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Party planning ideas

Coming up with party planning ideas is no small feat. It takes lots of thought, dedication, and effort to organize a successful party that everyone will enjoy. With so many details to consider, party planning can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we have compiled some helpful ideas for you!

So, whether you’re throwing a birthday bash or a diaper party, use this guide as a resource for learning how to plan the best celebration possible.

Don’t miss the free printable party planning checklist we’ve created! This can be printed out or used as an editable PDF!

Party planning: Where to start

Depending on the kind of event you’re throwing (i.e., baby showers/sip-and-sees, diaper parties, or a wedding), there are several details that need to be taken into account. From deciding on a venue and guest list to picking out food and decorations – every aspect needs to be considered.

I’ll go over everything in detail in this post, but first, check out this free editable PDF party planning checklist we have made for you. It will help you track your planning, no matter the event!

A step-by-step party planning guide

We suggest starting to plan at least a few months in advance. This way, you can get your invites out ahead of time and people can set the day aside. Plus, this way you will have time to work out all of the details. The list below is a reflection of the party planning checklist above, but with more details!

At least 1-2 months before the event

Emphasis on the at least! If you’re really in a rush, you could probably pull an event off with a month of planning. But make sure you give yourself enough time that you can coordinate with vendors for food, desserts, flowers, decor, and to hire entertainment and a venue (if you need it).

Honestly, the farther in advance the better! For things like weddings you will need much more time to plan, but for a birthday party you’ll only need a month or so, for example. So, start as early as possible and use this guide to walk you through the steps.

Step 1. Set the date

Choosing the right date for your party is key to its success. First, determine what type of event it will be and how long it should last. Then decide when you’d like to host the party based on your guests’ availability.

Keep in mind that certain holidays or other events may conflict with the date you selected and be sure to avoid them when possible. Finally, plan ahead as having enough time to notify participants and organize the event is essential. By taking all these factors into account, you’re sure to pick a perfect date!

Step 2. Pick your party theme

Picking a theme for a party is an exciting part of the planning process. It can be as simple or elaborate as you like, and it’s really up to the host or hostess to decide what works best for their gathering. You might also consider just choosing a fun color theme (ie. “Black & Gold”) to create a cohesive look that resonates with your guests.

Always remember to tie in the theme with decorations and food items — using thematic elements like recipes and activities to bring the theme full circle!

Step 3. Who’s invited?

Deciding who to invite to a party is a crucial part of the event planning process. It’s important to consider factors such as size, budget, and even overall atmosphere when it comes to selecting your guest list.

When possible, try to include those closest to you and those who will truly enjoy the gathering. Take into account any key relationships that would be significantly affected by leaving someone off the list, but don’t feel pressured to include everyone on your list if it doesn’t make sense for the event.

Consider their needs and interests

Make sure that you are aware of any accessibility needs or dietary restrictions and accommodate your guests as much as possible. You want them to feel comfortable and safe during your event, after all!

If you’re planning a large event, then this won’t matter a ton (how do you cater to the interests of 50+ people?). But, if it is an intimate gathering then try to incorporate their likes. Are there games the group likes to play? Themes that would work well for them? But, if you’re planning an event for someone, like a bachelorette or birthday party, then the theme should be centered around them.

Step 4. Decide on a budget

Budgeting for a party can feel overwhelming and daunting, but with the right tactics and planning it can be manageable. That’s why it’s so important to set a budget: Determine the total amount of money you have available for the party and stick to it.

Here are a few tips to help you during the party planning budgeting process:

  1. Make a list of all necessary expenses: Create a list of all the items and services you will need to purchase for the party, including decorations, food, drinks, and entertainment.
  2. Prioritize expenses: Decide which items and services are most important and allocate your budget accordingly.
  3. Shop around for the best deals: Compare prices at different stores and online to find the best deals on party supplies.
    • Research vendors, too – Always shop around for the best deals available online or in-store, and don’t be afraid to negotiate prices when possible.
  4. Consider DIY options: Instead of buying expensive decorations, consider making your own. There are plenty of tutorials available online that can help you create your own decorations for a fraction of the cost.
  5. Be strategic with food and drinks: Instead of buying pre-made food and drinks, consider making your own. You can also ask guests to bring a dish or drinks to share.
  6. Get creative with entertainment: Instead of hiring expensive entertainers, consider having a game night or DIY photo booth. You can also ask friends or family members to bring their own instruments or games to keep the party going.
  7. Utilize free resources: Scour your local community or network for any free services related to event planning such as free spaces, catering discounts, etc.

