Recently my family and I attended the wedding of one of our relatives.  I’ve attended many weddings, anniversaries, and other milestone events and I have to say this last wedding has gone on record, at least in our family, as the worst wedding ever; or to quote my 7 year old grandson, the ring bearer, the event was an “epic fail”.

Just about everything that could go wrong did.  Starting with natural (lightning strike) and domestic (busted pipes) disasters at the couple’s home days before the nuptials, last minute venue changes for the bridal shower a week prior to the wedding, canceled hair dresser and missing wedding flowers on the day of, culminating in a power outage at the reception venue for 4 hours during the party (the wedding was held at a Chinese Buffet on the Fourth of July in 100+ degree Texas heat)

One can say the wedding was memorable, it will be dissected and discussed by family members for many years.  The discussions started most likely at the church when the bride, missing her bouquet and struggling solo to open the door of the bride room while holding up her heavy train, failed to follow the bridal party down the aisle on cue, prompting the priest to severely demand the bride’s appearance ASAP.

Having been assigned a part in the wedding I was seated on the second pew giving me a prime spot to witness the beginning of this fiasco, ( in keeping with Filipino wedding traditions I was appointed veil sponsor, it was a surprise, I found out when I saw my name on the wedding invitation).

I’ve listened and spoken with many family members about this wedding.  The consensus seems to be that it’s a good thing the bride took events in stride without having a major meltdown, and the fiasco was due to a combination of poor planning, lack of coordination, and poor judgement by the “wedding planner” aka the mother of the groom.  I’ve heard it said that the poor woman lacked experience and was overwhelmed by the responsibility of planning and hosting such a big event (the guest list numbered over 100).

Having been privy to much of the planning, thanks to my grapevine aka my mother, I tend to agree but fail to understand. They had over a year to plan this event.  Of course lightning strikes and busted pipes are beyond any wedding planner’s control, but there’s no excuse for arriving to church a half hour late or forgetting the flowers in the refrigerator!

My mother maintains that limited funds made planning difficult, there was not enough funds to hire a professional planner.  I disagree, funds do play a major role, but in my opinion planning and research are more important, successful events can be pulled off on a shoestring budget.  It’s really a matter of deciding what you want and how much work you’re willing to spend to achieve your goal.  In my opinion the couple and the MOG had high expectations but didn’t do their  research, didn’t have a viable plan, and didn’t invest enough time and effort into the event (out of town relatives were recruited to decorated the reception venue the day before the wedding).

My daughters, daughter-in-law, and I have successfully planned their weddings, bridal and baby showers, and more.  Recently we planned and hosted my mother’s 80th. Birthday Party, which was held the day before this notorious wedding.  Our events came with their own issues and drama including a maid of honor quitting 2 weeks before the wedding, firing the wedding planner a week before the day of, and a last minute venue change for a destination wedding; each issue caused stress, but each issue was overcome and all our events were successful.

Over the years we’ve developed our own keys to planning and hosting successful events.  Of course even the best plans can go awry; one can’t control the weather, and other acts of God, nor can one consistently predict people’s emotions and actions, but planning, hard work, common sense, and a healthy sense of humor have helped us pull off all of our events so far.

In our world planning doesn’t begin by choosing a theme, colors, venue, or menu; it begins well before that.  Here are our 5 keys to hosting a successful event.

1.  BUDGET!  Unless you are lucky enough to have unlimited funds for your event setting a budget is an absolute must.  It should be the first decision that is made, budget determines guest count, venue, food, beverage, decor; in short everything to do with the event.  Discuss the budget with everyone who will be paying for the event, parents, partner, friends, etc.; decide on a budget that is comfortable for all involved and determine each person’s share. Appoint someone to keep track of expenses and make sure you stay on budget.  If your budget will allow you to hire an event planner he or she can help you stay on budget.

2.  SET A GOAL.  Take the time to decide on your goal for the event.  Choose 3 words that will best describe what you want your event to be; memorable, fun, romantic, exciting, etc.

3.  WISH LIST.  Make a list of ALL the things you need and want to achieve your goal; venue, food, beverage, cocktail hour, lounges, cake, DJ, live band, string quartet, favors, etc.  Categorize the items as Non-negotiable and negotiable. This is important if you have to cut out certain items to fit your budget.  For my daughter’s Las Vegas wedding she wanted her party favors to be individual dice shaped cakes, they cost $15 each and were non-negotiable. She also wanted a martini ice slide that would have added several thousand dollars to the bar cost, that was negotiable and was ultimately eliminated.

4.  RESEARCH!  Get online, make phone calls, and make enquiries about everything that is on your wish list. Find out how much each item will cost.  Ask questions, get written estimates, and get all the details, you don’t want last minute surprises. If you’re considering hosting the event in a restaurant, hotel, or party venue you will need to know how much the service charges and taxes will be.  A $100 per head dinner may end up costing $135+ per person once service charges and taxes are added, that’s an extra $1350+ if your guest count is 100.  Compile a vendor list and compare prices. Know what
your choices are; hotel venue vs. a catered event at a rented community center, 3-tiered cake vs,
cupcake display, DJ vs. Live Band, plated vs. buffet, etc.

5.  EDIT THE WISH LIST.  Once you know what things will cost get out your wish list and price everything; add it up and see if it fits your budget.  If it does, great!  It’s now time to roll up your sleeves and sign contracts, pay deposits, and work on the details.

If you’re over budget then it’s time to edit the list.  Cut out things that you’ve marked negotiable, do you really need that cute harem style pink tent for the cocktail hour?  Or look for cheaper alternatives, for instance can you DIY those favors instead of buying them for $5 each?  Many times you can have the things on your wish list if you’re willing and able to put in the time and effort to make things yourself or with the help of friends and family.

Once you’ve gone down these 5 steps the fun and hard work begin.  You may run into snags along the way so patience and a good sense of humor will keep you on track!