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The Only Event Planning Checklist You Need

Memorable events don’t just happen.  Your event’s success is in the details and will require organizing and planning with an event planning checklist. To gather these details, we’ve asked our Special Events Director at Riata, Jenny Mills, to share her event planning secrets. Riata has over 2,000 apartment homes with nearly double the amount of residents. To keep Riata feeling like a community, up to 9 events are planned each month, including everything from a monthly Happy Hour and Sponsored Tastings to Poker Tournaments and Pool Parties, and, depending on the event, the turnout ranges from 50-300 guests!  Therefore, throwing a successful event has become a guaranteed at Riata, and we are here to share the how-to guide to throwing an event.



First step to any event is to determine your budget, because at the end of the day, it all seems to come down to money. From that budget you can begin to determine the caliber of event you can throw.  Does your budget support 30 guests or 500 guests? Does your budget support catering or is it a BYO situation? 


Insider tip:  One loophole to your budget, is not all the money has to come from you.  Budgets are limiting, but fluid. If you find yourself wanting to throw a gourmet event on a food truck budget, sponsors may be the answer to your prayers. Sometimes local businesses will be willing to get involved in exchange for advertising to your guests; local restaurants might donate food, wineries can host wine tastings, product based companies can donate party favors, etc. 



The line between disorder and order lies in the logistics. Figure out a date, time, and location. Usually, later in the week and in the evenings work best for most people when choosing a date and time for your event. If you choose to host an event during a weekend, make sure you choose a weekend with little competition, and avoid dates close to major events or festivals. When choosing a location for your event, many factors come into play, such as what event space is available to you within your budget and how many people you’re expecting. 


Insider tip:  If you can only afford a venue that won’t fit your anticipated guest count, then have an RSVP to manage the number of people that will attend. It is okay to set a maximum number of people for an event and to start a wait list when the event is full. It is better to turn some people away than to have too many people and not have enough resources. Worst case scenario, if you end up with a lengthy wait list, you can always host a second event for those who did not get to attend the original event!



Every party must have a purpose, otherwise its just a gathering, and who wants to RSVP to a gathering? After you have a date, time, and location, take a look at what’s going on in your community, and take the weather into consideration when choosing your party theme. If the weather is nice, you might consider a happy hour by the pool, or if there are any sports championships happening, then maybe a watching party is the way to go. Bottom line, choose an event that you think will draw in as many guests as possible, and go with it. 


Insider tip: If you do several events a month, try to do different types of events that appeal to different groups.



An event is only as successful as your resources allow. Take a deep look into your budget, logistics, and theme, and then determine if you will be able to run the event by yourself, or if you will need additional help. The reason why “staffing” is so high up in the checklist is because if you need help, it is important to make arrangements in advance so all hired parties, or charitable friends willing to donate their time, have time to adjust their schedules and commit to your event.


Insider tip:   Choose staff based on your weaknesses.  Don’t speak Spanish? Hire someone who’s bilingual! 



Supplies are directly affected by your budget and theme. Determine what you will need, make a list, and get all of your supplies in advance. 


Insider tip:  If you want people to post pictures of your event, consider buying supplies that are highly photographed.  Have you seen those swan rafts?  That answer is most likely yes because everyone and their mom has posted a picture of one.



Events can be chaotic with many unforeseen problems. Keep yourself in check by making a timeline of expected events and a to-do list for the day prior to the event.  This is to make sure you do not forget anything while the event is occurring.


Insider tip:  Put your to-do list in your phone so you will always have it on you during the event.



Don’t forget to invite your guests! This is arguably the most important step to your checklist, for what is a party without guests?  It is important to send your invite early to give adequate time prior to the event. Try to give a minimum of one week’s notice, but depending on your event’s theme and size, this can change. There is a reason why wedding event coordinators advise to send a “Save The Date” 8 months in advance, and the actual Wedding Invite 2-3 months in advance, and that is because that timeline guarantees the greatest turnout!  


Insider tip:  If you have a monthly newsletter, you can advertise your event in your newsletter. You can also use email blasts, flyers, and Facebook to invite your guests! If you post it, they will come. 



No matter how much preparation you put into your event, and now matter how well you have followed steps 1-7 in this blog article, the day of the event is always chaotic and unpredictable. Situations out of your control can happen, and you need to be prepared. Bottom line, if Plan “A” doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters, so use them.


Insider tip:  Is your event outdoors? If so, have a back-up plan in case it rains. Book a secondary location, have tents on standby, or have an alternative date set if you have to cancel your event due to rain. 



It cannot be stressed enough to smile and have fun with the guests at the event! If you look like you don’t want to be there, guests will notice. When things happen that you cannot control, go with the flow and stay cool, fun, and collected. Troubleshoot on the spot, keep a smile on your face, and always maintain the appearance that you are in control, even if you don’t feel like it.


Insider tip:  If you run out of pizza halfway through your event, place an order for more and just tell the guests that you didn’t want the pizza to get cold, so you arranged for a 2nd fresh delivery. They will never know the difference and they won’t mind waiting for 30 minutes for pizza!  



Trying to take pictures can be a difficult task when you are busy running the event, but it is an important task. If you are unable to take the pictures yourself, ask a guest (or co-worker) to take pictures, hire someone, or get creative by handing out disposable cameras or renting a photobooth!  Lastly, share all pictures with your guests!  After the event, be sure to post all pictures taken during the event on Facebook – guests love to see their pictures and relive the fun times! After all, if an event happens, and no pictures are posted on Facebook, did the event actually happen?


Insider tip:  Create a hashtag and request your guests to post pictures during the event on their social media with your hashtag.  By doing this, a live stream of your event will be created.  


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