For any organization, celebrating a building dedication is the culmination of years of work and planning. There are many ways to plan this commemoration. Enjoy the time spent creatively deciding what components are most appropriate for your event. Will there be a ribbon cutting? What about a luncheon? Do you want to include a religious component? Many of these ideas may be dependent on your budget, but are worth exploring. Once you have some guidelines in place, start the planning process.

Step 1.

Set the date several months in advance. Coordinate with your building contractor on an anticipated completion date. Check local building regulations--you may need a certificate of occupancy to be issued before you can legally host an event in the new building. If you are planning a community-wide celebration, check the calendars of other groups or institutions so you don’t overbook prime dates.

Step 2.

Prepare the guest list several months in advance. Notify invited VIPs of the date and let them know you will reserve parking spaces and special seating for them. Estimate the number of guests attending: Look carefully at your list and the probability of people attending. Typically, the bigger the guest list, the lower the percentage of attendance. For lists of 500 or more guests, 25 percent attendance is a starting estimate. Caterers are an informed resource for estimating the number of guests who will attend.

Step 3.

Several months in advance, invite members of the clergy and other speakers you hope will participate in the service.

Step 4.

Send out “save the date” notices by mail to the entire guest list up to two months in advance.

Step 5.

Book and meet with the caterer as early as possible. Make decisions on space planning, menu, equipment needs, parking, floral arrangements and service personnel.

Step 6.

Book equipment rentals and services. Begin having planning meetings for each of them several months in advance. These may include equipment (chairs, tables, linens, stage, sound system and podium), valet, florists, musicians, printer and photographer. Begin to work with any media that might cover the event.

Step 7.

Mail invitations three weeks prior to the event. Hand-address if feasible.

Step 8.

Reconfirm with service providers two weeks in advance and double-check all details. Make a detailed schedule of events for the day of event and distribute to service providers. Include contact information with cell phone numbers. Programs or orders of service should go to the printer two weeks before the event.

Step 9.

On the day before the event, reserve parking for VIPs, clergy and caterers with traffic cones and reserved parking signs. Pick up program/orders of service from the printer. Receive rental items and begin setup. Re-contact members of the media and reserve parking for them if necessary.

Step 10.

On the day of the event, work the plan and depend on the professionals you have hired to do their jobs.


Design the dedication to honor the intent of the building. For instance, students could play meaningful roles in the dedication of a new school building, or guests could be invited to throw wildflower seeds at the dedication of a public garden center. If money for the new building was donated, plan to have a private “sneak peek” party for donors the night before the dedication.