Whether you’re throwing a birthday bash, a dinner party, or a celebration with a theme, you want your event to be totally epic. And with a little creativity and planning, it can be. Follow this timeline to ensure you stay organized, don’t forget any details, and most important: are able to relax and enjoy yourself the day of the shindig.
Six + Weeks Out
Decide On a Budget
Figure out how much you can spend on the venue, décor, food and drink, as well as entertainment.
Book the Venue
Depending upon the size of the guest list, you may need to book the location up to a year in advance, but if you’re not having the party at home, you should at least have this all locked up before the invites go out.
Four Weeks Out
Finalize the Guest List and Send Out Invitations
It’s safe to assume that only 80 percent of your friends and family will RSVP yes, so go ahead and invite more people than the space actually holds.
Send the Invitations
Do this either by mail or using a web service like one of these. The invite should include the date, time, location, dress code, and theme if there is one. Requests RSVPs to arrive a week before the party.
Plan the Menu
If you’re going to hire a caterer, now’s the time to get that finalized. Decide if you’re going to have a caterer who stays for the duration of the event or drops the food off. If they’re staying, find out if they will be providing staff to help with serving and cleanup. Keep in mind that if you’re not promising a dinner, most guests will just expect appetizers though if you’re serving cocktails, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have some apps that are on the heavier side. And everyone loves dessert, so you’ll want some sweet options as well.
Hire a Bartender
Of course you can always set up a bar and have your guests help themselves, but hiring a bartender is a good way to keep things organized and ensure guests aren’t over-served and nothing goes to waste. Read more about how to hire a bartender for your event.
Find a DJ
Other than food and drink, the most important part of a party is the music. A professional will ensure the music never stops and is also trained to play the right songs to get on the dance floor. Here are the questions to ask before you hire one.
Three Weeks Out
Hire Valet Parking
If you live in or are hosting the party in a neighborhood where parking can be difficult, valet can make your guests lives a lot easier.
Plan the Activities/Entertainment
Depending on what kind of party you’re throwing, you may want to bring in additional entertainment like a magician, face painter, mechanical bull, belly dancer, or even pony rides for the kiddos.
Two Weeks Out
Finalize the Food and Drink Shopping List
If you’re hiring a caterer or bartender, find out what you’ll be expected to provide and plan accordingly. Many bartenders will ask you to buy the alcohol, mixers, and ice, but some will also bring that with them.
Book a Photo Booth
A party is not a party these days without a photo booth. It’s a fun activity and can serve as a placeholder for a goodie bag, since the photos are a tangible gift for your guests. The good news is renting a photo booth is actually more affordable than you think. Reserve yours two or three weeks ahead of time and find out if the company can provide props when you make the arrangements.
One Week Out
Finalize the Guest List
All of the RSVPs should be in, so you can estimate your final number of guests. This is also a good time to follow up with guests who haven’t responded yet. This number is important since it will determine how much food and alcohol to buy and since many caterers charge per head.
Order the Flowers
Every party needs flowers, even if it’s just a few small bouquets that are strategically placed. This is definitely something you can do yourself with just a quick trip to the flower mart or a local florist, but if you’re going to ask a florist to create the arrangements, you’ll want to place the order at least a week before the party.
Clean Out the Fridge and Freezer
If you’re having the party at home, now is the time to eat anything in your refrigerator you can and get rid of the rest of it.
Put Together the Favors
Okay, so you’re throwing a party, which means you definitely do not have to give your guests a parting favor. However, if you are planning to send your friends away with some sort of treat or goody bag, now’s the time to start getting those ready.
Two Days Out
Have the House Cleaned
You can do it yourself or you can bring in a professional. Either way, you’re going to want to make sure your house is sparkling before your guests arrive. This is also a good time to make sure the bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper, soap, and hand towels.
The Day Before
Put Up the Decorations
If you’re throwing a theme party or a party celebrating a holiday where decorations will be expected (Halloween, Christmas, 4th of July, etc.), you may want to hire someone to handle the décor. A professional will not only bring in all of the decorations, she’ll get everything set up so that you don’t have to stress. If you’re not using a professional, candles and lighting can go a long way.
Pick up the Flowers
If your florist delivers, consider it since it’s one less errand to run. Otherwise, you’ll want to pick the arrangements up the day before the event so that you’re not running around on the day of the party.
Prepare Any Food You Can
If you’re using a caterer, this isn’t something you’ll need to worry about, but if you’re not, this is the day to do as much prep work as possible, including chopping and baking.
Day of the Party
Set up the Bar
Make sure there’s plenty of glassware, ice, garnishes, etc. Chill the wine and beer. If you’ve hired a bartender, they will do this for you.
Finish Preparing the Food
An hour before the party is the time to start putting everything out.
And pour yourself a drink! Now enjoy the party knowing you did everything you needed to make sure everyone will have a great time (including you).
Have the House Cleaned
Yes, again. The good news is that because you cleaned the house before the party, clean up should be relatively easy. Still, do you really want to spend the day after your party collecting empty cups, taking out the trash, and vacuuming? Didn’t think so.
[All images via Great Gatsby, Warner Brothers]