Back in August, I was preparing for an interview, not really knowing what I’d be asked. I was brainstorming questions about party planning so I could jot down some answers. And then I had a horrible thought: “What if she asks me about being hired as an event planner…” Because — yikes — that’s not what I do. How would I answer?

And here I pause: if you aren’t aware, my party planning business is entirely online. You can purchase a done-for-you party planning e-guide or a custom party plan or join The Party Classroom, BUT, you can’t hire me to come stage little Bobby’s train party in person, because I don’t do that. (Why? Because it’s time away from my kids on the weekend. Plain and simple.)

So I reached out to my party planning peeps and basically said, “AACK! What would you want me to say on your behalf?” And the ladies came through.

Here’s how you can be an amazing client to an in-person party planner. The bottom line is that your party planner really and truly wants to create an amazing event for you. But, she’s not a miracle worker.

Time: Your Planner Needs More of It

I love this comment from Debbie Kennedy. (Find Debbie at Debbie Kennedy Events & Design.) We need TIME!!!! You know when their birthday is a year in advance…LOL.”

Okay, so I never thought of the time issue quite like Debbie put it, but this is hysterical and true! One of the reasons I started Double the Fun Parties is because I was starting to plan the girls’ next birthday party the day after the last party. I just needed to put all that creative energy toward more parties (and someone else’s budget). But, I get it. You’re busy and time gets away from you.

However. Ahem. If you let time get away from you, that doesn’t mean that Debbie or any other party planner has time hidden up her sleeve. If you LOVE Debbie’s parties, you’re not the only one. The lady books up. So get on her schedule as early as possible so you can get the party date you want.

Now let’s pretend that you want a date four weeks from now, and Debbie just happens to have the date open. You got lucky, but now Debbie’s got to really cram to come up with some amazing ideas. She can do it, but doesn’t rushing make you feel kind of crazy? I bet Debbie feels the same way… If you had contacted her a few months before, she could have been planning all that time. Just saying.

Let me give you another example: if you want darling, custom cookies, your planner has to get on the cookie artist’s schedule, and the artist may be booked out five weeks. There is not a darn thing your party planner can do about that. The same goes for all the other custom touches you were hoping for.

When you give Debbie time, here’s a small example of what she can do. Sigh.

Debbie Kennedy Events & Designs Purple Wedding

Compromise: Big Dreams, Little Budget?

If you are struggling with big dreams on a little budget, a party planner can still be a good investment. A pro will know where to get the best deals and how best to achieve the look you want for less. Katherine Shorter of Creating Awesomenessity shared that, “Compromise is important. We work hard to give you what you desire but clients need to be reasonable in that if their dreams don’t match their budget, something’s gotta give…”

So when you find yourself in that situation (and who doesn’t?), it’s time to ask your party planner not to cut corners, or reduce her fee, or give you diamonds on a dime store budget, but instead to ask for her suggestions on what is possible on your budget. Same goes if it’s time you’re short on, or your venue isn’t ideal, or there is some other compromising circumstance. Your party planner will work hard to get you the best possible outcome based on your situation.

By the way, Katherine did the cookies for my gardening party, and they were so cute! I’m planning to share the party after the holidays. Find Katherine’s cookies in her Etsy shop.

Creating Awesomenessity Snowflake Cookie

Budget: Please make it within reason.

Brittany White Schwaigert of GreyGrey Designs reminds us, It’s nearly impossible to do a party for under $250.” Ha – yes! A $250 party budget might be possible if you…

  1. Already had all the decor you needed from past parties,
  2. Were making all the food yourself, and
  3. Were not hiring any help whatsoever.

That might just cover…

  1. The cost of a few extras,
  2. Ingredients,
  3. Printables,
  4. Stamps,
  5. Printing the printables, and
  6. Party favors.

You wouldn’t be paying yourself for your time to plan and execute the party, right?

Excited moms contact party planners all the time, ready to dream up something magnificent, only to be shocked by the actual party planner fee and budget. I bet if you stopped and thought about the hours that went into planning, shopping, crafting, and set-up, it might not seem so crazy to you.

The first thing to remember is that your party planner will charge a fee for her services that is TOTALLY SEPARATE from your party budget. The party planner’s fee does not include party products, food, rentals, and may not include day of the event services.

One famous party planner includes her starting fee on her website: it’s $1,000, and doesn’t include party day. Now that may be more than you want to spend on your party, and that’s TOTALLY FINE. But, just because it’s more than you want to pay, doesn’t mean the fee is unreasonable. The party planner is in business to make a living, and she deserves to be compensated fairly.

Besides, look at the Frozen wonderfulness that Brittany can create.

Grey Grey Designs Frozen Party

You’re Paying for Advice, So Consider Taking It

Lana Wescott is a party planner in Kennebunkport, Maine. (Find her at Lana Wescott Events.) She’d like you to know that party planners aren’t trying to upsell you. She says, The old adage is almost always true: ‘you get what you pay for’. When we advise you NOT to go with the cheapest options on certain things, it’s not because we want you to spend more, it’s because we’ve learned a few things.”

Your party planner wants to respect your budget, but it’s also her job to tell you when the number you have in mind may not be feasible. Pretend you want a tent for an outdoor wedding and the tent holds 100-150 people. (I am totally making these sample numbers up. Wedding planners everywhere: feel free to laugh.) You have 150 guests who have RSVP’d. Do you cram them all in the 150-person-maximum tent? Or do you bump up to the next size tent and give your guests room to wiggle?

Or to put in in children’s party planning terms… when I tell you to bypass the $1 plastic tablecloth: put that horrible thing down! It’s not that I want to bust your budget by advising you to spend $7 more on a cloth table cover. It’s that I want you to have a tablecloth you can iron and that isn’t see-through. In other words: I want your budget to go towards purchases that enhance the look of your party.

See Lana’s photo? See the pretty, pretty lace tablecloth? Consider taking your party planner’s advice. She wants to create a stunning event for you. No planner wants to design an event she can’t feel proud of.

Lana Wescott Events

Eyes on the Prize: Keep Your Priorities Straight

Stephanie Garcia Mullins of Soiree Solutions Events says, “I think it’s important to stress that it’s about the moments and the memories and not at all about the stuff. Especially for a budget-conscious host. For instance, I just talked a wedding client out of live “mood” music because it’s just not something that guests will even notice and they were considering live music during dinner hour (not a performance) instead of a photographer. Around here, our litmus test is to ask:

  • “Does this detail realistically fit our event’s budget?”
  • “Does this detail tell our event’s story?”
  • “Does this detail contribute to our event’s atmosphere in a noticeable/memorable way?”

All three questions must have a yes to make the cut.

I love Stephanie’s advice. Your party is a celebration of some special event. Make it about the person or milestone you’re honoring. Stephanie’s recommendation to ditch the music for the photographer makes perfect sense to me because the photography will forever preserve the celebration.

And that’s why I always say that my goal is for your child to declare his or her party “the best birthday ever.” Not the best decor or food or activity, but overall, the most fun. So when your party planner advises you to keep your eyes on the prize, she’s right.

What do you think? Any other tips for working with party planners or being an awesome client? Sound off in comments.

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Plus, you'll get all the latest blog posts from The Party Teacher.

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