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A simple but effective party planning checklist for successful events

Last updated October 22nd, 2021

Party planning is an essential part of being an event manager and is a key skill you’ll need to master during your career. Whether you work for yourself or within a larger event business, party planning will very likely become part of your remit.

Parties are just as important as corporate events, weddings, festivals and other event types. Just because it might be a birthday, christening, company birthday or something like that, doesn’t mean you don’t give it everything.

Every event, of every type deserves 100%.

To that end, we have put together this party planning checklist. The intent is to provide the information you need to put on an amazing party while missing nothing out.

Want to find out more? Download our FREE Event Management Guide

Well in advance of the party

There are some key planning tasks you’ll need to take care of as soon as you’re handed the event to plan.

They include:

Set the date and time

Party planning will usually have the date and time dictated to them by the stakeholder. This will be the birthday, sweet 16, christening, wedding, corporate anniversary or whatever.

Set the venue

If you’re choosing the venue, the earlier you book it, the better. Things are incredibly busy right now with waiting lists stretching into months and years.

Decide the theme

Some parties will obviously have a set theme but others will offer more freedom in determining the theme. Some birthday parties offer a lot of creative thinking to come up with something amazing, which can be great fun!

Set the budget

Budgeting isn’t the most interesting element of party planning but it’s one of the most important. You may be given a fixed budget to work within or be left to generate the budget through sponsorship or ticketing.

Book the talent

The talent should be booked as far in advance as possible, like the venue. Whether it’s a band, guest speaker, comedian, magician or something else, you’ll need to get in there fast as they are also busy.

Confirm the guest list

Knowing the number of guests and what type of guest they are ahead of time can be incredibly useful. You’ll need numbers for catering and budgeting but the type of guest is also important.

The more important they are, or the higher they are in an organisation, the more notice they’ll need for scheduling.

Design the marketing campaign

Some parties will require no marketing while others may require a lot. The earlier you start, the more time you have to get the attention you’re looking for.

1-2 months before the party

Now you’re closer to the date, you have some more steps to take in your party planning.

Confirm catering

If you’re having the party catered, now is a good time to finalize staffing, food orders, cakes, drinks and everything else that’s being catered. This gives the supplier enough time to plan and for you to find another supplier should anything happen.

Send invitations

There is no ‘perfect’ time to send invitations but a month or so before is often good. The more important a guest is in terms of their organisation, the more notice they will need for scheduling.

Begin recruiting staff if required

If you need staff to help with the party, now is a good time to begin hiring. If you’re recruiting cold, the sooner you do this the better as it will give you time to refine candidates and train them wherever necessary.

Begin purchasing

If you need party favours, swag bags, table centres and other goodies, buy them in plenty of time for the party. This gives you a cushion in case you can’t find the perfect table setting or for if you need custom printing or engraving.

Plan the party timetable

Now you have a better idea of what’s happening, who is coming and the talent, you can begin putting together a schedule for the party itself.

Ordering fresh goods

If you need a birthday cake, special cakes or food that isn’t part of the catering agreement, order it now. Give the supplier enough time to be able to order ingredients and schedule manufacture, but a month should be enough for most parties.

1 week before the party

Your party planning should go up a gear as the date nears. If you have prepared properly, you’ll know exactly what you need to do ahead of the party.

That might include:

Check attendees and RSVPs

Refine your guest list by checking and verifying who’s coming and who isn’t. Follow up on any non-replies and RSVPs as part of this process and refine catering and ordering depending on the numbers.

Verify catering and talent

A quick phone call or meeting with your caterer, baker, talent or talent’s agent is a good call about now. It’s close enough to be relevant but far enough away for contingencies should anything go wrong.

Prepare swag bags

If you’re putting together swag bags with non-perishables, get it done early so there is less to do on the day. If you are adding fresh goods, prepare the bags as much as possible and top up on the day.

The day of the party

There is very little party planning left to do on the day. Now it’s time to herd cats.

Keep an eye on everyone, make sure all the suppliers turn up, all your swag bags are prepared, the party space is ready, talent turns up and is looked after, centre pieces are ready, tables are set, cake is prepared and everything is ready for party time!

Party planning is every bit as detailed and meticulously planned as any other event type. It’s also just as much fun, just as stressful and just as satisfying when it all goes well.

All part of being a successful event manager and party planner!

Want to find out more? Download our FREE Event Management Guide
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