Whether you’re planning a party to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, graduation or other major event, the trick to handling the arrangements yourself is taking an organized approach to the situation. If you’ve ever seen an event planner in action, she probably had a fat binder tucked under one arm. That’s because being organized is 90 percent of the battle.
Before sitting down to plan a bridal shower, baby shower, kid’s birthday party or other event in earnest, come up with a checklist to follow. Make sure that it includes the following 10 steps to planning a party.
10 Steps to Planning a Party
Choose a Party Theme – If you think themes are only suitable for children’s birthday parties, think again. There are plenty of sophisticated themes out there for upscale events. And, adults are really just big kids. Having a fun, not so sophisticated theme lets us be kids again and livens up a party too. Everybody’s guard comes down and it provides topics for discussion amongst your guests. So, don’t shy away from themed parties for important milestone events at any age. Take the individual’s personality into account and go from there.
In addition to making a party more memorable, having a theme in mind makes it a lot easier to plan. When you’re ready to choose decorations, select food and make other decisions, being able to refer to a theme will simplify things considerably.
Here are some party theme ideas from Party Simplicity that you might like to consider. Remember that theme ideas are not event specific. You can use almost any party theme for any special occasion. So the ideas in these posts can be helpful even if they aren’t for your specific event.
- Christmas Cupcake Exchange Party
- St. Patrick’s Day Wedding
- Masquerade Party
- Comic Book Super Heroes Party
- Silver and Gold Christmas Party
- Pink and Gold Bridal Shower
Our contributors are always adding more party theme ideas. Be sure to check back!
Select a Party Date and Time – In the case of a birthday party, it’s nice to hold the event on the same day. On the other hand, you want to select a date that will ensure the best turnout possible. Weekends are therefore much better than weekdays. Keep in mind that summertime events can be fairly hit or miss because so many people are traveling; August is an especially tricky month.
As for the time, keep the invitees’ habits in mind. For example, if young children will be attending the event, make sure that it’s held fairly early in the day.
- Set a Budget for your Party – It’s easy to get carried away when planning a party. After all, there are so many cool decorations and accessories available. Without setting a budget, you could spend way too much on things like the venue, the food and the drinks. By setting a budget early, you’ll know precisely what you have to work with, and you can make more practical decisions along the way. There are lots of ways to save money on party planning: do it yourself decor ideas, having the party at your place, making it a potluck, etc. Once you have a budget, you’ll know if you need to explore these ideas.
- Choose a Place for your Party – After setting your budget, you should know whether you can afford to throw the shindig at a fancy hall or not. If you have the budget for it, consider your theme in your location planning. For a nautical themed party as an example, have it on a sailboat perhaps or for a hollywood themed party, rent out a theatre…. the ideas are endless.
If your budget won’t allow for something like that, why not throw the party at your house? You’ll save a lot of money by doing that, and you can spend the money you save on other things. Of course, you have to consider the fact that you’ll be responsible for cleaning up at the end of the event when it’s held at your house. (Note: this is also true for some smaller halls as well). Also, if your guest list is really huge, your home may not be large enough to accommodate everyone. And, finally, if you have the party at your home, you’ll also need to clean your house prior to the event.
Depending on the party you are planning and the guests who’ll be attending, accessibility may need to be considered. Or helpers to help out if this is an issue for your event.
- Make a Party Guest List – Depending on the type of event that you are planning, this step may be really easy or really complicated. In the case of a child’s birthday parties, for instance, you might just get the names of all of the kids in your child’s class and call it a day. If you’re throwing a baby shower or an anniversary party, however, you may need to get input from a few other people. By selecting the location where the party will be held first, you’ll know how many people you can invite. This may make it easier or more difficult to come up with a guest list.
Buy Party Invitations – People are increasingly sending event invitations through email or on sites like Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s something to be said for sending real invitations in the mail too. Why not do both?
People are charmed when real invitations arrive in the mail. There’s a huge array of options to choose from, and you can personalize the invitations so that they are perfect for the event.
The best part of all is that there’s no need to spend a fortune to get affordable, high-quality invitations. The company I use to sell my designs, Zazzle, has good quality invitations, produced quickly and at a reasonable price.
You can search for practically anything on Zazzle and find a great invitation design for it. That’s because Zazzle has thousands or fantastic designers adding new designs every day. What if they don’t have what you’re looking for? Try contacting any of the Zazzle designers and see if they’ll create it for you (custom design fee may apply).
Check out Zazzle’s invitations. TIP: use the search box to find exactly what you are looking for.
- Come Up with a Party Menu – The nature and theme of the party you’re throwing will determine the kinds of food that you should serve. Pizza is a quick, easy and crowd-pleasing option for kids’ parties. If large groups of people are invited, a buffet is a logical choice. For smaller groups, you might want to prepare the food yourself or consider hosting a potluck. To save time and simplify things, you might want to hire a caterer. Consider all of the options and select the one that’s right for you.
Party foods that go with your theme are also worth considering. There are so many ideas online these days, that it makes it much easier to add fun theme inspired foods to your menu.
People are increasingly having issues with food allergies. Nut and gluten allergies are quite common these days. Also, more and more people are vegetarians and vegans. It is important to consider your guest list and have options available for the people that plan to attend your event.
- Arrange for Music and Entertainment – At the very least, you should have music at your party. An affordable option is to connect an MP3 player to a sound system. If your budget allows, you might want to hire a DJ or a live band. Live bands really liven up an event and are worth the extra cost if you can afford it.
For entertainment, consider options like comedians or magicians for adult parties and clowns or magicians for kids’ parties. I’ve attended adult parties with magicians, and they really do provide great entertainment and discussion topics for your guests. For cheaper alternatives, you might find that some of your friends have talents they could share. Perhaps they are musically inclined and can play an instrument at your party. This can be surprisingly entertaining for everyone and a great cost saver.
- Select Party Decorations – If you are holding your event at a banquet hall or other venue, you may be able to skip this step. The decorations are sometimes handled for you. Otherwise, keep your theme and budget in mind and go from there. There’s no need to go overboard when selecting decorations. A few balloons and streamers should do the trick. A custom-printed banner can really tie it all together too.
However, some people do love the fun of decorating a party. If it’s something you love, go crazy. Adding decorations that go with your theme will really set the mood and add to the fun. Remember that this is where do it yourself projects can really pay off. There are many free printables you can find online that might help you save some money on party decor too.
It’s surprising how easy it is to add to your party decor with simple things like stickers. Again, Zazzle can help out in this area. You can purchase personalized stickers in your party theme and use them to decorate cupcakes and party favors (while party favors are not essential, they are becoming more and more popular).
- Have a Blast! – With every step that you complete, you’ll be that much closer to throwing an amazing party. By the time the big day arrives, everything should be ready to go. If you play your cards right, you should be able to join in on the festivities and actually enjoy yourself during the event. You’ll be glad that you took the time to plan every last detail when you see how much fun everyone is having. You might even decide to do it all over again in a month or two!
Shannon is a graphic designer for Wasootch, a special occasion stationery and gift shop that specializes in unique and affordable wedding and bridal shower stationery. Interested in Shannon's designs? Check out her shop on Zazzle, her shop on Etsy or check out her designs on her new partner website Lemon Leaf Prints.