Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

4 tips for planning a successful wedding, party or event

Remain calm and plan on!

Whether you’re planning a baby shower, wedding, retirement party, family reunion or birthday bash, it’s the details that help ensure everyone has a good time.

Caitlin McElhone, an Event Management instructor at NAIT and owner of CM Events, has been planning and coordinating events for more than 12 years, and knows how to juggle all the moving pieces.

She has plenty of useful advice for planning an event – big or small – starting with this top four.

Start with a vision

“It starts with the vision,” McElhone says.

Think about what you want the finished product to look like and how you want your guests to feel when they arrive. Are you going for an elegant, sophisticated event? An informal get together? Keep that in your mind, then figure out how to get there.

“People tend to dive right in,” she says. “They get excited and then get overwhelmed by all the little details. They wind up outside of the objectives and what it was originally supposed to be, which can make it more expensive and more complicated.”

Plot a timeline

Once you’ve decided what needs to be done, figure out when everything has to be completed.

“The big things need to be done first.”

“Try to space everything out so you’re not trying to do everything at one time,” she says. “The big things need to be done first.”

Booking a location should be at the top of your list. DJs or custom bakers should be contacted early as well, says McElhone. Schedule every detail – even when to send invitations. Are you mailing or emailing? Think about how much time each task will take; you’ll be grateful in the long run.

McElhone also suggests building a timeline for the day of your event to stay on track.

“It’s hard to keep all those details in your head. Put it on paper. What time do you have to wake up in the morning to make sure your house is clean? What time do you have to get the kids ready?”

Even scheduling things like when to shower or get dressed can help, she says.

“Put it all in the timeline, even if it seems obvious and ridiculous. It really keeps everything on track.”

Set a budget

This is a tough one that even McElhone’s corporate clients struggle with this, she says.

“Find out price ranges for things, so you can see the worst-case scenario budget and the best-case scenario.” Then stick to it – no excuses.

“People forget that Martha Stewart has a staff.”

If you’re preparing the food and decorations yourself, stay away from Pinterest. It’s great for inspiration, but the plethora of ideas can make you blow your budget quickly.

“You keep digging and searching and the more excited you get, the more you end up purchasing online or trying to recreate yourself,” she says. “That ends up being a very expensive endeavour, and it also takes up so much time. People forget that Martha Stewart has a staff. It’s not just her in her living room the night before the birthday party.”

Ask for help

You may not have an entire staff to draw upon, but try and find some help to avoid feeling overwhelmed, McElhone says.

Get someone else to pick up relatives from the airport, ask a family member to bake the cake or seek out a crafty friend for décor help.

“Figure out one or two people in your life who are reliable and try to use their strengths,” she says. “If people have specific instructions, it can help relieve that stress.”

That way, you’re able to enjoy yourself just as your guests will once they arrive to your perfect event.


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