Event Planning: Where to Start | Hanna Ashcraft | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Where I even begin to plan an event?!


    • 2.

      Know Your Event


    • 3.

      Basic Budget


    • 4.

      Date and Venue


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Audio Visual


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Event Specific Items


    • 9.

      Class Project


    • 10.

      Good Luck and Thank You!


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About This Class

Congratulations! You’ve just been handed the logistics for an upcoming retreat, the lead on a future fundraising event, or just got engaged! This is an exciting moment, filled with ideas of what could be. It can also be stressful. Where do you even begin?!

This course is here to help you get started on the right foot and on track for the successful completion of your event or wedding. I will give tips and things to think about so you can confidently book the big-ticket items (venue, catering, etc.). Together, let’s work on nailing down those big-ticket items so that you have enough time to get into all of the smaller details.

The big-ticket items are tough because they are usually the most expensive and have the biggest impact on your event. But once these are booked, you will have a framework from which to work out all of the other decisions for your event or wedding.

I believe that you can get the momentum going and cannot wait to see what you can accomplish early in the event planning process!


P.S. Practically every photograph in this presentation was shot by Natalie Thomson. She is an amazing photographer, so check out her work! Music credit: Backbay Lounge, Kevin Macleod (incompetech.com), licensed under Creative Commons: By Attributions 3.0 Http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Hanna Ashcraft

Travel Blogger | Content Creator


HI! I'm Hanna and I believe in thoughtful, organized, and beautiful events that delight guests and give them a warm feeling for months after. Small touches and purposeful execution will almost always lead you to success. Given enough lead time, I think anyone can plan a spectacular small or large scale event.

More recently, I began working on a passion project - my travel blog. My experience planning events effortlessly transition into planning incredible trips. I will also be teaching travel tips and tricks that I have learned.


