Event Planning: Determining Materials & Costs

Instructor: Pranav Patel
This lesson will guide you through the process of determining the quality of materials needed for an event and how to determine the cost, including categorizing costs.

Event Materials and Budgeting

Have you ever tried to plan an event and end up spending much more than you intended? This lesson will help you determine the quality of materials you need for the event and then how to estimate your costs so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay the bill.

Before determining the budget, you need to ask yourself how important the event is. Typically if you want to make a greater impression or put more emphasis on an event you will want higher quality components and therefore require an increased budget.

The factors you should look at to determine quality depends on what you are judging; however, they usually include:

  • Durability
  • Finish
  • Overall presentation appeal

Items such as food would of course have different criteria to determine quality, such as taste, smell and presentation.

The quality of the material you will use is highly dependent on the audience. Factors such as age and interests will play a key role. For example, a child's birthday party may focus on high quality water slides, balloons and other games and toys the kids would be interested in. Food is likely an opportunity to reduce quality since most kids will not have a very sophisticated palette. On the flip side, a party for adults may have a few balloons as a backdrop; however, it may be just for show. You'll likely put more effort into the food.

Once you've determined the level of quality you need in your materials, you can start to estimate the expenses. It is handy to create a spreadsheet on your computer to note the costs of each item as you calculate. This will make it easier to add up the grand total and to quickly see how the total is affected when you make changes.

Costs for an event fall into 3 main categories:

  • Facility
  • Supplies
  • Service


The facility category is for charges related to the venue at which you are having the event take place. When determining the facility cost keep the number of people and the importance of the occasion in mind. Select a few venues that fit the mold.

Once you've made a preliminary list, you should contact each venue to see if there are any hidden charges are special constraints you have to follow before making any selections. Depending on the facility, they may require you to hire a minimum number of their staff members or require you to purchase a certain amount of food from them. Make note of the facility cost in your spreadsheet.


Supplies are decorations, tables, food and other physical items that need to be purchased. Let's look at a couple examples of cost estimates for supplies.

Food can be calculated by determining one place setting and then multiplying by the number of people. It is very important to have more food than the number of people. A safe number is 10-15% more food in the case additional guests show up, food is dropped, or people just came hungrier than anticipated. Again keeping the audience and importance of the occasion in mind, you can range from cooking your own food to having food catered by a Michelin restaurant.

To estimate decorations, you can determine what it would cost to decorate one wall and multiply by the number of walls you want to decorate. If you plan on decorating tables you can use a similar method that was used for food by determining the cost of one table and then multiplying by the number of tables.

Perform a similar exercise for each item in your supplies category. Continue to update your Excel spreadsheet with the costs you come up with.


Service is wait staff, coordinators, drivers and other service related items. It's a good general rule to save the service category for last because sometimes service costs are embedded with the facility or food costs. If this is the case, you may not have any additional service costs.

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