First 5 Steps in Party & Wedding Planning

By Pacific Party Canopies, offering you more than 20 years' experience covering the Pacific Northwest's rental needs

Pacific Party Canopies wedding Over the years, we've noticed that these five — vision, date, location, budget and guest list — are the first things anyone planning a wedding or party needs to determine. These are also points we and other vendors will ask you about when building your order, so we invite you to take a look through this article and start envisioning your dream event.

Our skilled staff would like to help you through the process and make your event spectacular. If you have any unanswered questions after reading this article, please call us at (360) 707-2115 for a personal consultation.


Start with a brainstorming session. Sit down with your fiance and anyone else involved in party planning and make some lists. How do you envision your special day progressing? List your wants, your must-haves and your absolutely-nots. Also list any other givens, such as religious requirements, family demands and no-go dates.

Here are some points to ponder:

  • Season
  • Time of day
  • Indoor/Outdoor
  • Level of formality
  • Style or theme
  • Size
  • Location


Take some time now to browse through bridal magazines and online photo albums, such as Pacific Party Canopies' Galleries page, for ideas and inspiration.


Now's the time to start making decisions. Begin with choosing a date because this will determine your timetable for organizing the event, and it will be the first thing everyone — your guests and vendors alike — will want to know.

Pacific Party Canopies wedding Keep in mind that some vendors book a year or more in advance, particularly for summer Saturdays and holidays. So the farther out you set the date, the more options you'll have. The size or complexity of the event you envision may also dictate how much time you need for preparations.

When you've identified a season for your wedding or party, pick a couple dates that might be suitable. Unless you're planning a holiday party, you'll probably want to steer clear of holidays. Also take into account the dates of graduations, pregnancy due dates, trips, family reunions and national days of remembrance. Check this article by for more dates to avoid.

Make sure the people you can't do without — parents, bridal party — don't have conflicts on the date(s) you chose. Before you put down any deposits, remind these people of possible conflicts, such as holidays or trips, and have them double-check their schedules.


With the vision for your event in mind, think about the setting you want. Your party or wedding could take place indoors, outdoors, in a church, in a public space, in your or your loved one's home or yard, or at a place that holds significance for you, such as the place you met. If you don't have a location in mind, take a look at Pacific Party Canopies' galleries of fabulous backyard weddings and list of local venues.

Here are some qualities to consider in a location:

  • Guest capacity
  • Cost
  • Parking
  • Access for guests with limited mobility
  • Restrooms
  • Time you're allowed to begin setup at the location and time by which you must leave the location
  • Noise restrictions
  • Kitchen or area for food prep
  • Space for orchestra or DJ
  • Air conditioning/heating


You'll also want to find out what the location offers and what you'll have to arrange yourself. Does the location have seating, dishes, shelter or in-house catering, and if so, do you like the style of them? What about decorations or backdrops for wedding photos?

Lastly, remember to take into account the date of your wedding or party. If it's an outdoor location or a venue with a view, will it look as good as you imagine during your chosen season?


Next comes the money talk. You'll need to figure out where funding will come from, how much money you'll have to work with and when it will be available. Also, find out whether you need to fit a rehearsal dinner, a honeymoon or other expenses into the budget.

For a wedding, you can break your round figure down by category to see if it will meet your needs. Expect the reception to take about half the budget, and photography and bridal attire to each claim up to 10 percent. For a $10,000 wedding, that would be $5,000 for the reception (with the majority going toward food and beverages) and $1,000 each for photos and bridal dress. The remaining funds are allotted for flowers, music, ceremony, stationery and other expenses. For more detail, try an online budgeting tool like the one on, which breaks any budget into 30 to 40 categories based on industry averages. If the amounts seem inadequate for a particular category, you'll need to borrow from other categories or consider raising your total budget.

Typically the biggest factor in price for any type of event is the number of guests, so if you're looking to reduce costs, turn to your guest list first.


Pacific Party Canopies weddingSettle the guest list early in the process. You don't want to verbally invite someone and later discover they won't make the cut. The guest list also is an important factor in the cost of the event and where you can hold it.

Start by going back to your vision for the event. Do you want an intimate gathering or a giant, event-of-the-year bash? Then reconcile that vision with your budget. If you have a limited budget but your heart is set on 300 guests, you'll have to have less extravagant trimmings or find other ways to cut costs.

Build your list in a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel, or use an online tool, such as the guest list and guest list, which have some helpful features. You'll need to keep track of RSVPs and gifts, too, so be organized from the beginning.

Compile your list in tiers, starting with the people you can't do without and moving on to those you'd like to include if you can. Begin with these groups:

  • Immediate family
  • Bridal party and spouses
  • Close extended family
  • Close friends


Then consider adding these:


  • Distant relatives
  • Parents' friends
  • Coworkers and business associates
  • Neighbors


If you still have space, you could choose to allow singles to bring guests.

By tiering your guest list, you'll make it easier to balance the list against your budget and the location's capacity.

Next Steps

As soon as you have some of these general decisions made, start contacting vendors. Begin with the vendors that usually can service only one wedding per day, such as venues, photographers and musicians. These vendors' available dates may affect the date you choose for your event. Then move on to the rest: rental companies, florists, caterers, event planners, etc.

At Pacific Party Canopies, we invite customers to contact us as soon as possible because our products are reserved on a first come, first served basis. A 6- to 12-month lead time is typical for larger events. We urge customers planning a summer wedding to place an order with us by the preceding January. If you're looking for other types of vendors, give us a call and we'd be happy to refer you to businesses in the area.

For further reading and event planning ideas, follow Pacific Party Canopies' blog. Also, check out our Resources section for galleries, links and more.