Newlyweds unpack their party tips to create an awe-inspiring celebration.
Did someone say party!? Jefferson City Magazine connected with two friends who are resourceful, hospitable, and have the eyes for detail to create spaces with ambiance and a memorable atmosphere. Mitchell W. Woodrum and J Dalton Turner-Woodrum share their best tips for planning an epic party after rolling out the red carpet during their last New Year’s Eve party. We take a peek at the celebration that exceeded all exceptions and showed three downtown venues in a new light. See how they managed to pull it off!
HOW TO START
Draw a diagram of your space, and think about how people can fl ow through it. Determine where tables, lighting, bars, music, coat check, entrance, and exits will be. Then, step back and make sure you’re not overcrowding any areas. It’s not fun when people are bumping into things and each other. This will also tell you how many tables, tablecloths, etc., you need.
The entrance is one of the most important things at your party. It’s the first impression and sets the tone. Think through the experience. If it’s winter, your guests are going to have coats. Provide a coat check. Be aware of chokepoints. Plan on many guests arriving at once, so make sure they’ll have enough room. Have a photographer there at the beginning of the event for the first hour to catch everyone as they come in.
BUDGET HACK: You want the presentation to be nice, but there’s a way to save — go for the clear plastic. It looks like glass and it’s easier to clean up at the end of the night.
DON’T MAKE THEM GUESS: At the very least, provide signs at the entrance of the party to know where to go. Spruce up your signs by framing them, including the drinks menu.
Get to know the photographer before the event. You want them to know your vibe, and you also want them to feel comfortable enough to get in the party to capture the best candid shots. Using a photographer that knows you well will ensure both parties are comfortable. If you want a specific shot, tell them. They’re photographers, not mind readers. Every photographer has their own style, so choose one who is aligned with your aesthetic and style. If your photographer is able, provide a website link where your friends can download their photos after the event.
Think through your guest list. Consider your picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions. Provide variety. Decide how much food you need and then cut it back. If people are drinking, make sure to have something to fi ll their stomachs. Approach this in phases. Start with light appetizers, switch to heavy hors d’oeuvres, and finish with shelf-stable fun foods like pretzels and candy that can sit out the rest of the night. Think about timing. How long is the food going to be out and will it spoil? When should you change out the hors d’oeuvres? If you have a part in which the group is all gathered, for let’s say a toast, that’s the perfect time to change out the food while everyone is occupied. Do you have a family member or friend who is really good at a specific dish or dessert? Ask them to make it for the party. It makes it more meaningful. Heavy hors d’oeuvres can be easier, but don’t think you’ll save on budget here. Often it ends up being the same as a meal for everyone.
Find professional bartenders. It’s a skill, and you don’t want someone getting overwhelmed. There’s nothing that will kill a vibe faster than when everyone is frustrated waiting for a drink. We can’t give you advice on how much to buy because we overbought. We did learn that not as many people drink gin as you would guess. Once you’ve hired bartenders, plan your menu. If you’re having a full liquor bar, the best thing to do is come up with signature cocktails for each type of alcohol. Then, have a list of simple mixers for plenty of two-ingredient drinks.
This can make or break your event. You don’t want things to be too plain and not special, but you also don’t want to be overboard and tacky. If there’s one place to outsource, this would be the place to do it. If you’re not naturally talented in this area, ask a friend who is. Pull inspiration from magazines and your favorite brands.
Minimize overhead lighting as much as possible. Uplighting and lamps are where the money is at. Not all uplighting is equal. Don’t go with the cheap stuff online. And when it comes to color — warm, warm, warm! Uplighting sets the mood. Everyone looks younger, and it adds decor to the wall without having artwork.
It might be hard to find a space that fits all your needs. So, get creative! We used three spaces and connected them by the entrance tent in front.
MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT AREAS
Using the same concept as putting the bars in strategic places, each area can have a different musical artist. It helps move traffic along. Make sure that one band or group isn’t overpowering the other and pay attention to how sound carries in your spaces.
People are going to arrive late. If you want the party to be kicked o by 9 p.m., open your doors at 8:15. Guests will arrive 15 – 45 minutes late. You’ll want to give them time to grab a drink, see their friends, and get comfortable.
No matter the size, something is going to make you run behind.If you want to be set up by 6 p.m., aim to be finished by 5 p.m.
Have someone ready to restock the food and readjust as the food gets messy. Have someone designated to check the bathroom and pick up dirty dishes throughout the night. Don’t forget to schedule the cleanup crew. You don’t want to be stuck all alone at the end of the night, or the next day, cleaning up. Have a delegation plan for your cleanup crew.
How early can you get in, and when do you have to be out?
You can never start planning early enough. If your guest list is over 100, give yourself 6-9 months.
SURPRISE YOUR GUESTS
Send them home with a gift bag or party favor. Personalize your favors with the brand. We purchased blank gift bags and then got a custom stamp for each bag. Remind people to take it on the way out. We had a balloon drop at midnight — it was an NYE party as well, but grand gestures like this keep it fun and memorable. Print photos from the event, and send them with your handwritten thank you cards.
Create a custom logo. We used our logo on the goodie bags, step and repeat, matches, candles, pens, gobo light, and matchboxes.
See if your vendors will have a 5-10 minute phone call or have coffee so you can lay out expectations and cover where they’ll be set up so they can hit the ground running the night of. Make sure you understand what their rate is and when they expect to get paid. Do they require a down payment? Do they expect to be paid the night of? Do they want a check or Venmo? Don’t forget to tip these people who spent their night making yours special.
- Adrienne Luther – Window Painting
- Around the Clock Mobile DJ – Lighting
- Capitol City Cinema – Venue and Bar
- Colonial Printing – Invitations
- Capitol City Cork and Board – Venue and Bar
- Janna Vomert – Cello
- Larissa Johnson – Photography
- Rademan Communications – Flowers
- U.S. Rents-It – Tent and Red Carpet
- Zoo Pals – DJ
Show your family and friends how much they mean to you. While there’s a lot of planning and preparation, throwing a real banger will provide priceless memories with the ones you love most by throwing an epic party they’ll never forget! Chances are, the photos from your event will be their profile photos on Facebook for at least the next year!