Planning parties for a living may sound like an ideal career for many people. Every day, you get to be a part of someone’s “big day,” whether it be a wedding, a baby shower, a graduation, or a birthday. While most of us aren’t professional party planners, we do get to plan our fair share of parties, and once you become pegged as the party planner among your friends, you’ll probably end up having a lot more party planning duties than you originally bargained for.
If you’re just “always celebrating something” or if your friends are always calling you up, begging for help with their latest shindig, here are some tips from professional party planners that can help you create unique, fun parties.
Learn to Organize
Staying organized is one of the best ways to not only de-stress the party planning process, but also make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. When I was helping plan my kid sister’s high school graduation party, we completely forgot that we needed to provide a playlist of music long enough for the entire event, in a format that could be played over the venue’s PA system.
We didn’t remember until we showed up at the venue and they asked for the music. Having a party planning checklist could have avoided this hiccup, and would have prevented me from having to run home and throw together a playlist in less than ten minutes. Professional party planners always have a checklist and they keep checking it to make sure that nothing is being left out or left behind.
Don’t Be Afraid of Themes
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when planning parties, especially for adults, is dismissing the necessity of a theme. You never outgrow the need to have a theme for your party, and it can help unify your ideas and makes decorating much easier. Once you have your theme, all you have to do is scour our party supply store for the decorations that are on-theme, instead of just getting generic decorations that might fill the space, but won’t really add anything special or unique to the venue.
Send Paper Invites
It’s tempting just to send out a mass email, text message, or Facebook invite—and while there might be a time and place for those methods of invitation (i.e. you are planning this thing last minute), if you’re planning weeks or even months in advance, don’t hesitate to send out real paper invitations, whether you get them professionally printed or just make them yourself and print them off your computer. Professional party planners always recommend sending out a paper invite. They’re more personal and when it comes to a surprise party, easier to hide from the person who’s supposed to be surprised.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that the invitation includes specific information about time, location (maybe even directions, if your home or the venue is difficult to find), and attire. Invitations can also include information about whether or not to bring gifts, how long the party might go, and whether or not there will be alcohol, depending on the party itself.
Opt for a Self-Serve Bar over a Bartender
While having a bartender might seem like the classiest and easiest option, it’s also going to be the most expensive, and depending on who you hire, it might be a gamble as to whether or not he or she can adequately mix drinks. A self-serve bar with just a few options is going to be less expensive and it allows your guests to mix their favorite drinks or try a few new mixtures. In addition to a self-serve bar, it might be a good idea to have some standard beer and wine on hand.
One Special Drink
This is a favorite among party planners: a drink created just for the event. While it doesn’t have to be anything too unique or special, coming up with a specialty cocktail that mirrors the theme and atmosphere of the event is a great way to give your guests something memorable to drink. For a spy, James Bond, or Casino Royale themed party, the signature drink could be as simple as the British spy’s favorite martini—shaken, not stirred.
Especially if you’ve gone to the trouble of picking a theme, having a drink that plays into that theme can really round out the evening.
A Table Just for the Kids
This is something that seasoned wedding planners will stalwartly stand by. If the party is primarily for adults, but some children will be tagging along, giving them a place of their own, with activities, snacks, and treats designed just for them is a good way to keep them entertained, even if they are not interesting in the mingling or dancing that is going on in the rest of the room. Even just a table covered with a big piece of paper and strewn with a few crayons can keep children busy for hours.
Take a Breather
Unlike a professional party planner, whose job is to work through the party, as the host or guest, your job is to have fun. Forgetting that can make the entire party a flop, no matter how much time and effort you put into planning. Instead of running back and forth trying to make sure every single little detail is perfect, be sure to allow yourself to actually enjoy the guests.
If you’ve taken care of the food, the drinks, and the party decorations, there’s no reason to spend the duration of the party panicking. Make sure to grab one of those signature drinks and enjoy the party you’ve spent so much time planning!
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