General party planning guide

All parties, no matter what kind or theme, are similar in the planning. The decisions that need to be made for a kids party are very similar to the ones for an adults party or even a corporate event. They all require planning and coordination. This is a general guide that applies to all party planning.

Time

You need to give yourself enough time to plan your party. Generally the amount of time needed is dependant on the type of party you are planning and how big the party is going to be. Some people work well under pressure and prefer to do it all at the last minute, but most people don't like the stress of having to rush things. You should try to give yourself a minimum of two weeks and maximum of six weeks. If you are planning a large party you may want to give yourself eight weeks.

One of the biggest risks of waiting until the last minute is that some of your guests might not be able to make it due to prior commitments. The last thing you want is for only a few people to be able to make it and then having to reschedule.

Type of party

Deciding on a type of party you want is very important. You should decide on the type of party early on, this will make planning easier. Most of the time this is decided for you. If you are planning a kids party then you know what type of party it is going to be, but that is not always the case. Do you want to have a formal party or maybe a relaxed outdoors party or casual dinner party? Knowing this when you start makes the planning a lot easier.

Choosing a Theme

You should decide on the theme early on in the planning. Once you have decided on a general theme the rest of the planning process will be simpler. A theme helps to make the decisions about what kind of invitations, activities, decorations, and food to have.

It is always good to have a theme for kid's parties. A good party theme unifies the party. The activites and costumes can be based on the theme. When picking a theme for kids parties it's always good to involve the child whose party it is. If it is a surprise party then make sure the theme suits your child's interests and personality. Don't try to force a theme on your child that they wouldn't enjoy.

When?

The biggest factor in deciding on a date and time is determined on when your quests are able to attend. Planning a weekday party is far more difficult than a weekend party. Most people have very busy schedules and will ether struggle to make it or will be unable to go because of big commitments the next day. Small parties, that don't involve kids, work best for weekday parties but if you want to plan a big party or a kid's party its best to make it for a weekend.

Friday nights are often a good time for dinner parties. This way people still have a weekend to look forward to before going back to work. Kids parties tend to be during the day and I would recommend Sunday afternoon. If you plan a kid's party for a Saturday you are more likely to clash with other parents weekend plans. If you make it a Sunday afternoon you have all day Saturday to prepare and you are less likely to clash with kids sports activities. When it comes to very young kids its better to have morning or midday parties as very young kids tend to get tired and fussy in the afternoon and evening.

Before deciding on a date and time, it's best to check with key friends beforehand. This is especially important with childrens parties as your child will not be very happy if his best friend can't make it.

Where?

Deciding the location of your party will in manys be determined by the type or theme of your party. When deciding on where to have your party you need to take into account many factors: how many people you need to cater for, space available to you and what infrastructure you need like bathrooms and a kitchen.

If you have the space it's always best to have your party at your home. If you have an entertainment area or maybe large garden with a pool the decision is an easy one. If you are not that lucky, what do you do? For a kids party you could look to see if there are any open parks near your home or maybe you have a friend that is willing to let you use their home.

The location you decided on needs to be safe and comfortable. If you are having a kids party then you don't want to have the added worry about kids running off or hurting themselves, so you need to check the location for any hazards.

If you are having an outdoors party, always have a backup plan in case of bad weather. Try to have your party near some kind of shelter. If the weather turns against you, make sure you have the telephone numbers of all your guests so if you decide to implement your backup plan its easy to notify everybody.

How long?

Generally the type of party you decide on will help you decide on how long the party is going to be. It is best to decided on a time frame and to let your guest know how long they should expect to be there. Kids parties tend to be shorter. It's ok for a party of very young kids to be less than an hour but as kids get older you need to plan for two to four hours.

Adult parties tend to be less formal when planning how long, but it's still a good idea to have a general idea of how long you want the party to go on for and to tell your guests. If your party is based on an event, like a sporting event, you need time before and after the event is over to enjoy each others company. The last thing you want is for your guests to feel rushed and like they are over staying there welcome. If you tell them the start and end time, they know what to expect.

Who and how many?

Building a guest list is a very important task. Knowing how many people are coming and who is coming will help you make other decisions. Many times who you invite is determined by the type of party and who it's for.

If you are planning a kids birthday party then you might want to involve your child. They can tell you who they want to invite and who are their current bestfriends.

If your party is for a friend or family member you need to invite people that they are friends with. If it's a birthday party then you should consider inviting their family.

When you send out the invitations be sure to request RSVP's and when people do confirm it helps to take down their phone number if you don't already have it. Don't be scared to include some basic information on your invitations. If you are having an adults birthday party and you don't want any kids, then in a simple and polite way, include this in your invitations.

The amount of people you invite is mostly dictated by the amount you want to spend and how many you want to cater for. When building your guest list add as many people as you can think of. Once you have finished building your guest list go through the list and decide on who are must-haves to invite and who aren't. Then you can start to refine your list until you have a list of guests that you want to invite and can afford to invite.

What do I have to do?

If you want to prevent a mad rush before the day or even hours before, it's a good idea to keep track of tasks you need to do before the big day. Some people work well under pressure and prefer leaving things to the last minute, but if you are not one of those people then it's best to plan what you need to do.

Making a to-do list is a very affective way of keeping track of tasks that need to be done. When you have a to-do list it is also a good idea to keep track of when you want to do each task and if they are complete.

By having a list of tasks it's also easier to see how other people can help and who is the best person to ask for help.

Getting Help

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Most people know at least one person that is always willing to help. Matching a task to the right person is very important. One person might be good at helping with one task, but not with other tasks. Things like taking photos or helping with setting up a music system are often tasks that are easier to put in somebody else's capable hands.

If you are planning to hire a professional to help you, remember to have a clear understanding of what that person or company is doing for you. Remember to keep copies of everything: like payment receipts or invoices or contracts. If some sort of disagreement comes up, having all the paperwork close at hand can help resolve conflict.

How much

Some people find it difficult to decide on how much to spend on the party. Many people only know the cost of the party the day after. It helps to decided on how much you are willing to spend beforehand. Look at how many people you want to invite and see what the cost is per person. If it's too little, you might what to reconsider your guest list or your budget.

Knowing what type of party and what catering is needed, helps you to determine the minimum cost per person or child and then work out your budget and guest list.

If you have a tight budget you could consider asking for help. Some of the guests you know very well might be willing to bring certain items. If you do plan to ask for help make sure each person has a delegated task or item. You don't want everybody bringing the same thing.