The B Word...Budget

A good event planner will help you create and then stick to your budget. Now, you must be wondering, how will they help me create a budget? I mean, before planning an event, a person already has some idea of how much money they intend to spend. What they often do not know is whether their budget is accurate for the type and style of event that they would like to host.  A good event planner will advise you on ‘actual’ costs.

Event ExpertsEvent planners – especially independent planners – know the industry.  They purchase catering, book entertainment, block hotel rooms, and rent props all the time.  Just hearing your ideas will start their internal calculators! They can easily tally the amount of money that you will need in order to get the type of event you desire. Once you have a better approximation of the actual costs, then a good event planner will help you find areas to save money or areas to boost up spending in order to maximize the overall event experience for you and your guests. 

Perhaps the defining trait of a good event planner is that they will help you stick to your budget. More often than not, without a good event planner, people exhaust their budget even before the planning is done. Who wants that? Significant increases to the budget only make it more difficult to enjoy your event because your focus shifts from having a great time to concern over what the whole thing is costing.   A good event planner can prevent that from happening. They know the “traps”, those sensitive areas where people are most likely to overspend, as well as the “tricks”, those clever tactics that ensure maximum value for your dollar.  An event planner will use their knowledge and experience to create and help you stick to an optimized budget.

One final thought about budgets… A small budget does not necessarily mean a poorly managed or pitiful event. If you enlist the services of a good event planner, they will help you realign your expectations and maximize your budget in order to not only help you save money, but also design a great event!

ASK LaTonya….

Question:  LaTonya, I always have a dollar amount in mind when I want to plan an event, but it makes me uncomfortable telling my event planner the budget.  I am not cheapskate but when I look at pictures of other events, they all seem so expensive. I worry that the money I have to spend will be too little to get what I want.  I fear that my event planner will look at me like “Have you lost your mind?!”  How do I get over these concerns?

LaTonya:  Your budget need not be disclosed to everyone but it is to your advantage to disclose it to your event planner. I assure you that planning your event will be a happier experience for all involved when the elephant in the room (your budget) is duly acknowledged.  If it makes things easier for you, then give a range. You might say, “Ideally, I’d like to do this event for around $$ but, no matter what, I cannot go over $$.” Or perhaps, “I’ve budgeted $$, but if we find the perfect [insert your dream thing here] then, come hell or high water, I’ll find the additional money. It’s just that important to me.”  Lastly, I tend to stay away from “spend” language.  I prefer to think of your budget as your event investment.  So, how much will you invest toward an event that will be a wonderful, memorable experience for all?



9 years later, the same words apply

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"Throughout the process, there's just a ton of stuff thrown at you, so it's easy to be overwhelmed," commented LaTonya Richardson, founder of Event Experts, a locally-based wedding and special event planning company."It is easy to get in over your head about it because everyone has an opinion from the time that you accept the proposal."
Wedding planning doesn't always bring out the best in the betrothed, as Richardson has discovered."It seems that they get so caught up in the machine of the party , what shade of tablecloth, the type of the flower and the song selection or whatever it is , and forget the true meaning of the celebration," she said. Reality shows have only added to the prevalence of "bridezillas" in recent years, Richardson says."I just find increasingly the threshold of what people are not able to tolerate gets higher and higher, and it shouldn't be.People come with a certain expectation; a lot of the time, that expectation is perfection, and that really isn't what you're buying because that can't be sold," she stated."What you're getting when you hire an event planner or other professional is a person who is dedicated to making your vision work and who brings a certain amount of experience and talent and, hopefully, reputation to the table, so that they can do the best job for you, but we can't stop the rain, we can't prevent a glass from falling, we can't make the deejay show up on time; I mean, there's just a lot that can happen."Richardson, who was a law school student when event planning "found her" 16 years ago, knows a little something about the best laid plans, but she is a firm believer that attitudes play an integral role in the outcome of things."You attract to your life the things that you give your energy and attention and thought to , whether that's positive or negative is basically up to you," she remarked. Much of the brides' angst arises from unrealistic attitudes and the lack of a concise vision with regard to planning their special day, says the planner.She started a Web site, e-weddingcoach.com, to combat some of the pressure the women and their partners are likely to feel."I think it's stress, but really where the stress comes from is not knowing what you want.What I wanted to do was package a way that I could walk them through the process," she commented."It's basically just you having access to someone who can talk you through the practicalities of planning your wedding and keep you focused and on track and calm, so that you don't feel hurried and worried and burdened."In addition to launching the site, Richardson has added a decidedly more hands-on option for her potential clients, in the form of a workshop entitled, "Inspired Wedding Coaching."The workshops will be held in Winston-Salem on three consecutive Sundays, February 24 , March 9, and will focus on three major components of wedding planning , creating the vision; beginning the process; and a roundtable discussion with wedding professionals."I think the planning has to be a lot more intentional.It really should be coming up with your vision, making it true to who you are, making it unique and incorporating the things that are important to you and your fiancee and to your family, and then working your plan from there," Richardson remarked.  [as printed in a news article by the Winston-Salem Chronicle]


