Before launching The Natural Hire Company, most of my experience lay in event planning. I love the satisfaction of creating something from start to finish and watching its journey as it develops. I enjoy the detail, the logistics, and the linking of people to create something spectacular which everyone enjoys.
I don’t claim to know everything. No event or wedding are ever the same, and it should always be about the people involved as a primary focus. After all, it's the people that make parties. For this reason, this post looks purely at the logistics, the planning, and the choices to consider, leaving all the finishing touches in your capable hands.
I know it sounds obvious, but deciding on your budget is the basis of everything you’ll do thereafter. Of course, you may get deals or find a few bargains, but the budget should always be considered before getting too excited about venues, entertainment and all the finer details. By creating a spreadsheet of everything the event will entail, you can allocate projected amounts that you envisage the item will cost, in turn, providing the backbone of the planning process. Be generous with your projections, it helps keep feet on the ground and will bring a great deal of satisfaction if things come in for less than budgeted for.
The main categories for budgeting tend to be:
The venue, the food, the furniture & decorations, the entertainment, the transport, the accommodation, outfits, insurance, and the bar!
There may be extras if you’re planning a wedding, but these are the basic ingredients that most events require.
I never know whether to suggest deciding upon a venue before guest numbers, or the other way around. It depends what sort of person you are. For some, squeezing in every person they know overrides the desire to find the perfect venue. For others, it's finding the venue, leaving the guest list in need of a little tactful whittling.
Some people have a clear idea of just the sort of venue they want, while others are more open to suggestion. Whatever you’re thinking, head to the online directories out there. Most allow you to filter by venue type, size, county, cost and so on.
Once you have narrowed down your search, visit the venues and check their availability as soon as you can. The venue (along with insurance), is the most important thing you have to book. If you have a set date in mind, then it makes sense to check availability over the phone before visiting. In many cases however, brides to be will decide upon a wedding date based on the venue’s availability.
Kingston Estate, Devon.
Whether you’ve decided on a venue or not, guest numbers are also high up on the list of priorities. If you can decide upon this as early as possible, with a small buffer either way, this will give you the structure for all your decisions thereafter. If you think about almost anything to do with a wedding, you’ll soon see that prices will rise or fall in line with your projected guest numbers. More people mean more seats, more food and more drinks!
Making a guest list can be tricky, so I won’t begin to tell you how to do that! But allow plenty of time to obtain your responses (a deadline response date can help with this). As your responses come in, work using a list or a spreadsheet with all your invites listed. Once they confirm, mark with a tick, and fill in their details. This will help you to track your responses and confirmed guests.
Managing your guests requirements
To avoid too much correspondence and admin, include everything you need to know on your invites. Invites or booking forms should cover dietary requirements, information on what do bring, where to stay, transport and dress code. By covering all of these details from the outset, this will reduce the need for questions and answers. It will also mean when you mark your invite as a yes or no, you will have all your other answers ready at your fingertips. The last thing you want is to have to go back and forth, creating more work and more admin to your planning process.
Measure your venue and record where everything is.
I am a big fan of measuring the dimensions of a venue. Without knowing this, how will you create a table plan? While you are measuring, be sure to note access points, toilets, the route to the kitchen, loading access for deliveries and finally, your electric points and their wattage. By doing this, you can plot how many tables will fit, which in turn, will form the skeleton of your table plan, and your choice of table design.
Once you have plotted where you think your tables will go, you can calculate the remaining space for the other things you may like to include such as a bar, lounge areas and a band. This is where your access and your electric points come in. Often, it makes sense to place a bar closest to your kitchen access for restocking drinks, or if this can’t be achieved, ensure all the items you need for your bar are stocked right there with it.
Musical entertainment (unless you've hired a choir or chamber orchestra), needs to be close to an electrical source, but importantly, out of the way of footfall to avoid trip hazards from equipment, and when plotting your lounge areas, think about warmth and footfall. If people are entering and exiting a door to outside, then having a lounge area close to this, may not be the wisest choice on a cold winter’s night.
Finally, think about decorations. Noting the ceiling height, places to hang lights or drape material are all handy things to look out for. I would always recommend taking photographs, a note pad, and preparing questions for the venue before you visit (e.g are candles allowed). It's strange the tendency for all these things to come flooding into your mind after you have left, sending you rushing back to the owner with a long list of queries.
Accommodation and transport
The main thing your guests will want to know is where they can stay, how to get there and back, not forgetting details about the bar! To ensure everyone is content and has peace at mind, try to do the research on all of these things for them. Recommending local hotels, taxi firms, or even putting on your own bus, can go a long way in ensuring everyone can really kick back and enjoy the party. Often the venue itself will have this sort of information, so anything you can find out surrounding these details will be greatly appreciated by your fun-loving attendees.
Make a schedule.
You’re going to have a lot to do on the days leading up to your event or wedding, even if it’s the smallest of affairs. For this reason, a schedule is a must have to ensure a fluid and efficient execution of your to do list.
You will need to allocate delivery slots for all of your components. If tables and a bar take up the biggest footprint in a room, then have these items delivered before anything else gets there. If these are laid out by the time your tableware arrives, this will allow you clear walking channels to style and decorate your venue as you wish.
Hanging items are your next priority. You want to avoid anything dropping onto expensive plates or vases, so either do this before the tables arrive, or as they are being laid. This will ensure everything is up and out the way, ready for working on your lower sections of the room.
With all your deliveries, pay special attention to your best logistical access point. Bars can be heavy, so the closer the loading point to its delivery spot, the better. The same goes for tables, chairs and band equipment. If your venue is not on a ground floor, be sure to tell your suppliers, as this may affect their price and their delivery schedules.
Once your deliveries have all been dropped off (not at the same time), have a schedule of the jobs you need to do and by when. Decorating the room often seems to be people’s priority, with items such as flowers and stocking the bar falling later into the schedule to ensure flower freshness and the required temperature of your drinks.
Running throughout this schedule, you should also have clear delegation. Rally up as much help as possible and have clear set tasks for your wedding A-team to avoid flapping and indecisiveness!
Allow plenty of time.
As a final note on setting up, I would always say allow more time than you think. Often, the time you think a job will take turns out to be more. You also want to be more than prepared, should heaven forbid; delays be encountered.
The more people you can rally in to help, the better, for even though you might enjoy doing everything yourself, if you want to be able to dance at your own party, rope in that support! Make it fun, play music as you decorate and enjoy the process. It’s part of the fun in planning.