Wedding planning timeline: Your plan to get everything done on time! [free printable!]

Congratulations on your engagement! The days and weeks and months before your wedding is one of the most special times. The process should be exciting and shared between yourself and your partner since it ultimately ends in your happily ever after. Planning your wedding can be a daunting task, which is why most brides and industry experts would recommend you hire a wedding planner. But, should you wish not to, it is not impossible to plan your own successful wedding. Just use our handy list to keep track of all the different things you need to get done, and also by when.

We know the most beautiful wedding day is the one that speaks of the couple. So even though this is our example, we encourage you to move things around, leave things out or add things to the timeline. In the end, it is your day.

If you are more enthusiastic so planning your wedding in less than 12months, just move up the timeline. So instead of working in months, you work in weeks, or however long you have to plan. Just remember to get the big ticket and most important items (venue, dress, food, officiant and invitations) done first. It is possible to plan a fairy tale wedding (even within a small budget) in as little time as 2 weeks! You just need to be organized.

So to help, here is our suggested timeline for engagements of 12months or longer:

12 months before

  1. Set your budget

You need to know how much you need, how much you have, and then keep track of how much you spend. For more info on this, read our previous post here or see our video on budgeting here.

  1. Create a wedding website

There are various free sites that offer this service. You can even open a Wix account. Although not necessary, it is a nice to have, especially if you set it up in such a way that guests can RSVP on it, access your wedding registry, get all of the info regarding the accommodation, date, directions, transport arrangements, etc. in one place. Guests can even post photos, making it easier for you to get all of their snaps afterwards.

  1. Draw up your guest list

Determining how many people you would like to invite is crucial. Only after working out the estimate numbers, and seeing if it will fit in with your budget, can you start looking for a venue. For more info on drawing up your guest list, read our post here or see our video here.

  1. Start your wedding file

It is handy to have all of your gathered info in one place. If you attend trade-shows or go for viewings, you can place all of that information in your file. Keep your notes there, and also keep track of your progress.

  1. Create a mood board for the look and feel

Pinterest is going to become your best friend! Create a secret board where you can pin all of the ideas and colours and themes that you love. Should you wish to hire a wedding planner or consultant, you can add them to that board so that they can get a very accurate idea of the type of wedding you would like, and the type of bride that you want to be.

  1. Hire a wedding planner or consultant

Not a must-have, but definitely a nice-to-have. It will make your life easier, and although pricey in the beginning, the negotiation, experience and calm that planners normally bring are invaluable.

  1. Book your venue

Get to booking your venue as soon as possible. Especially the trendy and popular venues book up fast, with some already running a waiting list for 2 years down the line. A useful tip: book the venue before you pick your date. For more info on booking your perfect venue, read our post here or watch the video here.

  1. Set the theme, as well as the look and feel of the wedding

Decide how formal or informal it is going to be, your dominant colours, etc. Based on the theme, you will design your wedding stationery, décor, etc.

  1. Set the date

Once your venue has been confirmed you are ready to set the date (obviously the date that the venue is available J)

  1. Order your save the dates and invitations

Based on the theme and colour choices, you will now design your save the dates and invitations. Once happy, order them to ensure they have arrived before it is time to send them out.

  1. Start dress shopping

Decide if you would like to have a dress custom-made, would like to rent, or buy. And if you want to buy, will it be pre-loved or new? Know your budget, styles that work on your body shape, colour preferences and finishing touches. Then start making appointments to have fittings. Be open-minded, sometimes a dress that we would have never considered ends up being THE ONE.

  1. Start your special beauty regime

Looking good on your big day takes time, so start early. If you would like to lose weight before your wedding day, now is a good time to start changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. Incorporate exercise, drink more water, up the ante on your face cream, etc.

8 – 10 months before

  1. Ask your bridal party

If you are going to have a maid-of-honour, bride’s maids and flower girls, or any variation thereof, you need to ask these special people if they will do you the honour. Just a tip – you and your partner should have the same number of people in your bridal parties.

  1. Send out save the dates

This is especially important if you decide to get married on a date that falls on a long weekend, a public holiday, in the school holidays or around another big date or event. Also, if close family or friends live overseas, travel for work or have very small kids, they will need enough time to make arrangements to be there. It is important to note on the save the date whether or not guests are allowed a plus-one, and whether kids are invited or not.

