This article was written in January, 1980 and contains dated information particularly on prices. The specific prices should not be used as a current standard for estimates.

Large Event Planning
I. Cost Analysis for Feasts

Janet of Arden


Considerable planning is necessary to ensure that a large event will be a success, even when it is a potluck. When the people putting on a large event provide a banquet or feast and sell tickets for it, advance planning is even more essential, because of the large amounts of money involved, to ensure that the event will be a success, and not a financial disaster.

Over the past several years, the Barony of Adiantum in An Tir has put on a number of successful feasts, ranging from potluck and partial potluck to fully catered, and has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the planning.

Total event work-schedule:

  1. the advance planning includes:
    1. finding a suitable site
    2. financial cost-analysis
    3. planning a menu that is both attractive and feasible with the helpers, facilities and finances available
    4. publicity
    5. ticket sales (records and processing)
    6. lodging
    7. the scheduling and entertainment at the event - coordinated IN ADVANCE with any official functions (courts, coronations, etc.) that may be happening at that event
    8. buying of food
    9. advance cooking of some of the food

  2. on-the-day work includes:
    1. final cooking, set-up, and hall-decorating
    2. collecting tickets at the door
    3. providing loan costumes (Gold Key)
    4. entertainment, serving of the feast, official functions, etc. - according to schedule
    5. clean-up

The event autocrat is in charge of making sure that ALL of these necessary jobs get done properly and on time, and go together smoothly. The rest of us are running individual sections of this work. My experience has been with the cost-analysis, menu-planning, cooking and decorating of the food (including subtleties). This first article is concerned with cost-analysis - the financial aspect of feast-planning.

In a volunteer organization such as the SCA, the planning for a large feast event has to be mostly done BEFORE the tickets are sold; there is far too much to do at the last minute. Since which hall you choose will depend largely upon financial factors and the number of people you can expect, a fairly accurate estimate of all of these (namely ticket prices, number of people coming, menu costs and all other costs - hall hire, insurance, etc.) must be made well in advance BEFORE hall-rental deposits are paid, publicity sent out, tickets printed, and the first of the food bought (that is, three to four months in advance, AT LEAST). Since most tickets will not be sold until the last weeks before the event, you cannot rely on sales to tell you how large your event is going to be - you must make a realistic (and not just a hopeful) estimate of this, along with everything else.

A well-designed feast for 300 to which 100 come will be a financial disaster just as much as a feast for 150 which sells out at $5.00 per ticket and afterwards you realize your costs per head were $6.70!

Hopefully this article will take most of the guesswork out of the planning. Without careful detail work, any estimates of menu cost, numbers coming, etc. are likely to be hopeful rather than realistic. If you don't put in the groundwork and financial disaster occurs, it will be nobody's fault but your own.

© 1980 Janet Naylor

Go to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Last updated 12/19/97.

webmaster at