Since I started at my job last year, I’ve worn many hats around the office. My official title, the one printed on my business cards, says that I’m a search marketing specialist, but at times I also do the work of a copywriter, project manager, publicist and event planner. Planning events for the company has been one of my favorite things to do, and I just recently pulled off my biggest one yet.
On March 1, BMI Elite celebrated its third birthday with a big party and open house of our new Boca Raton office. I was in charge of making everything happen, from getting invitations created to hiring everyone that we would need to make the party a success.
The first thing I did was make a huge list of everything I needed to plan for. There’s the obvious: i.e. food, drinks, and cake. But then there’s plates, cups, silverware and serving utensils for the food, drinks and cake. And then tables to put this stuff on, as well as linens and napkins for the tables. I tried to think of every little possible thing and write it all down. Once I made a list of everything that we would need, I called around to local caterers, bar services, party rental companies, florists and more to get estimates so I could compare prices. I am going to break the rest of this article up into sections based on how many different companies I hired, and I will share my experience with them and everything I learned about party planning.
Food & Drinks
I figured that this was going to be the biggest thing to plan for so I got to it first. I called around to every local caterer and bar company in the area before my boss told me about Empire Pizza, which had come highly recommended to him by a family member. I called them up, spoke with Sandy Levy and immediately felt comfortable with her. Unlike some of the people I spoke with from the other catering companies, Sandy seemed genuine and calm. She knew her stuff and how to sell it, but she wasn’t pushy or aggressive in any way. She also informed me that Empire Pizza could handle the open bar as well, which was a huge plus.
Empire Pizza has a restaurant near Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, so I made a reservation for me and my boss to go for a tasting and to meet with Sandy in person. The food was delicious and her prices were unbeatable. But best of all, I trusted Sandy to do a great job with our party. She was so full of ideas and paid so much attention to small details that make a big difference. I was sold.
As part of the deal that we made with Sandy, we had to provide our own alcohol and soda mixers. Empire Pizza provided the juice mixers, garnishes, and little bar tools. For our part, we went to Costco and loaded up on liquor, wine, beer and champagne. In all, I’d estimate that we spent about $2500 there.
The night of the party couldn’t have gone smoother when it came to the food and drinks. Sandy and her team of five servers/bartenders did an incredible job and our guests left full, drunk and happy. If I ever need to hire a caterer again, I’m definitely calling Sandy.
Furniture & Glassware
Figuring out what I needed to order from the party rental company was probably the hardest thing to plan for. The list changed so many times, but Better Party Rentals was patient and efficient.
After I hired Empire Pizza and figured out what they do not provide, I was to make a list for Better Party Rentals. In all, we ended up renting high top tables, tables for the bar, linens for all tables, three types of glassware, a red carpet, and coolers. They delivered the goods the day before the party and picked it up the day after.
We didn’t go too crazy with flowers, but we wanted something pretty to put on some of the tables. Originally we were going to get little arrangements for each of the 12 high tops, but after we increased the high top amount to 20 tables I scratched that idea. It would be too expensive, and I didn’t want it to look like flower overkill. We ended up getting six medium-sized flower arrangements to put on the coffee tables throughout the office and one big arrangement for the lobby.
The florist I hired was Field of Flowers of Boca Raton. They do beautiful work for affordable prices- the smaller arrangements, called the Classic Collection A, were just $36.95 each. They delivered the flowers on time the morning of the event and I received a lot of compliments about them.
The (major) problem with Field of Flowers is that that almost NEVER answer their phone. I’ve probably called them about 40 times, and they’ve answered about three. This is SO frustrating, and I have actually moved on and used other florists because of this on other occasions. Field of Flowers, if you are reading this, ANSWER YOUR DAMN PHONE! I guarantee that you are losing a ton of business (not just mine) as a result of not picking up the phone.
Cake & Balloons
Publix got some extra business as a result of Jeanette, their event planner’s upselling efforts. After I ordered a cake, she sent an email reminding me that Publix could also provide balloons, cold soda, deli platters, etc. She got to me right as I was contemplating whether to attempt transporting blown-up latex balloons in my car or buying a helium tank and doing it myself in the office.
For about $150 Publix blew up 100 latex balloons in the colors of my choice and delivered them right to the office. It was perfect.
Backdrop/Step & Repeat
Every big party has one disaster, right? For me, this is where it happened.
Since we were getting the red carpet, we decided that we needed a backdrop where everyone could be photographed as they entered the party. I hired CB Signs because they offered me the best deal on an 8’ x 9’ step and repeat, also known as the white banner with the company’s logos all across it.
So I ordered this banner through CB Signs and was told that it would be ready a few days before the party. Little did I know that they outsourced it from a company in Minneapolis, and that this company would mail the wrong banner to CB Signs just hours before my party. When Christine called to tell me this, the correct banner was lost in UPS and nowhere to be found.
Christine apologized a million times and swore that they had never had this problem before, and promised to do everything she could to find our backdrop. The night before the party, our backdrop was located five hours away in Jacksonville. I told her to call me the minute she received it.
The next morning, I called CB Signs about 15 times before finally just getting in my car and driving to their office. When I got there, the “Out to lunch” sign was on the door. Christine returned about 15 minutes later and smiled when I introduced myself.
“You’re going to love this story,” she told me. I’m glad she said that immediately because I was about to kill her.
Apparently she had spent the whole morning having a new banner hand made for me locally. Right as that was finished, UPS showed up with the original one. Although she didn’t call me and tell me that any of this was happening, I appreciate her efforts and dedication to getting the job done. I also walked away with two banners that day which was nice.
The DJ was the one thing I didn’t need to worry about because he was the brother of one of our employees and a good friend of my boss. One less thing to worry about J
My boss insisted on hiring a magician to entertain our guests. I hired a local named Gary Goodman, who I was told was one of the best in the area. I was running around like a crazy person for most of the party, so I did not get a chance to catch his act, but I heard good things from those who did.
The photos were taken by Sam Laskey, a freelance photographer who was a friend of my co-worker.