man playing guitar with peple dancing at party in background

Hiring Entertainment for your Party

Entertainment is a major facet of a party, whether it’s a toddler’s birthday party or a 200 person wedding.  Large gatherings almost demand professional entertainment.  Smaller gatherings can go either way.  However, if you do not hire entertainment, you’ll probably be providing it personally one way or another, such as organizing games for the kids to keep them occupied.

The first step is to decide what kind of entertainment you’re looking for.  For large, adult gatherings, DJs and bands are commonly employed.  Stand up comedians and improv actors are also sometimes perform. For children, you’re probably looking at magicians, clowns and people dressed up as characters children will recognize.

Kids and a clown at a partyStart looking early.  Good performers can book up months in advance.  You’d hate to have to settle with mediocrity because you waited too long.

Ask for suggestions.  These people live off referrals from previous clients.  So rather than picking them randomly off the internet, see if you can find someone who has employed the type of person you’re looking for and get their feedback.

Meet the entertainer in person if at all possible.  You should be signing a contract with them, and it’s better to get that out of the way ahead of time.  If they show up the day of the party and offer a contract you’re unwilling to sign, you’re suddenly out your entertainment for the day.

When you meet with the entertainer, things to discuss should include:

  • The price, including what all the price includes.  Get a good sense of what the performer will be providing.  This is particularly important for children’s parties, as kids quickly grow bored and will want to move on to new things.
  • How long will the performance be
  • Cancellation fees and deadlines
  • Your own preferences for what is performed.  Perhaps you want a DJ or band to stick to certain types of music, or perhaps you promised your kid there would be balloon animals.  Don’t presume anything.  Discuss it with the entertainer.
  • Whether they have liability insurance
  • Whether they belong to any industry organizations such as a guild of magicians.  Such membership helps indicate their level of commitment to their profession.

Sound board for DJ at weddingYou’ll also need to discuss the space needed by the entertainer:

  • How much space will he need?
  • When does he need access to the space for set up?
  • Does he need electrical outlets or other features for the space?
  • Does the space need to be a certain height?
  • How does he want the audience arranged around his space?

While it does take a little time and effort to make arrangements for a great entertainer, the results will be worth it.  Come party time, you can sit back and enjoy the show just as much as everyone else.

Happy people with drinks in hand

Party Hard, Get Home Safe

In 2014, drunk driving killed almost 10,000 people in the United States. Many victims were innocent bystanders; over 1000 of them were children.  They might be in a car struck by the drunk driver, be pedestrians, or be passengers in the drunk driver’s car.

There’s lots of reasons why people get behind the wheel drunk.  Some don’t realize their own condition.  Others feel they have no other way home other than behind the wheel of their car.  Some think they’re only risking themselves.

Tired man with drinkThere are always options.  Taxis, for one.  In the era of smart phones, you can privately look up a local company without asking your host.  Hitching a ride with a friend is another possibility.  Simply waiting is also an option.  If you’re not sure if you’re drunk, give yourself another hour to see how you feel.  Don’t be fooled by claims that things like coffee will sober you up faster.  They don’t  The only thing that sobers you is time.

At worst, you may have to ask to crash in a spare bedroom or on a couch.  You might find that embarrassing, but it’s not nearly as embarrassing as a DUI, which can lead to a revoking of your license, thousands of dollars of legal fees, and even jail.

Providing Safety as Party Host

It’s an uncomfortable situation when a party host has to cut off a guest’s drinking or claim their car keys.  However, you owe it to your friends to keep them safe, even when you’re protecting them from their own poor decisions.

Alcoholic drink and car keysLuckily, more options are being made available, not just to drivers but also to event hosts.  UberEvents allows you to prepay for rides.  You hand out promotion codes to your guests, and you’re only charged for the number of rides redeemed.

At the very least, this allows you to easily provide a ride to someone past their limit.  And if you’ve given the promotion code ahead of time, your guest doesn’t have to make a show of getting assistance when it’s time to leave. He arranges his own ride, punches in the code, and goes.

UberEvents also allows you to pay for rides to the event, so your guests don’t have to fear leaving their vehicle behind if they use the Uber service later.

There’s nothing wrong with having – and providing – a good time.  But drunk driving is a national epidemic, and it’s absolutely preventable.  Do your part by being a responsible party host.  No matter how you do it, don’t let your guests become statistics by getting behind the wheel drunk.

Wedding Checklist

5 Things to Remember When Planning a Wedding

A tremendous amount of stress naturally goes along with wedding planning. It’s meant to be the happiest day on your life, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it also requires a tremendous amount of work. Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re planning a wedding.

1. You Can’t Do This Alone

Very rarely are people expected to plan the party where they are also the guest of honor, but that’s exactly what a wedding is. Asking for help is more than reasonable: it’s imperative. Not only are there a million things to do, but many of them overlap. You can’t be everywhere at once, and this is the last day that you should feel a need to.

