Basic Party Planning Tips

Life's celebrations are a joy to experience, and there's no better way to commemorate milestones, holidays or friendships than with a party. Thinking about all the details can seem overwhelming, but with a realistic attitude, a set budget and a variety of party planning tips and tricks, your party can be successful without being stressful.

Getting Started
Determining what kind of party you'll be throwing will affect the details of party planning. Is it a fancy dinner party? A child's birthday party? A large family Christmas gathering? Envisioning the event and the guests who will be attending is the first step in creating a party checklist.

The budget is extremely important for good party planners. As you come up with the details that you'll need for the party, make a mental tally of the cost. If the total is outside your budget, look for ways to scale back. Substitute more expensive dishes with less expensive, or change it to a potluck. Keep only the decorations that are essential to creating the party atmosphere and cancel the rest. You don't have to spend a lot of money to ensure that everyone has a good time.

Letting your guests know about the party is the first step, and invitations provide a sneak peek at the party's theme. For a casual get-together or child's birthday, sending invitations out around two weeks ahead of time is sufficient. For more formal events, such as a dinner party or milestone adult birthday party, three to four weeks is better. When your party is a holiday event, such as Christmas or the 4th of July, the more advanced notice you can give, the easier it is for your guests to make plans.

Invitations can be as simple or creative as you want. It's always fun to tie in the party's theme with the invitations, such as placing the rolled-up invite in a pastel-colored baby bottle for a baby shower or affixing the invitation to the cover of a disco album for a -70s themed birthday. No matter how you extend the invitation, make sure the date, time, event location, RSVP info and other important details are included.

As the first thing the guests notice, decorations are a key part of transforming a regular residence into a party place. From a wine and cheese tasting to a frightful Halloween party, decorations should all reflect the theme.

Decorations do not have to be overwhelming or take up much space to be effective. In fact, minimal high-impact party decorations can still set the tone for the party while reducing clutter and eliminating an overdone look. Fresh flowers are a popular accessory for simple adult events such as bridal showers, dinner parties and open houses. You won't go wrong with balloons and streamers for a birthday party, no matter what the age. For theme parties, such as Easter, graduation, luau or bachelor parties, choose decorations that will enhance the mood you are trying to create.

Food and Drink
Central to party planning are the food and beverages, and this is likely where you'll spend the most energy. From a simple appetizer party to a large buffet for relatives, the food and drink should match the event. Here are a few questions party hosts should ask themselves while planning the menu:

  • Will guests be eating on their laps, at a table or standing? Different foods are more appropriate than others for each situation. For example, it would be unwise to serve meat that needs to be cut with a knife at a stand-up event.
  • What is the atmosphere of the party? A Super Bowl party isn't the best venue to showcase your new gourmet recipes, nor is a formal engagement party the best time for burgers and onion rings.
  • How will guests be served? Whether you present plated dishes or set out food buffet-style, certain foods lend themselves better to each serving style. For example, if you are serving food buffet style, make sure that all the portions are pre-cut or pre-sliced so guests can easily maneuver through the line.
  • What kinds of drinks best match the theme? The drinks should reflect the party's mood, from sodas at a kid's birthday party to wines at an appetizer party. Always provide a non-alcoholic option for your guests.
  • What can you prepare ahead of time? Relax and enjoy your guests at the party by choosing menu items that can be made a day or two ahead.

Make It Special
The basic party planning checklist is almost complete, and now it's time to make the party truly your own. Get creative with the personal touches that will make the party stand out for all the guests, such as homemade centerpieces for the table, party favors, background music and even activities or games. Pay attention to the little details that will make the party one of a kind, such as holiday-themed napkin holders, a slideshow for the birthday guest of honor or simple icebreaker activities.

The most important element of party planning is to make sure that your hospitality and love of a good time shine through in every aspect of the party. When this happens, guests are going to have fun no matter what.

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