Celebrations by the Numbers
The most memorable gatherings aren’t always the ones with the biggest food displays, the boldest centerpieces, or the loudest bands. Despite Pinterest-perfect pressure and a dizzying number of options, hosts can still make a statement by following these basic event-planning rules.
Under 50 Guests: Making an Intimate Affair Unforgettable
Whether you’re hosting a birthday party, shower, Mother’s Day brunch, or office happy hour, a small gathering still requires a big effort. There are many reasons to outsource the main elements of your bash, but the most important one is your own enjoyment.
Cater Instead of Cook
You’ll have more time to focus on the fun stuff: theme, décor, and, most importantly, your guests. Plus, who has the perfect platter for every occasion? Caterers supply the serving wares you may be missing.
If you’re tired of the same old catering fare for your office parties or private events, try a globally inspired spread from local Middle Eastern darling Holy Land to make your menu stand out. Their most popular delights include hummus, falafel, samosas, gyros, and kufta kabobs, with lunch menus starting at $8.99 per person and dinner at $9.99 per person. Bonus: Your vegetarian guests will be thrilled with the many options. Holy Land CEO Majdi Wadi advises choosing a prix fixe menu rather than ordering items a la carte. “By choosing a prix fixe menu you can avoid worrying about quantities to order and there will be a variety of food for your guests to choose from,” says Wadi. “And the fixed menus normally include all the serving utensils and paper products [in the price].”
Opt for a Venue
Just because your gathering is small doesn’t mean you have to host it in your home. Celebrating at a unique setting can elevate the affair. It also takes the pressure off getting your house in order and throwing an unforgettable party. Avoiding the cleanup is an added bonus.
The people who brought us favorite neighborhood hangouts like Highland Grill and The Lowry have opened a new space perfect for intimate and medium-sized events. Blue Plate Restaurant Company has transformed the Foreign Legion in the historical Soo Line Building in downtown Minneapolis into Shindig Events Center. Open since November, Shindig is available for groups of 35-130 people and can handle everything from office holiday parties to rehearsal dinners to small weddings. A big draw is its rooftop access, with views of Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium. “What I think is so neat about this space is that we treat you with the same warm Blue Plate hospitality that our guests have come to know and love about our restaurants,” says Blue Plate marketing manager Anna Mailliard. “Not to mention, we are known for our food at our restaurants, and that same food quality is available at our event space.”
Pool Your Planning Efforts
If you’re throwing a party for someone special, enlist the help of others. With a handful of hosts pitching in, the cost of organizing a catered affair at a venue can actually be comparable to doing it all yourself at home—and a professional will take care of all the details!
Borrow the Best
If you’re not the type of host to hire out, but you don’t have the accessories to pull off the perfect in-home party, rent the rest from the pros. For a special occasion at your home, Shereé Bochenek, creative director of Après Party and Tent Rental, says disposables just don’t cut it. “Guests love the feel and weight of real stemware and flatware, and customers love the fact that they do not have to wash rental items after the event—just return to us food-free. The same for linen: Table linen lends a sophisticated look, and it arrives to your venue beautifully pressed, spotless, and can be returned in a laundry bag!” She adds that many party hosts lack serving pieces, and recommends rental, “instead of borrowing a hodge-podge from friends and family.”
50-100 Guests: Managing All the Moving Parts
Let’s face it, except for a major life event like a wedding, a gathering of more than 50 people may be the biggest you ever plan. In fact, a mid-sized celebration—such as a graduation, milestone anniversary, or holiday party—can be a great practice run for something bigger. Here’s how to keep cool when the details start to overwhelm you.
Hiring someone to handle the food service for an event of this size is a must, but the host’s personal touch should still shine through, says Alana Koderick, hospitality director at Envision Catering & Hospitality. “The host can convey the theme and the look, and a good caterer should be able to take that vision and make it come to life,” she says. “A host should and will have high expectations and will want the theme of the party to complement their home or venue décor and style. A professional caterer would blend the evening’s chosen food or beverage with the stylings of the host.”
Cheryl Wortman, event coordinator at Lake Elmo Inn Event Center, recommends keeping it simple: “Catering doesn’t have to be complicated and trendy. If a high-quality meal and excellent service are in the mix, you can’t go wrong.” She adds that there are ways to make a big impact and still get good value. “Work with your caterer regarding food options that might be less expensive and yet still an impressive option for your group.”
