Having worked in the Kahuku event planning industry for almost 7 years there are not many surprises left – but occasionally I still get the, “They did what?” pass my lips! Why am I not surprised anymore – because over the years the number one rule for event planning is putting time into the pre planning of the event, and then planning contingencies for the exceptions that may happen?
So where do you start? As far out from the event date as possible as getting space is the first step. In Kahuku, where we do a lot of work, it is not unusual to be booking one year out at some of the venues, as they are booked solidly every week.
The first few decisions are the easiest. What is the budget? What is the event about? A party, corporate seminar, convention, festival, wedding, or an anniversary – the list is endless, but one thing remains constant once the event has a name and the type of event is decided, the next step will be to decide where to hold the event. This is where the real event planners stand out from the crowd. So you have an event – okay lets book a hotel is normally the next answer but why would you miss out on an opportunity to create a unique experience?
Event Planning - Throw an Event That Will Be the Talk of the Town
When planning your wedding day, if you're like most people, you must plan the event with a budget in mind. Weddings do not necessarily have to have an expensive price tag attached to them, and with careful planning and taking heed to a few tips from people familiar with how to plan for a wedding, costly mistakes can be avoided that will result in considerable savings.
Finding an Inexpensive Wedding Location
One of the first and probably the most costly item to plan for is the wedding location where you would like to have your ceremony held. There is an abundance of ceremonial venues available no doubt, but as you know, hundreds or even thousands of dollars can be spent on an ideal location. However, if you've considered having an outdoor ceremony, there are many suitable public areas such as state parks or recreational areas that allow marriages to take place free of charge.
For example, referring to the Lake Tahoe area in Northern California, an area of which I'm very familiar with, weddings take place daily in at least a half dozen locations on the south shore without charge. City and state parks are used and there is no compromise in the beauty of any of the settings just because it is free. These areas are picturesque and most suitable for a ceremonial event. The well-known truth "you get what you pay for" does not apply in this case.
Keep in mind, though, at these particular locations the ceremony is to be performed as what we call "stand-up weddings". What this means is that chairs or arches or any type of structures cannot be setup, although a few chairs and some small decorating with flowers and the like are acceptable.
However, if you decide you would like to go all out and provide chairs for your guests, erect a finely decorated arch and lay a runner down for the bride to make that walk down the aisle of matrimony, quite a few of these sites will allow it if you apply for a permit. Applying for a permit in most cases is neither difficult nor costly. It is simply a matter of contacting the appropriate facility that oversees the site of interest and giving them the details they require.
In the Lake Tahoe area, the cost of the permit for the locations that many wedding planners use when coordinating a wedding can be as low as $15 and range up to approximately $350 in peak wedding season. This entire process of applying and paying for the permit can be done, in many instances, right over the phone. Or, if you want convenience, if you're using a coordinator, they will provide this service, and the cost is usually included in their wedding package prices.
Professional Low-Cost Ministers
Another and sometimes costly but necessary item on the list of planning a wedding is obtaining a professional minister to perform the ceremony. Again, this cost can be minimal and fit within any budget if you just want simplicity. For example, in the Lake Tahoe area there are quite a few ministers who will travel to the wedding site, perform the service, and even issue and notarize the marriage license the day of your ceremony for under $200. This includes returning the completed license to the county clerks office where it will be recorded, making a certified copy available to you shortly thereafter. What's more, finding these ministers can be as simple as conducting a Google search in the vicinity of your chosen venue.
Although acquiring the services of a licensed minister for under $200 seems rather low, with a small amount of time invested into researching their background and credentials, you can be assured that the quality of the ceremony will not be compromised. If you work with a reputable wedding coordinator, the research in many cases should already be done for you, though additional fees most likely will be paid to the coordinator for providing the service.
If you're not working with a wedding planner and have concerns about the professional experience of a particular minister you are considering or want more than just an officiate who is merely licensed to perform ceremonies, don't be afraid to ask him questions. Do a little probing into his history and see if he has a theological degree or other qualifications for ministering and if he has any affiliation with a local church. Although there are couples who place less emphasis on a minister's background, knowing these things beforehand is a great comfort to many brides and grooms and makes the sacred event of their marriage more genuine.
Quality Photographers at a Discount
Photography is another area where huge savings can be acquired. Photographers in many areas are plentiful, and the competition is usually fierce. If you hire the services of a major photographic company, particularly one with a well-known reputation, you can expect to pay $1000 or more for your ceremony and reception. However, although a good reputation is quite desirable, there are alternatives to obtain the same quality product from reputable photographers at a discounted price.
The trick is in finding the less known photographers while maintaining excellence, which can ultimately cut the price in half. One way to accomplish this is to once again use the Google search engine. For example, type into Google's search box the keyword phrase "Wedding Photographers" and add the city or town where your wedding is to take place to these keywords. From the search results, don't look at just the top results or the fanciest websites. Rather, scroll down to the bottom of the page or go to the second page of the Google findings and make some phone calls. It's a sure bet you'll find a bargain photographer with an abundance of samples illustrating the quality of his work and capabilities.
Alternately, another method to find a great photographer without the high cost is to contact a wedding planner. Again, make a search in the area of your selected venue and ask a local coordinator for a recommendation. They usually have a list of low-cost but good photographers they work with, and though you're not using their service, most don't mind providing the information.
