At the initial stage try and visualize the room where your event is planned to be held. Think of the colour of the walls, the floor, the curtains, the linen, and the tableware. Think of how can you pull in all the colours. Does the menu accompany the colours you are working with? Think how the room can be further enhanced within your budget, using lighting, chair covers, and decorative items. Think of any areas of protocol to be addressed, making an effort to understand customs and culture. For example, is a VIP table needed?


  • Start by determining your fixed costs for the venue, including any special staging or décor required. Knowing your fixed costs will determine how much you can spend on food and beverages.
  • Pay attention to where the kitchen is and how the food items will make their way to the guests.
  • If you are being adventurous with the menu, make sure your guests know about any item that is not their standard food. Make sure you offer choice.
  • Make sure overall food presentation looks good and comprises choices that go well together.
  • Whatever the event that you are hosting, don’t feel constrained by the set-menus you are offered. You can always work with the caterer to conjure a menu that best suits your budget. Think about what different can you do to demonstrate ingenuity and flair. The cardinal rule is to not to run out of food and drinks. That might affect the image you are trying to portray.
  • Make sure to include gratuities in your budget for food and beverages. Also ensure that the taxes on both food and beverages are accounted for in the budget. If you are providing some of your drinks, determine beforehand what the corkage charges are.
  • Brief all staff -caterers, in-house staff, and volunteers- in advance how the event will unfold and what is expected of each one of them. Make sure they are motivated to make the event a success.


  • Opt for an established facility rather than trying a totally new venue.
  • Think about the type of food you will be serving. Don’t forget to include some vegetarian dishes. If you expect people to eat from napkins, make sure the portions are bite-size and there are no dripping sauces.
  • If there are plates, makes sure there are enough plates for the courses on menu. The same goes for glasses for drinks.
  • When you are doing a buffet, try to have a two-sided layout with identical items on each side. This will have two lines moving at once.
  • For buffets and stand-up receptions, utilize plates that have a slight lip on them to make sure that food doesn’t spill out from the plate.
  • Tell the waiters to not to scrap the plates in front of the guests while clearing, it looks highly unprofessional.


  • Do a site inspection with the caterers to make sure they are comfortable with the layout and the kitchen facilities and equipment.
  • Find out what time caterers will be arriving, where the food will be prepared, and the range of tasks they will perform.
  • Tell the staff to look for your go-ahead to start serving. Also let the waiters know that they should wait for your signal to begin tear-down. Only the host should decide when it is time for the party to end. If your guests are having a good time and want the party to continue, it is worth paying overtime charges


  • If the event also includes a cocktail then negotiating an open bar, where you will be billed on actual consumption, is better. You can also negotiate a flat rate but then your bar will probably be limited to standard drinks.
  • The rule usually is to budget for two to three drinks per person per hour. Based on that and on what the guests are likely to consume you can decide what drinks you want to include in the menu.
  • While the pricey drinks may not be visible, guests, like this writer, may still ask for them. Give exact instructions to bartenders and waiters regarding special or expensive drinks. For example, how the requests for additional wines are to be handled. Your bartender needs your direction.
  • Have one bar and a bartender for every 40 guests.
  • Consider carefully where the bars are placed to avoid overcrowding. Keep the bar area clean. Floral arrangements and décor may not be practical.
  • If you are planning a champagne toast, use champagne flutes and not champagne saucers.

(For help with your event please write to us at

Asif Zaidi

Asif is a proven business leader, a business leadership advisor, and an entrepreneur. Asif lives in Toronto and owns and runs Meadowvale Events Management Group - a full service group for planning and managing events of all sizes and styles to create memorable occasions for the hosts and participants alike. He is a Managing Partner of and is also an owner and director at Cortleigh Properties Inc, a reputable property development firm in Toronto. Previously, as a Managing Director with Citibank, Asif fulfilled leadership assignments across a number of world regions. Asif is a powerful communicator and keynote speaker and has taught at a business school. His personal blog ( is widely followed and his book ‘The Stuff of Life’ is due to be released in the US in January 2017.

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