Inventory Lists

Inventory lists aren’t the sexiest topic in event planning, but these documents are essential, and a massive safety net to ensure all of your ducks are in a row.

So You’ve Placed an Order, Now What?

Once Event Goals are defined, the Event Deck is underway and your first order is placed, it’s time to start an inventory list.

Open an Excel spreadsheet (my first choice) or a Word document, and create headers for each section of the event. Think in terms of flow, such as the Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, Dinner, and Dancing.

Then, create subcategories for vignettes. If the photo booth is living in the dancing component of the event, and you’ve ordered props, include that as a subsection under Dancing. Or, if you’re planning a dessert display, and ordered specialty tiered cake stands or donut holders, include that as a subsection of Dinner.

Don’t simply keep like items together. If you’ve ordered three different types of cocktail napkins and plan to use them in tandem with certain parts of the event, list them separately under the subsection of the event they are intended for use.

Let’s use a brief example of an inventory list for a Jewish wedding ceremony with an outdoor venue. The below list includes items the couple may be responsible for providing.

Guest Arrival– Yarmulkes
– Basket for Yarmulkes (Ushers to Distribute)
– Parasols
– Basket for Parasols (Self-Standing)
– Fans
– Serving Tray for Fans (Staff to Distribute)
– Benchers (Ushers to Distribute)
– Candles
Under the Chuppah– Tallit
– Ketubah
– A-Frame for Ketubah
– Wine Glass
– Kosher Wine
– Breaking Glass
– Small Table
– Matches for Candles

From the above example, it’s easy to see how quickly items can accumulate on an inventory list. It’s not just about listing the item itself, it’s also about listing what vessel the item will live in, if it needs to sit atop something like a table or be distributed by someone like an usher or staff member. The process of creating an inventory list is a vital part of sorting out these details, to ensure everything you need is being accounted for.

Tailor the Inventory List

Adjust the format of the inventory list to fit the complexity of your event, so that it accounts for all moving parts.

Depending on the scope and scale of the event, the inventory list could be much more extensive.

Let’s say rental orders were involved; the tables ordered from one source, the linens derived from another, and all serviceware was ordered from a different provider. We would then insert an additional column to add the source of each item.

Or, let’s say the above list was not being provided by the couple alone. Perhaps the Rabbi was supplying the Ketubah, the couple was responsible for the guest arrival items, and their parents were providing some items for under the chuppah, but the venue agreed to supply the table and frame for the Ketubah. This would also garner the need for an additional column to list the source.

Turn it into a Checklist

Put the final inventory list to use when you start to receive or group together supplies. Don’t rely on order confirmations and shipment notifications alone to account for inventory. Make sure it arrives in-hands before officially checking it off the list.

On the event day, the inventory list can be a great place of reference when gathering all the items for a vignette, or when walking through to ensure all items are accounted for.

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Seven Ways to Prepare for an Amazing Event

When you think of a successful event, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the canap├ęs during cocktail hour (one of my favorite parts), the great entertainment that kept you on the dance floor until the bitter end, or the design that transported you to a different time and place. If it caught your attention, just know that the devil was most certainly in the details, and thoughtful planning during the lead time was key. Follow these seven ways to prepare for an amazing event, and create experiences that resonate with your guests, long after your party concludes.

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Create a Deck

Event Decks, usually created on PowerPoint, serve as a visual representation of an event from start to finish.

They include inspiration images that help flush out concepts before plans are put into action. Decks later house pictures of purchases and inventory grouped together to create vignettes, and act as a centralized place of reference on the overall design scheme.

For a deep dive on how to build an event deck and the advantageous of creating one, click here.

Imagine the Event Flow

Picture the event as if it were actually happening (talking through it out loud or with a friend can be helpful too). I usually sit down at a computer with the event deck on presentation mode, and pitch each slide from start to finish.

As I take myself through the flow, I consider the amount of time and labor required for set up, and for transitions during the event itself. I pose questions like, “who’s doing that,” “how is that happening,” or “when would this make the most sense,” and jot down notes on logistics.

Walking through the flow provides an opportunity to anticipate guest needs, and prepare for possible scenarios that guests may encounter. This reduces the chances of troubleshooting during the event itself.

Own Your Timeline

This is arguably the most important document in the planning process, and essential to the success of an event. It typically kicks off when load in or set up for an event begins, and ends when the last vendor departs and strike concludes.

Timelines don’t only keep your event partners, venue and planning team running on schedule during an event, they also act as a steady stream of consciousness when deciding on the best time for deliveries, when a space should be show-ready for your photographer to take room shots, or when a toast should begin.

Owning your timeline means that you’ll make thoughtful and intentional decisions as to how the event unfolds, in a way that creates a more enjoyable experience for you and your guests.

It also means that on the event day, you may not even need to reference the timeline because you know it all by heart (though, if you’re like me, you’ll probably check it anyway).

Maintain an Inventory List

It can be overwhelming to track and account for purchases once the ball is rolling and dozens of orders have been placed.

I’ve made the mistake of relying on email confirmations and shipment notifications alone to check the box that an item has been taken care of, and remove it from my to-do list without a second thought. It’s then frustrating when an item doesn’t appear in the box I expected it to, and I need to problem solve quickly to get that item in time for an event.

Queue the solution; an Inventory List that acts as a safety net, to ensure nothing slips through the cracks when it comes time to build an event environment.

Stage Event Materials

Stage event supplies all in one place, and organize them by section.

Think in terms of the event environment, and which items comprise each vignette. Keep supplies like food and beverage related items together (cocktail napkins, tableware, drink dispensers, straws, signature drink signage).

It’s helpful to reference your Event Deck to confirm where each item is intended to live. This allows for a turnkey set up process on the event day itself, and eliminates confusion or extra time trying to sort out where something is.

If space allows, take this one step further, and organize materials sequentially to coincide with the event flow. Start with items that might comprise a welcome moment and represent guest arrival, and move towards the next category that’s specific to your event, ending with guest gifts. This is a great way to triple check that all items are accounted for, and reveal any last minute purchases that need to be made.

Get Ahead of It

Use post-it notes to identify the purpose of each container, vessel, or tray. Unbox new shipments, remove labels, and assemble as much as you can in advance. Check off tasks sooner rather than later, and the days leading up to the event will be a breeze.

Group together your outfit in one section of the closet a few weeks out from the event. Remove the tags from any new clothes, and wash or dry clean, and iron or steam garments as necessary.

Gather shoes, jewelry and other accessories in a dedicated location for easy access on the event day. Make sure to try it all on, to identify any adjustments that need to be made.

Set Calendar Notifications

For Vendors: As soon as you sign a contract, plug the payment due dates into your calendar. Receive alerts when final payments are due to event partners, or when a cutoff date falls to make a decision (such as when the guest list is due to the calligrapher, or when menu selections are due to the caterer). This safeguards against incurring rush fees, or late payment fees imposed by vendors for missing contract deadlines.

For quick reference on the event day, add calendar entries of delivery windows for rentals, food and beverage, ice or any other deliveries that you anticipate. I always include the main contact and driver’s cell phone numbers in the notes section, incase a delivery is running late.

For Yourself: Build in reminders for personal tasks that can otherwise fall to the wayside when setting up an event. Carve out time for coffee breaks, lunch, an outfit change and refresh before the event starts to make sure these things actually happen!

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

Read more Event Planning advice.