by Susan Gardner, CPO-CD
The key to an organized event is making it true to you and reasonable in execution. Ideas flow and communication stays open when you and your fiancé/spouse/friends and/or family are in sync on the core of what you want. This article is not a how-to plan event details (like centerpieces, photos, music or food). Instead, it is a guide to intentional hospitality from beginning to end. Whether a wedding or small dinner party, the basics for generous hosting are the same.
- Form your planning team, including people who work well together or who are great at a specific task (decorating, food, graphics, etc.). Building hospitality with the team builds that same hospitality into the event.
- Determine who is in charge and who can speak for the planning team. Conflict can come when people make spontaneous decisions when you already have a plan in place. Keeping a good sense of humor helps.
- Agree on the overarching theme of the event. This can be anything from “Join us as we marry” to “celebrate Graduates” to “let’s make some music”. The theme helps focus the details. Also, decide how you want your guests to interact, especially those who do not know each other. Food preparation, or a drink station with recipes and ingredients, or a coffee table full of legos become a place where people can engage.
- Keep a host journal where lists are in one place. Be clear when communicating with team members whether you are asking for input or announcing how things will be done. In this way, people who want to follow their own ideas can know clear boundaries. Cooperative firmness is key!
- Act only on spoken and agreed-upon plans. Know the people who are helping plan the party and call on their individual strengths. In the same vein, run interference where you know strong personalities may try to go in different directions. Returning to the basic theme is key in staying focused.
- Add the details onto the basic theme. Does each detail flow together coherently from the invitation to the table to the departure? In the details, the party becomes simplified or embellished. Assignments are made and decisions finalized.
- As the host, remain nimble during the unexpected. A traffic accident delays the caterer. Weather sends an outdoor party indoors and the tent rental company doesn’t have one available until the morning of the event. The butterflies peak too soon (rest their souls). The details are not the party. The people are.
Hosting a wedding is more complex than hosting an intimate dinner party. But the goal remains the same: for guests to feel welcome, respected, and engaged. While a wedding day is about the couple’s relationship, the growing acquaintance of family and friends enhances the couple’s new life together. Same with small parties where strangers or friends gather.
Never lose sight of the social possibilities of an event where people are brought together intentionally. It is in this connectedness that a party shines! It begins with the planners and ends with the guests. When everyone who planned and executed the event wears exhausted smiles at the end, the party has been what you envisioned!