How to plan a party

How to Plan a Party: Step by Step Guide with Checklists

Wait… are you one of those people who enjoy planning a party more than attending one?! Alright then!

This ‘how-to’ piece is exclusively dedicated to guide you rock planning a party step by step. And as a bonus, for each step, we’ve got you an actionable and straightforward party planning checklist!

Be it a friend and family event, holiday celebration or parties in a corporate context, planning a party requires you to be organised, creative and sincere.

Whatever the event is, the strategy to plan a party is pretty simple and obvious, preparedness.

If you haven’t planned or hosted a party before, you might ask what all the fuss is about? Call a party, invite people, play some music and feed. What can go wrong, right? Let’s check!

What Can Go Wrong to Planning a Party?

  • 1. You end up with lots of leftover foods. Or, some guests starved through it because there wasn’t enough! And how did that happen? You didn’t do a thorough headcount for guests beforehand or, the RSVP instructions were not clear!
  • 2. Your guests got lost in traffic or never showed up! Because the location wasn’t clear/convenient in the invitation.
  • 3. You planned for an outdoor party without considering the weather factor. And the rain ruined the party in the halfway. As there was nothing to do, people went home early, irritated.
  • 4. The music stopped midway, and the lighting went off. Because the power went down, and there were no alternatives.
  • 5. Cold food, warm drinks! Would go and stay at such a party?
  • 6. Some guests couldn’t find their designated seats/ there wasn’t enough for all of them. Why? Check #1.
  • 7. One of the vendors/caterers show up late or didn’t show up at all! Because you didn’t follow up or arrange alternatives!

How would you feel if something like these happens to your party? And, there are many more scenarios in that can go wrong to a party if you don’t keep your finger on each tab!

Now, now, don’t need to get anxious! 

We understand that planning a party on your own can get quite overwhelming, especially if you don’t have the experience. 

But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered!

With our actionable step by step guide on how to plan a party, you can prevent any such issues from happening. And plan a killer party that people will remember a long time!

Learn How to Plan a Party in 8 Steps

Step 1: Decide on the event type, budget, theme and time.

  • What kind of party would it be? A special personal occasion like birthday, wedding anniversary or general occasions like Christmas and Halloween?
  • Is there a specific theme? Is there a dress code?
  • How much do you have to spend on the party? It will determine the budget for different party elements, such as location, food menu, service and entertainment.
  • How is the usual weather in that season? Can they affect your party?
  • What should be the theme? Is it executable practically?
  • All these pieces of information are the basics you should know before you start planning for the rest of the party. It will help you create a clear set of objectives for selecting the location, guest list, menu and entertainment.

Step 2: Learn about the guests.

  • Find out everything you can about the invitees before you plan, after all, you would be planning the party for their amusement.
  • What’s the age group of the guests? Is it a kids’ party or for adults? Or an adult party accompanied by kids?
  • How many people are going to be invited, and how many would attend?
  • What are their preferences for food, music and other entertainment?
  • What’s the usual party scenario in their other attended parties?

Step 3: Fix a Venue

  • Depending on the party type and budget, you have to fix a location for the party to be arranged. For small gatherings, say a friend and family event like birthday parties, holding them at home can be a good idea.

    Whereas, for large events like a wedding ceremony or a corporate function, you would have to look for a convention or community centre or any other spacious arrangements.

    You have to decide if it’s going to be an indoor event or an outdoor one (always consider the weather situation).
  • Things to consider:

  • Match your budget; you will still have to spend on other elements of the party
  • Check if there is enough mingle space for the guests.
  • Ensure that there are storage facilities for food and utilities.?
  • Evaluate the Power source and its availability to the location.
  • Check if there are restroom facilities for the guests.
  • Make sure the venue is convenient for the guests to reach.
  • Consider parking spot situation if holding a larger event and expecting out-of-town guests.
  • If it's a dedicated party centre, try to get in touch with other party planners to get reviews and suggestions.

  • Reserve the location 2-3 weeks beforehand. Confirm only after getting the final guest list (one week beforehand is suggested).

    And try to have an alternative venue prepared for any ‘just in case’ situations.

Step 4: Invitations

  • So, by now you know how many guests you have to invite to the party and their demographics.

    You know what kind of party it would be, the when and where too.

    Time to roll out the invitations?

    While preparing the invitation, keep in mind the following things:

  • What’s the appropriate and convenient medium to send out the invitations?
  • Email? Social Media?
  • Over the phone?
  • Traditional Mail?
  • Or some other form of Online Invitation services?
  • Is the RSVP instruction easy to follow?
  • Are the guests allowed to bring a plus-one?
  • Is there a clear date before which the guest have to RSVP?
  • Did you provide a menu option if the guest has a preference?
  • Did you mention the address, date and time of the party clearly?
  • Double-check!
  • Mention both start and end time, so the guests know the duration and prepare accordingly.
  • Did you mention the address, date and time of the party clearly?
  • Did you provide a reach out contact information? Just so, if there is any problem, the guests can contact the responsible person.
  • Yes, as stated earlier, the longer you have time to prepare and plan a party with an exact headcount, the better. Start sending out the invitations weeks in advance, so that they can RSVP you the earliest.

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Step 5: Shopping and Preparation

  • Once you have received the RSVP confirmations with an accurate headcount, it's time to go over the shopping list and start the shopping.

    List down what items you need to buy, what you can borrow, what service should you hire. Are you preparing anything yourself? If so then what materials, put them on the grocery list.

    You would also have to take care of the outside services like caterers or vendors, contact them and book for the date.
  • Party Decorations
  • Now that you have a fixed date and time with a fixed venue with headcounts, you should start planning the decorations.

