Party planning + group coordination in Vegas
Looking to celebrate a special occasion in Las Vegas with a group? Here are some tips and ideas for making the most out of your time in Sin City.
We spent three days in Las Vegas for my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration and I was very excited to be the party planner for the event. We began discussions of this over a year in advance as we had guests coming in from all over the US and internationally. Our main objective: get everyone into the city for a great multi-day event but don’t over plan for people. Many of the people joining us hadn’t been to Las Vegas before and the last thing I wanted was to be dictating their entire trip. Instead, I planned events or dinners daily and allowed people to opt in. The one exception to this was the birthday dinner on my grandmother’s actual birthday where we kindly requested that all attendees join.
A year prior to the event, I worked with the social coordinator at the Mirage to strike a room deal and offer special rates to our group. We were working with people representing a range of budgets and tastes and this proved to be a great option in terms of value and location. Scott and I scouted out the rooms a year prior and were astoundingly impressed with the rooms and service across the board. For us, with a 90th birthday party, we wanted a hotel on the ‘smaller’ side (I realize that in Vegas ‘smaller’ is on a different scale), so this fit the bill. I love the Palazzo, Venetian and the Wynn (pictured) but the size of those properties made them rather inaccessible for our guest of honor.
In working with the coordinator, I was able to secure special rates without having to guarantee anything, which was my biggest concern. Our rooms went into a pool and guests were able to call in to book or book online with a special link. The room block expired one month prior to the event, giving people plenty of time to secure. Plus, with only one night due as a deposit and a flexible cancellation policy, no one had any issues with being able to secure from a financial perspective. For us, I secured the two-bedroom hospitality suite to act as our ‘home base’ for guests. For groups, I find that having a hub is a great perk so people have a place to meet, congregate, and hang at the end of the night. Our room was the perfect meeting point for all attendees before heading to dinners and events.
Honestly, I find dinners to be the biggest headache when dealing with groups. How do we pay the bill? Do we split evenly? What if someone orders seven cocktails and others in the group are non-drinkers? What about people with different tastes or dietary restrictions? Ugh. There are so many things to take into consideration.
Our solution after reaching out to the majority of hotels for group menus and options was this: a ‘mandatory’ dinner on the birthday night at Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan. Yes, a Vegas buffet. I can’t even tell you how opposed I was to this idea initially. A buffet for a birthday dinner? I was toying with the idea of a fancy steakhouse or a cool Asian fusion restaurant, but the reality is that we were dealing with a range of guests. I was asking all attendees to be there and it wouldn’t be fair of me to rope people into a $100+ meal if their budgets couldn’t allow that. Plus, people have different tastes: we had some attendees that are happy to splurge on expensive tasting menus, and some that would find a casual Mexican spot the perfect option for any evening out. A buffet solved all of my problems: we had an extremely reasonable set price per person inclusive of non-alcoholic beverages, there were options for everyone available regardless of tastes and dietary restrictions. I did sign a contract obligating me to provide the final number of diners five days in advance but that seemed a simple enough task.
And let’s be honest: this wasn’t a $15 dinner buffet at a two-star hotel; the Cosmopolitan does it right and everything is absolutely top-notch. Plus, the setting was the perfect place to grab a drink beforehand at the Chandelier Bar so we could all migrate to dinner together.
In terms of payment, here’s what I found the easiest: I calculated the total price per person inclusive of gratuity and taxes and shared this cost with all attendees for the sake of transparency. I personally put all of this on my credit card and had all guests pay me either in cash the night of or in advance via PayPal. For drinks, guests were able to order through a cocktailer who was on hand to take orders – we had absolutely zero issues with this.
For other dinners, I selected restaurants that made sense. For us, it was Sushisamba at the Palazzo for one night, plus Five50 at the Aria another night. I gave people the option for both of these, and sent out menus so people had an idea of pricing and knew what they were getting into.
Vegas is the ultimate place for events, isn’t it? Everything under the sun is available from magic shows and Cirque performances to concerts and musicals. With only three days in Vegas, I selected one item that worked for all ages: Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana. Our original choice was Mystere but we had to work with what was playing on the night we needed and Zarkana was the standout.
We had 12 attendees which made us eligible for group rates. If you have a group, be sure to reach out to the group sales department for discounted ticket rates. We saved roughly $40 per person on the standard rates plus were able to get seats together in a preferred location. The one catch with group reservations here (as is the case with group reservations in many scenarios) is that the charge has to go on one credit card. Plus, this has to be done in one transaction so you’ll need to know your final head count.* This was an optional event for people but many opted in, and every guest left raving about the show!
Again, I provided my credit card information, purchased all the tickets under my name (I also provided two other names of people who were authorized to pick up tickets) and allowed people to pay me in cash or in advance via PayPal. Most opted to pay in advance which made things super simple!
* Worth noting, you need to provide your final headcount at the time of purchase so you can get seats together. I had two add-ons about two months after purchasing and the team there was kind enough to add them on to our group as there were nearby seats available. This is probably not common practice, but they were extremely gracious when helping me deal with this issue.
To me, transport logistics aren’t really the domain of the event planner so this is generally icing for attendees if this is coordinated. For our event, I created a website using splashthat.com (amazingly simple to use and a gorgeous product), and shared all event info with people. On this portal, I provided all relevant flight info for people flying domestically as well as people coming in from Europe and Central + South America (this was catered to our group). I arrived early to help prep, but when the guest of honor arrived we had a limousine waiting for her at the airport to swoop her away. Luckily, six other attendees were on the same flight which helped to fill up the limo and make it a better value and more exciting experience. If you have enough people arriving at – or around – the same time, a limo may make sense instead of dealing with shuttle or taxi service individually.
Have you been to Vegas with a group? What are your tips for maximizing your time and minimizing your stress?
xo from Vegas,