We’ve all been to that party- the one that seems to drag on past everyone’s expectations. We’ve also been to the party that suddenly halts to a stop unexpectedly. So how can you avoid both of these event-planning faux pas? Planning a perfectly-timed party is key to your success.
So, how long should your party last? You should base your event’s length on several factors including the type of event, agreement with your venue, event timeline, and budget. You will need to carefully create a timeline of events based on these three key points.
Planning an event is not a piece of cake, despite how it’s usually depicted on the big screen (the effortless event planner marks everything off her planner with a smile and then shows up the event). It takes careful consideration, a lot of reviewing details, and making little decisions that could impact the event in a big way. And usually, you’ll be there way before the event starts, moving tables and arranging flowers for the finishing touches.
Deciding How Long Your Party Should Last
One of the essential details you’ll need to decide on for your event is your event’s length. So let’s take a look at these three factors and why they impact your party so immensely.
Type of Party You Are Hosting
The type of party you are hosting will greatly impact the timing of your event. Here are a few of the most popular types of parties we host as an event center in Tulsa.
A standard length for birthday parties is around four hours. Of course, there are tons of variables on this. If you’re planning a birthday party at a home or venue, you’ll want to factor in time for cake, gifts, and catching up (birthdays are usually less formal and more friendly). If you intend to have an open bar, tons of games, or dancing, the event might run longer than four hours.
Corporate events are a whole new level of event planning. There are several kinds of corporate events, from team-building events to massive seminars to company hospitality. When planning for any corporate event, it’s best to consider the size when determining the length. If you have a conference of over 500 people, the event might be all day. If your event is internal and consists of 50 employees, you can consider about 4 hours for the event.
Cocktail parties are usually centered around some other event, usually before. They should be around two hours to avoid making the entire shin-dig too long.
Anniversaries & Reunions
Anniversaries and reunions are such happy occasions! You will usually want to include a ton of time for chatting, catching up, eating, and speaking! Usually, these types of events length range from 5-7 hours.
Weddings usually last around 6 hours but can be anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. That includes time for the ceremony, reception, photos, and any other special activities. Usually, the ceremony lasts about an hour. The reception is usually the longest part of the wedding and usually lasts about 3-4 hours itself.
Be sure to factor in your location as you plan the length of your wedding. Suppose the ceremony is somewhere different than the reception. In that case, you’ll need to allocate more time for that and notify the vendors of the exact time guests will be arriving from the ceremony (usually, guests arrive before the bridal party due to pictures).
If you want a more extended reception, then you will need to plan a shorter ceremony! Ceremonies can be as short as 30 minutes!
If you’re hosting the ceremony and reception in the same venue, then every moment on your timeline will be dedicated to the event rather than travel time.
Agreement With Event Venue
You’ll need to consider how many hours you’ve booked with your Tulsa event venue. Always assume that part of the booked time will be spent in set-up and tear-down. Give your event a minimum of two hours on both ends, unless the venue takes care of tear down (like we do at the Stokely Event Center). That’s at least three hours of your booked time. If you only have six hours, then you’ll need to be mindful to keep your event a shorter three hours.
When it comes to events, timelines are essential. You want to have enough space in your event for it to feel effortless and relaxed, but not enough time for it to feel stalled or awkward. It’s a delicate balance that all comes down to creating a well-thought-out timeline. So how do you accomplish this? First of all, schedule the non-negotiables first. These are things to consider, like a keynote speaker who has limited time or a business lunch that has to happen at a particular time.
You don’t want anyone to feel rushed or stressed about getting to the event. Also, be sure to consider your vendor’s timelines. You don’t want to sit everyone down for lunch at noon if the food is still being set up. Instead, you can invite everyone to participate in some game or social hour (with cocktails or even coffee).
If you think people or their stomachs will grumble, you can provide a snack or a fancier hors d’oeuvre. Sit down with each of your vendors; discuss the timelines for a clear picture of their schedule. This will also let you have a clear picture of if you will need to spend extra time or money filling in any lags of time. When planning the timeline, it’s beneficial to use post-it notes! You can write down each part of the event, cocktails, games, speeches, etc. and then move them around to help you visualize the event’s flow and move around parts of the timeline as you receive new information.
It’s also a good idea to always plan a little bit of buffer time for your event. Don’t guarantee that everyone will arrive precisely at 7 PM to hear the speaker. Instead, suggest that the event starts at 6:30n PM rather than 7 PM to give any lagging guest the time to arrive and keep your event clear of distraction or interruption.
Finally, always send the finalized schedule to all of the vendors or other people who are a part of your event’s implementation. This will keep you in good relations and communication with your event team, and it will ensure that they can give you any feedback on the event.
Budgets are IMPORTANT when considering your event length. Why is this? Because the longer the event, the more money you’ll need to budget. If you have a more extended event, you’ll need your Tulsa venue for longer. You’ll also need more food, drinks, or games for the event. For significant events, you’ll want to consider budgeting in for marketing and printed materials, as well. It’s essential to create a budget before nailing down your timeline to know what you can afford and where you can put your sticky note for that.
Other Factors That Might Affect The Length of Your Event
A factor that will affect the pace of the party is the age group. For younger children, you’ll want to keep the party to around two hours due to the little ones’ limited attention span. For a party for three-year-olds (or younger), plan on an hour. Older kids can enjoy a good party for over two hours, but be sure to provide some great entertainment and some even better snacks to keep them active and having the best time ever.
Tips for Throwing a Party
Ask for help. Arrange for friends, relatives, or co-workers to assist you on party day. Get feedback from vendors and people involved in the party. Ask what would be the most fun and engaging at your event, whether that be a karaoke night for the work gang or a more interactive dance party at a wedding. For a kids’ party, be sure to assign kids specific tasks, like directing a party game, serving up some cake, or helping direct the gifts’ opening. For any party, it’s a good idea to delegate. Make a party planning checklist and ask people to help you.
When planning an event, become comfortable with creativity. It might take some experimentation, but guests love to go to an event that’s outside the box. We grow up going to the same kind of events all year, and that’s amazing! But don’t be afraid to think up exciting and fun event themes and activities that will encourage guests to have fun, dream, and let loose.
It’s easy to get stressed when planning an event. You want people to have fun and not be bored. But instead of stressed, get inspired! Scroll Pinterest for inspiration. (Pro-Tip: People love party favors. When in doubt, give party favors. Even if something goes wrong with the event, all the guests will remember is the fantastic little gift they got at the end of the event.) You can find some great tips for throwing a stress-free party here.
Planning a good party takes a lot more work than you might think, even if it’s only six people. Thankfully, at the Stokely Event Center, we have so many options to help you create the best party ever. From interactive games that can fill up the timeline to after-party clean-up, Stokely is there to support you in your event planning. We also have a ton of party planning tips on our blog, and we’re always willing to jump on a phone call with you to help figure out what the best set-up for your event should be. We can’t wait to host your event at the Stokely Event Center!