Even the most ‘go with the flow’ party host needs some sort of event timeline to ensure that their event is properly planned and nothing is forgotten. Day-of timelines are also important and will help the host keep track of every vendor’s arrival and departure, while also making sure the food and drinks are promptly served. Whether it’s in a detailed spreadsheet or created as a note in your smartphone, timelines will help keep you organized as you plan your catered event. Here’s how to create a successful timeline for your event or party.
Six Months to One Year Before the Event
This is when you should begin planning your event. While one year prior may seem daunting for an event (other than a wedding), it really makes sense if you are having your catered event during a busy season. Think about it: There’s only about 10 weekends in the summer — and they will fill up fast. Nab your date now to ensure your event is properly attended. Here’s what else you should do during this timeframe:
- Set your date
- Select a venue, if you’re having it outside of your home
- Gather pricing information from vendors, including rentals (venue, tables/chairs/linens/tableware), catered food, decorations, entertainment, and more
- Draft a guest list
Three to Four Months Before the Event
At this point, it’s time to select a menu and work closely with the venue manager to begin choosing the details.
- Select your catering menu and sign a contract with the caterer
- Is it a sit-down event or a buffet?
- Will you have appetizers beforehand?
- Do you prefer plated desserts or an array of sweet foods?
- Create a seating or table arrangement plan with the venue manager
- Select invitations
- Will you choose paper invitations to be sent via mail?
- Will invitations be sent out via email or text?
- Sign a contract with other vendors, such as a florist and rental companies. Choose linens, chairs, tableware, and floral arrangements.
One to Two Months Before the Event
A month or two before your event, the most important part happens: inviting your guests. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting and when you’re having it (remember, certain times of the year are busier than others), expect to send out your invitations four to eight weeks before the event to ensure timely RSVPs.
- Send out invitations with a firm RSVP date
Week Prior to the Event
This is crunch time when all of the last-minute details are settled. Now that you’ve (hopefully) received all RSVPs, you can narrow down the amount of food and drink to have on hand, as well as create seating arrangements.
- Work with venue to finalize seating plans
- Write out place cards
- Call your caterer with final numbers of people; confirm the menu and time to arrive and set-up
- Call each vendor to confirm arrival time
Day-of the Event
While busy and sometimes frantic, determine a solid list of times for each vendor to arrive to set up or take down their pieces, as well as other key parts of the event. Keep a copy of your timeline with you at all times so that you know who should be doing what and when. Also, include phone numbers — especially cell phone numbers, if you have them — of each vendor so you can call or text if they are behind schedule. Finally, prepare time for you and other hosts to get ready for the party.
After the Event
After a successful event, it’s important to touch base one last time with everyone who made it possible.
- Send out thank you notes to your guests, and/or share photos of the event with them
- Write reviews for each of your vendors
Planning a catered event takes time and patience but creating a timeline and sticking to it will make the whole process a lot less stressful so that you can enjoy it as much as your guests.