The other day, a friend came to me for some advice on how to organize her brother’s birthday party. A few years back she had attended my own mothers 60th birthday, which I had organized as a gift to my mother. It was a great party that was successful in the eyes of the guests and the guest of honour. Although pulling this party together was stressful, I was determined to have it at home in my backyard to save money. This posed many challenges for me (the organizer) but there were definite benefits as well. Offering my friend this advice got me thinking about the benefits and challenges of home parties vs. venue parties, so I thought I’d lay it on the table for her and anyone else thinking about having a party at home. The most obvious advantage of a home party would have to be ‘saving money’. Everybody wants to save money but honestly, what do we need to sacrifice in order to save a little? Given that I didn’t have a lot, I needed to start by doing my research. For all you people thinking about doing the same, please keep in mind, I gave myself a good two months to organise this party and I have the advantage of being an event manager for a living! I would suggest writing up a plan four to five months in advance because if you need to book entertainment or caterers then you’ll give yourself more options. Sourcing good entertainment alone can take you months and if they’re good, this usually means that they’re also booked out months in advance. The first thing I laid out for my friend was, are you sure you want to have this party at home? What are the reasons for having it at home and do these justify the extra work involved? Having a party at a number of Melbourne Venues will take a lot of the time and energy out of organising an event but if you’re intent on self-catering or having a live band, then these are factors to consider having it at home. I suggested we first write out her idea of the party and then make a list of all the tasks involved. This is a quick way to gauge the amount of work and weigh up the options.
- Catering for food: Self catered or hire a caterer? Price comparison of venue packages v’s self catering + hire of equipment?
- Catering for beverages: Supply or guests BYO?
- Catering for Cake: Transport of cake?
- Entertainment (DJ, Band or alternative performers): Need for hire of equipment to accommodate performers?
- Dance area/seating: Enough seating, suitable dance area?
- Party equipment: Need for hire of plates, glasses, napkins, cups, cutlery?
- Heating/Cooling: Need for hire of heaters or air con?
- Cover (Marquees): Need for cover to prevent weather?
- Storage: Hire of tubs, refrigeration, storage containers.
- Seating and tables: Need for hire of extra tables/chairs?
- Audio Visual: Need for hire of lights, DJ equipment, speakers?
- Food and beverage staff: Need for hire of staff to make cocktails, serve and prepare food?
- Decorations: Cost of decorations and theming?
- Music (in between entertainment): Need to arrange your own CD’s?
- First Aid: First aid plan/kit?
- Parking: Enough parking space for guests?
- Photographer/Videographer: Need for hire of photographer?
- Cleaning: Need for hire of protective equipment or hire of cleaners?
ADVANTAGES TO HAVING AN EVENT AT A VENUE
The two main tasks that venues will handle on your behalf are Food and Beverages supply & Cleaning: Let’s face it, catering for an event could take you days to prepare. Do you have the time, the skills or the space? Beverages are slightly easier but again, you’ll need to hire glasses, plates, and tubs and keep the ice topped up all night. The venues will serve your catering and pace this throughout the evening. They are experienced in the serving of food and alcohol, will present it professionally and be able to inform your guests about the menu. Melbourne venues will make sure people graze rather than let plates of food go cold on tables. The setting up and cleaning aspect of an event is something very few people consider. It’s a drag and it’s the last thing you feel like doing at the end of the evening when you’re tired, drunk or both. I don’t know about you, but I hate going to bed knowing my house is in disarray and would probably end up cleaning until dawn. The other advantage to having an event with in a venue is that usually Melbourne venues can cater to a wide range of requests. They have a dance floor and professional audio-visual equipment and more importantly, they have staff who know how to use it. You’re less likely to have dramas with your entertainment as Melbourne venues are equipped to deal with the technical aspects of music and lighting. Security is normally not a problem but if you’re having a 21st birthday party or an 18th at home then having security and staff who are trained in the responsible serving of alcohol should be considered. It is now common place to have all hospitality staff properly trained with RSA’s (Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificates) and managers and security will be properly trained to deal with aggressive or intoxicated behaviour from guests. Fights can escalate at home parties because a) there’s different expectations of conduct at home parties and b) because there’s no trained staff to deal with problem guests. Entertainment is also fairly easy to access through a venue. Most venues usually have a number of DJ’s or entertainers that they can hire on your behalf or recommend for your party. They usually deal with a number of entertainers and DJ’s so will more likely recommend a good standard of entertainer that fits to your budget. Taking all of this into account, Venues can take a lot of stress away from organizing an event. They cannot always guarantee that your guests will have a good time but they can guarantee assistance with just about anything else. DISADVANTAGES OF HAVING A PARTY AT A VENUE Some venues cannot always facilitate your choice of entertainment. There are limited venues, which can accommodate a live band for instance. Venues generally have set catering and beverage menus that might not be exactly what you are after. There are, of course limitations on quality and choice of products and the quality is always determined by price. Food and beverages at a venue will always be more expensive than what you could make at home. There is generally no negotiating on the costs either. Most venues don’t allow outside caterers or self-catering so this might be another option to have it at home. If you have a friend or relative that’s volunteered to do the catering cheaply and you’re on a small budget then a home party option is probably a good option. Having an event at a venue can take a lot of the control away from you, which is both, good and bad. At home you will have control over every part of the party, where as at a venue, there are definitive rules to abide by. A good example might be, you envisioned having candelabras or candles in the room. Some Melbourne based venues will not allow open flames inside the venue or, your party might be in full swing at 1am and the venues only licensed until 1am. Make sure you consider all of the aspects of your party when making the comparison of home vs. venue.
