Gala Dinner: What Is It and How to Organise One?

Everyone loves the glitz and glamour that accompanies a gala event. However, planning one in the real world is typically a feat that involves extensive preparation and intentionality. 

From seeking sponsorship and volunteers to creating a theme and sending invitations, executing the perfect gala dinner is an intentional process. Fortunately, today’s blog aims to carefully outline some elements and considerations that are crucial to proper gala planning.

What is a gala dinner? 

A gala dinner is a formal event that happens in a hotel or specialised setting to celebrate achievements, give awards or raise funds. 

Purpose of a gala dinner

Gala dinners have come a long way since their humble beginnings in 18th-Century Europe. It started as banquets for royalty, nobility and socially prominent individuals willing to excessively spend money on food and drink. 

Today’s galas can be large affairs with hundreds of guests—or smaller events that celebrate a cause or organisation with close friends or family members.

Gala dinners are typically accompanied by speeches or musical performances. In fact, if you’ve ever been to one, you’ll know it’s much more than just a party. It is rather a show of elegance and grandeur.

Generally, a gala is not only a fun experience but also an essential fundraising tool for non-profits and other organisations who need the funds to carry out their mission. 

The most critical facet of such gala events is to secure individuals’ future financial support. Or to thank generous supporters whilst appealing for future generosity. 

As such, gala events typically reflect an organisation’s quality, imagination and excellence, nominees and winners.

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How to plan a gala dinner? 

Here are some quick pointers on organising a gala dinner event:

Set a budget

The first thing you need to decide on is how much you want to spend on food, decor and entertainment. Then divide your budget by the number of people attending your gala dinner. 

For example, if there are 100 guests at your event, then each guest will receive one menu item (i.e., appetiser). You can also add an extra entree or dessert for those who want more than just one dish or drink.

Does it sound too complicated for you yet?

Don’t fret as there is an easy way out. You can simply hire an experienced caterer who knows precisely what kind of meal needs to be prepared for such events so that everything goes according to plan without any mistakes!

Choose a location

When choosing a venue for your gala dinner, it’s important to consider the number of guests you expect to invite. A venue that can accommodate 100 guests is better than one that can only seat 50 people.

If you have limited space and time crunch, consider hiring an event planner who has experience with large events like galas and fundraisers. They will know what type of decorations and set-up would be best for your nuanced needs!

You may also want to look into using different rooms at the location: perhaps one room could be used as a dining area while another could serve as an entrance hall or dessert table. 

Or perhaps there are multiple rooms where attendees can gather before heading into dinner service? This helps keep things organised while still giving everyone enough privacy when they need it most (for example, after eating).

Choose your vendors

After establishing the best location, contact the best-suited vendors for sound, décor, entertainment and catering. Then ensure they survey the location to lay out an executable plan for the gala. 

These vendors should have sufficient industry experience in their disciplines to help your gala exude class and exclusivity.  This is because the care, passion and attention to detail of a professional event production service can make any gala dinner impossible to forget—for both guests and the organisers.

Select a gala dinner theme 

Ensure to select a running theme that is creative but also provides a unique atmosphere for your guests. A creative theme can guide the direction of your menu selection, decorations, entertainment activities, and even dress code.

Gala dinner theme ideas

There are a wide variety of themes you can adopt for your gala dinner. For example:

  • Broadway
  • Halloween 
  • Medieval
  • Masquerade
  • Christmas
  • Nautical

Gala dinner menu

Though most guests don’t attend galas to eat their hearts out, organisers should always be intentional with their menu choices. Even with light foods, you can choose classy and exquisite cuisines that can leave your guests talking.

Gala dinner activities

Fun activities at galas help mitigate any anxiety or tension among attendees. Your host should be able to lift up the crowd and introduce activities and games that add a light touch to your gala event. 

Plan on the logistics

The logistics of a gala dinner encompasses elements like lighting, audio systems, décor, and even sitting arrangements. So, let’s dissect some of these elements, shall we?

Lighting

Professional lighting creates a relaxing environment which helps engage the audience more into the theme of the event. Well-thought-out lighting also gives depth and ambience to an event space, making it more memorable.

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Audiovisual systems 

To facilitate gala activities, you need quality audio and visual systems to facilitate the audibility of comedians or musicians during the event’s specific interludes.

Sitting arrangements

The choice of seats will largely depend on your venue characteristics and attendance size. So, ensure to thoroughly survey your venue and explore as many sitting options and configurations as possible. 

Additionally, ensure to choose sitting options that allow socialisation and interaction whilst still sticking to the theme and décor.

Décor

Décor helps to create the ambience and underscores the importance of your gala dinner. Gala dinners are typically decorated according to specific themes and colour schemes. Chose a staging structure to go with your decor and theme. 

Usually, decorators have templates for a wide range of common event themes. You can either pick from these templates, or explore a totally new aesthetic direction. 

Gala dinner backdrop

An appropriate event backdrop as they accentuate the venue and ceremony. Backdrops give relevance and can be a strategic way of advertising other brands at the gala.

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It should utilise bold complementary colours and artwork to create a visually stunning environment and deliver a festive ambience.

Gala dinner invitation

Typically, gala dinners are exclusive, invite-only events. Ensure to invite the right people by sending them personalised physical or digital invitations. The more invited guests who attend, the better chance there is for event success (and fun). 

Just make sure everyone invited has the right information from their invitation. 

What to wear to a gala dinner? 

These events usually involve the presentation of awards like ‘end-of-year’ awards, ‘long service’ awards, or ‘employee of the year’ awards, etc. As such, this running theme dictates a formal attire.

Gala dinner dress code male

Most men at gala dinners opt for either a tuxedo or formal suit, depending on their preference. 

Gala dinner dress code female

Women usually wear cocktail dresses and pantsuits for gala dinners. If a lady chooses to wear jeans, they should ensure they’re fitting enough not to look sloppy or too casual. 

Remember that these days most events dictate high heels as they exude elegance, feminity and formality.

Organising a Gala dinner event in Malaysia 

A gala dinner is a perfect way to celebrate an event of any size, whether it’s a small business opening or a major career change. It’s also a good idea to host one when you want to make your company known in the Malaysian community.

If you’re planning on hosting a gala dinner in Malaysia, remember to choose a theme, decorators and equipment providers who are experienced. 

This will take a burden off your shoulder and allow you to focus on simpler elements like creating menus that focus on fresh ingredients instead of elaborate recipes (and vice versa).

Conclusion

All things considered, a gala dinner is not always a presentation party; it’s an event that can be used to raise money for a non-profit or a good cause.

 It can be held anywhere, from an intimate restaurant with only 10 guests, to one of the biggest hotels in town. In the end, it really depends on how big your event will be and what kind of venue fits best with your needs or message.

Ultimately, the objective of your dinner gala should be to create a positive, classy atmosphere for you to project your message. 

For corporate organisations in Malaysia, gala dinners create an opportunity to show off organisational skills, values and professionalism. 

To host the perfect gala dinner event, you’ll need to have an astute plan in place, and the right people to help you execute it. From the identification of the dinner tone, to the choice of location and vendors— competence, strictness, and good taste are vital if you want to organise a perfect gala dinner. 

Check out our extensive catalogue of event management services at DOREMi and start planning your year end gala dinner event today! 

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