Event Planning Timetable:When to do What
By Judy Krasna
I received an email from a woman in New York last week asking for advice on planning her daughter’s bat mitzvah which will take place in Israel in February 2010. Yes, 2010! Now contrast that with a good friend of mine from Jerusalem who called me less than two months before her daughter’s bat mitzvah for recommendations on a venue, and less than one week before the event for recommendations on a musician. Obviously, aside from being diametric opposites, both these examples are a bit extreme. But how much in advance of an event are you supposed to reserve a venue and book the musician, photographer, etc.?
Israelis who work with Anglo clientele are generally familiar with the concept of advanced planning. It used to be that if you called a place in March and requested to book a date in November, they would tell you that their “yoman” ended before Rosh Hashana and that they could not take bookings for after then. However, times have changed, and most venues and vendors take bookings up to a year (or more) in advance. Do you have to reserve that much in advance? Generally speaking, 6-9 months in advance is accepted practice for booking a venue. However, if you are planning a Sukkot event (when there are very few places with large sukkot available), if you are planning an event during the height of tourist season at a place that is often booked by tourists (Shulchan David, for example), or if you have your heart set on a specific date and a specific place, then you really do want to consider reserving a year in advance. Of course, when planning a wedding, your timeframe is generally much shorter; which is why you should book a venue as soon as the engagement has been finalized.
Another thing that you want to do as early as possible is to make up a preliminary guest list. The idea behind this is that you need a rough estimate of how many guests you will be inviting in order to make sure that the venues that you are looking at are not too small or even too large. In addition, and perhaps most important to most of us, you can’t budget your event until you know how many people you are inviting.
Regarding booking vendors such as the musician, photographer, videographer, etc., the general recommended timeframe for this is about six months in advance (3-4 months for a wedding); however, if you know the exact date of your event and you have a specific vendor in mind, why wait to book?
Invitations and benchers can be ordered together—regarding invitations, order them at least two months in advance, and even earlier if you can, so that you have time to address them and get them out in a low stress manner. Party favors, hostess gifts, balloons, and other “accessories” can also be ordered about two months before the event. It is best to get things done as early as possible to avoid last minute pressure.
Another item to cross off your list about two months before the event is buying clothing for all family members. If you are making an event in February, buy outfits for all of the kids during Chanukah, when you have time to spend shopping around. And I will end up in the doghouse if I don’t mention starting to plan your video presentation (hamevin yavin).
About a month before the event, start looking for a hair stylist if you have girls who want those special gel and glitter hairdos. Also, about a month before the event is a good time to start working on those speeches and to start finding local accommodations for your out-of-town guests.
About two weeks before the event, you will need to start calling the people who have not yet sent in their RSVP (yes, most people in Israel think that their RSVP is optional). After all of the RSVP’s are in and you have an exact head count, you can start working on seating plans and filling in the place cards. Make sure to give a final head count to the hall. A few days before the event, you will want to meet with the person from the hall who is coordinating your event to give them the timetable/schedule so that they can give instructions to the kitchen staff about when to serve and clear the courses. It is also recommended to confirm all vendors and give them a specific time of when they need to arrive in order to set up before the guests arrive. Also, make transportation arrangements for out-of-town guests to get to and from the event if necessary.
The day before the event, you should take the place cards, seating plan, benchers, and other party favors that will be put out on the tables to the hall so they can start setting up for your event. Don’t forget to take out cash to tip the waiters and any other vendors who request cash payments.
The key to planning any successful event is organization. Keep everything centralized; if you are a paper and pen type, buy a notebook and keep all of your notes in it including guest lists, RSVP’s, menus, vendor information, etc. If you are a computer type, create a file and store all of your event related info in one place. Excel is great for guest management (guest list, RSVP’s and gift list/thank you notes) and also for budgeting.
And one last tip is to pay attention to details, because they really do matter. From menu selection to the event timetable to prepping your vendors (for example, giving a song list to the musician and a family tree crash course to the photographer so he will know who to take pictures of), take the time to map out all of the details. Inevitably, there will be some minor snags—there always are—but if you plan your event properly, then you should be able to enjoy it to the fullest.
Judy Krasna is a partner in www.celebrateisrael.com , a free site that offers ideas, advice, and event planning tips for people planning celebrations in Israel.
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