Photo courtesy of

Event planning is a labor of love. Each and every event is unique and has its own set of rewards and challenges. But the one thing that is the same with every event is the tremendous amount of planning and work that goes into making it successful.

Identifying the type of event to plan, establishing goals, determining the target audience, choosing a date and venue, coordinating vendors and speakers, developing a budget, renting equipment, hiring service staff, planning a menu, marketing and communication, and selling tickets are typically a part of any event planning process. There are a lot of moving parts. And if one part is missed or not handled appropriately, the whole event can fall apart.


As you can imagine, after all of this “behind-the-scenes” work is over, it is incredibly rewarding to see people enjoying an event you’ve spent so much time and energy creating. My most favorite part of event planning is seeing the smiles on the faces of the event attendees.


However, in the aftermath of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, an important issue has become a hot topic in the event planning industry. When tragedy strikes, must the show go on?


Mourners hold a candlelight vigil following the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Photo courtesy of

When unforeseen tragic events happen on or near the date of your event, planners and hosting organizations do have options. First, the decision to reschedule the event can be made. If that’s not possible, an event may be canceled completely. But, because events are costly (in time and money) most go on as planned. The question then becomes does the event take a more somber, respectful tone or keep to its original theme? These are not easy questions and, as you might guess, answers vary. Event planners in this situation must consider the following two questions:


1. Is it safe to hold the event?

Is there still a threat to the public? Immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing, people were on high-alert because no one knew whether or not there would be more attacks. Similarly, following Hurricane Sandy in November of 2012, live wires and trees lying in the roads and buildings in danger of crumbling made it unsafe for many in the Northeast to travel. If it is unsafe for guests to leave their homes, the decision will have to be made whether or not to hold the event.


2. Is it insensitive to hold the event?

Collective grief” mirrors the grief of the individual, with similar stages and responses; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These emotions are felt by the community as a shared experience. Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, our country (and, arguably, the world) mourned the loss of thousands of innocent lives and the change in our reality as we knew it. While coming together to be with others can be a great comfort to some, it may be perceived as “too soon” to host any event after a community has experienced tragedy. People process and deal with feelings at different rates and in different ways. Some event planners may choose to postpone their event in order to give people time to grieve while others may move forward with a change in the overall tone or theme. Often times, a fundraising aspect (to assist those affected by the tragedy) may be added in order to show respect, compassion and support. It is a judgment call that depends on the circumstances and parties involved. It is rarely an easy decision.


What do you think? Is holding an event shortly after a tragedy insensitive or a way to help the community move forward? Please share your thoughts with us below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.