Notes on Design: Get the Most Out of Your Event Budget
For all but a very lucky few, one of the biggest considerations when planning an event is budget. Who among us has not dreamed of having a favorite band play a birthday party or releasing 1000 live doves when you say your vows or having an 8’ high ranch dressing fountain at your graduation party? Ok, maybe those examples don’t apply to everyone...
But most people do need to make thoughtful choices based on how much money they have available to spend on their event. And I am here to tell you that frequently, having to work within a budget can result in coming up with clever solutions that can enhance your event and don’t have to feel like sacrifices.
But where to start? When my husband and I were planning our wedding we each identified a category that was really important to us that we would splurge more on and areas that we could live with being thriftier in.
Food is a big part of our lives and we wanted to make sure the meal was something really special. Instead of going with a typical caterer, we asked a friend of ours who was a chef if she would prepare the meal for us. I am not sure if the end cost was more or less than having gone a traditional route, but the food was fantastic and she worked with us to come up with a menu that felt so totally perfect and specific to us that it was worth every penny and the additional challenges of working outside the established way of doing things.
I am an event designer professionally, so I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted things to look like and part of that was to have really lush and beautiful flowers on the table. So we splurged on that but dialed things back in other ways. We had selected a very pretty venue with an outdoor area where we had the ceremony, so we did very little with décor in that space – just some pillar candles in glass – and let the natural beauty of the space speak for itself.
I have a close friend whose wedding I still think of as being a master class in smart wedding choices. She chose a very beautiful resort in Palm Springs as the wedding venue and gotten a good group rate for guests. It was a small enough space that he wedding guests filled all the rooms around a courtyard that had a pool and so even prior to the official start of the festivities, everyone was together, relaxing and hanging out which got the fun vibes off to a great start.
Instead of expensive floral centerpieces she used pretty bowls full of lemons – they were perfectly appropriate for the location, looked awesome, and cost a fraction of flowers. The caterers supplied them and took them away after the event so it was a significant saving over buying them at a grocery store.
But my favorite move she and her fiancé made was how they handled the music. He was a musician and music was an important part of both their lives. They broke up the evening into 5 different “sets” and asked 5 different friends – some professional musicians and some enthusiastic amateurs – to DJ for them. Each person had a time and understanding of the energy level they should bring (first hour of cocktails was relatively mellow compared to hour 3 of the reception). The music ended up being great and varied and also felt like a special gift that the DJs could give to the happy couple and the other guests.
In the final analysis, the most important part of hosting an event is the joy of being with friends and family and celebrating. It is important to remember that when there is love in the room, the presence of a particular element will not make or break an event and that the people gathered together will be happiest just being together.
This edition of Notes on Design is brought to you by award-winning event designer Meg Gleason. Meg has done everything from multi-million dollar celebrity weddings to fantastical pop-up stores to outdoor events for thousands. She is always thinking about how to do something new and surprising, but here she shares the foundations of what make every event successful, no matter the size or budget.