Party Planning 101

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Playing host or hostess is an art. From pretty little party favors to perfectly planned entertainment, there's a lot that goes into planning a party. Whether you're putting together a baby shower, a birthday party, or just a casual get-together with friends, these easy tips will help you plan the perfect party, beginning to end.

The Basics of Planning a Party:

  1. Choose a theme. The best parties have a central theme, and once you've narrowed down your theme and color palette, planning will become easier. Base everything around your theme, from your invitations to decorations, food, and favors. You can go as simple as a pink baby shower, or as elaborate as a backyard superhero birthday party. If your guests are expected to dress or bring gifts based around a theme, make sure to include that in the invitations.

  2. Send invitations at the right time. Depending on the type of party you're throwing, invitations should be sent anywhere from three weeks to one week in advance. For more formal events, give your guests more notice; do this for elaborate events, such as costume parties, where your guests may need time to plan their contributions. On the other hand, smaller, more casual get-togethers require less lead time. Including an RSVP can help you determine how many guests to expect.

  3. Make a budget. It's easy to get caught up in party planning and go a little overboard. Start out by giving yourself a budget, and then stick to it! Break it down into smaller budgets for food, decorations, invitations, and entertainment. Look for local deals on party supplies, or consider buying in bulk to get more for your money.

  4. Decide on a menu: Are you planning on serving hors d'oeuvres? Or do burgers and salads better fit the bill? Your menu should reflect the mood of your party, whether it's a formal event or backyard barbecue. Make sure you prepare or order plenty of food. Expect your guests to eat more than one of each item, and buy extra paper goods as well.

  5. Keep it simple: Even the most elaborate party can be simplified here and there, and cutting back can help you relax and have fun when party time rolls around. Instead of a full meal, consider serving finger foods and cocktails for larger parties. Look around your house for items you already have that can double as decorations, like empty cans and jars that can double as vases, or fabric scraps you can turn into a DIY garland.

  6. Give yourself time. From menus to invitations, it's best to give yourself a head start. Make sure your guests have plenty of time to prepare for your party, and make sure you do, too. Plan out menus, decorations, and activities early on to give yourself plenty of time to shop, plan, prep, and fix any hang-ups along the way. If you're renting or hiring any services, make sure everything is arranged well ahead of the party.

  7. Do a test run. A few days before your event, consider doing a test run. Set up a table with place settings, centerpieces, and serveware to make sure everything looks good and that you're not forgetting everything. This will give you time to pick up anything else you need and avoid last-minute trips to the store the day of your event. You can even do test runs of menu, games, and any other entertainment.

  8. Set the perfect pace. The best parties are those that just seem to flow. From food to entertainment, make sure your guests have plenty to do without overloading them. Make sure to allow plenty of time for eating and mingling before moving on to fun and games, or give your guests several options of activities to do at their own pace.

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