Planning a School Event

Planning a School Event


Planning a school event, whether it’s a dance or a reunion, can be a challenging endeavor. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re booking your next school event, including what to do for food and entertainment.

John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding and event planner for on and off-site catered events at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about planning a school event. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi John. Thanks for having me today.

What School Events Require Catering?

John: Sure. Maureen, what are some typical school events that require a catering or a function hall?

Maureen: So of course you’re going to have your prom and you’re going to have your semiformal, if you’re lucky enough to have a school that lets you have dances. And then of course we have all the class reunions. They could be from the five year reunion, and we actually had a 65th reunion last August. A lot of times, the older reunions will go for the clam bake, which is fun, where the younger ones just want to have popcorn and beer. So it’s really funny, the swing and the amount of money there. And then of course, some of the schools will do baccalaureate awards ceremonies and décor is a big thing at Manchester Essex when we do their party. You come in and there’s definitely a swing there of the locals who are using the Essex Room because it’s big enough. It has one of the largest dance floors on the North Shore, so it’s really important for the kids. We did three this winter so far. And they danced it up. I think the boys are dancing more than the girls now. I don’t know. I see there’s definitely a pattern.

What to Consider When Planning a School Event

John: Interesting. So what’s involved in planning a school event?

Maureen: Usually, you might meet with the class adviser or the head of student council just like when you went to school, and they’ll go back and forth. They’ll [check out] their venue, they’ll make sure it’s something that they can do. A lot of times, the student dances are in the winter, so they like to have a snow date available in case there’s snow and school is called off, because then they can’t have their event if it’s on a Friday. So that’s something that we offer them in the winter time.

They like to have a decorating committee, so you have to go over the rules with confetti and tape on the walls. But they’ll bring in their ladders and they’ll string the crepe paper all through the chandeliers at the Essex Room. It’s very important to them. They are very much involved picking out their disc jockey and having a lot of up lighting and little laser shows. Lots of times, they’ll have a check in where the kids get their name tags and stuff. But it’s fun and I think it’s usually the group leader at the school, the student council, it’s the beginning of event planning in their life.

John: Right so they’re typically maybe a little bit more involved in coming up with the ideas [as opposed to other events].

Maureen: Yes, they’re excited about it.

What Type of Food is Served at a School Event?

John: So what type of food is typically served at a school event? Can you have dinner or is it more like hors d’oeuvres and finger foods and things like that?

Maureen: Well again, budget usually plays in. These kids don’t have a lot of money, so if anything, they might have pizza. They would like to have chicken fingers very rarely, unless it’s a fancy prom where we do the sit down dinner. And even then, they’re on such a limited budget. They’re trying to keep that ticket price down. You definitely will have an open soda bar. A lot of times, there’s candy. They have a tendency to love a lot of candy running around.

John: And you do a candy bar where people can go up and get what they want?

Maureen: Yes, we do a candy station or they just bring it in themselves and put it in there – we have these really pretty glass jars and they make their own. But food is not really important to the school functions. Like I said before, the older reunions, you’ll see the good menus, but otherwise, it’s more just socialization. It’s dancing and the reunions that are with the 30-year olds or the 50-year olds, it’s probably the drinking that’s involved more. We have another venue downstairs, [called] the Lobster Trap Pub, which has the dartboards and the pool tables and the ping pong, and the cribbage boards. And they seem to love to have their class reunions down there.

Common Challenges When Planning a School Event

John: Are there aspects of a school event that make it different or maybe even more difficult than other events in terms of planning?

Maureen: Sure. I think the biggest thing for us is the responsibility of the children that are under 18 years old. And of course, under 21 for the drinking age. There’s a lot of chaperones that are involved and we really take it hard there where the event manager will talk to the school, make sure we have permission, understand how these kids are getting from point A to point B, [and what] transportation may be involved. The drop off, the pickup, etc. You’re really trying to monitor the drinking to make sure there’s no drinking there. But we try to take ourselves out of that responsibility and put that back onto the school. And then the school puts it back on the chaperones, which are usually the school teachers as well as the parents of the children attending.

John: All right. That’s great information, Maureen. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Maureen: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me.

John: For more information, you can visit The Essex Room website at or call 978-768-7335.