Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Basics of Party Planning

Planning a party can sometimes be a little overwhelming.  There are so many details and components to consider, especially if your desire is to throw a party that your guest will remember.  To give you an idea of how to start and finish your party plans, this article presents the basics of things you should do and the timeline to get it done. But before we go any further, you should know that it takes a minimum of two months to plan a party. 

Phase 1: Week One
  1. Budget - This is the first and most important step.  Your budget helps you determine how many people you can invite, where you can host your party, to use a caterer or not, to decorate or not, etc.  If you intend to invite 50 people or less, and nice beginning budget is $1500.  If you intend to invite up to 100 people a budget of $2500 is a nice place to start.   With a budget like this you have approximately $30 for each person.  The moment you feel you want to have a party, consider how much you can comfortably afford to spend on it.
  2. Number of Guest/Guest List - How many people are you inviting?  Compose a list of all the people you intend to invite.  Of course you don't want to eliminate anyone, but if your number of guests exceeds your budget, you have to start removing names from your guest list.  When composing a guest list start with the people who are closest to you and work your way down.  If names need to be scratched off in order to accommodate your budget, start from the bottom of the list.  If you're planning a BIG party, make sure your budget is BIG.  If you're having a party just because you feel like getting people together, consider the TYPE of party you want to have and invite people accordingly. 
  3. Theme - To theme or not to theme is the question.  If you're having a just because party a theme is not really necessary.  But if you want to put on a production of a party, a theme helps to enhance the purpose of the party as well as the ambiance.  However, keep in mind that a theme party may require you to increase your budget, as you will now have to spend money on decorations and other extras.  You can't have a Luau party without leis, umbrella drinks, palm trees, a little sand, and the appropriate food.  You can't have a casino party without a black jack table, roulette table, chips, and girls dressed appropriately serving drinks.  Again a theme party is a great idea, but consider how it will affect your budget.
  4. Venue - Where do you want to give your party?  You should choose the venue based on the number of people you intend to invite and the theme of your party if there is one.  If you have a home and a yard fit for entertaining, this is always the better choice, as it will save you at least $1000.  If money is not an issue for you, go all out.  Here in my city you can rent out everything from the Wax Museum to a hotel banquet room overlooking the river.  If you choose to hold your party at a space other than your home, make your reservations right away in order to ensure you get the venue want.  If you choose to go with a very popular venue, there's a chance the space may already be reserved for the date of your party.  You may need to be flexible with your dates, or consider booking the space months in advance.
Phase 1 is now complete.  You know your budget, you have your number of guests, you have a theme, and you have a venue.  You are now ready for Phase 2 which is dedicated to the menu, entertainment, and decorations.

Phase 2:  Weeks 2 -4

  1. Catering - What are your guests eating and drinking?  Do you need servers or your going with a buffet set up?  If you choose to hold your party at a venue such as hotel or reception hall, chances are they offer catering that charges at a per head rate; typically $30 - $40 per guest. The price could be more if they provide alcoholic beverages in addition to food. While this is a simple stress free approach to catering, keep in mind that the food  and drink choices will be limited.  You also have the option of finding and choosing your own caterer.  Just remember that your food and drink choices should reflect the theme and ambiance of the party. If it's a fun casual party consider a buffet style with appetizer like foods.  If it's more formal consider plated foods with servers who in addition to serving the plates of food, will also walk around serving appetizers prior to the sit down dinner.
  2. Entertainment - DJ, Karaoke, Live Band, Stereo System, Clowns, Magicians, etc.  Again this is based on the theme or purpose for the party.  Only you can determine what's fitting for you and your guest.  Now of course if it's a formal gathering, chances are you wouldn't want a DJ.  You would probably opt for a band instead.  On the other hand if it's a Luau or Casino party, you may want a DJ and Karaoke.
  3. Decorations - This is the fun part!  How do you intend to bring your party ideas to life.  Theme parties require having the appropriate themed decorations, while formal parties require the correct flatware and dinnerware.  This is where you put together seating arrangements, and determine if you need to rent tables and chairs, or anything else for that matter. Based on your party's theme and purpose, consider table centerpieces, banners, balloons, strobe lights, smoke machines, candlelight, table cloths, chair covers, outdoor tents, tiki torches, flowers, etc.  Decorations also refer to making sure things are in the right place.  For instance if you go with a buffet style serving line for your food, the table should be situated in a manner that allows your guests to smoothly plate their food from start to finish.  The plates and napkins should be at one end of the table, and the forks, spoons, knives, at the other end, so your guest can pick the appropriate eating utensil for their food selection.  If you have buffalo wings or ribs, be sure to provide wet wipes, or lemon hot towels.  Decorations include everything that makes your party POP!! 
You are almost there.  Your party is pretty much together.  All you have to do now is put the finishing touches on everything.  So let's go to Phase 3, the final phase.  Here you  send out invitations, consider desserts, party favors, clean-up crew, and confirm previous arrangements.

Phase 3: Weeks 4 - 8

  1. Send out Invitations - By now you are sure you're having a party! You've made all the arrangements and everything is set to go.  All that's missing is your guests.  You should send out invites or evites at least one month prior to the date of the party.  If you wait too long, your guest may have made other arrangements and will not be able to show.  Your invitations should reflect the style of your party. Also consider asking people to RSVP so that you'll have an idea of how many people to expect.  This will ensure you have appropriate seating, enough food, and any other extras you may need.
  2. Desserts - What's a party without dessert?  If it's not a birthday party, graduation party, anniversary party, or wedding, a cake is not necessary.  You do however need a dessert table with at least five different desserts, such as cupcakes, cheesecake bites, brownie bites, cake slices, fruit display, chocolate dipped strawberries, petit fours, etc.  You can be as creative as you want!
  3. Party Favors - Every good party has party favors.  Your guests have enjoyed the food and drinks, the entertainment, and your great hospitality; now it's time for them to leave.  Don't let them leave empty handed.  Depending on what your budget can handle you can give out anything from bottles of wine to scented candles.  If it's a kid party, a bag full of candy and trinket toys does the trick.  Again your party favors are determined by your budget, your theme, the type of party, and the guests.
  4. Clean Up Crew - Everyone has left and the place is a mess!  If you host your party at a paid for facility they will probably have a cleaning crew.  You can also recruit the help of friends of family.  If your budget allows, you can hire a few people to do the clean up for you.
Alright, you've got all your bases covered...Your party is planned from start to finish.  About a week before the party, you should confirm that everything is still on track.  Make sure the venue is set to go, make sure the caterer has your menu and dates right, make sure your entertainment is scheduled appropriately, make sure you have all the decorations and party favors you need, make sure all the lose ends have been tied, and finally give a reminder call or send an email reminding your guest that the party is in a week.

While you wait for the day of your party, pick out a fabulous outfit and get lots of rest before it's time to host your party.  Of course if you had a fabulous party planner like me, all you would have to do is pick out your outfit, and let me do the rest.  Good Luck!!

If you're planning your own party, but could use a little guidance, feel free to send me an email at  Depending on how much research must be conducted to assist you, a fee may apply.