Planning a party can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned party planning professional. From corporate galas to non-profit events and even birthday and holiday parties, there are several steps that when properly followed, can make party planning a breeze for even the novice party planner.
Detailed Event Checklist
A great venue, awesome menu, and catchy tunes are just a few key elements needed to ensure a great party. However, things like lack of staff, failure to provide plenty of parking, or overflowing trash receptacles can ruin the mood of any partygoer.
The printable above will help you stay organized throughout the planning process. If you need help downloading the checklist, check out these helpful tips.
12-26 Weeks Prior to Party Date
Depending on the party's size, you'll want to start planning as early as six months in advance. There are several areas you'll want to pay special attention to in the beginning stages of planning your event to ensure that everything flows throughout the planning process.
Location and Timeline
- Determine the location of the event. Consider having two to three alternate locations in case your first choice is not available. Also, determine logistics - room set-up, audio/visual equipment, accessibility for the physically-challenged, and tables and chairs. Your guests should feel comfortably close without feeling like their personal spaces are being invaded.
- Develop a basic timeline. For example, will you have dinner prior to any games/activities? When will a guest speaker take the stage?
- Set up your record-keeping process, and create a party binder. This will come in handy when you host the same party next year, and it will be a great resource when planning other parties and events.
- Figure out your total budget for the event and allot a certain percentage to various categories like food, entertainment, and clean up.
- Determine, recruit, and secure sponsors, if necessary.
- Decide on what, if any music, you want at your event. For example, do you want a live band or a DJ?
- Determine what items (e.g. food, tables, chairs, decorations, set-up, tear-down, etc.) you will need from outside vendors, price those services, and book them.
- If you are planning to have signs, banners, or decorations, create any needed graphic designs, and place your order with your chosen printing company.
- Interview and hire a caterer for the party, if necessary.
- Decide on a theme. Do you want to have an '80s birthday party? Is it a corporate event in the style of The Great Gatsby? Also, decide if you want to make, buy, or borrow the decorations you may need to fit the theme.
- Make an invitation list. For a large event, consider inviting 20 percent more people than you can fit, since typically only 70 percent to 80 percent of invitees attend.
- If you are planning a corporate or public event, check with the city in which the event is being held to determine what permits are needed. You may need permits for food, alcohol, and parking.
- If you are planning to serve alcohol, make sure to check with the city to see if you will be required to hire police or security for your event. In many instances, you will be required to hire one police or security guard per every 50 people attending the party.
10-15 Weeks Prior to Event
- Send invitations. Mail, e-mail, e-vite, and even phone invites are acceptable. Your invitations should complement the theme of the party. For example, if you are hosting a corporate event, it may be more appropriate to mail invitations.
- Determine food or catering selections at a party that is being catered; provide caterers with a potential head count for the party based on the number of invitations sent.
- If you are not having the party catered, plan the menu. Assemble the recipes. When doing the food yourself, choose only those that can be prepared in advance, perhaps even frozen, with just warming and assembling required on party day. Make a list of how far in advance each can be made, and compile a shopping list. Place an order with your local delicatessen or bakery, as needed.
- Decide on, and start putting together, the playlist for the event. If you are hiring a band or a DJ, meet with them to discuss the type of music you want played. Your music should start out a bit mellow, build to upbeat, and then end on a mellow note as the party starts to wind down.
- Call potential speakers/guests to seek confirmations.
- Touch base with sponsors to update them on your progress.
- Determine a central office space and medical or mobility needs.
- Determine transportation access.
- Finalize and print any needed materials.
- Decide whether you will invite media, and compile a list of which outlets to target, complete with contact information.
- Determine audiovisual needs, and make arrangements with the event venue.
Six to Eight Weeks Before the Party
- Hire additional help you anticipate, such as an assistant for the party day itself or additional cleaning crew members.
- Conduct a site walk-through. Take inventory of cookware and dishes if the party isn't catered. Confirm what items your venue will provide. Secure necessary items like linens and centerpieces as needed.
- Set the stage. Sketch the layout for the party, complete with designations for serving tables, stage, dance floor, and guests' tables, making sure guests can move easily from one part of the event room to another. Designate a coffee table or side table for coffee and dessert, if you will be serving these items.
- Determine the lighting. Using low-wattage bulbs or candlelight will create the right mood.
- Provide a final head count to the caterer if necessary.
Two to Four Weeks Prior to the Party
- Verify final details with the venue, including the room layout, and confirm audiovisual needs.
- Confirm permits, security and rental items.
- Call any media you want at the event and confirm/encourage attendance.
- Touch base with speakers to make sure they have the correct date and location of the event, as well as the time they are expected to speak.
- Give speakers the name of a contact person who will greet them upon arrival.
One to Two Weeks Before the Party
- Finalize and print the agenda and participant list.
- Assemble materials for distribution to participants; ensure these materials are available at the venue.
- Print name tags, if applicable.
- Draft a press release (if applicable) detailing the party and distribute it to the media.
- If you are planning to serve the food/drinks yourself, clean any crystal, china, and silverware that will be used at the party. Launder and iron linens.
- Stock the bar. On average, plan three bottles of wine for every four people, and three to four cocktails per guest for a two to three hour party.
Day of the Party
- Arrive early and check that the location is correctly set up and that audiovisual materials are available and functioning. Check all microphones, projectors, audiovisual equipment and computer connections.
- Check the registration area. Make sure name tags, and supplies are plentiful.
- Plan to have staff members at registration approximately one hour before the start of the event.
- Make sure staff are in their assigned locations and that all areas are covered for the entire event.
- Allow time for run-throughs if requested by your speakers or others participating in the event.
- Make sure that directional signs are appropriately placed.
- Pack a "supply kit" with any miscellaneous materials you may need (tape, scissors, stapler, pens, pencils, paper, phone numbers of speakers, etc.).
- Decorate. Arrange candles, put up theme decorations, etc.
- Set up clean-up stations. Place a box of salt, Wine-Away (red wine stain remover), club soda, and a couple of rags in a wicker basket, and store a few in strategic places in case a nasty spill occurs.
- Specify a place for coats if your event takes place during the cold season.
- Finish any last-minute cooking. This should be absolutely minimal!
- Place chairs. You do not necessarily need to have enough seating for everyone; fewer seats will encourage mingling.
- Greet guests as they arrive. Things should be organized, so you are free to mingle.
After the Event
Make sure these things happen no later than seven days after the party:
- Conduct a wrap-up meeting with planning committee, including a debrief on what worked well and what could be improved for future events.
- Prepare a written summary and evaluation of the party.
- Complete event/party binders and records.
- Review invoices, and send payment for any outstanding invoices.
- Contact organizations that attended the party to discuss collaboration for future events and other activities.
- Send thank you cards and notes of appreciation to committee members, volunteers, presenters, sponsors, staff members and others involved.
- Send follow-up emails to media that attended and offer assistance with gathering more information.
- Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Make Your Party a Success
A successful party takes planning, preparation, and promotion. Anticipating even the most minute detail offers you peace of mind come party time. Having a party planning checklist ensures your party will be a success. Remember, even with the most-detailed checklist, there will undoubtedly be some chore that is overlooked or some step that goes awry. The key to a great party is to take those bumps in stride, relax, and have fun.