And, like Endless Events mentions in their post, How to Create Your Event Budget, make sure you consider the small expenses (not just big-ticket items!).

Don’t stop at just the big-ticket items like your venue, food and beverage, and AV (although these do make it on the list). You need to think of smaller costs like taxes, fees, gratuity, marketing, and travel. 

Endless Events

Step 5. Pick your venue – Are you hosting at home or at an event space?

Deciding whether to pay for a venue or host a party at home can be tricky. If you’re looking to throw a large-scale event, renting out a facility may be the best option as it usually comes with access to amenities and other services that would otherwise require additional costs and effort to procure.

However, if you’re hosting a smaller gathering, hosting at home often provides more flexibility in terms of space, menu, and decorations. Additionally, organizing the event yourself allows you to manage costs more effectively!

Ultimately, it all depends on your needs, so take time to evaluate what works best for you. Take into account what is realistic for your budget and how many people are coming.

Woman adjusting a large tissue flower on the top of a white tipi-style tent.
Hosting at home

Hosting a party at your home can be a fun and memorable way to celebrate any special occasion.

Here are some tips for hosting a perfect gathering:

  1. Music: Create the right atmosphere with the perfect soundtrack.
  2. Decorations: Invest in or make your own decorations that add to the overall ambiance of your space, such as lights, banners, etc.
  3. Food & Drinks: Keep it simple yet delicious so you can focus on entertaining your guests instead of spending too much time in the kitchen.
  4. Activities: Make sure you have enough activities and entertainment options to keep everyone engaged and having fun! If there are kiddos attending, be sure to have some toys out for them too.
  5. Security & Safety: Take all necessary safety precautions such as having an adequate number of responsible adults present and locking up any hazardous materials or potential breakables away from the reach of children or intoxicated guests.
Hosting at a venue

Decided you don’t want the hassle of hosting at home? When picking a venue for your party, there are several factors to consider that can make all the difference in creating a successful event.

Here are some tips for picking the perfect venue:

  1. Location: Choose a venue that is conveniently located and easy to access for your guests.
  2. Amenities: Ensure the space comes with all the amenities needed for your event such as seating, audio/visuals, etc.
  3. Capacity: Make sure the space can comfortably accommodate your expected guest list to ensure everyone is comfortable.
  4. Style: Consider what kind of atmosphere you would like to create and make sure it aligns with the style and feel of your chosen venue or theme.
  5. Value: Always shop around to compare pricing and find value in any additional services offered by a venue when possible!

Step 6. Do you need entertainment?

When it comes to deciding on entertainment for a party, there are plenty of options available to fit any theme or budget. If your event is low-key, you can just hook your phone or another device up to some speakers.

But, if you’re hosting a large event it’s worth looking for a DJ or band. Check with your friends to see if anyone can play this role or to get recommendations from them. Make sure you hire someone that fits with your theme and that they fit within your budget.

Winnie the Pooh Baby Shower Cookies

Step 7. Who’s cooking & baking?

Prepare a food menu that includes things like snacks and finger foods and a main course if you’re having one. A buffet is always good for a large crowd, or you could invite guests to participate in a potluck and place everyone’s dishes on tables.

If you don’t want to prepare a menu or worry about coordinating the food, you could always hire a caterer, too!

Here are some tips for choosing the perfect caterer for your next event:

  1. Budget & Timing: It’s important to know your budget and timeline when selecting a caterer. Book them as far in advance as possible and check in a week before to confirm your order.
  2. Research & Word of mouth: Research different vendors online and get word-of-mouth recommendations from people who have successfully hired them in the past.
  3. Menu options: Look at sample menus and ask about dietary restrictions or special requests that guests may have in order to ensure everyone is accommodated.

