Parties can be SO MUCH FUN! But planning them? Maybe not so much for some people… That’s why I have created a free printable party planning checklist and RSVP list to help ease the stress of planning an event! I have created this party planning checklist in such a way that it will work for almost any event including Thanksgiving and Christmas parties or family events you might want to throw, aside from a wedding. Those things are complicated! ha ha
You can find the free downloadable checklist at the bottom of this article. The RSVP list is included with the checklist! I’ll go through the whole checklist with you now so you won’t forget anything and your party will be amazing! Let the fun begin…
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First things first, you are going to need a daily planner! I will leave a link below of the one that I prefer because it allows for “time blocking”, which is simply blocking out time for each task you wish to complete each day. I swear by time blocking for myself because it assures that I set aside the appropriate amount of time for what I wish to accomplish. If you’d like a more complete description of Time Blocking check out my blog post on organizing your time!
6 Weeks in Advance
This is the starting point of your party planning experience! Feel free to start farther out than 6 weeks if you feel it’s necessary. This is just what normally works for me! Also, always consider your budget for this event throughout the planning process so you don’t end up spending too much and run out of funds before the party day arrives!
At this point, I would pick a date for the party and start considering where the party will be held. The number of guests needs to be decided now because that will factor into the venue that you choose. If this is a birthday party, someone’s home or a park are good options that are also free, which is always nice! If it will not be at someone’s house, you will want to look for venues in your area and possibly tour them to get a good idea of their size and if you will have things like water and electric available to you, as well as a bad weather option in case of rain. Verify that they have plenty of seating and parking for your chosen number of guests.
I would also start to think about a theme for the party and if I need to have any activities or prizes. If it is “kid friendly”, you need to keep those kids entertained. You definitely don’t want a bunch of bored kids on your hands! Also consider if you are okay with parents dropping their kids off or if you want a parent or guardian to stay and watch after their child. Things can get wild pretty fast when it is just you and 20 kids! If you want the parents to stay, you will need to include that information on the invitation so they know what to do. Keep in mind that you WILL get less kids at the party if you require the parent to stay with them. That’s just life. Parents have things to do and having somewhere to drop their kid while they do them is something not many parents will pass up! You will need to feed any parents that stay with their kids so factor that into your number of guests as well.
5 Weeks in Advance
By this point, you should have toured your possible venues and be securing the chosen venue. If your event requires entertainment like music, a clown, or a magician, you should be interviewing entertainers now and have one secured by the end of this week. It’s best to take care of the venue, entertainment, and catering (if desired) now because those things tend to book in advance and get booked up through the summer months pretty quickly.
If you aren’t getting catering, you’ll need to think of a menu now so you can include it on the invitations that you will be sending out next week. Some guests are going to have special diet requests or allergies to work out. Decide now how you are going to handle those issues.
You should order or create the invitations this week so they will be available to mail next week. There are some great websites that will help you create a very nicely done invitation for free and just print them at home! A quick search on the net will take you in the right direction! If you aren’t feeling very creative, you can always order some online from a reputable company. Make sure you can have them within a week or two or you won’t be giving your guests enough notice for your event. I always give a month notice but I think any less than three weeks and your event turn out will suffer.
Information to include on your invitations: Name of the Event, Date of Event, Address of Event (Unless you want to make them RSVP to get the address), a name and phone number or email to RSVP to, a date RSVP must be received by, menu options, gift ideas (if it is a birthday party or shower), planned activities, and party time frame (if you leave the time frame open, people may linger past the time you want the party to end), specify if a parent or guardian should stay with children invited to this party and if their siblings are also welcome or not.
Create a guest list now so you can easily fill out and mail/send your invitations when you get them. Consider if you want your guests to bring a “plus one” or if this party is by invitation only. If it is a child’s party and you want a parent to stay with the minor guests, you’ll have to decide if only one parent is welcome or both AND if siblings are welcome. This will quickly bump your number of guests up if you don’t take it into account now and include this on the invitation.
4 Weeks Ahead
Mail or send your invitations at this point, so your intended guests will have time to keep this date clear for your event. Anything less than three weeks notice will greatly reduce the turn out for your event, in my experience.
