Whether you’re a seasoned party organiser or it’s your first time, planning a special occasion always seems like a Herculean feat at the beginning. There’s just so much to think about, and so much to go wrong!
What you need before anything else is to take a deep breath, keep calm and make a list. Lists are your friend; they help you keep track of what needs doing and what’s been done, letting you stay in total control. Start by making a master list, and then make smaller lists as you progress. Trust me, it works.
Here are 9 things that should appear on your master list.
Is there going to be a specific theme for the party? Perhaps you have an 80s-themed party in mind, or a tropical island barbecue, or a historical costume party. You might even be considering making it a formal black-tie casino event.
Whatever you decide, make a list of all your theme ideas and bounce these off your family and friends to get their input. This list should also include different details like the food, the entertainment, the venue, the décor, the photographer and so on. Later, you can move different list items onto smaller lists and include more specifics there.
How much is the party going to cost and who will be paying? Will everyone be chipping in or do you need substantial funding from friends, your own pocket or even the Bank of Mum and Dad?
Once you have the total amount of money you can spend for the whole event, divide it up on your list according to food costs, entertainment budget and so on.
Draw up a list of guests you wish to invite, then leave it a few days and come back to it. No doubt you will have thought of a few more people to invite. Invitations need to be sent out in good time so that everyone can make a note in their diaries.
Why not design your invitations along the same lines as the party theme? If you wish, make your invites quirky for that personal touch.
Ask everyone to RSVP and keep a record of numbers definitely attending, including any extra guests they may bring (with your permission, of course). You need a rough idea of numbers to book the right sized venue, and exact numbers for the caterers.
4. Venue and decorations
You might have to visit a few venues before you find the right one. Sourcing unique party venues can be a real headache, which is why a professional venue finder is a great idea. Their services are free and they have a vast knowledge of venues in your chosen locality.
Once you have the perfect spot, book it as soon as possible and pay the deposit. Then decide what type of decorations will work best. Will there be balloons, streamers, flowers, ribbons, centre pieces, tablecloths, or even party favours? Write down all the ideas in your head and check that the budget can accommodate these.
5. Food and drink
Depending on the type of event and your budget, you may decide to buy all the food and drink yourself, so make a list of everything you could possibly need – from beer, wine, champagne, cool drinks, ice, glasses, trays, and so on. If the food is going to be too much to handle, ask some friends to help out, or ask a professional caterer to give you a quote.
6. Extra items
If the venue can’t supply things like tables, chairs, plates, cutlery, etc., sit down and work out exactly what you need and list the items. These may include serving dishes, bowls, scissors, tape, napkins, tablecloths, speakers, channel mixers, jacks, extension cords, trash bags, even duct tape. Write down anything and everything you can possibly think of. Then make a note of who can supply what. Your friends could probably chip in with crockery, tablecloths, a sound system.
If the budget allows, pay a little more and find a venue that supplies everything you need, from a DJ to catering and decorations. It may well be worth it.
7. You can’t please everyone
It’s as well to remember that no matter how well you plan the party there will always be someone who isn’t happy with what you’ve done. Remember, you can’t accommodate everybody all of the time. So, don’t sweat it!
8. Try not to cut corners
There’s nothing wrong with cutting costs, but cutting corners is an almost certain way to ruin the party. Cutting corners means skipping certain crucial elements to save time or money.
Whatever you do, try not to skimp on the important stuff – the theme, entertainment and the food. But by all means cut costs by leaving out small extras that you can easily do without.
9. Murphy’s Law and a back-up plan
Remember, Murphy’s Law says that if something can go wrong, it will; that’s just life. Make sure you have a back-up plan for things like the weather, electric or heating failures, the no-show of the DJ and so on … and keep cool. It will all be alright on the night.
This article was written by Dakota Murphey, an independent content writer who is passionate about sharing her experience and knowledge of the events industry. See what else she’s up to on Twitter – @Dakota_Murphey.