Event Planning

15 years of large-volume cooking, I have done things instinctively. So, I had to stop and consciously think about each step that had to be written down.  This is a long post but I hope it will be helpful to you!

(IPC's Ladies Luncheon for 100) Many thanks to Jina Breazeale.
(Wedding Reception for 150)

Whether I am planning my children's birthday party for 20, my church's ladies tea for 100, or a wedding reception for 450, the planning and food preparation method is the same. 

1. Plan a menu: This is where it begins. Here are some guidelines for planning a good menu.

*Choose a menu which are appropriate for your guests.  Is the event for children, ladies, or all men? Knowing whom you will be serving will be very important in determining your menu. 

*Choose one, two, or more food items which can be frozen ahead: breads, cakes, many baked goods can be frozen before baked.

*Want to try a new recipe?  Try one new recipe at a time. This way if the new recipe flops, you have your tried and true dishes to back you up.

*Pencil in on the menu the quantity and size of serving dishes and platters and serving utensils you will need

*Don't have too many last minute to-do food items, like frying, grilling, or sushi, unless you can hire/volunteer someone to do it for you at the party.  You shouldn't be tied down at the event to do this task.

2. Gather recipes

*Copy all the recipes on the menu on 8 1/2"x 11" paper and make a folder

*In the folder, have all the contact numbers you will need for the party:  bakery, florist, rental company, etc.

*Have an envelope stapled to the folder to keep receipts for food/supply purchases

3. Convert the recipes : This is the hardest part for many novice event planners.  Making too much food is the most common mistake.  Here are some hints to avoid excess food .
*Recipe for a side dish which serves 6 will serve twice as much when serving in a buffet with other foods. 

*Calculate about 1 to 1-1/4 pound of food total per person for buffet; more for sit-down dinners with multiple courses

*Main meats: 6 oz total cooked meat per person for buffet, more for sit-down dinners

*Young adults, all men groups eat 10% more

*Here is a  great, helpful website: Ellen's Kitchen (her calculations are slightly more than what I would prepare per person, reduce 20% of her recommendations)

4. Grocery List and Shopping
*After the recipe conversion, write out the grocery list.  Go over each recipe and list every ingredient you will need.  Check your pantry before you go to the store.

*For Sam's Club business members, Sam's Club has Fax 'n' Pull or Click 'n' Pull service is where you send in your grocery list and the store will gather the items and have it ready!  It's a great time saver. Check if your local grocery or warehouse store offers similar services. 

*Most of your groceries can be purchased a week or more ahead.  Don't wait until last minute to shop.

*Buy only good quality foods. When a large number of people will be consuming your food, you don't want to take any chances of people getting sick. Meats and produce must be fresh.

5. Prep List: This is a must to keep your sanity in the kitchen while you are prepping. A prep list also guides your helpers/staff.

*Before I enter the kitchen, I write down and organize the prep list.  If you have a large event, make foods a week or two ahead and freeze.  Many sauces or dressings can be made several days ahead. 

6. Prep Work: Do it ahead!  I usually do the bulk of my prep work two days prior to the event. Ideally, the day of the event should only be last minute assembly, cooking, and garnishing!  I try to avoid prepping on the day of event.    Click Here for more Cooking Tips from my blog.

Baked Goods: breads, rolls, and pie crusts and be made and frozen unbaked.  Bake on the day of event for freshest taste.
Grate cheese ahead...

If you can't freeze baked goods ahead, measure out dry and wet ingredients beforehand.  So on the day of, you will assemble and bake without having to convert recipes and measure ingredients.
Limes and lemons can be juiced up to five days ahead.
Most veggies and fruit can be prepped two days prior.  Delicate greens like herbs can be trimmed and washed early but chopped last minute.

Everything should be stored in containers or storage bags and labeled.

*Prep veggies and fruit before prepping meats.  Be aware of cross contamination.  Wash your cutting boards, utensils, and equipment well during prep. 

*Don't try to prep by yourself. Have a person or two to help in the kitchen. 

7. The Day Before...
Don't wait till last minute to set the table...
Or do flower arrangements...

or decorate the buffet table.....

I usually clean all necessary utensil, platters (especially silver), ready the table clothes two days before the event. All utensils, disposables such as plates, forks, napkins, and cups are ready to be placed on the buffet tables.

8. On the day of event: This is the fun part! Most of the hard work is done and now it is the day where you put it all together.  This is where you do final baking, frying, heating up, or assembling of the foods already prepared.

Food is put on pretty platters and garnished

Candles are lit, and tables readied.

And your friends will say, "This is beautiful!  You make it look so easy!"  Of course they are seeing the result of your labor of love: numerous hours of planning, shopping, and preparing.

9. After event: Make a note for yourself.

*Too much, too little food?
*What can be done next time to improve?
*How much did this menu cost?  Tally up your receipts.

This is a lot of information to digest, isn't it?  I wish I had this knowledge back 15 years ago!  But I am so grateful to share it with you.  I pray this little bit of knowledge will bless your family, friends, and your church.  

If you have any questions, please write it below. I am happy to help.

Here are some sample of events I have done:

Dinner Party for 32
Wedding Reception for 450
March for Life Lunch Boxes for 50

And click here for other special events in this blog.


  1. Wow, Kay, this makes me want to feed our sheep/women a tea party this year! Thank you for all the time you took to write this post.

  2. A superbly written post on event planning! Your tips are helpful for any size event, whether it be a wedding for 450 as you have just done or a small dinner party.

  3. thank you and God bless!! felt blessed already when just looking at your pictures!!!

  4. Thank you so much for this list. It will make planning a menu for our church Homecoming much easier. We are feeding 300, and this year ijn addition to our kitchen staff we will have a decorating committee, hostess committee ans breakdown (cleaning staff). Please continue to do what you do it is such a BLESSING to those of us that "feed the sheep", whether it is 30 or 300 people.

    1. Thanks for your visit! If you have questions, please feel free to post here or email me directly. :) Always great to connect with fellow laborers in Christ!

  5. I love your attention to detail, I love your site.

  6. Very nice post. I loved the way you have explained it with the images.

  7. Nice blog dear! I will of course follow your ideas while planning any event. Actually I am very interested to start my own small business of event planning so as to prove myself as the best event planner nyc.

  8. Really you all ideas are great! And I would love to follow these in my wedding renewal party which is coming soon. Please suggest me some tips or ideas, especially need to be more aware about, while planning such kind of parties. I really have no idea at all.

  9. This has been an extremely wonderful post for event planner. Thank you for providing this info. More information about click on this.. Conference and Event Management London

  10. I feel whenever we do event planning food gets more importance followed by location and theme. I also plan first for menu items that I want to add in the list then I select venue where I get best food items.