An L.A.–based events pro with 22 years in the business suggests 22 special touches for your event that cost little to nothing.
1. Ask the venue what they can “throw in” for no cost. You’d be surprised what they will come up with, from greenery to chargers, to give your event a boost. Like they say, you never know unless you ask.
2. Candlelight makes any event special, whether you choose elegant tapers or votives in decorative glassware. It’s a special effect that doesn’t cost much.
3. Stock lighting gobos are an inexpensive way to give the room a custom feel. From projections of cityscapes to create a penthouse surrounding, to projections of snowflakes to give the room a “winter wonderland” feel, they create a big impact for little extra money.
4. Ask if the venue provides French service (where some of the courses are served directly from a rolling cart), which creates an atmosphere of elegance for little extra money. Also ask what types of uniforms are available for servers—some venues have dressier attire for certain affairs, such as weddings.
5. A signature drink at the bar creates an elegant feel for no extra cash. The catering manager can work with you to create a special drink that is unique to your event.
6. Napkin rings are often overlooked, but are an inexpensive way to customize the table and add a special touch. There are so many great options and varieties that you can tie into the evening’s theme together.
7. Rather than spending big dollars on specialty table linen, consider alternating every other table with the house linen to cut costs.
8. Floating candles or single flowers in fish bowls make for simple, dramatic centerpieces.
9. Ask the venue if you can use the house sound system and bring your own iPod or CDs to add background music. Gear the music selection to the type of group and occasion.
10. As an inexpensive alternative to floral centerpieces, fill bowls with seasonal fruit for a fun, fresh twist.
11. Instead of offering a full hosted bar, limit your bar to just beer and wine. To add a classy touch, have servers offer a glass of champagne as guests arrive.
12. Dress up existing chairs by adding a chair tie. Not only are they inexpensive, but they pull the room décor together.
13. Themed backdrops are colorful and dramatic, while creating a focal point on stage for a minimal cost.
14. Reconfigure guest seating. Try combining hotel banquet tables for family-style or communal experience instead of traditional banquet rounds. It provides a unique layout and dinner setting while using the existing hotel inventory.
15. Consider a central bar or floral piece in a large space. One big impact piece will draw the attention of guests and allow you to use less décor elsewhere.
16. the band to play different configurations for the reception versus dinner.
17. Think about a family-style menu for dinner service, instead of individually plated dishes, to minimize the cost of service staff.
18. If guests are couples, consider alternating desserts to add variety and a nice surprise at the end of the evening.
19. Potted plants as centerpieces can also double as party favors or takeaways for guests at the end of the event.
20. Use greenery around the perimeter of a room to create a more intimate environment and soften the look of a standard ballroom. Or use the plants to create a smaller environment within a large space.
21. Some wineries will donate wine for exposure and may lend their services to a wine tasting during the cocktail reception. It’s a great icebreaker, too.
22. Air balloons lend an inexpensive lighting element to an event.For a little extra, the balloons can also be branded to provide company or sponsor exposure.
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