Choosing Suppliers

Christmas gift - 1050854_32905364.jpgSYMPTOMS: It’s a minefield out there. I can’t even decide where to buy the balloons, let alone the food or the entertainment, and there are stacks of event companies to choose from. How can I be sure that I’m picking the right suppliers for my party?

REMEDY: For the uninitiated, directories such as the Yellow Pages, with its endless listings of bespoke party organisers and suppliers, can end up adding to the headache rather than easing it. Background research is key but you’ve got to look in the right places. You’ve picked up Venues & Events – that’s a great start. Hopefully you’ve written your wish list, including format, type of venue, entertainment, food and budget. Now you need to match up your requirements with the right suppliers. 


Don’t overstretch yourself

If you have no experience in organising events yourself (and have a full-time job to cope with on top of the task), keep it simple: a restaurant booking and after-dinner drinks. If your plans are more ambitious, you’ll need to call in a professional. An event organiser will secure you better deals, save you time both on research and the nitty-gritty operational hassles, and free you up for your directing role. If you already have a venue in mind, speak to its events manager, who should be able to provide a list of trusted suppliers who are familiar with working there.

Get some guidance

Pick up your copy of the Square Meal Venues & Events 2008 guide and flick to the red section for listings of reputable event organisers, including London’s top Christmas party specialists. Alternatively, look under ‘Hospitality & Event Suppliers’ on the Venues & Events section of We don’t list reams of ‘one-stop shop’ bespoke event organisers – all the companies featured have unique selling points so it’s easier for you to find a supplier that meets your exact requirements.

Ask the right questions

- What does the company specialise in?
This should match your requirements. There are a lot of organisers on the market so you can afford to be strict.
- What events has the company done recently?
A good organiser is always busy. If the company hasn’t been involved with at least a couple of events in the last month, look elsewhere.
- Will I have a designated account manager?
A single (and efficient) point of contact ensures a smoothly run event and shows that the company values your business.

Do your homework

Any reliable supplier will be forthcoming with references from relevant, recent events. Follow them up. It’s also worth looking at images and portfolios to get an idea of a supplier’s style, particularly for lighting, theming and florists. Caterers should always invite you to a tasting. Up-to-date health and safety documentation and full public liability insurance are also vital boxes to tick – even if you’re using an organiser. Ask for copies.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.