When our team at Matrix put their heads together and agreed that we were going to celebrate our 15th anniversary with a big party, my hand was in the air, ready to volunteer to help. The thing that I love about big events is that at the end, if you do your job right, the payoff will be smiles and compliments from guests who had a great time, ate some good food and got to make connections with other guests who they may never have met if it weren’t for your party. I think Joanna’s and the Matrix team’s focus on a low key, fun-filled party made my job easy, but with any event you are planning there can be road bumps. Here’s some advice on how to ensure your next party is smooth, drama free and fun!
Come up with a great, catchy theme.
The marketing team put their thinking caps on and realized that the 15th anniversary is typically celebrated with crystal. We turned this tradition into a crystal ball themed party and the tag line “The Future Looks Bright,” was born. Having a theme makes everything from invitations to decorations easy. Our main focus point for decorations were two silver trees with crystal balls holding all of our client logos in them. Even our cake had a crystal ball topper emblazoned with our Matrix logo on the inside and our tag line in fondant with tons of purple icing. It was a big hit with all the guests and we were very lucky that crystal and purple go so well together!
Find great vendors. Find vendors you trust.
From your caterer to the staff at your event venue, it is important that you establish a great working relationship with all the people you will be in contact with from start to finish. We had the great luck to work with the same caterer we used for Matrix’s 10th Anniversary. Seana Hale from Occasions Catering took the lead and had great suggestions on food menu choices, where to put our tables and how to organize the flow of the event. You hire professionals because they’ve done this a lot and they know how to make an event work. Listen to their advice but also know when to give your feedback if it is really important to you. Your one event could be the start of a great working relationship in the years and events to come.
Give your DJ a playlist. It helps set the tone for the party.
Joanna called me at the end of the day a few weeks before our party and said, “I have a playlist tell me if you think this is crazy.” She rattled off artists like Prince, Katy Perry, Pharrell and Lou Bega of Mambo Number Five fame. I thought it was perfect. The artists she chose were upbeat, catchy and obviously danceable. I think that helped set the tone of the event for the rest of the night. Guests felt relaxed, happy, ready to mix and mingle with strangers and I know I saw more than a few people dancing after a few Matrix mojitos. I know because I was one of them!
Get your guests involved with social media.
Before the big party we created our own hashtag (#matrix15) and an Instagram and Facebook account for our guests to post their photos and thoughts about the event. It was very cool to come back the next day to see how much fun our guests had and all the pictures they took during the event. You would never have seen these moments without social media outlets.
Do your research. You can always get something for less if you look.
I don’t have to tell you that anything can be found on the Internet and that if you have a strict budget to stick to a simple search on the world wide web can save you hundreds of dollars. I saved about $500 on our decoration budget by simply doing Google searches for the things we wanted. I also did a lot of price comparisons and reading customer reviews before deciding on any of our vendors and I know that this helped a lot in the success of our party. It pays to do your research.
Order extra invitations and be ready to make phone calls.
Things happen and invitations will inevitably get lost or will get thrown away accidentally. You want to make sure that everyone who is important to you knows about your event so try to reach out in every way possible if you haven’t heard from that VIP on your list. Joanna and the staff were making phone calls and sending emails almost weekly to make sure that their clients and friends were invited and ready to party with us.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
No matter how much pre-planning you do you will need help in the days leading up to the event. It helps to come up with a task list for things that can be delegated to other people on your team. When the day of our event came around, I had my team members answering phones, printing RSVP lists and name badges. It takes a village but the village won’t know you need their help if you don’t ask.
Hire a professional photographer. They are the key to recording your memories!
These days everyone is ready and willing to snap a photo on their iPhone and post it on Facebook, but five years later when you are trying to recall the night of your big party, where will those cell phone photos be? We considered nixing professional photography, but we came to realize how important these photos would be five or ten years later when it’s time to celebrate our next anniversary. We had a great photographer who snapped away all night long and in a few weeks we got to relive the fun night with a CD full of photos. Worth every penny!
Be a proactive problem solver!
When things go wrong it doesn’t help to worry about what went wrong, it actually just wastes time. The day of the event we arrived at our venue earlier than staff expected and they wouldn’t let us in. Not a big deal! We just asked if we could start our setup process in the loading area and they agreed. We put together our decorative tree, made phone calls to staff who needed information and even had time to gather ourselves and get dressed. Problem solved!
Take some time to enjoy yourself!
After all the food is on the table, the decorations are up and the badges have been handed out, take a step back and look at what you have accomplished! Be sure to take time to enjoy the event that you worked to put together. It will give you the energy and the courage to raise your hand again when the next event needs to be planned!
Check out photos from our event on our Facebook page and Flickr!