane budgets. So toughen up that skin when pinning your dream board. You can’t do it all.  But you CAN get great ideas and create that visual “dream board” of you party. 

The little details are what people remember, and “Like.”

Step 8: Food & Drink 

For those on a tighter budget, this is a great place to start allocating support.  Assign specific dishes to friends.  

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