8 Final Touches for a Polished Event
By: Teri Leiter
You’ve been working hard for months to plan the perfect event and the big day has finally arrived. I have learned so much over my career in catering and event planning about the crucial time crunch just before an event. I’d love to share a few of my best practices to be sure all of your hard work shines!
- Bring a little extra. There’s a fine line between being prepared and going overboard so listen to your gut. I always bring a few extra linens, especially if they are a specific color, to accommodate an extra last-minute table request, an accidental spill during set-up, or even an unfortunately aimed bird poop (yes, this has happened!). I also bring extra décor and plants to add to empty spaces or unappealing edges.
- Send clear directions and maps to your vendors and guests. It’s not a party until your guests arrive so don’t sacrifice the start of your event to poorly-given directions. Most people these days will use Google Maps or GPS to find you so be sure to use these Apps in a test run. I still recommend providing turn-by-turn directions for the party-goer who may have a dead cell phone battery or poor reception. Put noticeable décor at the entrance so guests know when they’ve found the right place!
- Take a final look at your event as if you were a guest. Where do you put your coat and purse? Is it easy to get your bearings or do you need signage? Looking for these unfinished edges will improve guest experience and make your life as a host much easier.
- Gather the troops. Giving staff, vendors, and volunteers a “big picture” overview before the event starts creates a sense of ownership and purpose. Review the timeline, key points of contact, and goal of the event. For example, if you’re hosting a fundraiser for a particular cause, sharing the meaning behind the event may inspire your helpers to go the extra mile.
- Set the temperature and lighting to appropriate levels. Keep in mind that bodies create heat, so consider leaving the room a few degrees cooler than comfortable when empty. If you need to change lighting during the event, be sure to set a reminder or delegate to a responsible staff member.
- Be ready earlier than the official start time of your event. You probably won’t notice a few late arrivals but the guest that shows up 20 minutes early can really throw you off if you’re not prepared. Be sure to take some time prior to guest arrival to change out of your “set-up” clothes, take a breather, and relax. I always recommend building in a time buffer before the start of your soiree so you feel excited (not annoyed!) when your guests arrive.
- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Be sure you have contact information for someone who can fix a blown power breaker or solve a plumbing issue. Establish a form of communication (cell phones or walkie talkies work great) for the main points of contact for the event. Have a plan to safety and effectively evacuate guests in case of an emergency.
- Have a cleanup plan. Many people planning an event make the mistake of stopping their efforts at the conclusion of the event. Be sure it is clear as to who removes what and by when. For example, who is responsible for trash? When does the facility expect all vendors and equipment to be off site? This extra attention to the end of the day will save tons of frustration and make clean up a breeze!
Thanks for reading! Best of luck with your events and please post feedback or your special tips to our Facebook Page!
Until next time,
“No Sweat” Planning for your Summer Event
by: Teri Leiter
Summer is one of my favorite times of year to invite family and friends to the house for a laid-back, outdoor celebration. When the Leiter family gathers, there is no shortage of great food, hearty laughter, and fantastic stories. When the Leiter family gathers, there is also no shortage of hungry mouths to feed! How do you handle getting organized for your summer gatherings? I have gained some helpful insights from my career in catering and would love for you to share your ideas on our Facebook page!
First and foremost, food safety is the priority. High temperatures and outdoor seating require careful attention to the safety of your guests. Try to avoid dishes that contain ingredients that spoil easily. Can’t imagine a picnic without your signature macaroni salad? Place bowls or cookie sheets filled with ice under dishes that contain dairy or shellfish to keep them chilled throughout the evening. If there’s ever any doubt that something has been out too long, throw it away.
Keep the bugs at bay. Make sure you have lids and covers in place to keep pests away while your guests enjoy your summer fare. If you live in a particularly buggy area, you may consider treating your lawn with a repellent the day prior to your event. Citronella candles and torches are a visually appealing and effective way to repel bugs. Try to avoid scented candles, which can become overpowering!
We all know the summer weather is predictably unpredictable. There are several precautions that I recommend but none as important as to always have a Plan B. If space doesn't allow you to move your event indoors, be sure to rent or purchase a tent with sides. You’ll need a tent that allows for about 10 square feet per person for guest seating and more if additional room is needed for food service, a dance floor, etc. If rain or wind requires you to attach the sides, I recommend leaving two sides open a bit to allow air to flow. That reminds me…
Wind is not your friend. A summer breeze is perfect to cool off a warm evening but wind can turn your decor into a mess without a bit of precaution. Fasten tablecloths to the table with clips, ties, or even tape. Roll napkins around utensils, tie with a bow of ribbon, and place in a basket on your buffet table. Weigh down centerpieces with glass stones or other heavy but appealing decor. Take a peek around before your event begins and think, "What would happen if a big gust of wind came through right now?" Taking this moment to identify potential hazards may save a big headache later in the evening!
Is it your first time using a tent? Don’t worry! Having a tent is a way to ensure your guests stay cool and dry during your event. After using tents at numerous catering jobs, I have learned a few great tips to keep your guests safe. Most importantly, be sure the tent is properly staked into the ground and secure. If possible, pay the fee to have your rental company install the tent for you. At my events, I am always sure to put something in place to keep guests from tripping over tent stakes. Save their shins by placing trash cans, large potted plants, or even tennis balls over the stakes. Consider air flow and lighting when using a tent; many rental companies have easily installed fans and LED lighting readily available. Candles on guest tables create a lovely centerpiece and provide ambient lighting. Lastly, be sure to consider the time of day for your event when placing your tent to ensure the shade falls where you want it!
Have fun with seasonal fruits and vegetables. The summer is so exciting because almost everything is in season. Pay tribute to this bountiful time of year by serving salads out of hollowed melons, floating peaches in iced tea dispensers, or whipping up delicious apple-filled sangria.
However you choose to celebrate the season, don’t forget to take some time to pause and enjoy your surroundings. There are few things that I love more than watching my grandsons splash around while I relax poolside with a glass of wine. Cheers to you and your summer adventures!