  1. Hire band or DJ

Read reviews before hiring any entertainment. Meet with the service provider to ensure you get along, and that they understand your vision for the day. Music can make or break a party, even more so for a wedding. It sets the ambience and the mood, so choose wisely!

  1. Finalise the look and feel and theme

Think seriously about the aspects surrounding the look and feel – the décor, flowers, colour, table linen, favours, etc. and finalise your choices. Make sure all of these individual elements work together to form a beautiful whole.

  1. Decide on bridesmaids’ dresses

The theme, formality and season of your wedding will affect this. There are more choices than I can name, but the two biggest decisions would be do you want your entire bridal party in the same dress or each in a different (even just slightly) dress, and what colour will the dresses be.

  1. Sign up for a gift registry

Register a gift registry with your favourite home-ware shop, or do something entirely different like giving a list of charity organisations that guests can donate to instead of giving you a wedding present. If you rather want money, remember to mention it on the invitation, but give guests an idea of what you will be doing with the money, e.g. it will go towards your holiday fund, etc.

  1. Host an engagement party

Plan and host an engagement party to celebrate your engagement with your closest friends and family. Oh and show off your ring!

  1. Book a photographer

A big ticket item, having the right photographer is one of our crucial must-haves for a successful wedding. Your photos are all that you will have left, so make sure they are of good quality, and that the photographer captures all of the memories and moments you want and need.

  1. Book your caterer

If the venue has their own caterer, meet them now and start discussing your wedding menu. If the venue does not have a caterer or allows outside catering, then you need to find a caterer now. When comparing quotes, just remember to compare apples with apples in order to book the best caterer at the price you can afford.

  1. Order your wedding cake

This is one of the fun things! Identify a baker and book a cake tasting. Once decided, give them the inspiration for your cake design and order the cake when you are happy with the design. Tip: serve the cake as the dessert to cut menu costs as well as waste.

  1. Get an officiant

Book the person who will legally marry you. If you have a close friend or family member whom you would love to guide the ceremony, but they cannot legally marry you, then make a booking to either get married the previous day in court or by a registered officiant before the time. The family member or friend can then go through the ceremony as if they are marrying you, without any legal implications.

  1. Begin shopping for shoes, accessories and lingerie

You will need to have the shoes that you will wear with you when you go for your final dress fitting, so get going in shopping for them as well as any accessories and lingerie that you will need.

4 – 7 months

  1. Arrange accommodation for yourself on the night of the wedding (if not included in your venue) and for out of town guests

If you are not paying for all of the accommodation, make sure your guests have the relevant info to book and pay for themselves. Same with any transport arrangements – make sure your guests have the right information.

  1. Begin preparation for honeymoon

Most of the time the bride will have no idea where they are going for their honeymoon. Even so, now is the time to put some pressure on your partner to book the honeymoon, especially if you are planning on taking it in the busy season.

  1. Decide on and book a florist. Confirm flower selection

Take your Pinterest board to your short list of florists, get quotes and pick one. Finalise your flower choices, arrangement designs and any other flowers that you will need on the day.

  1. Shop for wedding bands

Decide beforehand how much you are spending, the material of the bands, whether they will be engraved, etc.

  1. Visit physician

Ensure you are in tip-top shape. If you are not planning on starting with a family directly after your wedding, put everything in place for birth control. If you are going to a country or place that required certain shots or vaccinations, get them now to ensure they are out of your system by the time of the wedding.

3 months

  1. Send out your invitations

Send out your invitations! Make sure you have a clear RSVP date, and also give guests the needed info regarding your gift registry, accommodation and transport arrangements, etc. If they can choose their own main course, or you would like them to contribute song choices, mention that on the invitations as well.

  1. Select the groom’s wedding attire

Sort out what your partner will wear, as well as the groomsmen. Doing it now ensures there is enough time for fitting and altering.

  1. Shop for bridal party gifts

If you decide you want to give each of your bridal party members something special, then start shopping for it now.

  1. Begin counselling sessions with the officiant

If you are attending pre-marital counselling, start with the sessions now.

