• Beth Hernandez-Casey

How to Plan Your Party Budget

So, you’ve decided to host a party! Now what? Whether you’re planning a birthday party for kids, adults, a housewarming, a halloween party, whatever, you will need at a minimum to track your expenses. If you are like most people, you will also need to limit your total spend to a specific number.

Building a budget helps you understand how much you can spend on each aspect of the event you are planning. Once you have numbers down, you can start to play around with how you want to spend your party money. You can then start to see how spending more in one category will force you to decrease spending in another area.

See below for a summary of common costs associated with hosting a social event. For each, decide how much or little you want to spend. This list will help you plan so that you avoid being surprised later on by unexpected expenses. Every party is unique so the items below might not apply to your event.



Expenses to Consider


Space Rental

Unless you are hosting a house party, you might need to pay a rental fee to your selected venue. Restaurants, bars, hotels and venues with on-site catering will usually waive a rental fee for a guaranteed minimum spend on food and drinks. This amount is called a Food & Beverage Minimum and is calculated prior to tax and gratuities. Plan for about 30% over the minimum spend when estimating total cost for catered food.


Furniture and Seating

Wherever you end up hosting your event you will need seating for your guests. Even if you are hosting a cocktail hour, you will need some furniture like cocktail tables. If you are hosting at your home or in your backyard, you will definitely want to consider tenting, umbrellas, tables, and chairs depending on how many people you are expecting. Almost all rented tables will need linens to go with them.


Decor

Every party needs some kind of decor! How much or how little is up to you, but even the smallest investment can really transform a space. Table cloths, centerpieces, wall or ceiling hangings, candles or fairy lights are all budget friendly decor options that are just delightful. Wall and ceiling hangings like paper lanterns help to fill outdoor space or rooms with tall ceilings and are super inexpensive. Balloon arches and bouquets are also a great way to add a little something.


Audio Visual

Every party needs music, even if you aren’t hosting a dance party. This is definitely something to think about. Will you have music indoors, outdoors, or both? Do you have speakers you can sync up to a phone, tablet or computer? If you’re hosting a large party like a graduation or anniversary party, you might want to consider hiring a DJ or renting large speakers.


Lighting

If you’re hosting an evening event, turn off-overhead lights. Instead create an ambiance for your evening with lamps, tea-lights, candles, up-lights, and string lights. I like to use a mix of electric and standard candles. About ¾ of the candles I use will be electric with some strategically placed standard candles. This tricks your guests into thinking that all the flickering lights are candles without the risk of having 30 candles burning, or worrying about replacing tea lights


Entertainment

Drinking, eating, dancing, and schmoozing are all great pastimes. But sometimes, an occasion calls for some additional entertainment. There are options for all budgets, you just need to decide what you want to invest. Roving entertainers are amazing! They come to your guests and as professional entertainers they keep interactions really fun. Roving entertainers can include illusionists, magicians, palm readers, even roving trivia hosts. Some of these options can be booked for as little as $200 or as much as $3,000. It all depends on the length of the party and who you book. If this is something you want, carve out some of your budget and do some research.


Food and Beverage

This is a big one. Food and Beverage is often the largest line item of any event. Again, you can go economical on this (pizzas, DIY cheese boards, etc.) or elaborate: catered event with staff, tray passed hors ‘devours or interactive stations. But one this is certain, if your party falls over an official meal time (midday, or evening) you are expected to provide food. Not having enough food or drinks can make a party vibe go south really quickly! It is a good idea to have finger foods and snacks available as soon as guests arrive with the main dishes available 60-90 minutes into the event.


Linens, Flatware and Cutlery

You can rent your linens, flatware, and cutlery from an event or party rental company. You can also opt out for disposable items. Just make sure you have the appropriate flatware for what you are serving. If you are making kebabs, you can get away with just providing small plates and napkins. If you’re serving up a harvest salad however, you need to make sure you have forks!


Favors

Party favors are by no means a requirement for any party. They are most common for big events like anniversaries, weddings, or baby showers, but can be delightful for all types of events, including casual events. Favors can be super simple: a piece of fancy chocolate, a small bag of cookies (store bought is totally ok!). Or they can be extravagant, like a pre-ordered custom item like mug or canvas bag. They can be somewhere in-between too, I love custom beer koozies! But it is up to you to decide if you want to give them and what you want to give.


If you know you will have a lot of food, or if you are preparing a candy table, you can buy small containers so guests can take some of the leftovers. This doubles as both a party favor and help with minimizing potential waste.


Happy Planning!

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