Times are changing and clients are too

Once upon a time, we lost a few long-standing client events. During phone calls, I discovered that our contact person with these companies had either been promoted, retired or changed jobs. Polling the new contact people, I discovered that, while some were aware of our past event work, they'd opted instead to try 'something different'. Pointing out the features and benefits of our services didn't change their minds. For the newbies who hadn't heard of our work, I discovered that our past contact person failed to leave behind information. Afterall, when some folks leave a job, that's it! They may remove any semblance of information that might be beneficial to their predecessor or else leave such a mess that their predecessor has to throw it all out in order to start afresh. In either case, what I learned is that our name and professional reputation will not survive every personnel shift. Moreover, even those relationships that had begun to feel personal after years of working together, may not motivate a client to draft one final memo on their way out of the door, "This is a gentle reminder to please call Event Experts. They've done marvelous work for us over the years and we value our professional relationship with the owner". That's simply a dream. As June 30th approaches and the fiscal year comes to a close for a number of our client companies, exciting announcements are filling the INBOX. On the one hand, it's a time of happiness and celebration as some of dear clients move up the ranks or trade it all in for days of leisure. On the other hand, it's an ambiguous time. How will these changes affect our business? The opportunity to try something different is up for grabs. Folks are embracing change this week - fresh faces, new responsibilities, the end of a season and the start of a new (fiscal) year. We'll continue to take excellent care of those who keep us on board, and we hope that many will. Evenso, we've got outstretched arms to welcome the newbies, for whom Event Experts is 'something different'!


Win-win benefits - 5K races

If I were organizing a 5K, I'd offer chair massages at the Finish Line. Runners could have the option of a lower back massage or a leg massage. This is the sort of add-on that wins people over! Having just run a 5K on Saturday, I can tell you first hand that I'd have paid good money for an on-the-spot deep-tissue leg massage. Another profit point for the organizers and a feel good for the runner. That's a win-win!

How to do this? Start by calling the area massage schools. Perhaps they will send out students who can get 'experience credit' while also doing a good deed. Next, try the massage mills. The big box parlors that are springing up everywhere. Perhaps their massueses' will give time in exchange for the publicity and exposure.

Bake Sales

Standing in line at the Bake Sale last Friday evening, I was on the prowl for the perfect looking homemade chocolate chip cookie. Ziplock bags lined the tables - single serve baggies of cookies for $.50 each. Some had 2 cookies, others 3, but I quickly remembered "quality over quantity". Some were too toasty brown on the bottom, others had too few visible chocolate chips. The perfect cookies are totally symmetrical. They must have a 'homemade' look - a gentle lumpiness, a sloppy round shape. Hmmm...how long did I really stand there thinking about all of this? Minutes, literally. I finally settled on a bag. Retreated to a corner and broke off a piece of cookie. It was good! I chose well. Silly to think that I could have a little taste to check the quality but save the rest for later. I ate all three - before I even knew it. When it was time to go, I stopped again by the bake sale table. Same strategy. I chose a 2-cookie bag this time. Couldn't get the same ones as before because they were all gone. Broke off a little piece and 'thwuuu'....not good. Lack of sugar. Too dry.
Moral of the story - you can't judge a chocolate chip cookie by it's appearance.

You're buying on faith at a bake sale-with the sincere hope that you've picked out the best of the bunch. It would be lovely if the cashiers could give you a heads up on what's good the way a waitress might do in a restaurant. Another lovely option is to arrange the items by best taste or put up a little sign pointing out which items are the good ones. It's all just gamble, as it is.


Note cards

Bright ideas:
(1) Grant a wish. Arrange a large vase of tree branches into a centerpiece. On a note card, write a heartfelt good wish on one side Tie the note card to a ribbon and hang it on your tree. Repeat for as many guests as you anticipate. As guests leave, grant them a wish from the tree. They may take it and perhaps hang it in their own home or pay it forward.
(2)Use a slightly larger than normal sized place card for your dinner guests. In addition to writing their name on the card, write a blurb about the difference each person makes in your life. Here's an example: Constance... Thanks for making me laugh even when I don't feel like I can. Or, Dad... Thanks for constantly reminding me of how pretty I am.
(3) Create your own thank you cards. Or buy them. Either way, stick them in your purse or wallet and hand them on the spot at times when you'd like to express appreciation to someone. It's such an unexpected gesture that the recipient will be delighted. You're going to feel pretty special too, once you realize the frequency with which people deserve your thanks. Happens all the time, but we often overlook it.
(4) Send a hand-written note. It's always a meaningful, personal touch. National Postcard week is May 4-10.
HOWEVER, for your casual parties, scrap the paper and use green etiquette:
Cut waste and save money by sending online invitations. Most online options will even manage your guest list, track RSVPs and send reminders - FREE.