  1. Go for the menu tasting and decide on your final menu selections

Make sure you are 100% happy with the menu, the offering, the tastes, the portion sizes, etc. Communicate clearly with your caterer regarding all of your requirements.

  1. Confirm your order of all rental furniture/décor

  2. Book your mock table with the venue and florist

  3. Confirm your wedding day transport

Book the wedding car, as well as any other transport that will be necessary to get you, your bridal party and your close family to the ceremony and the reception.

2 months

  1. Write your vows

Make it heartfelt, sincere and loving. Learn it by heart, but have cards with you on the day just in case the emotion gets you down.

  1. Confirm order with the florist

Confirm everything with your florist and ensure all of it is in writing. Confirm what time they will deliver on the day, as well as if there are any hired goods that you will have to return afterwards.

  1. Confirm order of stationery

Menus, name cards, church programs, anything that you had designed and now need printing for. Make sure it is done in the right colour, on the right cardstock, etc.

1 month

  1. Apply for marriage license

Usually, your officiant will help you with this, but you need to confirm that he/she will. Otherwise, follow the guidelines on the department’s website.

  1. Have the final gown fitting. Remember to take your wedding shoes with!

  2. Have your hair & makeup trails

Take a few photos after the trails to make sure your face is not shiny, your hair looks good from all angles, etc.

  1. Collate the final RSVP list

If you are still waiting for a few RSVPs, follow up and get their final answers.

  1. Prepare shot list for your photographer and videographer

  2. Deliver a list of songs to your DJ or band

  3. Draw up a seating plan

  4. Contact all of your wedding suppliers and confirm the schedule for the day

2 weeks

  1. Pick up the marriage license

  2. Obtain any legal information, approvals or licenses

  3. Check parking arrangements

  4. Rehearsal dinner

If you are having one, this is when you practice the processional.

  1. Confirm your final guest numbers with the venue and caterer

  2. Book in for Bride and Groom relaxing spa treatments

  3. Cut and die hair if needed

  4. Kitchen tea

The get-together where the guests give the bride things she will need to set up her home. Usually kitchen appliances or utensils, but can also be towels, linen, or even gardening equipment. The attending ladies can also partake in the tradition of giving her recipes so that she can start her own family recipe book.

  1. Bachelors and bachelorettes

The get-togethers for the young guests, planned by the bridal parties. Usually held separate, it can be anything from playing paintball to sipping cocktails, cake decorating or watching rugby.

  1. Get your spray tan done – if you are planning on getting it done

1 week

  1. Confirm honeymoon bookings and plans

  2. Confirm accommodation arrangements

  3. Pack for honeymoon

  4. Confirm wedding day attire

  5. Gather all necessary documents for travel

  6. Pick up formalwear

  7. Have one final phone call with each of your suppliers

  8. Have your dress steamed

  9. Pre-wedding relaxing pampering

1 day

  1. Go through the list of things to do and make sure all bases are covered

If you are entrusting a friend or family member to assist with the coordination on the day, you should have a “training” meeting with them now. Give them all of the info, the timelines, etc.

  1. Pack wedding day emergency kit

In short, a small kit that contains essentials that you might need if an emergency happens on your wedding day. This kit usually contains things like lipstick, hairpins, pain pills, water, mints, etc. For a complete list of what should be in your emergency kit, look out for next week’s post!

  1. Get manicure and pedicure

  2. Take a steamy and relaxing bath

  3. Put wedding attire and accessories together

  4. Give rings to best man

  5. Try to get a good night’s sleep

On the day

  1. Have a good breakfast, and make sure you eat something while getting ready. Avoid carb-rich foods, sugars, and caffeine

  2. Get hair and makeup done

  3. Have someone check reception site, or check it yourself if time and rules permit

  4. Get dressed for the wedding

  5. Have candid photos taken with family

We hope that you can use this list of things to do to give you a clear plan of action. We wish you and your partner a beautiful, calm and magical wedding which will be the perfect starting point of your life together.

