An event planning business organizes events such as conventions, meetings, seminars and trade shows. Event planners may also plan social events such as weddings and parties. Some event planning businesses specialize in one type of event, and others offer a wide range of services.
As an event planner, your duties may include:
(Source: The National Occupational Classification, developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)
Event planners are usually responsible for handling the details of an event. You may need to work evenings, weekends and holidays to meet your client’s needs. If you specialize in a type of event, like holiday parties, you will also be busier at certain times of the year.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
Our business start-up guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Business Start-Up Guide
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL—an online search tool—to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact the Business Info Line to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and Licences Wizard
Contact the Business Info Line:
Licences, permits and regulations that may apply to your event planning business include:
If you plan on selling or serving alcoholic beverages, you will need one or all of the following:
You will need a liquor licence for your business if you sell or serve alcoholic beverages in an area where light meals are available.
Contact the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)
Applying for a Licence
The BYOW endorsement allows customers of your licensed establishment to bring unopened wine from home. If you are interested in getting a BYOW endorsement for your business, contact the AGCO.
Your business can get a catering endorsement from the AGCO if you wish to sell and serve liquor at catered events in an unlicensed area.
You will need a permit to serve alcohol at special events such as weddings or charity fundraisers. Special Occasions Permits cannot be issued for a private residence.
LCBO - Special Occasion Permits
When you serve alcohol at events, your business is legally liable for guests and participants. Visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s website to read about the responsibilities that may apply to your business.
When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. The Copyright Board of Canada works with individual copyright collective societies who provide music licensing. Contact the following two organizations for more information.
SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of music creators and music publishers. They can help you learn about your obligations and obtaining the required license(s).
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada
Re:Sound is the Canadian not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of artists and record companies, and provides the legally required license(s) for businesses. You can get help determining what licence(s) will be required, what the licensing process will be and how much it will cost.
When planning an event, make sure you know how to make your business and events accessible to guests with special needs. The following websites provide information to help you ensure your event is accessible.
Learn more about the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services’ accessibility standards that your business and event will need to meet.
Making Ontario Accessible
You can use the checklist on the Ontario Human Rights Commission website to help you determine if your business or event is accessible.
Dining Out Accessibly - Accessibility Checklist
If you hire security workers (for example, security guards, bodyguards or bouncers), they need to be licensed by Private Security and Investigative Services (PSIS). Any business that hires in-house security personnel, but does not sell security services, is required to register with PSIS.
Note: If you employ security staff from a licensed security business you do not need to register.
Private Security & Investigative Services – Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer, based on your needs.
Contact the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12 month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency – Business
Canada Business can help you find government financing options for your business. There are programs that apply to businesses across Canada, and others that apply only to businesses in Ontario. Use the Canada Business financing search tool or browse by type of financing.
You can also access Canada Business information through the ONe-Source online financing wizard. The wizard guides you through 3 easy steps to create a personalized list of results for Ontario business financing programs.
Contact the Business Info Line:
You can find Ontario-specific assistance for your business including advice, financing options, tax incentive programs and more using the Ontario government’s free online directory of support programs for business.
The OBPG provides:
Ontario Business Program Guide
The success of any business starts by setting goals and managing the ups and downs of daily operations. Here are some key factors to consider when starting an event planning business.
As an event planner, recognized certification may help set you apart from your competition. Certification shows clients that you have the skills to meet the standards set by the industry.
You can also take courses on event management, public relations, tourism, business management or hospitality administration from many colleges, universities and private schools throughout Ontario.
Find a School
Having the correct business insurance can provide peace of mind. Contact an insurance agent to discuss your business insurance options, or to develop a plan that is right for your business.
You may also wish to contact your local chamber of commerce or industry association, as some organizations offer members lower rates on their business insurance.
The following list is included to remind you not to overlook the complex areas of business insurance. It is best, however, to discuss your specific requirements with your insurance agent.
Insurance for Your Small Business
Marketing can help you determine the value of your product or service and communicate that information to customers. Depending on your market and its size, you can consider using flyers, business cards, brochures, newspapers, radio, TV, the phone book or the Internet. Keep in mind, a satisfied customer or a positive referral is often the best form of advertising.
When preparing your marketing and/or advertising material, there are regulations to follow. When you promote a product or service, your customers need to have enough information to make informed choices. You can get more information on advertising requirements from the Competition Bureau.
Contact the Competition Bureau:
Misleading Advertising and Labelling
The use of business support services can be essential to the success of a small business. Professionals can provide knowledge and expertise to ensure your business is operating efficiently.
As an entrepreneur, there are several types of professional business services you can consult:
As an event planner, you may be in charge of providing food, drinks, entertainment, security or cleaning services. Some venues or caterers will have their own staff for you to work with. Others will provide the facilities and require you to provide the support staff. You may have to hire:
Consult local phone directories, trade magazines, newspapers, the Internet and networking contacts to find the help you need.
Your business will need equipment and furniture, and it is important to decide what you need and how much you want to spend. Some common ways to save money on furnishings and equipment are:
A contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. Your contracts will vary based on the nature and the complexity of your projects. They can help you outline the terms of payment, ensure understanding of the project and protect you in case of disagreements. When dealing with legal documents like contracts, you may also want to speak with a qualified lawyer for advice.
Whether you are responding to a call for proposals from the public, the private or the non-profit sector, there will be selection procedures to follow. These procedures will vary from one organization to the next, so gather all the required information before submitting your proposal. You may also consider getting help from professionals such as accountants or lawyers.
How to prepare a bid
Setting the right price is important in ensuring the success of your business. Here are a few questions you may want to consider:
When determining your fees, make sure you include the cost of your labour, the overhead and the expenses that will be incurred.
In the end, the right price for the service is the price that the consumer is willing to pay. Correct pricing decisions are often key to successful business management.
There are many associations that may be of interest to you. It is not necessary to join an association, but some of the advantages include:
Examples of associations for an event planning business include:
You can access certification, education, networking and promotional opportunities for the special events industry as a member of ISES.
Contact ISES of Canada:
International Special Events Society (ISES)
As a member of MPI, you can network with other event professional from around the world, obtain industry certification and access a variety of resources for event planners.
Meeting Professionals Internationa (MPI)
Join CanSPEP to exchange ideas with other event planners and participate in events for professional development and business growth.
Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP)
Network with members of PCMA, including event planners, suppliers, faculty and students.
Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)
BEICC provides a unified voice for the business events community and communicates with government at all levels and the corporate world at large.
Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC)
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional resources that may be of interest to you include:
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us through the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888.
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the organizations listed above are not subject to the federal Official Languages Act or the French Language Services Act of Ontario. Their services may not be available in both official languages.