I have been event planning in the Santa Barbara area for the last five years. As a junior in college, I took an incredible event planning internship in Oahu, Hawaii. Upon graduating, I immediately jumped into an events ca... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Where I even begin to plan an event?!: Hello. My name is Hannah, and this course aims to answer the question. Where do I even begin planning my upcoming event? Well, don't worry. I'm here to get you started on the right foot. This course is applicable for any type of event corporate nonprofit weddings or even smaller events like baby showers or birthday parties. If you've already started planning your event, it might be helpful. Toe watch this course to ensure you don't miss any major items or kind of go back and think through your vendor contracts. So we're gonna start planning your event by booking all of your big ticket items first. The big ticket items I'm talking about are usually the most expensive and have the biggest impact here. That they can be really tough to book because they take some major decision making. But once you do, you have a framework for which to plan the rest of the event. In this course, we're going to start off by thinking about what you want from here of it and its budget. Once you know what you want from the event and its price point, we'll talk about how to book your first for big ticket items, including Dayton venue catering, audiovisual rentals and then think about some of in specific items for your super simple class project. I would love for you to share an item or vendor that you were struggling with and how you were able to figure out a solution or move forward in the event hunting process. My hope is that we can learn from each other and think of new solutions in these early phases, when the event tiny is kind of talk, I'll speak again about the class project before the in the class, so don't worry about it too much. Well, are you ready to get this of them? Planning, process going, Let's get started. 2. Know Your Event: before you start booking benders or signing any contracts, let's make sure we know what your event is about. Together. Let's think about your upcoming event and fill out this little chart. I'm gonna fill it out with an imaginary fundraising walk for a non profit organization and an imaginary wedding. The first question. A list artists. Why have this event? And I'm just looking for the essence of why you're even doing this. So for the nonprofit fundraising walk, but probably be something like to raise money and raise awareness, whereas the wedding would be to get married till love of my life. The next question is who will be invited? The nonprofit walk would want to publicize as much as possible to get us many members of the community There is possible, whereas the wedding would have a very hand selected list of friends and family, How many people do you expect to attend for the walk? You could put your goal or I would put a range, and these initial stages, so maybe like 500 to 2000 would seem reasonable, whereas the wedding 120 people sounds about right for now. Lastly, what feeling message or theme. Are you trying to compare with your event? This is a little bit of a tricky question, but I just want to get you thinking about what you're already imagining your head or your ideal event to get it written down. So for the nonprofit walk, I would say I would want guests to think that our organization is knowledgeable about the event, that it was really fun. Exercise related, that I was in a safe, family friendly environment in the early to late morning time. Whereas a wedding I would want it to express both mine and my partner's love of California , love for each other, vegan and vegetarian food with good wine and maybe in a modern yet rustic environment. If you're on a team, everyone should be on the same page, so it might be helpful to fill out this chart together. If you're having difficulty filling out this chart, what information are you missing? One information. Do you need? Who do you need to ask? Where can you find that information? The event. Plenty process is not linear, so you might have to go dig for information before you can even fill out this chart. Or maybe you have to ride out a guest list to even have an idea for how many guests might attend. So don't be afraid, Teoh. Find out information. Get everyone on the same page. So everyone has the same idea for the event in their minds. 3. Basic Budget: to figure out if offender is a good value or if you can even afford a vendor, you're gonna need to know what your budget is at this stage. It's important to have the total amount you're working with, so you might need to do some work in order to find that out. If you're out of corporate or nonprofit organization, he might have to get a budget approved by a supervisor or talk to the marketing department . Where is the budget coming from? How much are you working with? Or if you're planning your wedding and your uncle had promised you to contribute, you're gonna need to know what to expect from him. To find out that total number that you're working with, set up a Basic Excel spreadsheet with the vendors on the left and on the columns have the price Bender name bender. Contact and notes slash payment information. I hope to walk you through more detailed budget in the future, but this is a really good framework to work from initially, you can add whatever you need, but this is a great document to track your vendors as you confirm them, and keep up with payment information Where to send it. Who to contact. If you have questions, you can throw estimates of everything for your entire wedding into that price column To see how much is the total is. That's one way to do it. If you have no idea what that is, you'll start to see a trend. As you start talking offenders and finding out what they're price points are, it depends on your event. But for a normal non traveling, non entertainment or speaker focused event, the venue and catering will stipulate cost around 50%. The goal here is to be under 50% in which case that's fantastic. You have more to work with for everything else, but if you're seeing that it's significantly higher than 50% I recommend considering alternative venues and caterers and doing a lot more research to find someone more affordable to be in your price range. I'm getting a little ahead of myself talking about caters and venue. So let's go ahead and jump into the two most important items of your entire event. The date and venue 4. Date and Venue: So I have grouped the day and then you into one category because they directly affect