You'll find in many cases that fees for shooting the ceremony can be done for a flat rate as low as $100, and the reception on an hourly basis ranging from $100 to $175 per hour. Although you won't be given 500 pictures in a wedding album like many high-priced photographers may offer (which may be a little excessive anyway), you should receive ample photographs with the crucial moments of the entire event being captured. If you arrange for the photographer to be at the reception after cocktail hour and after dinner has been served---the time period when there are fewer photo opportunities---you will benefit from additional savings of hundreds of dollars.
The "small guys" will usually be happy to do this for you, and don't think you're getting short-changed on the quality of work. Just be sure to ask for their portfolio and confirm that it's their own work. You may be surprised at the comparable---and often more superior---quality of work you'll receive at a fraction of the cost.
Planning a wedding certainly isn't an easy task. But with a little investigation into the options available and with a little help from those familiar with the business, big weddings with small budgets can be planned. Following some or all of the tips included here can amount to hefty savings, making your special day a little more special by knowing you're getting the best of both worlds---the one you love and the wedding of your dreams at a price you can afford.
Event Planning - Where Do You Start?
Having worked in the event planning industry for almost 15 years there are not many surprises left - but occasionally I still get the "they did what" pass my lips! Why am I not surprised anymore - because over the years the number one rule for event planning is putting time into the pre planning of the event, and then planning contingencies for the exceptions that may happen?
So where do you start? As far out from the event date as possible as getting space is the first step. In Orlando where we do a lot of work it is not unusual to be booking one year out at some of the venues, as they are booked solidly every week.
The first few decisions are the easiest. What is the budget? What is the event about? A party, corporate seminar, convention, festival, wedding, anniversary the list is endless, but one thing remains a constant once the event has a name and the type of event is decided, the next step will be to decide where to hold the event. This is where the real event planners stand out from the crowd. So you have an event - okay lets book a hotel is normally the next answer but why would you miss out on an opportunity to create a unique experience for your client. Stop thinking like a newbie!
Look around the city where you are and start looking for that space that is different! We once held a red carpet fashion show right outside the Lingerie store that was promoting their opening! What's unusual about that? Nothing except the two lane highway outside we had to close, get planning permission and then build a 150ft marquee over the roadway, flooring, carpeting, stage, runway, extravagant lighting. All in one day. That's planning. Or the client that wanted a nautical theme, so we brought in a pirate ship complete with water cannons, pirate uniforms for everybody including the CEO! Ahh Captain. Get the idea, think outside the box - everybody does hotels, make your event unusual. What about an event/launch or party on the top floor of a multistory car park, we have even taken over parking lots for major festivals downtown and invited 5000 people to attend. Used castles for car launches and produced tours for musical competitions.
So know we have an event and the location/venue. Do you need planning permission for the event? If you have tents, or are somewhere public the answer is going to be Yes. Get that permit application in quickly, the city will have lots of questions for you to answer. Don't worry they will let the event happen they just want every answer and t crossed, so allow time for them.
Are you helping with the marketing too? Now is the time to get all this started and the timeline built when the copy, printing, mailing emailing needs to be done. Do you see a pattern starting, timelines, pre planning, etc.
Next on the list is going to be catering commonly called F&B. Is this a sit down event, stand up cocktails, dinner reception, hors-devours, alcohol, etc. Again another decision and one that needs a budget figure. Hot meals catered with full service can cost upwards of $50 a plate or as low as $19. Its all about the budget. Once you have decided on what is required your event planner will have a list of suitable caterers who can produce the meals.
If the event is themed, then the next step is to design the layout of the tables, surroundings, and make the venue become an experience. I remember erecting a Marquee inside a tall ballroom for one client, as they did not want the tradition ballroom space. A local hotel has two weeks of Ice sculpture in their ballrooms and kids can play on the ice slides, play in the snow and experience below freezing conditions - in Central Florida
Another area that will need addressing is entertainment, is their music, DJ what style and what purpose. Is it for dancing to or just background ambience? Again if the event requires a headliner you will have to contact the booking agencies in plenty of time to ensure schedules are available - you did have a second choice ready as well didn't you?
So now we have an event, the date(s), a theme, a venue, food and drink, entertainment and the permit has been granted by the city!
What about Sound and lights and video for the event - usually called Audio Visual or AV again the event planner will know what and where to get the appropriate systems from and the size of equipment required depending on the number of attendees. While we are looking at AV, we may as well mention the videographer to film and record the event for the DVD and also the photographer to take a zillion shots during the evening making sure to get everybody in at least one picture!
The event date is obviously getting closer. If this is a corporate event you will want to make sure that there is all the appropriate insurance and Public/General Liability insurance certification in place. The policy should be for at least $1 million dollars of protection.
The fire Marshall always wants to know about events in their city and no matter how big or small, a phone call to answer their questions and get approval is always part of the planning stages. It is your responsibility to contact the fire Marshall not theirs to contact you.
One area that a number of people forget about is how are people getting to the event, are people flying in, are you booking the tickets? And if so what transportation are you providing from the airport for them? We use certain limo services that have given us great service and deals over the years and we know that guests are in good hands.
So far we have overcome every problem but as this is a summery of event planning, every event will be different. Seminars for instance will need registration tables, classroom style layouts, etc each event has its own nuance.
On the day of the event, everything comes together as planned, if you didn't plan for the contingency then panicking doesn't help. Look at every part of the timetable and second guess what if scenarios? Plan around those too so that your day runs smooth.
Lastly the day isn't over until the last guest leaves..errr no! until the venue has been restored to how you found it, until all the decorations are removed, the catering has packed up and left, the AV guys have got all their gear in the vans and the venue operations personnel have finally said goodnight and thank you.
Steve A Brown
Event Planner - Resource Management Alliance