Your Complete Party Planning Checklist

Written by    Last updated: April 27, 2011

Birthdays, christenings, engagements, reunions… you name it, parties are a great way to celebrate a special occasion. If you want your celebration to go without a hitch, you have to pay attention to the details. Here’s an overview of all the things to consider when putting together the perfect party!

Colourful seating area

Image courtesy of The Arabian Tent Company Ltd

The date

Before you set a date, check with the 10 most important people that they will be able to attend. There’s little point celebrating grandma’s 60th if her one and only son can’t make that date.

Also, if possible, avoid obvious busy times like bank holidays or high summer, when many people expect to go away. Also avoid days when big sporting events are taking place, times when other gatherings may be happening, and weekdays if most of your guests work long hours.

Numbers

Work out the number of people you wish to invite and can realistically afford to cater for. As a rough guide, for every 50 people, expect about five not to attend.

Venue

Large events need large venues and many of these get booked up fast. So one of your first jobs should be to find somewhere for the celebration that can cater for the numbers on the date you require.

If you’re intending to hold the party at home, remember it’s not just a matter of enough space – you’ll also need extra plates, cutlery, glasses and so on. Beg, steal and borrow from neighbours or the caterer.

Theme

If the party is to be a surprise or a have special theme, make that clear right from the start – there’s nothing worse than turning up to a party to find it’s fancy dress and you weren’t told, and you don’t want anyone blurting out the secret if it’s a surprise.

Theme parties can work well (anything from toga or pyjama parties to murder mysteries and 70s nights), but bear in mind your guests’ likely response to such invites. For example, an older relative may be less than keen to dress up as a St Trinian’s schoolgirl.

Invites

Formal invites are de rigeur for formal events such as weddings and christenings. But even if the event and consequently your invitations are less formal, they should always include the following key information: date, time, venue, suitable dress, theme (if applicable), and whether anything is required (eg pbab – please bring a bottle).

Also, make the reply method clear to your invitees. A simple RSVP will usually suffice, and even for a relatively informal occasion responses can give you a rough idea of numbers to help you plan.

For formal invites, remember to allow time for the printers to do their job.

Food

Professional caterers normally require a fair amount of notice, so start phoning around as soon as you know a date. Choose foods that most people can eat, and don’t forget to allow for vegetarians. It’s best to set up a meeting with the caterer so you can discuss exactly what you want.

Drinks

You can save a packet by hopping across the Channel to buy your wine and beer for the party. But if you’re hiring a venue, you may not be allowed to do this (and even if you can, you’ll probably be charged corkage). It’s worth asking about charges for wine and other drinks early on in your negotiations with the venue.

Entertainment

Booking a Tarzan-o-gram for your friend’s hen party probably won’t require more than a few weeks’ notice. But if you’re planning a big party with a big band, chances are, they’ll need a good six months’ notice. A good disco, too, could require between four and six months’ notice – longer for really popular dates such as Christmas, New Year and weddings in high summer.

Parking

Large venues normally have ample parking for guests, but if you’re planning a ‘bit of a do’ at home, think about where your guests might park. Is there space in your driveway? If not, are there free parking areas nearby?

It’s always a good idea to forewarn – or, better still, invite – your neighbours too. This can help avoid a potentially unpleasant situation with cars blocked in and complaints made to the police.

And finally…

Don’t forget some of your guests may need special attention. Grandad will need to park near the house following his knee replacement, Auntie Jo will need to be kept away from the punch, and your awkward neighbours will need to be steered clear of the friends they fell out with last Christmas! Keep a note of these extra variables and plan accordingly.

There is lots more Party advice available on Confetti!

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