Ideally, you want to start planning a major event a year or more ahead. Once you have a date and venue, here's what else you'll need to do:
12 months before
Choose a theme and work on a budget. Decide the general type of event, such as sit-down dinner or buffet meal, and other major aspects, such as entertainment.
Get cost estimates for food, drinks, entertainment, decorations and gifts. Food alone can cost from $10 to $35 a person, so feeding a party of 100 people could cost at least $3,000. A professional DJ for the entertainment could cost between $100 and $300 an hour.
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Six months before
Finalize details with all vendors. Buy decorations and choose invitations.
Two months before
Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the event. Finalize details for transportation and guest lodging.
A month before
Contact guests who have not responded to the invitations, so you can provide a final head count for vendors, especially the caterer and event hall.
A week before
Plan to be busy with last-minute details, including decorating, seating arrangements and preparing gifts or favors for guests.