The maid of honor and best man are good individuals to ask for help. They are two of your dearest friends. They will understand. They probably actively want to help. They just might not have offered because they aren’t privy to your needs.

2. Ultimately, It’s Your Party

You’re sensitive to the needs and wants of your friends and family, which is great until they become a complicated mess. You’re not going to be able to keep everyone happy all the time.

Moreover, decisions need to be made. There is a time to gather people’s opinions, but there’s also a time when you make the best decisions for what is ultimately your party.

3. The Chicken Dance is not a Tradition

Bride Holding Her Hand Out to Say NoYou will be told a dozen times that certain things have to be done, because that’s just how weddings are. Unless you’re talking to your officiant (and sometimes even if you are), that’s usually nonsense. Receiving lines, grand marches, kissing while guests clink their glasses, the Chicken Dance, bouquet throws, garter tosses, these are things that many people do. That doesn’t mean skipping them will destroy the sanctity of your marriage.

You have enough to do. Don’t plan things you don’t want. And, honestly, don’t put up with things that aren’t your style just because someone says that’s how weddings are normally done.

4. Feed Your Vendors

We get so caught up trying to remember all of the family and friends that need to make it on the invitation list that we can forget the people we hire would appreciate a meal too. At the top of that list is the officiant. He or she should be invited to both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception. You should also consider the photographers, who will be with you from the moment you start getting ready before the ceremony until at least the cutting of the cake, many hours later.

5. After-Reception Logistics

Wedding PresentsBy the end of the night, you’re going to be exhausted. Don’t forget there will still be things to do at the end of the reception! Gifts need to be transported somewhere, and there could be a lot. There may be things you’re responsible for boxing up as well, such as rented centerpieces.

These are not jobs for you. Many bridal couples don’t even make it to the end of the reception due to exhaustion. Perhaps no job delegation is as important as this one.

Happy Children at Birthday Party with Presents

5 Things to Remember in Planning a Child’s Birthday Party

You probably knew planning your child’s birthday party would take time and effort. However, you might have only envisioned the best case scenario. Lots of things can go wrong when you gather a small group of energetic children. Take the time to plan ahead so you, your child and your child’s guests all have an enjoyable afternoon.

1. Pick a Theme

You are probably going to have dozens of things to buy, and you are going to have to debate the details of every one of those things, even if only with yourself.

Unless you have a theme. Decide on a theme, and you automatically know what colors the hats and the plates and the invitations should all be. The theme might also suggest what kind of games you play, what sort of entertainer to hire and maybe even what location to hold your party, if you’re not holding it at home.

Choosing a theme also keeps your child involved in the planning process, which is important. This is his day, after all. It will feel more like his party if it reflects whatever he loves at the moment, whether it be Iron Man, the Little Mermaid, or ninjas.

2. Have Enough Adults

Even super-parents have their limits. Make sure you have enough adults willing to help keep the party properly organized.

This isn’t just about keeping the kids disciplined. It’s about the hundred things little kids need help with. If you’re running games, someone may need to be at each game to keep score, remind players of the rules, and arbitrate when there’s a disagreement. If someone bumps their head or scratches their knee, he may need a shoulder to cry on, and if you’re paying attention solely to them, you’re not paying attention to everyone else.

3. Plan Your Time with Flexibility

Have activities planned for the duration of the party. If not, the kids might come up with their own entertainment, and you won’t necessarily like it.

That said, there should also be some flexibility worked into your schedule. It can take time to transition children from one event to another. Some may need more encouragement to put down what they were previously doing to embrace whatever comes next in the plan.

Children with Cake on Faces at Birthday Party

4. Collect Contact Information

Be sure to have contact information for an available parent of every child, just in case. This isn’t just about emergencies or misbehavior. Some children simply get homesick very quickly, particularly if they’re in an unfamiliar place or surrounded by unfamiliar people.

5. Understand Medical Conditions

Reach out to parents and ask if there are medical issues you need to be concerned with, and, if so, what to do if something occurs. Even if the answer is simply “call 911,” you’ll know with certainty what to do if an emergency happens.

This includes any food allergies children might suffer. Getting the information ahead of time will allow you to order only food that is not hazardous to the health of your young guests. Even learning at the last minute, however, lets you ensure the child in question knows which foods he can and can’t have.

Who’s Coming, Part 2

I’m suddenly in charge of invitations for my 20-year high school reunion.  The contact list has not exactly fared well over the last two decades, although several of us have been working to verify and update contact info.  Now we all have our separate lists in multiple formats.  Just the thought of typing 200 addresses into any system makes my hands cramp.

Importing Email Addresses

Someone with a sign for help buried under paperLuckily, Invitecast lets me import addresses from all sorts of places.  For example, I have a bunch of email addresses in my Gmail contacts.  Invitecast shows me how to export my contacts to a CSV file.  I can edit that file in any spreadsheet program, so I end up with exactly the people I want.  Then I upload the file to Invitecast.

Some of my friends helpfully put their updated lists into spreadsheet form, so I can easily upload those as well.  There’s no limit to the number of uploads.  So, even if the lists are really scattered, I can quickly get everything in one place.

