Story for Home Magazine | Photos courtesy Oakwood Occasions
Dannella Burnett has been planning events since 1993 when she started catering at age 15. A love of working directly with the clients on their vision paired perfectly with her love of being behind the hospitality scenes.
HOME Magazine sat down with Dannella to find out more about event planning:
How many events has Oakwood Occasions done? We do 25-30 major events per year and anywhere from 75-150 smaller events. I haven’t counted from the day we started nine years ago here, but it’s been a lot. We bring a lot of experience and ideas to each event.
What type of events do you help plan? Personal events include weddings, reunions, birthdays and celebrations of life. Corporate events include employee and client appreciation events, galas and fundraisers. We also love to work with clients on vendor-driven events such as marketplaces, expos, parades, festivals and concerts.
When should someone consider an event planner instead of trying to do it all themselves? An event planner will ask you questions to get your vision and help you find the right vendors to execute your vision and be mindful of your budget.
They will navigate the flood of information that’s available out there on the internet and locally and make your event far less stressful. If they are onsite for your event as a coordinator, you will be free to actually enjoy your event.
What should you think about when planning an outdoor event, especially for summer (like July 4 or Labor Day)? Back-up plans and guests comfort. With an outdoor event, you have Mother Nature to consider and must have a back-up plan to put in place if you get rain or other inclement weather. Have shaded areas with a tent or other structures and add fans or cooling tents depending on type of event.
Remember the wind and secure table coverings, signs and backdrops accordingly. An outdoor event also may be affected by outdoor bugs and creatures, so you may want to treat the area for mosquitoes or other insects a few days before an event and have areas landscaped.
What should a client expect on first consultation? We do a complete top-to-bottom run down of an event and ask a lot of questions to get the snapshot of where we are beginning. We try to make our first proposal very accurate and filled with various options that may be needed so our brides and clients can make good and informed decisions from the beginning.
No one likes surprise add-ons and big changes to prices because the right questions and options weren’t discussed.
How much time should they give themselves to plan before the event? General rule of thumb, I would say six months to one year for weddings and other major events, two months to six months for smaller celebrations.
We have, of course, helped create events with much less time, but you lose options when you don’t have time or you may spend more for expedited options.
What kind of budget pitfalls are common? Not planning for the incidental costs of taxes, gratuities and delivery fees and only planning for the “menu” price of options. Just not knowing how one decision may impact the rest of your decisions. Not all vendors can be compared apples to apples. Like venues — some include set up and linens and other items that you have to pay extra for at other venues.
A planner will help you look at potential hidden costs that you may not be aware of planning your first event. Another big issue is not working with a realistic guest count.
If you are working off a budget with too few guests, you’ll be hit with much larger costs with the accurate, larger number of guests added in. And working with a number too large may mean that you let go of elements you really want because you think its not in the budget and then find you could have made that choice. We talk to brides about three lists — the big list, the working list and the real list — to avoid budget surprises!
What is your favorite kind of event to plan? Corporate events that have a ton of fun included and weddings. I have a client that I’ve planned their employee appreciation for the last five years and it includes food and fun snacks — popcorn, cotton candy, shaved ice, frozen drinks, bouncies and slides, face-painting, magicians, stilt walkers, jugglers, music, balloon art, entertainers, gifts for the employees, as well as the logistical needs of tents, tables, chairs, stage, audio visual, photography.
It’s a complex planning job for 1,500 guests, but the magic of simply fun for the employees and families is one of my favorites.
Weddings are also loved. To work with a bride and hear her vision for her perfect day and help execute that and see the joy on her face throughout the day is priceless. We’ve started doing more expos and speaker events and really enjoying the elements of business and sales promotions while bringing great content and information to entrepreneurs and business owners.
In all, I love all the events we get to be a part of and love the diversity in what we do.
For more information visit www.oakwoodoccasions.com or call 678-677-3858.