I love hosting parties. I learned at my high school graduation party that I really enjoy flittering around talking to groups of people and it’s something I look forward to doing in my apartment this upcoming August. Parties here I host! But first, you have to know how to plan one.
Planning a party can be like a math equation. If you change one variable, it can change everything else about your party. Deciding on a time and date, how many people to invite and who, what kind of invitations, budget, food, entertainment, decorations, and a backup plan for each of those if they do not come through are just a few of the many variables in event planning. Below, find out resources and tips for planning the best party on the block!
Date, Time, and Place
Friday or Saturday tend to be the best dates to host a party. A dinner party on Thursday would be really good too because many people already have plans for the weekend. If you are planning a holiday party, it can be hard if the date is in the middle of the week and you don’t get that date off. To work around that, plan it for the weekend date closest to it. For example, if it is on a Wednesday, try to host it that Friday evening. The time can depend on several different things. Are you having dinner, or is it just finger foods? Dinner would definitely be around 6 or later. For finger foods, it could be anytime after 9 P.M. for a dessert tasting, or 2 P.M. for a snacks. Also, what kind of entertainment are you planning? If you’re just going to throw on the radio and sit and chat, you might not want to have this get together around dinnertime. Decide what kind of event you’ll be having and it will be easier to make a decision on time.
Where are you going to host this event? There are many places you could have your party, such as your church, a park picnic shelter, your house inside or out, or a rented room if you have the money in your budget. The place you are hosting this party will help you decide on many other aspects of your planning. You can’t have one hundred people over in your one bedroom apartment with tiny balcony, but inviting five friends to a ballroom you have rented out might be too much. It can also help you decide on the types of decorations for this event: garland to hang off the fence or streamers to decorate the ceiling. If you are renting out a room, that might limit the food you are allowed to bring in (some places require you to use their catering services) and / or the type of entertainment you can have.
Creating a budget is very important. You may have an idea of how much you would like to spend for this event. As a college student, I don’t usually have a large budget for anything, so I err on the cheaper side of life. I’m more about finding the best steals and deals and shopping at the local dollar store. If you’re going to host a party in your backyard or a public park, it’s generally free, except spending some time cleaning up, mowing (if it’s your house), and cleaning up the area before the event. Other things to budget for are the location (if you are renting), cost of invitations if you are handing them out, the food which will take up most of your budget, entertainment, decorations, and any chairs or tables you may rent for your party.
Decide what is most important to you. Is having a ritzy place downtown what you really want, or could you host this party at the local park just as successfully? You could nix buying the expensive decorative plates and serving trays that you’ll only use once a year for buying some cheap but cute paper plates and napkins. If you have the budget for having those items though, I would so go for it. There’s nothing wrong with spending your money the way you want to, including giving others a good time.
To help you out, here are a few party planning budget worksheets that I found:
How Many People and Who to Invite
First off I would make a list off any and all people you would want to invite to this party. Think of any family, significant other’s family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances to put on this list. Once this list is done, it’s time to narrow it down. You might not have to narrow it down depending on how big your location is, and your budget for food.
If your list is rather large and your budget/location is not, you will have to cut some people from your master list. Here are a few tips to cutting a few people out from your sweet party:
- Would they come? I have family members who are always invited to our family get-togethers, but rarely come because they have so many other familial obligations due to having four children in multiple sports. If they probably wouldn’t come or already have plans, you might not want to include them on your invitation list.
- When was the last time you saw them? Did you see them last week for coffee? Or was it three years ago at a Christmas celebration for your old workplace? If you spend time with them regularly, you should probably invite them to your party.
- Do you like them? If you don’t like them, don’t invite them to your party. It will be more enjoyable if you have only people you like and they won’t feel ostracized.
- Do you want them in your personal life? This one could be more about people who you see but don’t necessarily talk about your problems and joys with. Like Jose from the office whom you say hi to every now and then but don’t really want him to meet your family.
- Do they live in close proximity? If you want to invite your aunt who lives an hour and a half away for snacks, she might think it’s a waste of her time to travel there and back for just an hour of fun. However, if this is a party that is more than a few hours and you know she’ll have a good time, it might be a good idea to add her to the list.
Deciding on a theme is up there on the list of party-throwing dos. You can base it around a holiday, color scheme, or hobby. I would decide on a theme because it makes it easier to choose decorations, invitations, cutlery and paper goods, serving dishes, and help you decide on a location. You wouldn’t want to have your vintage car themed party at a black and white tie location. It can also help you decide on time. For example, I have always wanted to have a tea party where you get dressed up and eat pastries and drink tea from fancy teapots. I would try to have this event on a Saturday afternoon before dinner but after lunch.
