Bonnie Berko is a TV director who planned the parties for both of her sons’ Bar Mitzvahs. With little prior event planning experience, Bonnie managed to throw two spectacular and incredibly memorable events that friends and family were talking about for weeks. We interviewed her on the ups and downs of working with a wide variety of vendors, the importance of good music, and even scored a few intuitive tricks for crafting within a budget. Read on to see how Bonnie pulled off her big nights with flying colors:
1. What criteria were you looking for when picking the right venues to host your event?
When looking for a venue it had to be big enough to not only hold the number of people attending comfortably, but it had to have a dance floor big enough for people to get their groove on. I also looked for a place that had an extra room available so all the young people could have a place to play and be entertained by the people I hired.
2. You chose to hire bands for both of your events…did you use the same band for both? What is it about bands that made you choose to hire them over a DJ?
I chose my bands from a local company that has a lot of bands available for Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. I picked the band based on the wide range of music that would please the kids, but also had a leader that could get the whole room on their feet, even Uncle Schlomo. We went to auditions and listened to lots of local bands’ CDs before making our decision. That is the best decision I made about both of my events: the band or a great DJ is what makes a party. That and an open bar with great drinks!
3. Did you hire an event planner to help you with any of the planning process or did you handle everything on your own?
I did not hire an event planner. I am too cheap to hire someone when I can do it on my own.
4. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the planning process? During the actual events? Were there any emergencies you had to deal with?
The biggest challenge was doing business with a lot of people who I didn’t know or vet carefully enough. I chose the photographer based on seeing her photos, but was horrified to discover her snoozing in a chair during a really fun part of the evening. I would not recommend her to anyone after that! I read great things about the reptile man whom I also hired, and he was fabulously entertaining, the challenging part was keeping the giant anaconda snake from eating the children.
5. How did you manage your budget?
I managed my budget by making the party favors and invites and other things by myself along with a girlfriend who knew how to make then. There are sites online that help you make cool centerpieces and invitations. I spent many hours searching for something I could make that didn’t cost a fortune. It would be wonderful if your site offered party decorators and some of their great looking centerpieces showcased along with their prices. It would save people hours of work.
I hired terrific caterers who worked within my budget and made great food for not too much money. I found them because I went to a party and thought they did a great job. I hired them on the spot!
6. Would you ever use Fiestah to help with planning your future events?
I would absolutely use Fiestah if it helped streamline the process of putting together a party. Half the work involved is busy work. I would love to have someone else do the busy work for me!
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