When planning an event or party—no matter the occasion or size—you should have your own expectations of what the final result will look like. But what about what others are picturing? Whether you’re planning a luncheon for your boss, a bridal shower for your best friend or you’re the day-of coordinator for a wedding, managing the expectations of others is a skill that you can develop with each event or party you organize.

When Dreams Don’t Match Reality

Expectations don’t always line up with reality and this is especially true when it comes to planning large-scale, professional events like weddings and quarterly kickoffs or smaller, more personal events like partner lunches, baby showers and birthday brunches. The main reason for this disconnect is always budget.

There are a number of reasons that your budget may not line up with your dream event. Sometimes, it is because your projections are off from actual costs; other times it is because you are racing against the clock and decisions are being made when prices may be higher due to last-minute vendor markups.

In the June 2015 issue of Forbes, Joe Worth talks about how to move forward when your budget is busted. The answer? Start over. You don’t necessarily need to hit the delete button, but you should review the numbers to see where your calculations are off and what you can eliminate to balance the budget.

How To Manage Expectations

As the designer of the event, you are the one who has to break the news that budgetary restrictions are limiting what can be achieved in terms of a ‘dream event.’ In a perfect world, more money would magically appear and you could exceed expectations. As we know, money doesn’t grow on trees.

Before approaching the person that appointed you—whether a client, boss or the guest of honor—you need to try to think outside of the box. Maybe there are some venues you didn’t consider. Are there some things you could make yourself—like DIY centerpieces to avoid using that expensive florist or a dessert bar to save on the expensive bakery—that could free up some funds to reallocate? You may start to see the event in a new way with a bit of creative thinking.

Should you have to have the budget discussion, it is important to follow Forbes’ advice and take advantage of all of your budget documentation. Review the numbers and find out what the most important priorities are. Maybe they would rather spend more money on the venue and get rid of a few appetizer options. Maybe an open bar is non-negotiable but they are willing to use one room for different parts of the event, by moving chairs in-between sessions and turning it from a small conference set-up to a dinner while guests are mingling near the bar. If they won’t budge on a certain expectation, you can show them what has to be cut out of the event to make that concession. As always, the more detailed you are, the better.


Throughout this whole process, communication is key. If you aren’t up front with any roadblocks that you approach when it comes to the budget, your client, boss or guest of honor may feel blindsided and it could make moving forward a bit more difficult—especially the longer that they dream up an unrealistic event.

Remember that listening is just as important as advising, so that the final decision-maker feels like they have been heard. Even if their final wishes aren’t possible and you both have to agree on moving some things around, it will be a much smoother process if they feel understood and heard throughout the process.

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