Here at CBM, we spend a great deal of time talking about food.

However, when planning an event, we know that food is but a part (a great part, but a part nevertheless) of the whole experience.

With this in mind, let’s talk about the non-food elements of an event and how they affect the final look and cost.

Major Event Spending Categories to Keep in Mind

Besides the food itself, there are a few other major spending categories that you should consider when planning your catered event.


We like to remind our customers to always begin with the budget. Plan within your budget; don’t budget within your plan. Successful low-cost events featuring only the basics are possible.


For larger-scale events, you will inevitably deal with many vendors. You may decide to be your own event planner or hire someone else to act as your middleman.

To help understand which route to take, ask yourself:

  • Are you confident you can get the best deals?
  • Do you have the time?
  • Would you rather order your own rentals or let the catering company do it?

Your staff is your army. With full-service catering, Catering by Michaels takes care of many event details for you.


Decorations can dramatically improve the look of your event. Depending on whether you DIY or hire a decor company, they can also have a big impact on budget. Be realistic about your available time and ability to handle the decor for your event — it may turn out to be more cost-effective to hire out this part of the process.

Chicago full-service event decor and flowers


Entertainment is another important consideration for your event’s budget. Depending on the type of event, you’ll have different options for entertaining your guests — a DJ, full band, or even individuals hired to do things like read tarot cards, draw caricatures, and so on. It’s important to know where to draw the line, especially as it relates back to your budget for the rest of the event.

music and event entertainment

Identify the Necessities & Nice-to-Haves

You don’t want to give everybody a great memory and leave yourself with a painful one. Know what non-food elements are a must and those that aren’t. This will help you to be realistic about your budget for the event.

One non-negotiable necessity is the event’s venue.

For corporate events, your office building might be sufficient. However, social events typically involve renting space. When renting, consider whether the space is enough on its own or if it’s more of a blank space that you’ll be required to fill up with various decorating touches (an additional expense).

Depending on the aesthetic of the event, some items that may otherwise be optional become necessities. For instance, a fancy occasion like a wedding may demand chinaware as opposed to glassware (or paper plates!).

Beautiful tablescape and decor for Chicago event

Obviously, nice-to-haves run up the cost of your event. However, if you have a budget for them, every “extra” can go a long way towards creating a memorable experience for your guests.

How to Plan for Rentals

First things first, know your crowd. Who are you renting for?

The type of event and food to be served guides the selection of plates, forks, knives, napkins, and so on. For instance, if you know your guests like martinis and they are going to be expecting them, you have to rent the appropriate glassware. Your caterer can help lead you through the basics of what you need.

Chicago event rentals and decor

How Venue Selection Affects Catering

The particular venue you choose can have a great impact on the total cost of the event. This is tied to what the venue comes with out-of-the-box versus what your event needs in terms of accommodation, aesthetic, and service.

Some venues will have chairs and tables available to use, while others give you an empty space to bring in your own items. Offered as a package deal, the former situation tends to cost less compared to the cost of renting and transporting those items on your own (and its a time saver). However, if the existing aesthetic doesn’t complement the look you’re going for, you may opt to spend more by bringing in your own rentals.

Final Thoughts: Non-Food Elements Have a Great Effect on the Look & Cost of an Event

It’s totally possible to have a great event without splashing money all over it. Above all, your goal should be to provide a great experience for your guests.

At Catering by Michaels, when we’re planning an event, our great secret is that we target all the five senses. If we can impress them with less budget, the better. Oftentimes, less is more.