It’s the holidays, most of you will either participate in a family celebration, host or attend a party. Since Christmas is only a week away, most of my plans are in full swing, however, this list is not just for Christmas! I use this format for any party, wedding, reunion or just a dinner party. Keep in mind, there are variables for every occasion, but let’s find out or be reminded of the most important steps to any great party or celebration!
- One of the first things you must do when planning any gathering is to determine how much you want to spend. A budget is key; however, you always go over so be generous, with some wiggle room. A party of 20 could cost more than a party of 50 if you get really careless with your spending. But again, you, well, I’ll say, usually, this time, go over. Added to this step is budgeting your time, how much time you have to plan, keeping things prioritized, etc. For example, get invites out as early as you can, weddings require 4 weeks and I recommend at least 2 for other occasions if possible. Some things like reunions (family, school, etc.) need to be planned six months to a year in advance to make sure people can put the party on their schedule.
- You have to figure out approximately how many people you want to invite, based on your budget mostly, but also space. I have hosted occasions, weddings especially, some with more than 200 people. I have also done family reunions, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, even funeral gatherings and you must be aware of how many people to plan for, not only food, but venue, tables & chairs, area for activities, etc. Along with this step, you need to figure out how to get the word out. Written invitations are recommended for weddings and formal parties, but with Social Media and (if payment needed, like a reunion or social party,) PayPal is easy and fun. You also need to call special guests, such as the honorees, or anyone that will have a place on your program, if applicable. This step is where the bride would decide how big her wedding was going to be, pick out a venue and a dress and get started on the guest list!
- So, you’ve determined how much you want to spend, you have your tentative guest list and you are preparing to invite your guests. Of course, you need a time and place, which could be another Step 2. Based on your budget, guest list and availability, you are now searching for the best venue. If you have space yourself, either inside or outside, be aware, it’s an awful lot of work to prepare your house and grounds for a party, believe me, I know. But it is special to host a party or wedding at your home. Likewise, if you have a friend or relative willing to host, be ready to help with preparations, including decorations if applicable. Sometimes a church is the right venue (not just for weddings) but most of the time, it’s not free to use their facilities and be prepared with “tip” money for the cleaning staff. Another good venue is a park or waterfront, sometimes a hotel banquet room. There is usually a charge for these, but again, tip the staff, even if it’s free. Added to the venue planning and very important, is making sure there are enough restrooms for the amount of people at your party. Sometimes a “port-a-potty” is needed.
- Budget, guest list, venue and time, now it’s time to plan the food and drink, chairs, tables, theme, decorations, flowers, and hopefully you have engaged some helpers in one of the other steps. Things to decide in this step are rentals or use what we have, caterer or make our own food. Either way, planning is key. Is it going to be a sit down dinner or finger food? A written schedule helps if planning entertainment, song fest or dancing. A wedding has its own schedule of events with a director or photographer, but as host or hostess, you should keep up with the flow of the party.
- Lastly, “day-of” prep is always a little crazy, but with the proper planning and keeping to these steps, you should be fine. Remember to have some helpers, either paid or friends, on hand for the last-minute decorations, chair arrangements, flowers, cakes, food and just everything! Give yourself and your helpers time to slip off and get fresh for the event. Be sure to have someone available to greet those early birds, there are always some of those.
These are five really important (and long) steps that include enough activities to make a book but concise here from an experienced party giver to you with love.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, mine will be organized chaos, as usual, but I did follow my own steps and we’ll see how it goes!
Blessings as always,