Parties are a lot of fun. However, if you are the one planning a party, the task can be extremely overwhelming. No matter if it’s a kid’s birthday party, a hen party or a 50th wedding anniversary, follow this step-by-step guide to ensure you plan a party everyone will enjoy, including you.
STEP 1: Choose A Date
If you can, start planning a party up to 12-weeks in advance. Although you may not be telling guests about it at this stage, this is a good time to start considering dates. If the party is for a birthday or anniversary, then try and choose a date that is close to this time. Check whether the date you have in mind is a bank holiday as this may determine whether your guests will be free. If it’s a bank holiday or too close to Christmas, unless you let them know far in advance, they may already have plans.
If you want to host the party at a venue, always book the date you want first (or at least reserve it) before informing any guests when the party is, otherwise you will cause confusion.
STEP 2: Decide On A Budget
Before you spend anything on the party, decide on a budget and stick to it. Once you have a figure in mind, split it between the venue, food, drink, entertainment and decorations. Once you have these specific figures you can start making decisions. If you wanted to hire a venue but your budget won't stretch to it, then you know that hosting it at home may be more realistic. Write a list of everything you want and price it up. Once you have this list, you can get a better idea of what you can afford. Prioritise your list to ensure you have all the essentials. Then you can buy extra items from the list with anything you have leftover. Your budget will also have a large impact on how many guests you can invite.
STEP 3: Choose Your Venue
Straight from the beginning you need to decide whether you want to host the party at your home, at a friend’s or at a specific venue. Once this is booked, you know exactly where you are working and can plan the party around the space available. If you have specific entertainment ideas in mind, ensure your venue doesn’t have any specific rules. Also ensure you have all the important information regarding the venue. Get the full address, all parking information, and whether there are specific hours you can serve alcohol or play music until.
STEP 4: Decide On A Theme
Now is the time to choose a theme. Would you like it to be a cocktail party, casual dinner party, 80s themed, casino night, black tie etc? Once you have a theme in mind, it will make all the other decisions easier as you have some direction. Don’t worry if you don’t want any theme at all. Themes can be as subtle or as in-your-face as you wish. Once you have chosen a theme, ensure you stick to it otherwise everything will not tie together.
STEP 5: Decide On A Time
Now that you have a theme you can confirm the date and decide on the best time to host. If it’s a cocktail party, then early evening is a good option. If you are having a family BBQ then mid-afternoon to early evening will be the best as you need to plan around mealtimes and children’s bedtimes.
STEP 6: Invite Your Guests
Once you have a date and time confirmed, it’s time to email or call your guests to tell them you are planning a party. Ensure you let them know all the important information so that they can plan accordingly, and you won't be inundated with messages from people asking the question. Include the full address of the venue, any parking instructions, anything they need to bring and state a theme if you have one. Also state clearly whether children are allowed, whether they can bring anyone else and get them to RSVP before a specific date along with any specific dietary requirements.
STEP 7: Organise The Food
Although you can start to have ideas for food earlier on, don’t order all of your food until you have the majority of your RSVPs (unless you need to order bespoke items that take a long time to be delivered). You need to ensure you are catering for everyone’s requirements. If you are serving alcohol, ensure there are some great non-alcoholic options available as well for those who choose not to drink.
STEP 8: Organise Entertainment
Again, once you have chosen your theme the entertainment can slot into this overarching theme nicely. If it’s an 80s theme then why not recreate an 80s style school disco, or have some retro board games? If it’s a black-tie casino night have some poker tables set up.
Organise your music as no one likes a silent party, even if it is only playing quietly in the background. You may decide for a live band, a DJ or just use your phone to create your own playlists.
Also think of entertainment that isn’t necessarily games or music. Creating your own photo booth is a popular option. All you need is a piece of fabric against a wall as a backdrop and a range of props. Ask some friends in advance for props so that there is a decent amount for people to choose from.
STEP 9: Plan Decorations And Details
Now the venue, food and entertainment are organised you can focus on the decoration. Stick to the theme wherever possible.
If you are having a formal sit-down meal then you may want to consider a seating plan. Plan the tables carefully and try and mix people up wherever possible.
Ensure you plan zones of the venue. Know where you will be having people sit or stand. Set space aside for any presents people may bring. If you are having a buffet set the plates and cutlery at one end so people know which direction to queue to keep things organised.
STEP 10: Follow Up
A week or two before the party, chase up anyone that is yet to RSVP. If you still don’t hear from them, assume they will not be attending. However, to be on the safe side ensure you have enough food, spare place settings and drinks for a couple of extra people in case you receive any last-minute attendees.
STEP 11: Prepare The Food
If you are catering the event yourself, ensure you prepare the food in plenty of time to alleviate as much stress as possible. Go to the shop a week or so before the event to buy non-perishable items. Then buy the fresh ingredients closer to the event.
STEP 12: Clean The Home
If you are hosting the party at your own home, you may want to ensure your whole house is clean in advance, or at least the areas the guests will see. If you are short of time, hiring a domestic cleaning service can help while you concentrate on fun stuff, like planning a party.
STEP 13: Set The Mood
Allow yourself more time than you need on the day of the party as time will go really quick. Organise deliveries to arrive at the venue in advance and have a schedule for the day so you know roughly when everything has to be done.
Before the guests arrive set the mood by playing music and ensuring all the decorations are ready. There will inevitably always be someone arrive slightly early and you do not want to be seen rushing around in a panic.
Greet guests enthusiastically as it helps to set the mood for the rest of the evening. Try and get people talking by introducing people to each other.
STEP 14: Take Photos
You have spent a lot of effort planning the party so you will want some memories of the night. Have a polaroid style camera near the photo booth so that the photos as can printed instantly and added to a scrapbook. Alternatively have a digital camera to create an album online.
Get people who are uploading their photos to their social media to use a designated hashtag so that you can see all the photos everyone has taken together.
STEP 15: Relax And Enjoy
The final, and most important step is to relax and enjoy it. If you have followed the steps and remained organised whilst planning the party, then there should be no emergencies that you will have to sort out, allowing you to enjoy your hard work. If your guests see you are panicked and overwhelmed, it may rub off on them and can impact the party atmosphere so just have fun!
As long as you remain organised, have a list and work your way through the steps, the party will be a great success. Who knows, you might find guests contacting you for help when they are planning a party.