How to start an event planning business in Ontario

Table of contents

Getting started
Other resources


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:

  • Meeting with sponsors and organizing committees to plan the event
  • Co-ordinating services, such as accommodation, transportation, catering and special needs requirements
  • Organizing registration, preparing programs and promotional material
  • Planning entertainment

(Source: The National Occupational Classification, developed by Employment and Social Development Canada (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development))

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.

Getting started

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:

  • Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
  • Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
  • Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST

Our business start-up guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.

Read online:
Starting a Business


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 the Canada Business Permits and Licenses Search, powered by BizPaL, to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.

Contact us:
Permits and licences search

Licences, permits and regulations that may apply to your event planning business include:

Selling and Serving Alcohol

If you plan on selling or serving alcoholic beverages, you will need one or all of the following:

Liquor Licence

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

Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW)

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.

Contact AGCO:
Licence Endorsements

Catering Endorsement

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.

Contact AGCO:
Licence Endorsements

Special Occasion Permit

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.

Contact the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO):
Special Occasion Permit

Liquor liability

When you serve alcohol at events, your business may be 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.

Read online:
Liquor liability

Music licence

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.

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Music Licence

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).

Contact SOCAN:
Tariffs & forms - Music in a business

Re:Sound Music Licensing Company

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.

Contact Re:Sound:

Attendees with special needs

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.

Accessibility standards

Learn more about the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services’ accessibility standards that your business and event will need to meet.

Read online:
Making Ontario Accessible

International Mobility Program: Authorization to work without a work permit

If you have visitors from outside of Canada working at your event, they may need authorisation to enter the country or to perform certain types of regulated activities. Some types of visitors may be authorised to work without a work permit, such as :

  • Convention organizers
  • Public speakers
  • Judges and referees
  • Athletes and team members
  • Performing artists
  • Business visitors (may be useful somewhere else as it covers advertising shoots, after-sales and
  • lease services and the film or recording industry.)

You can find more information and confirm requirements or exemptions for your visitors by contacing the IRCC.

Contact IRCC:
International Mobility Program: Authorization to work without a work permit

Security staff

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.

Contact PSIS:
Private Security & Investigative Services – Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Travel and accommodation services

If you arrange transportation or sleeping accommodation for your clients, you may need to register with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). Examples of activities that can include regulated travel and accommodation services:

  • Tours
  • Retreats
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Fieldtrips

To find out more about activities that require registration, contact TICO or visit their website.

Contact TICO:
Industry Guidelines

Charitable Gaming Lottery Licensing

If you would like to hold any kind of social gaming at your event you will need to obtain a license, in most cases, from either your municipality or from the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO). Social gaming includes:

  • Bingos
  • Raffles
  • Lotteries
  • Break open tickets
  • Super jackpots

Contact AGCO:
Charitable Gaming Lottery Licensing

Legal questions

If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Law Society Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.

Use online:
Law Society Referral Service


Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.

Read online:
Taxation guide

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.

Contact CRA:
Canada Revenue Agency


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.

Search online:
Canada Business: Government grants and financing

Other resources


From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.

Event planning specific links


If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.

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 at 1-888-576-4444.