Other friends, however, just typed email lists into the body of an email.  Luckily, I can copy and paste text and Invitecast will isolate the email addresses and add them to my invitation list.  I can do this to the class’s online directory as well, which will save me huge amounts of time.

Invitecast even stops me from inputting the same address twice.  No one’s going to get multiple invites, so I’m not going to get multiple replies from the same person.

Managing Responses

So I send out the invitations, and I’m getting a little nervous.  Theoretically, I’m going to get 200 responses, and I’m going to have to do something with all of them.

Thankfully, everything is contained in Invitecast.  Nothing goes to my inbox, so my personal emails aren’t going to get swamped by replies.

Besides offering lots of organizational features based on the type of reply given, Invitecast also allows me to create an infinite number of #hashtag filters.  Invitecast tallies how many people I’ve assigned a specific #hashtag to, and I can view a list of just those people.

Insanity/Sanity SwitchI can also grab the emails of just the people currently being listed and paste them into the To: field of my email program.  So if there’s some segment of the class I need to get a hold of, it’s easy for me to sort and contact them.

Mousing over a person’s email shows me when they last viewed or responded to the invitation.  So I know if they’ve been interacting with it, or if I’ve perhaps sent it to an inactive email account.

Suddenly, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I can get this reunion together with my sanity intact.

Little girl at pink themed birthday party

Your Party Should be Yours

People’s first impression of an event often comes from the invite.  The colors, the designs, the fonts, everything works together to paint a picture of what guests should expect.  You can tell whether you’re being invited to a birthday, a wedding or a graduation before you actually read the invite.  But what if design could say more than that?

Birthday invite with lots of clip art
I think I remember receiving this card in 1982.

So I find myself an online invitation service.  I look under birthday parties, and I’m offered a handful of canned graphics of balloons and birthday cakes.  Take it or leave it, that’s what I get to work with.

I mean, that’ll do in a pinch, but this is the 21st century and the Internet.    With everything at my disposal, shouldn’t my invitation be more personal than a picture of balloons that has already been sent to represent a thousand other birthday parties?  Shouldn’t I be able to have more of a say?  Shouldn’t the invite represent my party, not just a party?

Invitecast agrees.  It gives me templates which I can totally customize.  Don’t like the background?  I can substitute another from right off my computer or the Internet.  I can also use a solid color.  If the template offers a featured image, I can replace that too.    You know, like maybe a picture of the person celebrating the birthday!

But it’s not just pictures.  I can change the font type and color and restyle the RSVP button.  I can even add music.  So, in just a couple minutes, I’ve made an invite that’s uniquely me.

An invite isn’t supposed to just be functional.  It should be an expression of yourself and crafted with family and friends in mind.  So don’t be told you have to make do with canned balloons and birthday cake.  There are online invites for the 21st century.

Bappy Birthday

Young caucasian woman holding a blank letter in pink envelope

Party 101: Who’s Coming?

When I was growing up, party invites were always on paper.  They might be handed out in person, or they might be sent through the mail, bit it was always a nice card in an envelope.  It was always one invite per household, and we’d indicate how many people were coming through the RSVP.

But I’ve grown up, and times have changed.  People now keep a far closer eye on their inbox than their mailbox.  They’re willing to immediately respond to an email, but they drag their feet when it comes to filling out an RSVP card and walking it out to the mailbox.

A bunch of services now let you send event invites over the web, but the formality of paper invitations doesn’t translate well.  I want to invite Matt and Ashley, who are married, but I can’t simply send the email to the household, as I can do with a paper invite.  Do I just send the invite to Matt and expect him to speak for the both of them?  Not if I want Ashley to continue speaking to me!

So I email an invite to both of them, and both RSVP for two.  Presumably they both mean they’re bringing the other, but I can’t tell that to the invite service I’m using, so now I have reservations recorded for four people, even though it probably should only be two.


Invitecast gets around this problem by letting me organize invitees into groups.  When Ashley goes to respond to the invitation, she can see if Matt has already responded, and they can both respond for one another by name rather than as an ambiguous, unnamed guest.  I can also invite their children by name, even if the kids don’t have email addresses, and the parents can respond for them as well.

And rather than having to keep a spreadsheet of responses, Invitecast tracks them automatically for me.  Besides letting me know how many chairs to set up, it also lets me send follow-up emails based on replies.  That let’s me give a nudge to those who haven’t responded at all or a note of thanks to everyone who’s replied they’re coming.  No need to pick out emails individually; a couple quick clicks tells Invitecast which group of people a message should address.

Invitecast hugely simplifies party organization.  I can invite someone without having an email address for them (such as in the case of a child), and I can send an email to someone who isn’t invited (such as the parents of children invited to a birthday party).  People can be organized into groups so every member of the group can see what has already been submitted, and they won’t be able to double-up responses.  The result is a far more accurate RSVP list, letting me more easily plan my big event.