Step 8. Send out the guestlist

Sending invitations to parties doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here are some simple, easy ways to send out your invites:

  1. Electronic Invites: Create and send electronic invitations through websites such as Paperless Post or Evite.
  2. Social media: Spread the word about your event via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  3. Text message: Send customized group text messages with information about your event to all of your invitees at once.
  4. Postal mail: Design your own physical invitations and mail them out with plenty of time before the party date.

No matter how you choose to send out your invitations, make sure to include all of the necessary details such as the date and time, location, dress code, etc., so that everyone knows what to expect!

Step 9. Find volunteers! Or hire help

Whether it’s a friend, family member, colleague or professional, asking for help is essential to making sure the event goes off without a hitch. It’s important to clearly communicate expectations and delegate tasks so everyone knows what needs to be done, though!

If your event is small, having a few friends help with planning a party and helping get everything prepared and organized should be perfect. But, if you’re planning something where there will be entertainment, a sit-down meal, and there will be lots of guests attending, for example, hiring help may be necessary.

People you may need to hire (or volunteers you’ll need)

Planning an event can be a big undertaking and sometimes help from professionals is needed to make the occasion a success.

Here are some people you may need to hire for your event:

  1. Caterer: If you’re providing food or drinks, you’ll need someone who knows how to tackle the logistics of large-scale meals.
  2. Event planner/Venue manager: An experienced professional who can assist in all aspects of planning, such as helping with logistics, bookings, and budgeting.
  3. Bartenders: Having experienced bartenders on hand will ensure that drinks are served quickly and efficiently throughout the course of your event.
  4. Musicians/DJs: Live music or a DJ will help create a festive atmosphere at your party while also preventing any awkward pauses in the conversation!

10. Start ordering!

Order as much as you can at this point including decor, baked goods, and things for DIY projects you know you want to do. Ordering early gives you a good buffer of time in case there are shipping delays. Make sure to confirm the date, time, location of delivery (or pickup), and any special instructions. I’ve included a notes section in the party planning template for tracking details like this!

About 3 weeks before the event

Start working on the smaller details in the 3-4 weeks before the event. Plan out the details of the theme, create a rough schedule for the day, start DIY projects, confirm any orders you have made and make last-minute ones, get the games and activities figured out, and create seating charts if you need them.

Step 11. Work on the details

Work out the smaller details of the day, like which jobs certain people should be doing, make notes of things you need to remember (ie. “start games at 4:15”), and run through the day in your head to make sure you’ve gotten everything ordered that you need.

Large floral arrangement in the center of the table with gold and white cake pops in the foreground and other snacks in the beckground.

12. Create a rough schedule

Create a rough schedule of the day and then revisit it a week before the event to modify it if you need. Don’t worry about the tiny details, but you’ll need to have a general idea! Think about start and end times, plan when activities and music will start, figure out bar hours if serving drinks, and set reminders for things that need to be done leading up to and day of.

Making Your Own Photo String Wall
This DIY clothespin and string photo display is a super easy decor idea. How cute would it be with some string lights, too?

13. DIY Projects for decorating

Hosting a party is a great way to show your creative side and put your own personal touch on the event and save money.

Here are some DIY projects you can try out for a party you’re hosting:

  1. Baked goods: Homemade cookies, cupcakes or brownies are a tasty way to make everyone feel welcome and get them in the mood to celebrate.
  2. Decorations: From banners to custom signs, getting crafty with decorations will give your event an extra special touch.
  3. Drinks: For an added flair, try infusing fresh fruit and herbs like rosemary and lavender into drinks for guests to enjoy.
  4. Favors: Why not make some handmade treats or trinkets as party favors? You might give away small potted plants, treats, or something like a shot glass with the event details labeled on them.

14. Games and activities

Planning fun games and activities is an important part of preparing for any event.

Here are some tips to consider when planning out the events of your get-together:

  1. Estimate the number of people attending: This will help you decide how much space is needed, what types of activities are appropriate, and how many supplies are necessary.
  2. Choose the right type of game: Know your attendees! Pick something enjoyable, age-appropriate, and that matches their interests.
  3. Stock up on supplies: Make sure to have enough for all attendees that may want to participate, such as cards, puzzles, or other props depending on the activity you choose.
  4. Provide an assortment: It’s always a good idea to offer a variety of activities so guests can find something that appeals to them and change things up when they’re ready for something different!

