How many times have you turned a shiny package over in the party store and said, “I can make this!”?

How many times have you found yourself cursing at small pieces of paper as a result?

The urge to DIY when faced with the cost of event décor, food, staffing, or music is intense. When budget plays a part in your planning, getting resourceful will definitely help you make the most out of each dollar. You may be able to save on décor by consulting design blogs, and save the cash for that ultra-hot DJ who will bring in the crowd. In fact, sometimes the planner’s most memorable part of the event is lovingly piecing together unique programs complete with area maps and hand-lettered names on the front.

This can, of course, lead to incredible results that make the event feel truly personal to your guests, and even start an office or family tradition! But it’s a game of Russian roulette, because if you wade out too far into uncharted waters, you might spend twice as much hiring someone at the last minute. And to add insult to injury, you might be doing it with your tail tucked between your legs.

Know where the line is between getting crafty and outsourcing as it fits into the style and pace of your event. Too much handmade can feel makeshift, while too many servers in tails can feel stuffy and impersonal. The line is all your own; you may be able to plate hors d’oeuvres with one hand while securing a massive donation, but your most recent CD purchase was Yanni: Live at the Acropolis. Or, you may make gorgeous paper décor but have no idea what those tiny little forks are supposed to spear. So sit down and get honest with yourself. What is the best way to bring your imagined event to life? Would you want to be a guest at the party you are throwing? Pretend you are Goldilocks: Is it too crafty, too catered, or just right?

Once you know your line, play to your strengths. Just because you have a great menu in mind but cannot open a can doesn’t mean you necessarily have to call the caterers in a state of panic. See if you’ve got someone at your service who can whip up a fantastic charcuterie tray and who knows what truffle oil is for. If you don’t, get on the line to a great company and you needn’t lose another moment’s sleep over the spread. This is almost always a good time to splurge, especially if this is a special day for yourself or someone you love.

The type of gathering you are planning may play a large role in your decision.

Personal ceremonies like weddings, birthdays, and showers call for a lot of personalized touches. Sure, you might be able to afford a $300 brunch for a baby shower, but signing a check and personally mixing the Hollandaise are two different things. Fundraisers can be a delicate balance, because your donors want to be treated well but they don’t want to feel their checks are simply paying the valet. Corporate events certainly do well with a high level of professional service, and maybe a few personalized touches peppered in for flair.

Most importantly, remember that if you are going to spend three weekends hand folding origami placecards and your nights experimenting with pate and petit fours, you need to love it. If you don’t, hire someone who does and save yourself for the wine tastings.

Sarah

Sarah Harbin has been planning and promoting non-profit fundraisers, art and cultural events for over ten years, and recently began planning personal events.

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