|Creating a fabulous floral arrangement, like this one by A La Carte Event Pavilion’s staff, can be achieved on any budget.
Photography by Chanele
A budget is often the first and last item considered when creating a one-of-a-kind event. Recently, though, event production companies, corporate and independent planners, and other industry professionals have stepped out of the proverbial box and into a wonderland of creative options to keep expenses in line and still deliver the wow factor.
CREATIVE USE OF COLOR. Creating a cohesive event atmosphere that is not only pleasing to the eye but also to the budget can be achieved by keeping all of your decor one color, thereby immediately giving ambience without extraneous elements. Everyone is familiar with the ever-popular “white party” concept that took the industry by storm a few years ago, but don’t forget about the myriad of other hues, shades, and variations of color that are readily available in flowers, linens, lighting techniques, and even with clever catering choices.
Tara Liaschenko of Link Event Professionals in St. Petersburg suggests asking attendees to wear a signature shade for a special event. She points out that many partygoers are delighted to become involved in the overall theme of an event and doing so also easily makes them part of the decor.
Often, elaborate (i.e., expensive) decor can take a backseat to creative (i.e., cheaper) use of color for events.
“When creating drama, color is your best friend,” says Ian Prosser of Botanica International Design Studio in Tampa.
Another color route to take is featuring a mixture of colors, often as many as five, with unique shades that lend themselves to creating a specific sense or emotional response-such as a “Hot Summer Nights”-themed event with red, orange, yellow, and pops of white. This option allows guests to walk into the space and immediately feel as if they have been transported into a new and distinct place-and that’s not even considering any music or entertainment.
DRAMATIC DECOR. Focus on the big picture to save yourself the heartache of working within a tight budget. Create one major focal point instead of numerous elements that could get lost or unnoticed. Whether it’s showstopping live entertainment, a jungle of borrowed plants, or the barely-there airbrushed costumes on models offering champagne, make it big, bold, and true to the sensibility you are creating.
Take a look at untraditional and underused spaces, such as a venue’s high ceilings. Consider filling that area, which would otherwise be empty, with larger-than-life design elements that bring attention to the grandeur of any venue-whether it is a standard ballroom or historical mansion. Many event production companies have ultramodern, stretch-fabric forms in various shapes that can be suspended above attendees. Employing otherwise unused ceiling space becomes a major focal point, so less money needs to be spent on a lot of smaller, less impactful details.
STRIKING LIGHTING. Transforming a space can be as easy as flipping a light switch. The best and arguably most cost-effective technique to achieve a spectacular event on a limited budget is good lighting. Working with experienced lighting technicians provides you with a plethora of design options, from affordable custom gobos, which can be made to project any image or company logo, to simple effects that simulate different times of the day.
“Accentuating the room with lighting is the icing on the cake,” says Prosser.
From the simple conventional lighting of architectural elements to the high-tech intelligent lighting throughout entire buildings, this medium can accommodate nearly any size or style venue-even outdoor spaces.
The outside of a venue is the first thing guests see. Lining walkways with candles or lanterns, or adding whimsical colored up-lighting on a grand tree can change the appearance of a less than ideal exterior or the popular venue that is frequently used for events, thereby personalizing your event with a customized look.
FABULOUS FLORALS. Lush arrangements can take a toll on already stretched budgets. But with these tips from some of Florida’s best event coordinators and florists, you can achieve the desired look and maintain a healthy financial balance:
- Choose flowers that are in season during the date of the event. (Out-of-season florals are often more expensive.)
- Greenery and botanicals are always price-conscientious options and create truly organic atmospheres.
- Use multiple arrangements of inexpensive flowers instead of a single larger one.
- Group similar shades of blooms to re-create the appeal of a pricier arrangement.
- Create as many arrangements or centerpieces in-house as possible instead of outsourcing to another vendor.
GIFT BAGS. Gift bags, favors, swag, takeaways, etc.-no matter your terminology, these little presents given to attendees help ensure they remember your event after they’ve left. To double the benefits of your takeaway, consider upgrading its presentation from the traditional branded gift bag to an affordable, modern acrylic cylinder or rustic terra-cotta pot, thus making it part of the decor.
“Get the most bang for your buck-display and showcase gifts on the tables,” says Paula Wyatt of Posh-able Events in Orlando.
ECONOMICAL ENTERTAINMENT. Look to the more nontraditional forms of entertainment to dazzle guests. Events are full of moving pieces. Just like in a game of chess, each of the vendors plays a role in making your event a success. So why not allow these players to educate attendees with fun factoids or a short Q&A session with the catering chef or wine sommelier? Many beverage vendors are more than willing to send a knowledgeable representative to conduct a brief lesson in fine wines for eager patrons.
A popular concept at events nowadays is the live artist creating masterpieces before your guests’ eyes. Though such freestyle artists can be too expensive for those working within limited means, local artists and college art majors can achieve many of the same results, and use the same techniques, at a fraction of the cost.
INVITING INVITATIONS. Almost everything is done online nowadays, and invitations are no exception. Many Web sites provide electronic invitations to be emailed to the provided addresses; but though it is a clever alternative to more costly paper invites, it’s important to know your audience before completely eliminating the art of the paper invitation. Many annual fund-raisers and galas have dedicated patrons that enjoy (and expect to be) receiving an elaborate invitation in the mail.
If this is the case and your invites must be mailed, consider these savvy saving ideas:
- Use a postcard-style invitation instead of a bulky traditional invite with an envelope to save money both on paper and postage.
- Work with a preferred graphic artist or printer to create the perfect invitation at an affordable price. Even with restraints, most vendors should be able to assemble an invitation that meets all your requirements within budget as well as make suggestions about products and styles.
- Check the U.S. Postal Service Web site before sending, as there is an additional 20-cent non-machine-printable surcharge tacked onto mailers that are nontraditional sizes, too rigid, or exceed weight restrictions.
SETTING THE MOOD WITH MUSIC. Music is known for being linked to our most basic and powerful emotions, which can then translate into a distinct atmosphere. By contacting an experienced DJ with an expansive library of tunes, you can work together to select tunes that set the right mood.
Many planners often look to a signature piece of music or special sound effects to be played repeatedly during the cocktail hour or while guests are initially entering a specific space. In doing so, guests automatically respond to the mood, tone, and setting that’s being created and immediately eases them into your event.
Even though the budget you’re given can determine how much vendors’ prices will affect your planning decision, it doesn’t have to be the final word.
“Any planner can put on a great event if they have unlimited monetary parameters,” says Liaschenko of the Link Event Professionals. “The true test of an exceptional planner is if they are creative enough to put on a fabulous event within budgetary boundaries.” —Avian Nobles Curtis