15. Create a seating plan if you need one

Getting this done in advance takes stress off in the days leading up to the event. Make sure you print the chart somewhere that all of the guests can see it!

1 Week before the event

The week before the event should be small items like giving the neighbors a heads up that you’ll be hosting guests, doing last-minute check-overs, creating a music list, finishing up DIY projects, and confirming with guests and vendors.

16. Chat with the neighbors to let them know

It’s important to be considerate of your neighbors when hosting a loud event. Giving them a heads-up beforehand is a kind gesture that can prevent issues on your big day. Let them know the date, time, and expected duration of the event, as well as the type of event you will be hosting. Leave your contact info in case they have any issues!

Two hands holding a phone and plugging it in to charge it.

17. Do a last-minute check-over and buy any missing things

Check your lists over and see if there’s anything left to purchase or rent. Be sure your equipment works, and that everything is clean and ready to go, and run through the schedule to be sure you’ve got all of the small details in order.

18. Create a music list

Create a playlist of songs that are appropriate for the party you are planning. Consider the atmosphere you’re trying to create and the people in attendance. For example, if you’re hosting a dinner party you may want to have more background music, while a reception for a wedding would call for upbeat and energetic songs.

It’s also a good idea to have a mix of both old and new songs and different genres to cater to different generations and music tastes. Remember to also have a few crowd-pleasers that are guaranteed to get people up and dancing! Overall, the key to a great party playlist is to have a balance of different styles and genres to keep guests entertained throughout the night.

19. Finish DIY projects

Now’s the time to finish up your DIY projects! If you’re running out of time, prioritize the things you want to make the most and consider asking for help from others or purchasing things you don’t have time to create. It’s always fun to have a DIY night with whoever has volunteered to help!

20. Confirm drop-off time/location with any vendors

Make sure everything is in order and ready to be delivered at the right time and place with any vendors. It’s best to have things in writing so you can check back later (party planning requires managing a lot of details!), so email the vendors to confirm if possible.

21. Send a confirmation text/email to guests

This one’s optional, but it’s a nice touch! Send out a quick reminder or an update on social media to remind guests that your event is coming up.

The day before your event

On the day before your event, get all of the things in order and start setting up your location if possible. Try not to leave anything for the day of the event if you can, because there will surely be little things to do. Plus, you’ll be busy enough hosting!

Here are the last-minute things to do the day before your event:

  1. Pick up any decor or food (including fresh greenery if necessary!)
  2. Run last-minute errands
  3. Charge all the devices
  4. Double-check your to-do list & reminders

For the day of tips and reminders for things to do after the party, download our PDF from the top of this post!

Party-specific advice

Depending on which type of parts you are hosting, there are specific things to keep in mind for your event. While we don’t (yet) have a party planning checklist for each, we do have some tips for planning a baby shower, a sip-and-see party, and a diaper party.

Winnie The Pooh Baby Shower

Baby shower

Hosting a baby shower is a special way to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a new baby. Learn how to host a Winnie the Pooh-themed baby shower in our post here!

Sip-and-see party

A sip and see party is a casual and fun way to formally introduce a new baby to friends and family. It’s typically held about one or two months after the baby has been born, giving time for parents to get settled into life with their little one. Check our party planning ideas for this type of party in our post here!

Diaper party

A diaper party is a fun and unique way to celebrate the coming of a new baby. Learn what a diaper party is and how to plan one in this post!

Hosting like a pro: Final tips

For some great budgeting tips and party-planning ideas, watch this video by Morgan Yates! Jump to 2:20 to skip her recap of events and get straight to the budget tips.

Other types of parties you may be planning

Not throwing a baby shower or diaper party?

Here are ten other parties you may need party ideas for:

  1. Bridal shower
  2. Bachelor party
  3. Engagement party
  4. Birthday party
  5. Graduation celebration
  6. Housewarming party
  7. A send-off for a new job or promotion
  8. Retirement bash
  9. Bon Voyage gathering (going away party)
  10. Dinner party

Party planner apps

If you’re more of an app person, you could also use a party-planning app! I haven’t tried any on the list, but iGeeksBlog compiled a list of the best party planning apps for 2023. By using an app, you can plan a memorable event while tracking the important details on-the-go.


More party planning ideas

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