What Kind of Invitations
There are several kinds of invitations. Word of mouth, email invitations, handwritten notes, self-printed beauties, generic RSVP cards, and even professional invitations. For a house party, you’ll want to stay around generic RSVP cards or email invitations. A block party would do great with word of mouth. Handwritten notes are perfect for smaller get-togethers with your closest friends. Professional invitations stray into the professional party scene such as weddings or award ceremonies.
For my high school graduation party, my mom and I bought colored stock paper and created our own invitations on Microsoft Word. We printed them out at home and my mom cut them out at work on their fancy cutting machine that cut things straight. Then we bought envelopes that were similar to the size of the invitations and there you go. They looked professional but overall we spent no more than $10.
One of the major parts of a party is deciding on the menu. This will take up a large part of the budget you have set for yourself. When I host parties, I like to cook/bake the food myself because I think people appreciate that homemade food and it shows that I really care about them and the party. You can also cater, especially if the event is larger. For example, a few months ago we through an end-of-the-year banquet for an organization I’m involved in and because we had nearly 40 people as well as an awards ceremony prior, we decided to make the salad and drinks but cater the main dishes and sides. Because the upcoming holiday is Fourth of July, I will share with you a menu I would come up with, as well as tips to come up with your own menu for whatever event you wish.
Tip: try to stick to your theme with appetizers at least. This will make your event more festive, and you’re likely to have appetizers and just about any event that you throw.
Tip: Here, you can start to stray from your theme. Having some interesting sides as well as some plain ones are sure to please just about anyone who comes to your party.
Tip: While you don’t have to stick to your theme, I would try to stay in the vicinity of it. For example, if you’re throwing a barbecue, you’ll want to grill some meat to keep with the other food options. Also, try to have one vegetarian/vegan option, especially if this is a larger event. That way those with special dietary restrictions feel welcome.
Tip: Have a gluten-free baked option, and try to have at least two different desserts. Some people like pie, and some people don’t (like me when I was 10).
Tip: I would have just one fun drink, and then several different soda and diet-soda options, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi products. Two liters or cans are fine, just make sure they are cold for your guests and have cups and ice for them to use if they wish. Water bottles are a must have for any party.
Tip: The type of alcoholic beverages vary. Fun shots, craft beer, expensive wine. Try to find one that fits your theme (beer for a Harley Motorcycle themed party, wine for the ball you’re throwing). Also, you do not have to include alcoholic beverages. Sure, it’s nice, but it can get expensive. If anything, make sure your invitation says BYOB: Bring Your Own Beer.
Entertainment is very important. As a host, you have to make sure your guests are enjoying themselves and having fun. Throwing on some music is perfectly acceptable at just about any party. For my 8th birthday, it was carnival themed so my mom hired a coworker of hers that worked with fire. That was amazing for an 8 year old whose whole class was invited. I would also encourage having something for your guests to actually do. In Indiana, most people who throw parties have corn hole, which is a very popular game. You can also put out decks of cards and dice. For a classier party, hire an a band or singing group to do the music. This will be very entertaining for your guests and super interesting as well. Allow special song requests to get your guests involved.
When deciding on decorations, make sure they stay in your theme for the party. Don’t have plastic green seahorses hanging from the ceiling if your party has nothing to do with water. Streamers and balloons need to match some of the decor, so even if you based the theme off a hobby try and decide on two colors that will also go with that hobby’s decorations.
You should always buy paper products if you will be using them at your party. Some decor items that are acceptable to always buy are signs and balloons to put outside to mark the location of your party. Of course, if you don’t have the time to DIY decorations you can always buy them from a store to place around your party location.
DIYs are so fun. They are great at personalizing parties where many people buy decor products from dollar stores. Some great DIYs are centerpieces for tables, chair decorations if you’re having a sit-down event, and food name tags. Try having a party where all but the necessities are DIY!
Uh-oh, the drummer to the band you hired was in a car accident and now the band has cancelled. What are you going to do? It’s two hours til the party and you don’t even have access to a radio you could borrow. This is why having backup plans are a must have.
I would just have some basic backup plans in place for some of the more important categories. Your caterer drops half of the food they made for your party on the ground while loading it to bring it to the location. Can you call the local sandwich shop and see what they can do for you on the spot? Or can you spread the mini sandwiches you made yourself into the main dish while running to grab some sides from the store? Entertainment is easy. Just keep a radio with a new CD or a phone hookup in your trunk in case whatever entertainment you hired cannot make it. Forget to send out half of the invitations? Send out a quick email to them plus some others from your master list so food doesn’t go to waste.
Alright honey bees, I have imparted upon you my wisdom. Now, get out there are throw a blast of a party! What tips have you learned over the years? What tips did you find interesting or you haven’t heard of before? Let me know!