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How to Plan the Perfect Party: Step-by-Step Party Planning Checklist

If figuring out how to plan the perfect party has you stressed out, then this post has you covered! We’ve broken down the 10 most important steps to planning a fun party and even have a party planning checklist free to print!

Whether this is your first time planning a party from someone or perhaps you love any excuse for a good party, but the amount of work to pull it off seems overwheleming, then these tips are just what you need.

flat lay image with party decorations and coffee shot from above
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The steps below will help break down the most important parts of throwing a party such as figuring out the guest list, and how to incorporate different elements such as decor and party food, no matter the budget!

Looking for more party ideas? Be sure to check out How to Throw Themed Parties on a Budget for more tips!

The 10 Essential Steps of Planning a Party 

Planning a fun party that people will talk about for months can seem daunting.

Whether it is a birthday party, costume party, or a quaint dinner party, follow these simple steps to plan a party that will be enjoyed by everyone.

There is a lot to consider and to remember when planning a party, so we have made it easy with a free printable party planning checklist. Just scroll to the bottom to grab your copy!

Determine the party’s budget (and be realistic)

The size of the budget will determine all other aspects of the party, from where it will be held to the food and activities. 

Have a clear idea of how much is available to spend, and don’t feel pressured by other extravagant parties you see online to spend more than you are financially comfortable with. 

You can create a great party on a limited budget and we have tons of DIY ideas to help you.

simple donut party table decor

Prioritize the spending based on what is most important to you

A party consists of many different expenses, including invitations, food, beverages, decorations, servers, and clean-up. 

Decide what is most important and spend the budget accordingly. If you think you can handle DIY decorations, and prefer to have the party catered to save time and stress over feeding guests, then allocate more of your budget for food.

If you have a child who would go crazy over a visit from a princess or other character, identify how much that would take from the budget and then divide up the rest amongst other categories.

The common areas where party budgets go include food (snacks, cake/cupcakes, drinks, meals, etc), decorations, party favors, and activities.

Keep an ongoing shopping list to make sure you purchase everything needed, and can catch deals ahead of time when you see them.

Choose a theme for the party

boy in a construction truck with balloons and a birthday cake

Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, or wedding, every party needs a theme. The theme should be specific to the guest(s) of honor to make it a more memorable event. 

For example, at a 50th wedding anniversary party for a couple who enjoys scuba diving, an underwater theme may be appropriate.

Here are some ideas for planning a party that is personalized to the guest of honor:

  • A child’s party can be themed around a show, character, or topic they love. For example, a child who loves dinosaur will LOVE these ideas for a Dinosaur Birthday Party
  • Create a graduation party based on the school or location of the graduate’s next endeavor. 
  • Choose a color theme or one of these great theme ideas for adults.
smiling baby with first birthday cake and pink decor

Choose the party location

There are pros and cons to all types of party locations, including having it at home or a public event space. 

A party at home will not require a rental fee but may require cleaning fees for carpets, rental fees for tents and tables, or not have any additional expense at all. 

However you will have the benefit of being able to slowly set up on your time and having access to items that might easily be forgotten at an off-site location such as cleaning supplies for accidental messes.

An event at a local hotel or another party venue will require a fee but may simplify other aspects such as food and clean-up after. There might be restrictions on how many people can attend, or limited availability as well. 

Create themed invitations

Themed invitations are a fun way to give party goers a glimpse into what to forward to for the event, and can be purchased, sent online or via text for free, or you can create DIY invitations. 

Once you have determined a date and time, invitations can be purchased from an invitation site for formal occasions or purchased on Etsy and printed on a computer or at a print shop for any type of party. 

Related: How to Respond to an RSVP for Any Party

Use graphics, color, and fonts to create an invitation that introduces the guests to the party

For the ocean party, an invitation in the shape of a fish and printed on blue paper will easily identify the ocean theme, as would an invitation with images of fish, whales, and other marine life.

Choose food and beverages around the party theme

Having themed food is one of the best ways to bring the party to life. 

construction birthday cake with jelly beans and boy playing with truck

We love how the cake above uses jelly beans as boulders and pretzel sticks as logs for a construction themed cake. They would look great on a dessert table as well!

Related: 15 Cute & Simple Cakes for Birthdays or Celebrations

An underwater theme can be complemented with seafood, fish, blue-colored beverages, and fish crackers. 

Be creative and name foods to go with the theme, even if the food itself does not. 

Examples includle sand dollar sugar cookies, firewood (pretzel sticks for a camping theme), or pup treats for a puppy theme. 

You also want to be sure that you are planning appropriately for the ages of the party guests—check out these ideas for party foods for a one-year-old’s birthday!

Plan party activities that guests will love

Plan a fun icebreaker for adult parties and multiple activities for children’s parties. 

An icebreaker will help adults mix together and enjoy getting to know each other. Sticking with the ocean theme, an example of an ice breaker would be Ocean Matching. 

Each guest is given a card when they arrive. One side of the card has the name of an underwater animal, and the other side has a picture of an underwater animal (the name and picture should be different). 

The object is to find the other person who has the picture to go with the name on the front of the card. The first to find their pair wins a prize.

We have tons of party activities ideas over at our Pinterest account, so make sure to check it out and follow for more!

Plan decorations to go with the theme

Have fun and get creative with it comes to planning decorations for the birthday or other event. 

unicorn and rainbow party decor and birthday cakes

Use color and texture in addition to themed decorations. Use imagination and creativity to make the party decorations unique and memorable.

Using a mix of easy DIY decorations and purchased items such as balloons works well. For a big impact on a budget, create a balloon backdrop in the colors of the party.

Arrive early and set up the party

If the event is being held at a local venue, verify who will set up the decorations, food and prepare for any additional activities. 

Arrive at least 30 minutes early if the venue is handling everything. Arrive one hour early if possible if you will be setting up anything. 

This will provide sufficient time to make changes and corrections if any are needed. Time always seems to fly by when setting up for a party.

Decorate for the party

Set up for the party by starting with the big backdrops or decorations first. Anything that makes a wow statement for the party should be done first, in case you run out of time. Little details can be finished up as guest are arriving.

  • Arrange and decorate tables and chairs as well as any place settings or centerpieces.
  • Set up activities in the area they will occur or make a staging table for crafts and other activities that will be brought out.
  • Arrange food and drink stations, and layout party favors or goody bags.
  • If guests arrive while still finishing up, greet them and invite them to help themselves to a drink or simple activity, or if they offer to help, by all means, take them up on it!

Have fun at the party

candy plates with cup and scoop

The party has started, people are arriving, and it is time to sit back and have some fun with the guests. 

Don’t forget to take pictures to commemorate the event, or ask someone to be in charge of making sure to get a few pictures of each activity and guest that way you can relax and enjoy the day!

Party Planning Checklist

We created this easy to use party prep checklist to help you stay organized and prepared for parties. Simply check off the boxes as you complete each task, and use it to plan ahead for party details.

To print the party planner, simply click here and download it.

It will print on regular 8.5″ X 11″ printer paper without the watermark on it. Note: The party checklist is for personal use only and not to be resold or distributed.

Be sure to pin this post to save to your Party Board on Pinterest so you have access to it for all future parties, baby showers, or special occassions as well, and follow our account for more inspiration!

party confetti and decor on a blue flat lay with text 10 steps to planning a party

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