each other, and you wouldn't want to commit to one without the other. I mentioned earlier that event planning is not linear, and this is a perfect example because often time you'll find the perfect venue and it won't be available for a specific date or even month that you had in mind. So you have to kind of go backwards and say, What is it more of a priority, this venue or my date for the day? There's two ways to kind of narrow it down. You could look at the calendar and narrow it down before you talk to the venues or go to a specific venue first and work from the dates that they suggest. Either way, do your research on specific days to ensure that there are no religious holidays or government holidays that would affect your guest count. Overwhelming community events that happened that day. For example, in Santa Barbara, there's a big solstice festival and parade, and although that doesn't affect a lot of venues, that does affect where guests can stay and how hard it is to navigate traffic or close streets. You're also gonna wanna avoid large conferences like Comic Con in San Diego or commonly celebrated holidays that would affect guests attendance like Mother's Day, Father's Day. And lastly, if this is a public event, double check that there are no other similar conflict ing events. For example, at the museum I work for, I would constantly check local theaters and symphonies to make sure they didn't have any performances that would have the same audience. Once you have an idea of what your event is, your budget and maybe you've narrowed down some dates start reaching out to venues shortly after, because places that are in high demand often get booked up 2 to 3 years and events. So there's no harm in starting to reach out to venues, asking questions, finding out price points early on when they have more dates available. It also help you get on their radar so that they'll know they have someone interested in the dates. Don't wait. If you know something's gonna happen, start reaching out to venues. How do you even find a venue? Well, go back to the chart that we made earlier. The 1st 1 that included information about what you thought of for your event, your ideal event. What kind of venues Best serve your purpose or endorse what you want to say from your event . Going back to my two examples of the fund raising walking wedding, I would think for the walk thinking about Santa Barbara, safe places and morning time that would be available for a large crowd, maybe a local track field at a college city college, high school or middle school. Or maybe a park where I could even dio a walk around multiple city blocks, wiping more paperwork with the city with that one. So maybe not. You can cross that one off for the wedding. I had mentioned California good wine, kind of rustic, modern feel to it. So what comes mind First, his wineries. There's lots of wineries and Santana's and Pasa Robles. There's also coastal hotels that might be good option and some that have fruit top areas. Or there's historic buildings in Santa Barbara, like the courthouse and mission that are really popular or even private homes in Montecito Research research research go online. Find out what spaces and places are available typically hotels and restaurants are really good place to start, but it depends on your event. So I do find it helpful to work with venues that pad events before so that you're not recreating wheel for your event. Although you could do an event anywhere. If a venue has not done in about before, it'll just be a little bit more challenging. That cater might ask you where to access water, where to throw things out and you might have to build out a kitchen. Or if it's a space like a park, you might have to bring in bathrooms or generators for power. So something use will be easier than others. And I have some questions here to help you figure out what you provides and what they don't . Are they available for the dates you're looking at, or what days that they have available? But space is that they have that can fit your estimated guest count. Do they do the catering, or are you required to provide the caterer and if the latter do they have a list of preferred caters? Do they have a food and beverage minimum? What is their table and chair situation? What is their bathroom situation. What, is there a V situation? Lastly, you could always ask, Is there anything else that I should be aware of as a planner working in your venue for the first time because some been used? My have special things that they want you to be aware of right from the get go. After they've answered these questions and you're still interested. Ask about setting up a walk through, or you can always ask these questions on the walk through. But I would recommend starting out with a phone call so you're not wasting their time on the phone and they're not wasting your time. If they're really desperate for clients and it's just not a good fit, these questions should be helpful and figure out what isn't is not provided up in use. And if you're still interested and you kind of narrowed it down to three different venues, you can ask if they would pencil you in for a date without signing a contract so you can have a little bit more time figuring it out. I went to this for every venue. I wouldn't do it for more than three venues because you want to respect their time and energy. But this can really help you know that you have a date somewhat solidify. I do have one more piece of advice, and that is to read the contract. I cannot stress it enough, but you have to know what you're signing. Thes are legal documents and can be used against you in the future. So in the contract, you're gonna find out how much everything costs, but also the speller terms, like how much it costs. A guest damages something on the property. Or if your event goes over that way, you kind of know ahead of time and he won't be surprised. Later. You'll also find payment schedules in there So you're not late on any payments and don't incur any additional charges. If you're ahead of time on your payments, that always makes a venue happy and having a happy, then you will make such a better working relationship. But don't be afraid to finally commit to your venues so that you can move forward on everything else. 5. Catering: catering can be overwhelming. But I think that booking cater and thinking about the food can be pretty fun, especially if you're doing a tasting. But, Lauren, that in a minute I'm talking about the cater after speaking about the venue because the cater will absolutely need to know your date and location in orderto price. Anything out effectively. This