Want the planner? Then get it here

Bridal shower games

Bridal showers, also known as kitchen teas, is that one get-together that Stripes really dislike. She says if you want to start a war, put ladies from 2 different families and friends who all feel they are the BEST friend together in a room, armed with mimosas and toilet paper. Sooner rather than later something ugly starts to rear its head, and if not contained it will break free and take over. Her solution? Play games. But not the run of the mill, same old same old games. Be creative to get the guests interacting. That way they will be too busy to nitpick and pick fights.

Here are Stripes’ suggestions for actual-fun games to play at a bridal shower:

  1. Bingo gift game

Download and print our blank bingo cards. Give one to each guest, then have them fill in the blank blocks with the wedding gifts they think the bride will receive. Then when the bride starts to open her gifts, guests mark off their bingo card as gifts are opened. The centre block with a heart is a free space. The first guest to get five in a row wins the game.

Bingo gift game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Romantic movie quotes

Download and print the game worksheet. On it, there are quotes from popular romantic movies. Give each guest a worksheet and have them fill out as many movie titles as they recognize and know. The highest number of correct answers wins. If this is too difficult, you can make 2 columns – one with the quote and in random order, the other one with movie titles. Guests then have to match column 1 with column 2. (On our sheet, the answers are: Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Moulin Rouge, Notting Hill, Casablanca, in that order)

Romantic movie quote game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Name that tune

Create a playlist of 12 love songs. Hand out a game page to each guest, then play a snippet of each song. The guests must guess who sang it. To make it even more difficult, they can give the title of the song as well. Guest with the most correct answers wins.

Name that tune game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Bride and groom trivia

Print the trivia page, then give the guests a set amount of time to write down their answers. As easy as that!

Bride and groom trivia game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Hitched or not

Download and print the list of celebrity couples. Give each guest one, and ask them to guess whether the couple is married or not. Guest with the most correct answers wins.

Hithed or not game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Wedding catchphrases

In this Charade-like game, guests must divide into teams, each team getting a pack of catch-phrase cards. The teams take turns to draw a card and then act out the word or catchphrase on the card. The rest of the team must guess. Normal charade rules apply. Download our catch-phrase cards here.

Catch phrase game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Favourite memories

Guests write their favourite memory with the bride on the memory card, which the bride then reads out loud to see if she can guess who wrote the memory.

Favourite memory game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. What’s in the bag – pay attention

Take a bag and fill it with items that the bride might need to pack for her honeymoon. You need 15 to 20 items to make it work. Give each guest a piece of paper. In front of the guests, take out each item one at a time and show it to the guests, replacing it bag into the bag once shown. After all the items have been shown, give the guests one minute to write down as many items as they can remember. Most correct answers win. Give the bag to the bride as your gift to her.

  1. Drawing game

This is a twist on Pictionary. Download and print the game board and word cards. You will need whiteboards or poster boards, something to stand them on, markers and dice. Follow the instructions on the game board, and enjoy!

Drawing game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. He said/she said

Interview the bride and groom in advance, asking them a series of questions in order to generate the quotes needed for the list. Download and print the game card, writing in your quotes of choice. Copy as many as you need, then hand them out to guests. They must decide whether the bride or groom said the applicable quote. Most correct answers win.

He said she said game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Who did what

Similar to the game above, this time you make a list of random, generic or very specific statements or acts and guests simply decide who did the specific thing. From who said “I love you” first to who is a better cook. Most correct answers wins.

  1. Bridal details

For this fun game, ask the bride to leave the room, then pass out the game sheets. Guests must try to answer the questions to the best of their abilities, most correct answers wins.

Bridal details game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Find the guest

A great icebreaker, this game is sure to get the guests interacting. Basically, you give guests a few prompts and they must find a guest who fits the scenario or description. A few examples:

Find the guest who:

  • Has been married ten years or longer
  • Speaks a foreign language
  • Has won $50 or more in the last 12 months
  • Has more than three kids
  • Is wearing blue shoes
  • Has more than three pets
  • Vacationed within the last three months
  1. Celebrity wives

Make a list of famous celebrity wives, then write each name on a single card. As guests arrive they must pick a card from the pile, then tape that card to their forehead without peeking. Other guests must then describe who she is until she guesses her celeb – and act like that celeb for the rest of the party.

