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Advice on Event Planning by Tony Leone

Through Leone hesitates calling himself a professional event - or wedding planner, the following insights should be considered for constructive planning.

A location with atmosphere is more important than you may think. A great atmosphere keeps your guests occupied when conversations run dry. I like to remind clients that there is much more to consider than food and drink for an event to be a memorable one.

The Pasfield House is conveniently located just west of the state capitol complex and adjacent to the visitor’s center. It is the perfect place for holding private meetings or exclusive gatherings. The Pasfield House has received several awards for its renovation, including the Illinois Times Best of Springfield Award for renovation of a historic building. It has been land marked by the Springfield Historic Sites Committee.

There are typically three types of business related, gathering; those which entertain customers/clients; those for the purpose of entertaining staff or sales organizations; and ones that simply recognize hardworking staff. Once you determine which type of event you wish to hold, ask yourself what type of atmosphere you want to achieve. Some business events are festive, others can be competitive, inspirational, or team building. When entertaining visitors, my advise is to keep it light, don’t make them sit through a presentation unless it is disclosed up front and has a separate time element that allows your guests to comfortably side step the lecture/press conference if they wish.

The first key decision to consider is your budget. Will there be a theme appropriate for your guests and pocket book? If your name is on the line, do it right. That doesn’t mean your gathering has to be elegant, just make sure the atmosphere you wish to establish carried through for the entire event. Make each event memorable; something your guest will remember and be pleased that they took their time to attend.

Client events are probably more restrained than a holiday party for employees. For each event determine if spouses will be included. Including spouses will have a major affect on cost but my personal feeling is that it’s worth doing. Placing your event outside the office gives the gathering a more special stamp, be it business or inform al. Outdoor informal events can be very nice if the weather and mosquitoes cooperate but make sure you’ve got a backup place to go. Entertainment is nice. A jazz trio, string quartet or an acoustical guitarist adds so much without breaking the bank, plus you get a sound system for making brief comments.

There are two budgets you must consider for every event, the budget for ‘Food and Beverages’ and the one for ‘Other Services’. Food and Beverages may or may not be handled completely by the caterer. Most entertainment venues in Springfield have an their own ‘on-site’ or ‘preferred’ service provider. Many caterers supply all of the plateware, glassware, linens, etc. for an additional fee, or you may rent them at a local party rental store. Either way, they usually add a significant amount to the cost of an event. Other services to budget for are the hall rental itself, floral arrangements, other decorations, musicians, party favors, as well as a long list of electronic equipment needed. Some event locations will even provide a babysitter for the guests to entertain small children while serving kid-oriented snacks.

Most caterers or event facilities have their own liquor licenses to sell alcohol. If you’re allowed to provide your own liquor for an event, even paying retail prices, you will save a bundle over paying a per drink price. At the Pasfield House, you can bring in alcoholic beverages, and that cuts your costs way below what a host pays at an establishment that has liquor license

When it comes to making a decision about liquor, the more difficult question is, “What should I buy”. Size up your audience, are they beer, wine or cocktail drinkers? Wine is very popular at most events. The Pasfield House often offers wine and cheese parties that are elegant while still fitting in a tight budget. If a full bar is in order, you also need to add at least two styles of beer, one being a light brand. Sprits or hard liquors can vary dramatically. Unless you feel you have to be prepared to make a variety of cocktails, I suggest having a vodka, scotch, whiskey, gin and a rum on hand. Let the brand quality suit the tastes of your guests. Don’t forget the mixers and include soft drinks tea, coffee, and other beverages for those non-alcoholic drinkers. Liquor costs can be dramatically reduced if you incorporate what you are offering based on the theme of your party. For example, a wine and cheese party or a Cinco De Mayo party serving only Margaritas, Sangria and Corona beer. One cardinal rule however, ‘Never run out of refreshments’. You always overestimate the beverage quantity since they are not perishable. The party’s menu is often is often a central focus. It should be something that compliments something your party’s theme. Plan menus that suit your guests’ taste. Will vegetarians be present? Will some be observing religious restrictions? Will anyone be allergic to shellfish? I prefer throwing a heavy buffet cocktail reception that offers a wide variety to avoid these headaches, especially when you are not familiar with your entire guest list. Cocktail receptions as opposed to sit-down dinners also allow people to mingle and not be seated next to the same people for most of the evening. That’s why cocktail receptions are so popular with the legislative crowd. They allow everyone to network more readily. Anther great hint, be sure your food is recognizable. If your guests have to ask you what you are serving, you should be explaining your menu up front.

Take into consideration the role your menu plays at the party. Think about your guests. Are they well-traveled foodies or meat and potato people.? At a dinner buffet or reception serving only hors de urves make sure your food service does not set directly next to the bar. At the Pasfield House, we provide the wait staff and bartenders to assure that everything runs smoothly, with plateware and glassware whisked away in an unobtrusive manner

You might want to let the caterers’ help customize your menu after you pick a few items to complement your theme. That way, the caterer may include some inexpensive items that help fit the presentation, giving your food offering the appearance of abundance without dramatically increasing the budget. A few caterers want complete control. That kind of confidence usually works out well, allowing the host to concentrate on other aspects of the event.. But if you are like me that it is difficult to give up, since events reflects directly on my sometimes compulsive addiction to detail.

fortunatly, at the Pasfield House, we can provide white glove service without looking out of place, or scale down the cost and let the ambiance of house and grounds carry off an inexpensive but high class event. I have developed a good relationship with caterers that work out of the Pasfield House. They appreciate the business I send them of a regular basis, so when problems arise, they help me solve them. The same goes for the florist, photographers, musicians, and party rental shops.

With the space allotted let me finish up by suggesting you always allow yourself a minimum of 5 weeks for planning an event for a business group, even more if there will be out of town guests. On the other hand three weeks is plenty for friends and family. But before anything happens, get your guest list together. The guest list usually is the inspiration of all parties.

Reception Party Themes