Once you’ve picked the date and booked the venue, it’s time to choose a party rental company. If you need large quantities and a wide variety of items, find a rental company with a broad inventory for easy, one-stop shopping. Plymouth-based Ultimate Events is the result of a merger between four party and tent rental companies and offers a huge selection of tents, tables, chairs, table runners, specialty linen, china, flatware, glassware, centerpieces, lighting, and dance floors. If your event includes a cocktail hour in addition to dinner, Ultimate Events recommends creating a special area where guests can gather. The company offers rental lounge furniture ranging from a seven-piece white leather set for a modern chic event to a black serpentine set for an elegant affair.
Finding the Perfect Space
There are many factors to consider when choosing a venue for your event. The biggies are capacity (Will it comfortably accommodate your guests?), location (Does it work logistically for you and your guests?), and décor (Does it fit your personal style so you don’t have to spend extra to redecorate?).
If you’re planning a mid-sized wedding, a corporate event, or other social gathering, consider Hotel Ivy’s newly renovated Grand Studio, a 5,206-square-foot space that accommodates 100 people seated. A long gallery greets guests with a larger-than-life ceramic mosaic, and a trail of lights leads them to the ornate-yet-urban space.
Betsy Bartholomew, the Ivy’s director of sales and marketing, says the downtown Minneapolis space was designed specifically with social gatherings in mind, and it leaves plenty of room for individual expression. “It really lends itself to whatever palette you’re wanting for your event,” she says. “It’s customizable that way.” Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have easy access to the Ivy’s newly renovated penthouse suite, complete with spectacular views from its rooftop balcony and from the panoramic windows surrounding the suite’s 2,500 square feet of indoor living space.
Bartholomew says the most important questions a host should ask about the venue are whether it can accommodate an easy flow through for their attendees, if there’s space for multiple bars, what the parking situation is, and whether the space can be customized for the event.
100+ Guests: Making a Big Impact
Catering for a Crowd
Koderick says the first thing hosts should consider when planning large events is flow. “Plan out what needs to happen and when,” she says. “Share this information with the caterer during the menu planning process so consideration for food service will fit into all other activities.” She says a perfectly timed event is not always achievable, so hosts should take that into consideration when planning the program. “Stay away from buffet or family-service meals, and either do plated or stations,” she says. “Your first guests through a buffet line are usually done eating when the last person is still going through.”
When you’re searching for the perfect place for your event, remember that many venues have limited quantities and sizes when it comes to furniture. Be sure to factor rental costs for those extra tables, chairs, and linens (especially if you want anything other than neutral colors). Find out how much setup time your venue allows and whether you’ll need to pay extra if you need more time for delivery and setup of the extra rental items.
All About the Venue
Sometimes your choice of venue influences all other aspects of your event. That’s definitely the case with U.S. Bank Stadium, whether you’re looking to impress corporate clients, or planning a wedding that shows off the couple’s connection to their city and state, or their favorite sports team!
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, emphasizes the stadium’s versatility, with its smaller spaces like the Buffalo Wild Wings Club, the Lodge Bar, and “cabins,” which can be used for groups smaller than 100 people. The Hyundai Club, Delta Sky360 Club, or the stadium floor can be used for gatherings of more than 500 people. “With so many options of catering, size of space and such a unique setting, U.S. Bank Stadium is ideal for [event organizers] looking to wow their guests,” says Kelm-Helgen. “Many of our events have added stadium tours onto their programs, making for some additional entertainment.”
Since opening in July, the stadium has hosted several private events including weddings, bar mitzvahs, collegiate/alumni groups, and fundraisers. “We’ve hosted a few weddings to date and found that couples especially love using the outdoor patio connected to Mystic Lake’s Club Purple for a scenic ceremony or cocktail hour setting that overlooks downtown Minneapolis,” says Kelm-Helgen. “Couples seek out the stadium because they love the Minnesota tie, the modern look and feel, and the wow factor in location.”
Ins & Outs
Party-planning trends from Shereé Bochenek, creative director of Après Party and Tent Rental.
IN: A curated tablescape. For smaller affairs, mix personal items such as a small framed photo with candles, a treasured collectible, and simple low floral arrangements. For larger celebrations, divide up the selection of centerpieces so that not every table is the same.
OUT: Mirrors and votives.
IN: Simple floral stalks, glass containers, and floating candles.
OUT: Winter wonderland. It’s been done, and here in Minnesota we can see that by just looking outside our window. A celebration should instead entice your guests with the new and unexpected.
IN: Gold reigns supreme—in flatware, stemware, and décor. Neutral tones of blush, champagne, and taupe continue to be very popular. Mix in rose gold, copper, and geodes. The overall look should be lush and opulent.
OUT: At the other extreme, rustic has taken on a new look: Gone are burlap and mason jars…
IN: …instead, think Northwoods plaid, wood chargers, and antlers for holiday.