is because what venues can provide varies so drastically that the cost will depend on what is available before you reach. Educators have an idea of what you want from the food, especially. How are you going to serve? It is gonna be right server. Is it gonna be buffet or family style? What is your breath? Gust Count? Are you gonna have any appetizers? What kind of food you want to serve? And is it gonna be anything special like vegetarian barbecue, chicken, Thai, etcetera? Make sure you think about how formally event is gonna be what time of day inside in the season to figure out the best Little of appropriateness. For example, if you're gonna have a barn wedding which is very popular and a little different from the wedding I described, I would say you could get away with a more casual dining experience having American food, our barbecue in a buffet rather than a formally served black tie dinner. What do you know a little bit more what you're looking for? You can reach out to caters who specialize in the food that you prefer. So if you're gonna do Thai food, definitely talked to at least one cator who specializes in Thai food so that you could have a productive first conversation. If you're struggling with these questions, don't wait until you know the answer before talking to a cater. Rather include the creator into your conversations and tell them what you're thinking. And they might be able to help guide you into certain into a well priced solution. Even after having done many events and work with mentors, we've done events for years and years. We all rely on the caters guidance about food because they're the expert, and they're gonna know what's best in terms of the food that they're going to serve a good place to start. Looking for caters is to see if the venue has a good list of recommended caters. The list they provide are caterers that have worked in that many before, have made a good impression or a good working relationship with the video. Already having worked in a venue is super helpful because something of things that you're not thinking of and take that those additional tasks right off your shoulders. Try talking to at least three caters to see what they can provide, what they suggest and comparative price points. If you're having a large formal sit down dinner, it's not uncommon to do a tasting. Ask your cater early on in the process about the tasting, but don't expect it to be free. Some have it free. Some dough tastings are a lot of words, so I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't free. I probably wouldn't ask Decatur to do. A teasing left is really serious about using them. They may even require that you sign a contract before doing the tasting. If you're having your event at a restaurant, go and eat there at least once or twice to see what the ambiance is like in the different selections they have available 6. Audio Visual: audiovisual A V. This is a tough one, and I think it feels particularly tough because it's not something we encounter day today. It can also get really expensive for quality, sound and lighting. It's worth it again. Talk to your venue to see what's included first, because sometimes they do include sound for certain aspects and then ask for their recommendations. For a B companies think for a minute about the sound at your event. Does your event cover multiple locations in each location? Will you need sound amplified for dancing or speeches or for a ceremony? Speaking of ceremonies, weddings can be a little complex for sound because sometimes you'll have the ceremony in one location, cocktails in another and the reception and dancing in 1/3 location, often times you're likely to need sound and every single one of those locations. In some cases like this, you can break up who handles wet. So have a Navy company handled the sound for the ceremony and cocktails, and then maybe the band or D J can handle the sound for the reception and dancing. This allows the deejay to focus specifically on what pertains to him or her the most 80 companies air used to handling events large and small, so they probably won't mind breaking up these responsibilities. But other times they want to ensure good sound quality throughout the event and may require that they handle everything, in which case, listen to them lighting. Typically, this is the visual part of audiovisual, but visual can include other things. Lighting creates ambiance and can really take your event to the next level. It truly depends on your venue. If you really need lighting, though, because some venues have beautiful chandeliers or meet Edison light bulbs that give off a warm glow, you may not really need it. But if you're having dancing, you may want to have some up lights and different fun colors in that area to make it feel more festive. When you start reaching out to 80 companies, they can give you suggestions about what they've done in the past that certain venues or maybe some options that you might not think of for lighting 80 guys air, sometimes hard to get a hold of, but generally they're really great hard working people. They get their first leave last and are often carrying the heaviest equipment. Definitely make sure to get their input on set up times. With all that cabling, it could take them hours to set up properly. You do not want to short change them on set up times because you might incur additional costs because they're gonna need to hire MAWR guys in order to set up in a condensed time frame. Ideally, they would get into a venue the night before to begin set up, but that's often not possible. So work with your venue and the A B company to find out what time can make everyone happy again. Talked multiple A B companies to see what your options are, what they suggest and compare price points. Definitely. Once you get quotes from them, you can ask questions to make sure you understand why things add up so quickly. You can always ask if they have any other options of something that's looking really expensive 7. Rentals: Another big ticket item is rentals, so I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail on the smaller rental items because that's just too detailed for what you need at this stage. But do you think about if your baby is going to require any larger rental item, like 10 teen pipe and drape kitchen build outs and tables and chairs? If you're gonna rent any of these items, work on it early and build it into your budget because it can get pretty pricey. Not so much the tables and chairs, but definitely the other items. If your event is far enough in advance, most rental companies will allow you to start a quote for the