You can get so overwhelmed with details of a big party—what flowers will be in peak bloom, what you're going to wear, what the guests will want, salmon or filet mignon?—that you can easily lose sight of what you're really celebrating. Use the following questions at your next Money Group meeting to keep everyone focused on the meaning behind the important parties in your lives and the best ways to plan and pay for them.
What's your definition of a dream party? (Jean's take: It doesn't have to be formal to be special. Some of the best parties I've been to have been casual backyard affairs. It's the atmosphere of being around my best friends on a beautiful summer night that I remember—not the thread count in the tablecloths!)
- What do you want guests to remember most about the celebration? What special feeling do you want to create? (Jean's take: For my son's bar mitzvah, we came up with a boardwalk theme. Nothing sent that message as much as the little bags of handcut fudge and salt water taffy (from my favorite Atlantic City purveyor James) that we sent guests home with.)
- How much can you realistically afford to spend?
- Are you willing to go into debt to pay for this? How much?
- If the party is for your child, think back and describe a similar event in your life. (Jean's take: Often parents get caught up in trying to give their child a bigger, better party than they had, whether it be a wedding, bar mitzvah or Sweet 16 party. Try to leave your own experiences out of the equation and deal with the here and now.)
- Have you gotten plenty of input from other family members? (Jean's take: You don't want siblings, cousins, etc. to feel left out of your parents' golden anniversary or another big family event—plus, they may be able to pitch in on the tab. Delegating tasks and costs can help make a big event doable.)
- How good of a negotiator are you? Are you ready to bargain? (Jean's take: You can get discounts and deals on just about every aspect of a big party, but you've got to be willing to ask. I actually sat down with the caterer for the bar mitzvah and said to him, 'This is just too expensive. You'll have to come down in price if we're going to use you.' You know what he said? 'Your party is so casual, I'd use paper goods rather than renting china.' Not only was he right in terms of the feeling of the party, that one suggestion saved me $35 a head!)
- Do you have trouble saying no? (Jean's take: You may have to say no during times like this. Cutting the guest list, going for the less expensive menu or standing up to an insistent, albeit, well-meaning family member are part of party planning.)
- Should you hire an expert to help? What do you think are the pros and cons?
- What's your biggest fear/anxiety about planning this party? What concrete steps can you take to eliminate the potential for those problems?