Hosting The Big Event

Big events – weddings, family reunions, graduations – are fun. Family and friends come together to be together and celebrate. At the same time, for the host, big events can be stressful. Even with a lot of advance planning, the host is always the one burdened by last minute questions and emergencies. While there is no way to be 100% prepared for a large celebration, here are a few tricks that can avert some of the more common stressors.

  1. Plan in advance. This is sort of obvious, but the more you can get done beforehand, the easier the day will be. Cook and freeze meals, pack and label supplies, pre-open packaging, confirm hotel reservations, etc.
  2. Before the event, ask guests about food allergies and special needs. There’s nothing like planning a delicious spread, only to find out that someone can’t eat it. Food allergies can be serious, so offer choices and make sure you aren’t endangering anyone.
  3. Create a detailed timeline and email it to everyone. This list should include a schedule that details where people need to be at what time. Include addresses, parking directions and phone numbers.
  4. Specify dress code in writing. Large group gatherings come in all shapes and sizes these days: one event may be formal while another is “shorts and flip flops.” To save time and confusion, don’t assume that everyone knows what to wear.
  5. Consider hiring a photographer. Sometimes we feel pressure to document a big event in photographs or videos. The challenge is, while we are busy entertaining, we don’t have time to wander around and capture the best moments. If there isn’t a budget for a professional, perhaps there is a hobbyist in the group who would be willing to fill this role.
  6. Delegate specific tasks. Most people are very happy to help out, but just don’t know what to do. Make a list of tasks in advance that are specific and easy to hand off. When people start arriving, ask if they would be willing to take one of them.
  7. Arrange for off-site pet care. There is nothing like a crowd to agitate a pet. Additionally, guests don’t know the “regular routine,” and are likely to leave a door open or put food on the floor. To avoid an unwanted issue, move pets out of the space until the events are over.
  8. Assemble a first aid kit and have it with you at all times. Accidents happen, and having some supplies on hand can make the difference between a quick fix and a need to leave the event.
  9. Pre-pay whatever you can. For example, if girls are assembling to have their hair done for a wedding, pay the fee (plus tip) in advance. This will mean one fewer thing to handle on the busy day.
  10. Reconfirm everything the day before.  Sometimes we make arrangements with a service provider and then arrive to find that things aren’t quite as we agreed. To avert this, plan some time the day before to do things such as visit a venue to make sure chairs/tables/etc. has been set up properly, confirm the time that the florist will deliver flowers, reconfirm the menu and arrival time with the caterer, etc.

If you have been given the job of hosting a big event, take a deep breath. There are many details, and some of them are sure to fall through. Keep a smile on your face and try and let the little things go. Remember, at the end of the day, sometimes the biggest “flubs” end up being the source of beloved family folklore in the years to come.

What tricks have you found helpful when hosting an event?

24 thoughts on “Hosting The Big Event”

  1. The only time I hosted a big time event was when we got married and actually used a wedding planner book to help me. The other larger events were Christenings and 1st Birthdays and such, but those weren’t in my book nearly as large of a scale. But I would say that planning out as much as possible did indeed help.

    1. I think a wedding planner is a great idea Janine because not only are they helpful in the planning, but they can be the person who handles emergencies on the day of. Advance planning can avert a lot of stress though, so it is worth every effort.

    1. You know what’s funny, Susannah? I was having the same thought as I was writing it — like maybe we should have a 4th of July blowout:)

  2. I agree on getting a photographer. Sometimes I get a little frustrated by the lack of photos or photos without me in a big event because I had to be the photographer! And I realized that photos are sources of great memories. Probably just assigning someone to be the photographer will do. It’s really exhausting to host an event, the first one I had was my son’s first birthday. It wasn’t even a big one but it was so tiring! But worth it though. Thanks for sharing Seana!

    1. Isn’t it funny how families end up with Mom never in any photos? I’ve had that a lot too. And for important events, you want to make sure everybody is a part of the memory. Sounds the 1st birthday party was a special day for the whole family – terrific!!

  3. Great tips! We’re planning a huge family reunion this summer, and these will come in handy. I especially like the idea of coming up with an itinerary and sending it to everyone ahead of time. It will help with packing too!

    1. So glad you stopped by, Lana. A big family reunion will be a lot of fun – many memories!! When we hosted one, I decorated canvas bags for each family and put the details inside, along with some snacks and maps. Hope you have a wonderful time!!

  4. What great tips, Seana! It sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience planning and organizing some big events. My husband and I love having parties and gatherings of all sizes. Some are annual events (holiday-related,) while others are a one-time thing. For the smaller ones (under 30 guests,) a simple list usually does the trick. We meet to decide who’s doing what and when things will get done. Enjoying the process along the way is key. That’s half the fun. Music is important too. We love cranking up the tunes when we’re cleaning, cooking, and getting the house ready. It gets us in a festive mood. For big events, using a 3-ring notebook with sections helps me organize all the vendors, to dos, etc…

    The biggest tip is staying focused on the “why.” There’s nothing quite like bringing together your loved ones (friends and family.) It can be easy to get caught up in the “work” part of organizing a party. But if instead you enjoy the process, you’ll enjoy the people, the conversations, and the fun that much more.

    1. Oh, I love this comment, Linda! So important to remember the why. No one has fun at a party if the hosts stressed out about details or upset about things that didn’t go according to plan!!! The binder is also a great idea, and then you can save information from a previous event and be one step ahead next time.

  5. Having lived through hundreds of large family gatherings, your tips are terrific and spot on!
    Planning for food and menus in advance. It takes so much pressure off!
    We used to host family reunions at our inn. One of the groups had a schedule for which families were responsible to cook and who would be cleaning up each night. It spread out the work, and freed people from the guilt of “Well, I really should be in the kitchen helping…”

    1. I didn’t know you had an inn, Kim. Neat! That system you describe is so great… everyone gets a turn and when you are off, you are OFF!

    1. Just a few things to keep in the back of your mind when the next big event comes up, Michelle. Maybe a graduation not too far away? Can’t remember how old your oldest is…

  6. I’m laughing because we have a huge birthday party for Scarlet on Saturday and it’s only half planned. And we just got two new kittens over the weekend. Smart, right?

    1. You just got 2 new kittens? Okay, put them in a room with a lock or you could have “kitten escape” at the party:) That’s so fun!! Happy birthday Scarlet!

  7. These are great tips! We we’ve ad family reunions, we found it helpful to start a Facebook group for discussion as well as a Google doc so that people could all add their input to certain things and view files easily from anywhere.

    1. I love the idea of a Facebook group or Google doc, Rabia. This will definitely be the trend of the future!!

    1. Me too, Ellen! I’ve found there is often someone in the group who prefers to be “behind the scenes” with the camera than out front socializing anyway… and the host is just too busy. In my case, my brother in law takes amazing photographs and I get off easy:)

    1. I so agree, Jessica. I think a lot of the etiquette terms that used to be commonly understood are no longer so widespread. Seems like people don’t even RSVP anymore:( I try to be very blunt about what I’m wearing so nobody feels embarrassed.

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