kitchen or the tent separately from everything else. And a lot of times will also be able to give you a rough price points for the rest of your rentals if you really need it for your budget at this stage, if your venue does not have a kitchen, you're likely gonna need toe rent the items and build one out for your cater. So this includes a tent sidewalls, mats, ovens, refrigerators, stovetop tabletops, pans. It can add up. Definitely be in close communication with her cater and rental company. When you're working on this quote and you can expect a kitchen build out costs around 2 to $3000 tense can also be incredibly expensive, depending on the size shop around to see what's available and what you can get for certain prices. Do you know that if you go with a budget rental company, you're not going to get a absolutely pristine tat? I mean, it goes with any of these big ticket items, the more expensive the vendor, typically, the higher quality whatever product it is. And this is no different with these rental companies. Although I said not to get into the details when you are doing your shopping, take a glance of the smaller items to make to make sure that you generally like the items. Because although you can have different rental companies to say, one does the tent and the other one does the flat world class, for it can be a little bit more complex, and it's a little harder to organize and keep track of. So I would recommend going with one rental company for everything and then maybe outsourcing one or two items, like specialty cops or linens 8. Event Specific Items: if you've made it this far. Congratulations. That is amazing, because when I think of events, I think of venue catering A B and rentals as my core team. And I really do think of them as my team because I'm constantly in contact with them to ask for advise or recommendations. I don't always take the recommendations, but I asked them for it or for different options on updating them with changes over and providing them with information so that they can do their job better when they get on site . And if you're in a company or non profit organisation, it is. It's especially important to build those relationships so that you could make each other look great time and time again before we finish up. Are there any other items that your event cannot happen without? Here? A couple examples of what those items might be? First of all, maybe I think of a photographer. Photographers are often super important, and I'm putting them here because they can look out really early one or two years in advance. Sometimes in a future video, I'm gonna have a conversation with my photographer friend Natalie Thompson. Hers are the photos that you've seen throughout this presentation, we're gonna talk about how to hire and communicate with a photographer. But in the meantime, by a number, one piece of advice is to look at photographers website and ensure that you like the style of their photos. If you don't like the style of their photos, you might consider going elsewhere because the style you want is not gonna be their strength. They're highlighting their strengths on their website. Another important vendor could be the speaker, announcer or auctioneer. If there's someone that you have to have, your event or your event will not happen without, absolutely book them. Win booking your venue. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to change the event, date or venue because of a speaker. Another one might be the band or a deejay, so I recommend looking at these early on as well, because with the ban, there's multiple people that need to be coordinated. You have a little bit more time with DJs, but it's also good to get on their radar because they will book up for popular weekends. Make sure that you're updating your budget as you go and as you book items and that you're paying your vendors on time. Nothing will make your vendors happier than paying them on time or early. I have never run into any issues with paying my vendors early because we're already contract ID into doing the event together. And they really don't want to spend their time tracking down your payment. If they've already got it, they're gonna be there for you. After you booked your big ticket items, breathe a giant sigh of relief because your event is definitely gonna happen. And now that you've booked those items, you can focus on the smaller details and the smaller details might be guided by the items you already booked. For example, maybe your bridesmaid dresses could be a bit more casual because you're having a barn wedding with the barbecue buffet. Or perhaps you have the budget for an instagram herbal background or light up star because you're 80. Line item came in under budget. You'll still be in constant contact with your core team at the event solidifies. But for now, they're all calendar and contract ID to be there for you at your event. A A 9. Class Project: for your super simple class project. I would love for you to share an item or vendor that you were struggling, booking or figuring out and how you were able to come to a solution and move forward with your event planning process. Please avoid using any specific names, but rather focus on how the vendor make you feel and how you are able to succeed. Despite this incident, my hope with this project is that if there are other people struggling that they'll know that they're not alone. And that may be your advice. Even if it's relating to another vendor, maybe your advice can help them see an avenue that they might not have seen before. My secondary hope is that if I start to see a trend in a particular hurdle that people are facing in the early phases of event planning, I can address it in a future video to help everyone out. So pleased to share a short paragraph of your struggles and how you succeeded Teoh, help other people out and to share your success because ultimately you were successful 10. Good Luck and Thank You!: Thank you so much for watching this video. I hope that helped you get just that little bit further. Or maybe unstuck from a particular vendor orchid to started completely just from scratch on your event. I hope to be making more videos about events in the future. Definitely about budgeting. That conversation with Natalie are definitely gonna happen. But let me know what else you're interested in learning in the comments. Also, if you would be willing, I would love it. If you could review this video that will help other people find me and maybe help them get started with event planning. Because it's really not too hard. And I believe that you can do it, so I'll see you consumed by