Party Planning Basics
Celebrations always seem to include good food, sweet drinks, singing, and dancing!
One way to celebrate is to throw a party.
Throwing a party can be intimidating. Don’t worry, though. They key is planning. The planning process involves asking and answering lots of questions.
Answering these questions helps you think through what you are hoping to see happen at your party.
Are you ready?
Party Planning Begins with Basic Questions
Why are we having this party?
What are we celebrating?
What is the occasion?
This might be your son’s graduation from high school, your husband’s fortieth birthday, or Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection!
When? Where? When?
Next, we decide the date, time, and location!
Choose where the party will be and when. Will it be at your house? Is there enough room at your house?
Who or What is the Party For?
Is There a Guest of Honor?
A special occasion such as a wedding, graduation, or birthday will have a guest of honor. A seasonal party usually will not.
If there is a guest of honor, let him/her play a large role in deciding the menu, theme, decorations, and guest lists. If it is a surprise, try to keep the guest of honor’s likes and dislikes in mind.
Theme & Decorations
What will the theme be?
How will we decorate?
When my friend, Sarah, had her twenty-first birthday, she had a 1950’s Party complete with root beer floats, malted milk shakes, and cheeseburgers. We all dressed up and it looked like the cast of the old television show, Happy Days, had invaded my house.
Choose a theme or at least a color scheme right at the beginning. We have used Western themes (cowboy hats, rope, bandanas, cowboy songs), Hawaiian (pineapples, coconuts, tropical isle décor, island music), Mexican (sombrero, Mexican flags, music), and Teddy Bears (with teddy bears EVERYWHERE!).
Different holidays and seasons bring their own themes and colors. Christmas colors are red and green or burgundy and dark green. Easter colors are lavender, mint green, yellow, soft pink, and powder blue. St. Valentine’s Day colors are reds and pinks with lots of hearts, lace, and roses. Thanksgiving colors are orange, brown, dark greens, gold, and beige.
Food & Drinks
What will the menu be?
Who will prepare the food?
Will you have it catered?
How long will it take to make the food?
What beverages will you serve?
Will I serve food and drink in disposable cups, plates, and silverware, or will I use my own?
What do you need to buy?
What is your budget for this event?
You’ll have to make a shopping list. You may have to adjust your menu in light of your budget. Food and drinks are usually the biggest expense of any party. If you can’t afford to pay for all the food, consider a pitch-in where everyone brings something to share.
Make a menu first and gather needed recipes. Try to keep everything simple.
Can you make anything ahead and freeze it?
Can you make anything the day before and refrigerate it?
Make a timetable for preparing the food. Make a master shopping list. Be sure to get ice! You will be adding paper products and decorations to your shopping list too. Don’t forget!
When you make your timetable for preparing the food, keep in mind that it will take time to decorate and time to clean the house. All of that will need to be included in the final timetable.
If you are having a pitch-in, tell your guests what to bring (salad, vegetable, main dish, dessert, drinks), so that you don’t end up with twenty bags of chips. Also, tell them how many people are coming so they can make enough food.
What tablecloth and napkins will you use for your party?
If you have a nice white or beige linen or lace tablecloth, that always works well for a party.
Over the years, I have purchased washable tablecloths that look just like linen or lace. They have worn well over the years. I also bought a festive ‘Happy Birthday’ tablecloth that we use several times a year for birthdays.
I love cloth napkins, but realize that they are expensive, so I have bought lovely cotton blend material that is thick enough to serve well as a napkin, cut it into squares and serged the edges with contrasting or matching thread with my serger. These napkins have lasted over twenty years and are still beautiful.
Disposable napkins work well too, but I do recommend a cloth tablecloth if you are going for any kind of formal look. It just looks much nicer.
I often use generic white paper plates (Hefty plates are sturdy!) with bright colored napkins that match the occasion for casual events. This saves money but still looks festive. If it’s a birthday, I’ll buy ‘Happy Birthday’ napkins in the birthday boy’s/girl’s favorite color. If it’s a holiday, I’ll buy holiday napkins for the occasion.
For more formal occasions, I find that clear dinnerware looks elegant, especially on a lace tablecloth or paired with linen napkins.
I have gobs of silverware thanks to hand-me-downs from grandparents and aunts who have upgraded. I never need to use plastic silverware. I simply put forks in a sturdy mason jar. Sometimes I put a ribbon around the glass to decorate. I do the same with the knives and spoons.
Plastic silverware is fine too. One time we had pink ‘plasticware’ at a ladies’ brunch for church and it was lovely!
Prepare & Decorate the House
What needs to be straightened in your house to get ready?
What needs to be cleaned in your home to get ready?
Where will you decorate?
Will you only decorate the dining room where the food will be served or will there be decorations in the living room too?
You will need to plan the decorations.
Party Helper Squad
Who will help you clean and decorate?
Make a timetable for decorating and cleaning and combine it with the food preparation timetable so that you have one party timetable.
If you need help to clean and decorate, let everyone know in advance. Don’t expect people to change their plans at the last minute to help you the day of the party. Tell them NOW what you need and expect.
Who will be invited to your party?
How many people will be invited?
How many of them do you think will come?
Keep in mind where the party will be. Will there be room for everyone?
What will everyone wear?
How do you want your guests to dress?
We have a Christmas party every year and we ask all of our guests to dress up. Some of the ladies wear long gowns, while others are dressed more casually, but no one is in jeans. Almost all of our other parties during the year are casual.
Of course, there are also costume parties such as Sarah’s 1950’s party that I mentioned earlier. One-year Katie Beth had a literary party where everyone dressed as their favorite literary character. What fun! However, you want your guests to dress, make it clear on the invitation.
How will they be invited?
The best way to invite guests is to email them an invitation and make an event page on Facebook. More formal parties might call for a mailed invitation.
What needs to be included on a party invitation?
Include the reason for the celebration, the guest of honor’s name if there is one, time, date, location, type of dress for event, anything they need to bring, and R.S.V.P.
In case you are wondering, R. S. V .P. is the abbreviation for the French term Répondez S'il Vous Plaît. It is a polite request for the guest to let the host, or hostess, know if he/she is coming or not.
Unfortunately, most people lack the training to realize that it is good manners to respond and poor manners not to. If you get an invitation with R.S.V.P. at the end, by all means call your host or hostess and let them know if you will attend.
For formal events, such as a wedding, there is a card to mail back to the hostess.
Realize that people spend a lot of money on a party, especially a formal event like a wedding, and it is important for them that you respond.
Where will everyone sit?
Do you have enough room for all the people you are inviting?
Do you need to gather chairs from other rooms in the house?
We keep extra chairs in the garage for times when we need more chairs. If you have to, chairs are inexpensive to rent, but I wouldn’t recommend renting chairs unless you are hosting a formal event. You may need to pare the guest list down and make your party more manageable.
What will you do at the party?
Will you just eat and visit? Conversation is fun and relaxing.
Will you play games, have ice-breakers, or enjoy other activities such as playing volleyball or singing karaoke?
Games are a great way to break the ice and make people feel comfortable with one another.
Okay, you are ready to go plan your party!
For more help, I have shared some of my resources below.
God bless you!
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