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Choosing Party Venues

Large Venues
If you would like to host a large party with more than 50 people (retirement party, graduation party, wedding reception, significant birthday or anniversary, or family reunion) you'll want to have it at a larger venue, where trained professionals set up, cook and serve the meal, monitor party progression, and clean up everything.

Although banquet halls, hotel ballrooms, and restaurant banquet rooms have traditionally been the places to go when hosting large parties, you might have fun exploring interesting alternatives, such as country clubs, museums, university foundations, galleries, or community centers (senior centers, women's centers, or other public places that offer large rooms for rent). You'll want to find out about amenities at these unique locations; although many such venues might not staff events, they often work with party-staffing agencies, which will facilitate your search for the perfect caterer.

  • Pros – You don't have to do any of the actual work on the day of the party, and yet you will receive all the kudos for planning a great event. You'll also receive help with much of the planning: Most banquet halls utilize a private staff and provide options for the menu, beverages, décor, entertainment, and other logistics.
  • Cons – Standard large venues can feel a little "tired," so you might have to put your creativity on overdrive to make your occasion feel unique. You'll also need to make quite a few phone calls when you're looking for the right place, unless you are fortunate enough to have received recommendations from someone trustworthy. Oh yeah, and unless you are planning a corporate event or have made arrangements with your guests, you'll also get to pay for the whole thing.
Substantially more expensive than bar or restaurant parties, banquet-hall parties do ease the burden of planning. You won't have to deal with place settings, calling all over town to find what you need, or actually doing the physical work large parties demand. Yes, you will pay for your status as decision maker, not day laborer, but isn't the reduced effort worth the larger budget?

If you are on a limited budget, don't feel at all guilty about arranging for a no-host or cash bar, which means that soft drinks are complimentary (or rather, paid for by you), but alcohol is paid for by those who will be drinking it. Again, just make sure to include the words "no-host" or "cash" bar on your invitations so your guests will know what to expect.

Instead of renting out an entire banquet hall, ask around at your favorite restaurants, many of which will host large parties in separate rooms. Although you won't have the same staff-to-guest ratio attention from every staff member as you would at a banquet hall, you'll save a lot of money and you might get better-quality food.

Destination Parties
As the name suggests, destination parties take place away from your home, often occurring at a vacation spot or remote city. Although not appropriate for every kind of party, destination parties are great for celebrating marriages, family reunions, significant birthdays or anniversaries, or important holidays.

  • Pros – Having all your friends and family in one location can be really fun! During meals and activities, you'll have ample opportunity to reconnect with people you might not have seen in a while. By spending several days together, you'll fall into a comfortable routine, not only spending time with other guests, but taking time out for yourself and/or your partner.
  • Cons – Destination parties can be incredibly expensive logistical nightmares. You'll need to plan accommodations, help with travel, arrange meal and activity options, and make sure guests understand payment arrangements. Although you don't have to pay for the entire event, you will need to cover any "unclaimed" costs, such as a short hotel or restaurant bill or rental fees for group activities.
Given the nature of destination parties, your guests will certainly not expect you to pay for their travel or accommodations, unless you specify that the entire event will be on you. This financial arrangement might make you feel less than a hostess, so be sure to make all the arrangements for your guests, which will keep them feeling like guests, and not as if you're merely meeting up at a common destination. If you're planning a party in a different city, arrange for a block of hotel rooms – perhaps even at a reduced rate! – and make reservations for shows, activities, or other special events that allow your group to party en mass.

Another way to look at destination parties is as a "vacation" party, in which you rent a home at a getaway locale, such as a river or beach or in the mountains. Such rental properties often cost far less than you might imagine, lending a festive, party air to the group vacation. Your guests will probably reciprocate by taking you out for whatever group meals you haven't planned and cooked yourself.

Are destination parties worth the effort? Well, you will have to put a great deal of effort into organizing the event, but all that hard work will definitely pay off when you rekindle relationships with friends, family, and college or high-school buddies.

Many websites offer tools for organizing large parties traveling to a common destination. Guests can log on and find different options for accommodations, travel, meals, and activities, making their own arrangements. Wedding websites, such as www.theknot.com, are great for this type of service, but a quick Google search will yield additional results in your area.

Destination parties can be tricky if you expect children, seniors, or disabled people to attend. Keep your guests' needs in mind when you select your spot, and try to pick a destination that will accommodate everyone in your party.

Next: Page 5 >>

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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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