I was on a call with someone the other day who commented that the two most important things to know about an event are the goal and the budget. Most people on the call seemed to agree. That made me sad. While a realistic budget is essential, an ounce of creativity can be worth a few thousand dollars. If you don’t agree, keep reading. I hope to make you a believer.
I had a very high-end reception to plan, with virtually no money to host it. These were VVIPs and the reception was incredibly important. (Apparently not important enough to fund properly, but that’s a story for another time). When I realized the disparity between the goal and the budget, I admit to being frustrated. But the only thing that was going to change was my attitude, so I was determined to figure out how to make a high-end reception out of a pretzels-and-(cheap)-beer budget.
By brainstorming all the words/ideas/images that came to mind, I got my creative juices flowing. From there, I analyzed what could be achieved without a formidable outlay of cash. The end result was an incredibly exclusive experience that came in on budget. And no one was the wiser. Here’s how we pulled it off.
Emphasize feelings not things
All modesty aside, there is a part of us that likes to feel special and appreciated. That can come in the form of a material token, but it can also come from the way we’re treated. So instead of focusing on the things that make people feel special, we focused on the feelings behind it.
When the doors opened, guests walked into a dimly lit room aglow with votive candles. Classical music played in the background. A wait staff of 12, dressed in tuxedos, stood in formation around the room and at the door wearing white gloves and holding silver trays with champagne, sparking cider and sparkling water. Each glass had a strawberry adorning the rim. Guests were served immediately with careful attention paid to refilling glasses before anyone had to ask.
Our focus was on the images people associate with high-scale events. Champagne is connected to celebrating meaningful accomplishments or special occasions. Tuxedos are reserved for important, formal affairs. White gloves come with fine service, expensive food and an air of the elite. So do silver trays. The strawberries were festive, paired well with the drinks and added a final element of something special.
The soft lighting augmented by candles created a feeling of warmth and sophistication. The classical music reinforced the feel of aristocracy. The wait staff made the group feel catered to and important.
Add it up
Now for the numbers. While everything I just described met our goal for the experience we wanted to create, we had that stingy budget to meet. We realized that while champagne is considered an extravagance, most people don’t drink it often or in large quantities. We saved a fortune. Even though we had waiters ready to refill glasses, not much was consumed.
The lighting was simple: house lights at half power and votive candles offered by the hotel as free décor. The classical music came from an iPod playlist. We paid a patch fee to use the house sound system and avoided paying a band. Sound quality wasn’t an issue because we kept the volume low.
The result was an experience that money couldn’t buy. That worked in our favor since we had none to spend.
Want more money-saving tips based on creative thinking? Email me at Christy.firstname.lastname@example.org.