    From the lightings and flowers to the seating arrangements, you would need to list the items required to make the party theme or occasion appropriate. You can DIY or hire professional service to help you with that.

    Consider the time and budget required to finish up the decorations.

    Don’t go overboard if it's a last-minute thing.
  • Foods & Drinks
  • Alright, by now you should have a clear idea about the type of food and the quantity you have to arrange for the party.

    So, let’s go over the details.

    Write down the answers to the following questions-

  • Have you fixed a menu? Have you considered any dietary restrictions? How about the kids (if there is any).
  • Do you need to hire a catering service? Or are you preparing the food yourself? Either way, have you made the arrangements?
  • Is it a self-serve/buffet or a sit-down meal? Is there going to be a bar service? Do you need to hire help for serving?
  • Have you decided on the silverware, glasses, and utensils? Or using disposable items ? (consider paper options over the 'terrible for environment’ plastics)
  • How is the storage situation for food and drinks? Is there a risk of the foods going cold? Do you have to arrange ice for drinks and beverage?
how to plan a party
  • Music arrangement
What’s a party without music?  Bunch of people boring people eating food!
  • So, Band or DJ? Did you confirm the booking?
  • Do you need to prepare a stage and arrange sound system?
  • Or an iPod hooked to a set of speakers will do? If so, have you prepared a killer (and theme-appropriate!) playlist?
  • Who is going to oversee it during the party?
  • Is there a dedicated dance floor or enough space for the guests to move with the beats?
  • Have you ensured a stable power source, so the music won’t stop halfway from the party?
  • Entertainment Activities
  • The whole idea of a party is to celebrate a special occasion and for everyone to have a good time.

    People won’t remember the party for the food, or decors unless they have some entertaining experience. You can consider the following basics or become creative with some affordable ideas.
  • Will there be any gaming activities? If so, seek help to supervise them.
  • Do not forget to get a photographer/cameraman to cover the party. Of course, you can look for in-house help to run the camera.
  • You can hire a professional entertainer, like a magician or comedian to lighten up the event.
  • If the party demands and the budget allows, you should arrange other fun activities like karaoke or photo booth.
  • Safety concerns to consider when you plan a party
  • With so many activities in motion, we can often forget to address basic safety issues. You do not want the party to be remembered for unexpected accidents or such occurrence, so prepare ahead.
  • Note down emergency contacts for the location of the party.
  • Make sure there is a fire exit ready and accessible.
  • Keep first aid arrangement and basic medicines stock within reach.
  • If there is a pool around, consider assigning a supervisor for the kids.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and light flowing in the party area.
  • Miscellaneous
  • There are some other aspects that will help you to ensure you have planned a great party. They might feel trivial and insignificant but can ease things for the guests and even brighten the mood of a party!

    We have listed down a few such items -

  • Prepare name tags or signage for the guests if there is a seating arrangement.
  • Arrange souvenirs for the guests if the budget allows.
  • A room or closet to hold the coats, hats and bags is available.
  • Arrange a dedicated space to place the gifts and flowers.
  • Ensure abundance of napkin, towels and drinking waters.
  • Dedicated wash-room for the guests.
  • Bin for rubbish collection and disposal facility is party-friendly.
  • Prepare thank-you notes ahead so you can start sending them in the following day.
  • Shopping and booking confirmation of service should be done days before so that you can deal with any unexpected circumstances. But remember, always keep extra time for preparation and arrangement.

Step 6: Ensure everything is ready to go on the event day.

  • It’s the judgement day (just kidding!), and all the moving parts should be ready to go in. It’s the day you have prepared for over the weeks.

    No need to panic, just relax and do what you have planned already.
  • Show up early to the venue.
  • Confirm everything is ready as scheduled.
  • Make sure everyone who’s supposed to aid you is there.
  • Check with the vendors for delivery time.
  • Enter the execution mode!
  • Aaaaand... it's party time!
how to plan a party

Step 7: Let’s get the party rolling!

  • Now, the experience of the obvious. The guests started arriving at the venue, and every element is in place.

    Is your job done?

    Far from it! But the hard part is over.
  • Meet and greet and show the way to your awesome party.
  • Check the guest list previously prepared for who RSVP’d beforehand, match and cross-out with the arriving guests.
  • See if anyone is missing or going to be late so you can arrange accordingly.
  • Make sure the guests are finding their way to the seats.
  • Announce the arrangements for the guests to enjoy the party.
  • Ensure the foods, drinks and entertainment elements are in the right place and accessible to the guests.
  • Check to see if anyone is missing out on the fun, assist them.
  • See? Everything is fine. The party is rocking, and people are praising your plans!

Job well done!

Step 8: Post-party tasks and follow-ups

  • Now that the party ended successfully, time for you to end the arrangements and formalities.
  • See? Everything is fine. The party is rocking, and people are praising your plans!
  • Complete the final payments of the vendors and service members and thank them.
  • Ensure the clean-up arrangement is thorough.
  • Make a note of things that could have gone better, how can they be improved next time you plan a party.
  • Don’t shy away from asking feedbacks, so you can arrange particulars better (what they liked/didn't/expected) next time.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to send the ‘Thank You’ notes, let the guests know their presence was appreciated.

To Conclude

  • Just to clarify, if you have only a week or less to pull off the party, then you will obviously have to adjust your timeline and plans for it. This strategic and well-defined plan is not to take the fun away from a party, but the idea is to that the different pieces of the puzzle are in place.

    Regardless of the type of party, the fundamental arrangement in planning a party is always pretty much the same. And, if you follow this party planning checklist, you will not only ensure that the event is successful but also that, everyone went home satisfied at the end.

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