The Two Most Common Party-Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Updated on January 28, 2019
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I have worked in hospitality for over 10 years and have witnessed many events as the server, bartender, set-up and clean-up crew.

Whether you are planning a wedding reception, corporate event, Christmas or birthday party, avoiding these two mistakes can be the difference between being the event of the year and being forgotten by Monday.

Parties are experiences. Their value is in the memories created.

A great party is a memorable party, and good planning will have people talking about the event for years to come. The details that make a party stand out depend on many factors, but there are two things that dull parties have in common: poor budget allocation and prolonged sitting.

I have worked in hospitality for over ten years. I have witnessed a ton of events of every type and have noticed that these two mistakes consistently have guests leaving early. I’ve overheard guests on many occasions discussing how they are tired and want to go to bed, or planning among a smaller group to duck out and meet at a pub. Here is how to avoid these two major mistakes.

People aren’t going to stick around for the flowers.

Mistake #1: Poor Budget Allocation

It’s easy to plan an amazing party if you have a massive budget, but most of the time, we must be selective about where that money goes. I can’t count how many times I have entered a beautifully decorated venue and thought, “Wow! These people must be loaded!” only to find out that the drinks are going to be very expensive and there will be no wine with dinner.

With all the beautiful photos on Pinterest, it’s easy to get caught up planning the most elaborate décor, but people aren’t going to stick around for the flowers. In fact, by the time dinner is over, the tables will be a mess. Things will be moved around, dropped, spilt on ect. The décor is a beautiful way to greet your guests, but it won’t keep a party going.

It might seem counterintuitive, but alcohol is a great way to make memories. Human beings are social creatures. It is our interactions with others that create lasting memories (Kensinger et al.). Unfortunately, for many people it is difficult to open up and make connections without a little booze. Even confident people become more outgoing with a buzz. People are more likely to head to the dancefloor and talk to strangers when they are tipsy. If the drinks are expensive, people will drink far less. This often results and party guests feeling inhibited. They stay close to the people they know well and eventually leave with them in search of a more comfortable setting and cheaper drinks.

This does not mean you should try to get all your guests wasted. This can make your event memorable for the wrong reasons. I am also not suggesting you pressure anyone to drink who does not want to. I am suggesting that making alcoholic beverages easily accessible to guests who would like to drink and are old enough to legally do so, can have a big impact on how your party plays out.

Budget for an open bar. Then plan the décor with what is left over.

My Recommendation

Budget for a toonie bar ($2/drink if you’re not Canadian), or an open bar. Then plan the décor with what is left over. A great way to reduce the cost of the bar is to rent a venue, such as a hall, that allows you to supply your own alcohol. This will greatly reduce the cost of the drinks, as well as give you the freedom to choose which brands you serve, the bartender your hire and your caterer as well!

Mistake #2: Keeping Guests Quietly Seated for Too Long

Whether it’s an award show, speeches, or video clips, I have seen way too many events where guests are kept sitting in near silence for hours. This tends to result in many guests leaving the moment they can stand. All the sitting makes people tired. These are the events where people can’t wait to get home to bed.

This is not the same as having entertainment that keeps guests laughing, chatting and cheering throughout. In fact, I highly recommend investing in quality entertainment. One of the problems with sitting in silence is that people often feel uncomfortable getting up to get a drink. Despite my recommendations above, I do believe that alcohol is quite toxic. People who have had a couple drinks and developed a buzz, will notice this when the effects wear off. As they sit there sobering up, the fun side of alcohol goes away, and they begin to feel very tired. (``Alcohol and Fatigue``) Sitting quietly also doesn’t give guests a chance to interact and create connections that make them want to stay.

Don't keep guests sitting for more than an hour at a time.

My Recommendation

Try not to keep guests sitting for more than an hour at a time. Shorten long awards shows by starting the awards during dinner. People can pay attention and eat at the same time. Give your speakers time limits on their speeches. If speeches follow dinner, give guests a 5- or 10-minute warning to get a drink, stretch their legs and mingle a bit before speeches begin. If you just can’t make things any shorter, have a 15-minute intermission.

Remember that parties are social gatherings. They are fun because they are social. To prevent your party from being a flop, use your budget and time to create an atmosphere that makes social interaction fun and easy even for the introverts of the group. If your goal is a long, thorough, well decorated award show or something along those lines, cancel the DJ and the dance and save some money, because most people won’t make it that far anyway.

Works Cited

  • Kensinger, Elizabeth A. et al. "How social interactions affect emotional memory accuracy: Evidence from collaborative retrieval and social contagion paradigms." NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942488/
  • "Alcohol and Fatigue." Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/alcohol-and-fatigue/

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    © 2019 K Loranne

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