Now is also the time to start planning your menu in a little more detail. If you are having it catered, you should have already secured a caterer and be working with them on what food options you’d like at your event. If it is a pot luck event, you should reach out to the people you’d like to bring something and tell them what type of dish you need them to bring (dessert, side, finger food, main dish, drink). There are some pretty neat websites out there that will let you create an event and then let your guests sign up for what dish they want to bring. This is handy so you don’t have an repeat dishes! Sign Up Genius is a great resource for party planning and it’s free! I am not working with them or anything, I’ve just used it before for other events I have gone to and think it’s really neat!
You might also want to start shopping for decorations and supplies for your planned activities. You don’t want to be spread too thin when your event is close and you still have to go to five different stores looking for just the right color streamers or a great prize for a game! I love going to the dollar section of Target or going to the Dollar Tree for prize ideas! I just walk every isle and see what jumps out at me. You can’t do that when the party is tomorrow and you forgot about the game prizes!
As for games, once you have picked your games, you’ll want to make a list of any supplies you’ll need for each game and start acquiring them. Don’t wait until the last minute! You’ll be surprised how busy you are within days of the event. Take care of as much as you can early on so you aren’t overwhelmed! A quick search online may produce not only game ideas but also supply lists for said games. Do your research now! Buy extra supplies for the games you’ve never done so you can try them out before the party day!
2 Weeks Ahead
Your big task at this point is to order the cake, if a cake is required for this event and if you aren’t baking it. Do your tastings at bakeries, if needed, but order the cake this week. If it is a very popular bakery, you may even want to consider ordering the cake at week four or six. This will give them plenty of time to schedule your cake and have it ready the day before your event. You don’t want to worry about picking it up the day of, unless you have to because of the size of the cake or maybe because it has to stay refrigerated and it’s too large for your fridge. Take these details into consideration when deciding what day and time to pick it up. If you must pick it up the day of, consider where you will store it before the party or how long it can be out of a refrigerator without falling apart. Also consider how you will be transporting it. If it is very large, it might be a good idea to pay extra to have it delivered to your event location at a specific time. You could ask a trusted friend to pick up the cake, if needed, or decorate while you are setting up food. This is most helpful when you have rented a venue and only have an hour to fully set up! Helpers are great! Just make sure they are reliable and won’t leave you hanging!
This would also be a good time to ask someone close to you to help you on the day of the event. If you are having a child’s party and allowing parents to leave their kids with you, it’s a great idea to recruit helpers to keep an eye on all the kids while you host the party. Having someone there who is CPR certified is also a great idea, since you will have a lot of kids without parents.
At this point, you should just about have everything you need for your games or activities. Give them a try if you’ve never played them before so you will better be able to lead a large group of people through them! Maybe invite a friend or two over and make it a fun game testing night!
1 Week Ahead
Take time to sit down and plan your party on paper. Create an agenda so you will know when you want to do games, music, cake, presents, mingling time, even a seating arrangement, if necessary. Once you get it figured out, you might also want to make copies for any helpers you have recruited so they know exactly what’s going on.
You’ll also want to call any guests that haven’t RSVP’d that you thought were coming. People get busy and forget or maybe they told you they were coming but forgot about another engagement they have. This will help you know how much food to buy, if you are making the food yourself. Now that you have a reliable estimate of expected guests, make sure you have enough chairs for everyone, as well!
Confirm your entertainers and service providers (photographer). Give them any information they’ll need to show up at the right place and set up their equipment. Make sure they have everything they need to perform their tasks! This way, if something falls through, you still have a week to figure things out as opposed to finding out the day before that your DJ isn’t showing up!
2 or 3 Days Ahead
Now is the time to start doing some last minute things so they don’t pile up on you! If you intend to give party favors, assemble them now. Invite some friends over and make it an arts and crafts night!