  1. What’s in your cell phone: the wedding edition

For this game, the guests will whip out their phones for a cellular scavenger hunt. The ladies will search their phones and get points for each item that they can find. For example, one to five points for things like:

  • A selfie
  • A video
  • A text from the bride-to-be
  • Having a screen saver of a person
  • A photo of the bride-to-be

Or even more points for:

  • A battery life of more than 50%
  • Having zero unread emails
  • Having the wedding date saved in your calendar
  • A photo of the bridal shower

What’s on your phone game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Pen a poem

Grab a blank sheet of paper and ask a guest to write a single line of a romantic poem dedicated to the couple. Then fold the paper over, hiding the guest’s phrase, and pass the paper to another guest with the same instructions. Make your way through all the guests, then, in your best dramatic stage voice, read the (disjointed) poem the brides’ guests have dedicated to her great love.

  1. Bridal scattergories

With cute wedding-related prompts like “honeymoon locations” and “something blue,” it’s a clever way to entertain guests during party gaps. There are four lettered rounds (“L,” “O,” “V,” and “E”) with points awarded for creativity, originality and length — the winner has to earn the most points!

  1. Cake decorating contest

Give each guest a mini cake or a cupcake, with all the needed supplies, and ask them to decorate it in the style and colour that they think the wedding will be. The bride judges who win.

Any fun games that you would like to add?

How to host a stress-free party (without breaking the bank or going insane)

We are at that time of the year when we flitter from one party to the next. Life is busy and hurried, and inevitably your turn comes around to hosting. But hosting does not come naturally to all, and even if it does, being tired and busy can take its toll. So when you have to host your family or friends or colleagues or whoever, use this quick guide to ensure you take the stress out of impress, and enjoy the party as much as the guests.

1. Simplify

The main purpose of this website – simplify your life. When hosting, make everything simple. Invite only as many people as you can comfortably host. The more people you have over, the harder it becomes to keep everyone happy. Work out the menu with dishes that you can prepare in advance, or that need minimal fuss before service. Use shortcuts if there are any – buy pastry instead of making, order in a cake if you don’t have time (or skills) to bake, etc. Even better, get caterers in to do it for you…

2. Have a budget

Have a budget and stick to it. Decide how you want to divide the budget – how much are you spending on food, on drinks, on flowers, etc.

3. Pick a suitable date and invite your guests well in advance

Pick a date that that will give you enough time to plan. If you normally only get off from work very late on a Friday, then rather opt for a Saturday. If Saturdays are just crazy, then go for a Sunday lunch. Long weekends, weekends with major sporting events, school exam times; all of these events can limit the number of guests who would be able to attend. Avoid conflicting dates and times.

4. Do as much as you can before the guests arrive (even the day before)

Clean the house, set the table, make the punch, chill the wine, prep the veggies. Do anything that will not spoil or go bad overnight. Try and get as much of the running around work done as possible.

5. Enlist help

We are not all great at everything. If you cannot cook to save your life, order in. If your taste in music makes people want to sleep instead of boogie, ask a friend. Delegating a few tasks to friends or family who offered is key – ask them to pick up the ice, for instance.

6. Decide on the bar menu

Decide what you will be offering, and what you want guests to bring themselves. If you are giving wine, make sure that it is chilled. Have a signature cocktail in mind? Plan it out and ensure all the ingredients are available and ready. Bonus tip: pick a cocktail that can be made in bulk, and served in a jug, e.g. margarita, mojitos, pina coladas, etc. Steer clear of drinks that must be made and served immediately such as martinis, sex on the beach and so forth. You do not have to offer a full bar, usually, juice, water, and wine are sufficient. Set up the bar area the day before. On the day, bring out the ice and cold drinks and voila! Done. Bonus bonus tip: don’t have enough fridge space to chill the drinks or enough freezer space for all the ice? Use your washing machine! Fill your washing machine with ice and chill the drinks in there. As the ice melts the machine will drain the water leaving you with no mess and no water to empty the next day.

7. Create a playlist

Music is essential to set the tone and mood of a party and is also a key way of getting your guests to relax and interact. If you do not own enough music to make a sufficient playlist, make use of a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music – often these services give you a period of use at no charge.