ADVANTAGES TO HAVING A PARTY AT HOME
Having a party at home will give you the freedom to turn your event into anything you want, within your own limitations. You could have a crazy costume party and guests won’t have to feel self conscious about being out in public. You could have a friend’s band set up in your yard. You could order pizzas or a caterer to cook and serve the food throughout the night. People wouldn’t necessarily have to drink and drive if you offered them accommodations for the evening. The possibilities of your party are a lot more flexible. At your own home party, people generally mix a little better. Its always more intimate and people are sometimes more comfortable than if they were out at a venue. Home parties will usually make the guest feel more relaxed about who and how many people show up. Some times with many Melbourne venues you need to pay the venue per head when confirming your guest numbers and if guests don’t show up, you still have to pay. At least with home parties this doesn’t matter. You won’t be out of pocket, no matter who doesn’t show up. Theming and decorating should also be a consideration. There are a lot of venues that are already themed, which could save you money on decorating but there are also venues that don’t allow you to decorate. With a home party, you won’t have the restrictions of a venue but you can decorate your house in as crazy a manner as you like. The BYO alcohol option is not possible at a venue but if you have a party at home, you have the option of supplying alcohol a lot more cheaply than if you were in a venue or you could ask guests to bring their own alcohol and supply the food only. Most guests don’t mind the BYO option for home parties as they will still end up paying less than if you invited them to a venue to celebrate your party.
DISADVANTAGES OF HOME PARTIES
The biggest and most daunting disadvantage will be the time and energy required when organising your own party. The host rarely gets to enjoy the night, as there is often much to organise. Even if you hire staff for the night like I did, someone still has to manage them throughout the evening. For me, it probably took three solid days of onsite organising. There was the tidying and arranging of the backyard and house to accommodate 70 people, then the hiring of a marquee, tables, chairs, linen, plates, glasses and cutlery as well as safeguarding the backyard against potential accidents. I had to organise a cake, flower arrangements and decorations then theme the house inside and out. I had to secure and coordinate the band and wait staff and then there was the catering which involved endless…preparing, cooking, re heating and presenting. This particular event was a cocktail party so I had to help with preparing complex cocktails for guests on arrival. I could go on but I think you get the picture. It can be a BIG JOB! The other big disadvantage is the cleaning. No one wants that hassle after days of preparation. If you’re having a party in one of many Melbourne venues, then you can simply go home and relax, with the rest of your guests at the end of the night. Having a party at home also means that you risk damage to your own personal possessions. There is the issue of having enough seating and a suitable dance area. You might not have street parking and someone has to be in charge of organising your music before and after the DJ. Most Melbourne venues supply great mood lighting and sophisticated sound equipment including DJ equipment. In your own home, you’re not likely to own these quality products so creating an atmosphere is an important factor to consider. Although the party I put on for my mother was a raving success, I’m sure no one had any idea how difficult it actually was – I certainly didn’t and i am an event manager! The expenses for a party such as this can get pretty high as well. When you work out your budget for your party of function, make sure you factor in the expenses of hiring party supplies and staff as sometimes this can actually equal the extra amount of food and drinks that having the party at one of the venues might cost.