Go over your menu and buy any groceries or pre-made food you intend to serve. Make sure you clean your fridge out now so you have space to store your party foods! Go ahead and prep what food you can without it going bad before the big day. The more you do now, the less you have to do on the event day! In the past, I have been decorating my son’s cake while guests were showing up for the party. I DO NOT recommend that! ha ha
Charge any electronic devices you are going to need like cameras, recorders, and toys for the kids. Also check your battery supply and make sure you have what you need of that as well!
Prepare any craft tables you plan to set up, if you can. If you’ve rented a venue, you can box all the crafts needed for each activity in a separate box and prep them ahead of time so you just have to open the box and lay everything out on the table when setting up. Don’t forget to label your boxes and store everything together so nothing is forgotten on the event day!
The Day Before
If you are hosting this party at a home, clean the area now. Ask the home owner (if it’s not your home) if you can come over and help tidy up so they don’t feel the pressure of cleaning by themselves. They were gracious enough to offer their home for your event, after all! Some people may have the cleaning handled but it’s always nice to offer anyway! For a fancy tea party for a bridal shower or baby shower, set the fine china up now and eat meals on the couch for a day. It will be worth it when you don’t have to set all that up the morning of your event! For outdoor events, get the yard work done ahead of time, too. That sounds like a great job for teenagers who would love to make a few bucks! ha ha
It’s time to bake or pick up the cake! Make sure you have a secure place to store it. We don’t want any mishaps the day before the event! Your fridge should already be cleaned out right now and housing party food anyway. If you are ordering pizza for your event, call them now and make all the arrangements so they aren’t overwhelmed. My eldest son worked at a pizza joint for a while and said it was always chaos when people called in a huge order to be delivered in a few hours! There were also times that they were unable to fulfill the order because they didn’t have enough supplies set aside for such a big order. You can avoid all of that by placing the order the day before so they can get supplies from another location, if necessary. They can also call in extra employees, too! I would also consider making a note to confirm the pizza order the morning of your party just to be sure you aren’t forgotten. Mistakes happen!
Touch base with your entertainers and service providers to confirm the time they need to show up. Double and triple checking these things never hurts!
4 or 5 Hours Before
If you have rented a venue or didn’t have access to the party area the day before, now is the time to do a final tidy of the area and start decorating! Set up any activity tables or food tables. Make sure you put out enough chairs for your guests, as well. Don’t forget your camera! Put your candles on the cake now, if you like, so you don’t have to fumble with that later. Make sure the matches are near where you will need to light the candles, too!
Tie balloons outside the venue or home so guests will be able to easily find you. If it’s a venue, you may have to ask permission to do this.
Prep the craft area so that everything is set up when you are ready to lead that activity. If there are games, get those set up, too, so your party flows from activity to activity!
Make sure you have a pad and pencil near the present opening area and recruit someone to record gifts for thank you cards.
1 or 2 Hours Before
For parties held in a home, you may want to consider putting pets away before guests arrive. There may be some allergy issues or maybe there is a big dog in the home that someone might be afraid of. You know your big goofy puppy dog is a gentle giant but others may be too fearful to enjoy the party with him around. If you think that your dog may be nervous around so many people, that would be another great reason to give him a room to stay in while the party is taking place. No need taking risks!
Now is a great time to change into your party clothes and get your kids ready, if necessary! You know yourself and your family best so give yourself the amount of time you need to do this. One or two hours may or may not be enough time for your family! Plan accordingly!
Take a look at the area for the first activity and make sure it is all set up. At this point, it should be but I always like to have people take a quick look while you have the chance. You might notice something that needs to be set up that you forgot about earlier.
Do the same for the food! Do a walk through and make sure everything is out that needs to be out. If there were foods that needed to be refrigerated or frozen as long as possible, now is the time to take those out and set them up.
Keep your party agenda handy so when the party begins, you won’t have to remember what you wanted to do and when. You will have it all right there, ready to go! Take a quick glance at the agenda to familiarize yourself with it one more time and make sure your helpers understand what they are doing, too! Check in on the entertainers and service providers and you are ready to party!
Since you have planned everything out over the last six weeks or more, you can relax now and HAVE A GREAT TIME!
If you enjoyed this article, give it a like! Let me know how your party went in the comments below! I love hearing your experiences!
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