8. If kids are going to be attending, set up a dedicated area for them to play in

If you can keep the kids happy, you can keep the parents happy, and then you are another step closer to a no-stress event. The adults will be able to enjoy the party a lot more if they know their kids are occupied, fed, and taken care of. Have a plan B for when the kids become restless and bored, for example, have a movie ready to be played or some other activity.

9. Let the guests serve themselves

Have a bar area set up with all of the things your guests might need to help themselves. This way you do not have to play bartender all night. Same with the food – set up buffet-style so that guests can informally help themselves.

Planning a party can seem like a daunting task, but having a clear idea of what you need to do and when you have to do it by will keep you organized. If you are organized, you are calm and stress-free. And if you are stress-free then you can enjoy your party. When working out your own timeline, double the time that you think something will take, and add extra time in for those unexpected surprises. And remember to schedule enough time to get ready yourself. Some of the items that you need to keep track of:

• Planning and inviting

• Following up on RSVPs

• Shopping

• Prepping and cleaning

• Decorating

Event planning 101: How to plan a successful year-end function

Your company year-end function is usually the highlight for most of the employees, and for management, it should be as well. It should be approached and handled with much care, and spending as much resources on the event is not necessary, it is imperative. The company has this one chance, this one opportunity, to not only thank the employees for a great year that is passed, but to also ensure they tackle the following year with gusto, enthusiasm and eagerness. It is one of the fastest and cheapest (over the long term) ways of building staff loyalty. As with customers, keeping a loyal staff member costs almost 5 times less than looking for and training a new staff member. So even if budgets are tight, spare a few rands to make your employees feel appreciated.

Because it is such a big deal, the event must be properly planned. By properly planning you are improving your chances of meeting the expectations of your number one asset – your employees. With any function, the keywords are “fresh” and “exciting”. With a year-end function, you can also add “appreciated” and “spoilt”.

So how do you properly plan? Firstly, a successful function is usually conceptualized at least 3 months before the intended date. In most organisations there are a lot of red tape, so you need to have enough time to get the needed approval, budget allocation, RSVPs and more. Most popular venues are also quickly fully booked, and if you have your heart set on one of those you need to secure the date as early in the year as possible. If you alone are responsible for the decisions, then your job is a bit easier compared to organisations where a whole team is responsible. If you have a team, then get together as soon as possible. Make a list of everything that needs to be done, sourced or planned together with a timeframe, and divide the responsibilities. Identify a broad theme to work in and then allow each team member or division to get ideas for whatever falls under their banners. If you have a deadline, everyone can present their suggestions and a decision can be made. From there the venue and suppliers can be confirmed and finalized. Remember to clearly state the budget, as well as how the money will be allocated to the various elements. Make sure your team understand they need to stick to the budget.

What are the elements you need to take into consideration?:

