Setting Goals for an Event

It’s easy to go from hatching an idea straight into party planning mode. But take pause before jumping in! Setting goals for an event will provide a form of checks and balances, and a framework for measuring success. It’s also the first step to take before building a budget.

Why Goals?

Goals are the bread and butter of the event planning process. All too often, people skip the step of defining goals for an event, which can lead to a poor outline of priorities, and negatively influence decision making.

When the vibe of a party feels off, it can often be attributed to a lack of goals that leave guests feeling like something was missing. To set an event up for success, it’s important to determine goals first, and allocate the budget accordingly.

First and Foremost

Grab a cup of coffee and make a list of the top words or phrases that embody the type of event you’re planning. Think: aesthetic, color scheme, attire, formality, the guest experience, high touch points, and impact moments or elements that excite you.

Float through Pinterest, and get inspired. Don’t limit yourself, but do look for patterns that might generate new words on your list. This is well before starting an Event Deck, to ensure you’re hitting the right notes as it’s composed.

Consider how you want guests to feel at the event. Authenticity is key here.

In the wedding space, it’s said that an event should be a representation and extension of the couple.

If the couple favors tequila, for example, we might suggest a tequila tasting station, or passed tequila shots with mini tacos on the dance floor. It fills the room with memories, storytelling and nostalgia, because it represents something specific to the couple.

It’s possible a tequila station is harmonious with your event, but if not, consider what other elements are symbolic and special to you. Put a creative twist on how those elements can translate to your event environment.

It’s the Little Things

Besides authenticity, it’s important that guests feel thought of, and well cared for during an event. Small luxuries, like flats by the dance floor, amenity trays in the restrooms, or fans and parasols at an outdoor wedding ceremony on a hot day, make guests feel important, and they are!

Your guests are all there to gather with you, as the host, and share in the celebration of something momentous in your life. Brainstorm small additions that will make guests feel more comfortable in the environment you create.

Determine What’s Most Important

Even the most extravagant events have budget limitations. It’s true, whether it’s examined from a stationery, photography, videography, entertainment, design, lighting, food and beverage, labor or venue standpoint. When travel is involved, such as airfare or ground transportation, lodging, or travel fees imposed by event partners coming in from out of town, expenses can accumulate quickly.

Every event should have a clear budget. Building that budget starts with goals, and deciding which categories are most important to achieve the desired look and feel.

A past client determined she favored photography to videography. Both were important, but she ultimately preferred an extensive photography package. We balanced the added expense in her budget by reducing the videography estimate. The goal was an output of top-tier photos, which was more important than the output of a video made with drone coverage or second shooters.

creative camera designer metal
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Put Pen to Paper

Sketch out the words and phrases that are the essence of the event. Perhaps it’s whimsical, inviting, and chic, with warm blush accents and bunches of foliage, and a very farm-to-table menu that features fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Note how the event will communicate the vibe and feelings you’d like to share with your guests.

Perhaps waitstaff will greet guests upon arrival with a welcome drink as they are escorted to an intimate cocktail hour with passed seasonal hors d’oeuvres. If food and beverage is the priority, a goal might be to find a venue that specializes in cuisine, and has an aesthetic that speaks for itself.

This example is feeling very similar to Blue Hill at Stone Barns; an amazing restaurant and event venue that is king of farm-to-table.

This marks the beginning of defining event goals. Delve into the details, and get granular with specifying exactly what the overarching goals are, with notes on how to achieve them. Let’s keep rolling with this whimsical wedding example, shall we?

Remember, goals should tie back to how you want guests to feel, what’s authentic to the host, and what the priorities are.

Create an Intimate AtmosphereGo Completely Farm-to-TableHost an Awesome Dance Party
Hire a floral designer to install large, lush arrangements, or a ceiling treatment if the venue has lofty ceilings.Choose a venue that specializes in locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.Invest in a high energy dance band.
Flood the room with candlelight of varying heights.Work with the chef to curate a menu straight from a local garden, fish market, winery, or other traceable producer of fresh meats, eggs, and veggies.Limit lounge furniture to encourage guests to stay on the dance floor, rather than take a seat.
Hire a lighting designer to install uplighting, a stage wash or pin spots to give the venue a warm glow.Offer locally sourced candles, cookies, or jams to guests as gifts upon departure. Host formalities during dinner to enjoy a separate dance portion of the evening, with zero interruptions!

Checks and Balances

The fun part is complete! Now onto a tricker topic; building and maintaining an event budget. Before jumping to the next step, look for categories that you may have found were of less importance when defining goals.

If a five tier cake can be swapped with a three tier cake, that’s a great start. Perhaps stationery is of less interest and deemed a place to save, so one could instead invest in a photo booth. If an after party was initially on the table, but it’s something that can be achieved within an awesome dance party during the wedding itself, that’s an even better discovery.

Reference the list of goals throughout the planning process, and bring them to fruition! Look for ways to balance goals with the budget by staying true to priorities.

Have a question about something specific? Ask it on my Q&A page!

Read more Event Planning advice.

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