  1. Budget: this is a tricky one, especially in our current economic situation. A company cannot spend lots of money on a function if they plead poverty when it comes to bonuses or increases. Neither can they not do anything – it is bad for morale. Strike a balance between spending money that you do not have, and giving the staff an event that is special and well thought out. If you can only afford a braai, make it the best braai ever. Make sure your team is aware of the budget, as well as the suppliers that you source. Demand contracts before signing off on anything, and read the fine print.
  2. Venue: as part of the quotation process, make sure to get the answers on paper to important questions such as after-hours penalties, noise levels, cut off times for music, last rounds, do they accept cash, how long before the event must you give your final guest count, what are their deposit policy, when is final payment due, do you have exclusive use of the space, what is included, etc. Also remember to discuss possible issues such as maximum and minimum guest counts, dietary requirements, accessibility if you have disabled employees, safety and security, and if there will be management present on the day of the function.
  3. Date: Since most year-end functions are hosted in silly season – the time of year that is usually ridiculously busy for the hospitality industry, it can sometimes be tough to get a suitable date that is also available at your venue of choice. How to overcome this? 1 – book as early in the year as possible, and 2 – be as flexible with your date as possible. Even consider hosting having the event in October, thus avoiding the Nov/Dec rush.
  4. Theme and décor: Having a theme is one of the sure-fire ways of ensuring the event is fun. But, keep in mind that it should not be expensive or difficult for guests to adhere to the theme. For example, dressing up according to Titanic can be difficult. Then rather go for a beach or fun-in-the-sun theme. Also, a successful theme does not have to extend to the guests. It should be simple, fun, and consistent as it is merely used to set the tone for the event.
  5. Entertainment: Largely deterimined by the budget and the theme, entertainment can be a major contributor to how successful an event is. Live music is a great way to set the mood. Having a karaoke bar brings in a fun activity. Playing games is wonderful for getting the guests to interact. Be creative and come up with something that has not been done before.
  6. Timeline: This includes the planning timeline – when must what be done, as well as the timeline on the day of the event. When will décor be done, when will guests start to arrive, what is the sequence of events for the day, what time will they eat, etc. Ensure the venue has a backup plan if the unforeseen happen such as the guests are delayed, or the program finishes a lot earlier than planned.
  7. Food: The food offering should be selected and tailored to suit the group as well as the tone and mood of the event that you are planning. If you want a relaxed, more informal event with lots of socializing, having a cocktail or pairing can work great. For bigger, more diverse groups a buffet will most probably be better suited. For smaller, more structured and formal events a plated meal will be better received. Ensure the venue can meet your expectations, and if you cannot find a reliable review to confirm that the food is up to standard, ask if it might be possible to have a tasting.
  8. Drinks: If the budget is not extensive, opt for a welcome drink and something on the tables for the guests to enjoy while listening to speeches or having their starters. Juice or flavoured water works, and offers an incentive to stay hydrated. For bigger budgets, keep in mind that a bar tab is rarely seen as a limit, but rather as a challenge. Never in our years of doing events have we had an event with an unfinished bar tab. Instead, it is usually lifted at least twice during the course of the event. Be specific about what is allowed on the tab and what not, and double check how other drinks will be handled – must guests order from the bar, will they have individual tabs, is it a “pay-as-you-drink” system etc. as well as payment methods and be sure to give this info to your guests.
  9. Transport: arranging transport for the employees is another way of ensuring the function is a success. You also increase the number of attendees and prolong the function with a few hours giving staff ample time and opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves.

The weight that we think each element should carry in terms of the budget:

Food: 40% – if the food is unsatisfactory, the whole event will be a disaster. You can make a less-than-beautiful venue look great with a few cheap décor tricks, you can negotiate on drink prices, and even entertainment you can wangle. But if the food is bad there is no way that you can fix it.

Venue: 20% – when choosing a venue, don’t stare yourself blind against the venue fee. Rather consider what value the venue will provide in terms of ease to work with, willingness to help, what is included in the fee, how adaptable is the venue, times and availability etc.

Entertainment: 10% – you do not have to spend your entire budget on entertainment. Depending on your theme and goal, the entertainment can be anything from lawn games for an outdoor event to a DJ for a late-afternoon event. You can consider hiring a band or singer, or something more interactive like a drumming session, cooking lesson, wine pairing or even something more adventurous and active like a treasure hunt or Amazing race. Sometimes you can DIY the entertainment, or get a cheaper alternative.

Transport: 10% – getting your guests there and back safely should be of concern to you and your team. Renting a bus or taxi for the day is usually very affordable, especially when weighed against the brownie points your company is bound to receive from the employees.

Drinks: 15% – ensuring your guests are well hydrated is one of the best ways to make sure they have a good time. Just remember to have a good variety of nonalcoholic drinks as well! If you decide on a bar tab, be very specific on what is allowed and what not e.g. only local beers, softdrinks and wine, and be firm on the cut-off amount.

Décor: 5% – this should not be a major budget item. Many of the items can be DIY’ed, such as table numbers, invitations, name cards, and even center pieces. Again, the costs involved with décor refers back to choosing your theme strategically.

My biggest tip to planning a successful function? Get a professional event planner to help. Most venues have in-house event planners and coordinators, make use of their expertise. More often than not they can assist with packages that include most of your needed items, they can negotiate better prices from their own suppliers, or even help you with items they already have thus costing you a fraction of what it would otherwise. People tend to think that it is too expensive to hire a planner, but the value that they can add makes it out and out worth it.