Ok friends. I love parties. I love to plan parties. And I have a LOT of thoughts, opinions and philosophies about doing a party. People pay me to do them, I do them for fun, and I do them as part of my brand. So what I’m saying is, trust me, I’m a doctor. A party doctor?
HAHA no but really. In college I’d throw all these theme parties too! I also started a series of slow dance parties with my room mates that were hysterical, we only played slow songs. People slow danced in couples for hours. (You can only imagine the sexual tension…) I planned the prom when I was junior class president in high school, and I’ve thrown more baby and bridal showers than you can possibly FATHOM. I lurve to party.
Anyway I thought I’d try to put most of my opinions about throwing them in one place, one MOTHER OF A POST. There’s a video that goes with this. But I also have tried to highlight a few things from each of the 10 steps that I cover in writing using examples from events that I have planned.
This guide is for a party you do on ANY budget. I’ve planned parties that cost what you’d pay for a bicycle and parties that cost what you’d pay for a car. Parties ALWAYS ALWAYS cost more than you think. With that said, these tips have nothing to do with budget and everything to do with having a fun, successful party. And be sure to see tip #9 for a specific money-saving technique I use!
So! Let’s do it!
HOW TO PLAN A PARTY!
(regardless of the budget!)
1. What’s the most important thing to you?
The answer to this question will TOTALLY depend on the party. When I threw one of my best friend’s, Heather’s, baby shower the most important thing was that Heather feel special and loved. When I thew Rad’s Banana Bash, the most important thing was the theme. That might sound awful, but a first birthday is mostly for the adults and the most important activity is that they watch the baby eat cake. So a fun theme was paramount to me. For Gigi’s Puppet Party the #1 thing was that the kids have fun. That’s why I picked the puppets as a theme. See where I’m going with this? When I do a professional party I work with the brand to ask them what THEIR #1 goal is. Sometimes it’s branding sometimes it’s messaging, sometimes it’s just helping people have fun, like we did for Freshly Picked’s Lumber Jack Jam.
I think one reason a party might not feel successful is because it tries to be about too many things. If you want people to have a good time, focus on that, and then let other things fall into place. If you want to make a gorgeous party for a photo-shoot, don’t for one second think it’s going to be ALL about having a good time. Let’s call a spade a spade. I don’t usually do staged parties (a party for the sake of a blog post), in fact I’ve only done one. You can see it here. I’m not speaking out against them! I’m just saying the parties you see go ROUND AND ROUND AND ROUND on Pinterest, well they most likely were not a real party. Or they were a $10,000 party. Hahaha. You guys, I
2. Who will you invite? / How many people will be there?
This is the second question I ask because it determines SO many other details! It speaks to your budget, your venue, the type of activities you’ll want! It’s super important and needs to be addressed right up front.
3. Where will you have the party?
Notice how I think about this BEFORE I get set on a theme. I think it’s easier to work with your surroundings than to work against them.
4. What time of day do you want the party? Or what food will you serve?
This mostly speaks to the type of food you will have! AGAIN! See how I choose this BEFORE theme! I think it can affect the theme! However, if theme was your #1 thing you cared about, you could center the time, place and number of people around it.
If you pick non-meal times like 2pm or 4pm or after 8pm, it’s pretty clear you won’t be serving a meal. Regardless, I like to always tell people what kind of food will be there. People want to know! If you’re close to a meal time, like 10am or 11am, I’d be specific about it as well.
5. NOW think about theme and or colors.
HUZZAH! The fun part! I wrote this post: How to Throw an Awesome Theme Party a while ago and I still use all the ideas I share in that article, but for now I just want to point out how lots of other factors affect this one. I do tend to get inspiration for the theme of a party first, I’m not saying I DON’T think about it at all until I get other details in place, but I do like to take into account time of day, number of people, and what I want the party to be about (food, fun, or friends…) before I get too heavily into this!
After I’ve decided on the theme, whether it’s a noun or message, I choose a visual style. So for Banana’s it was kind of Andy Warhol inspired with lots of black and white and the aqua to make it springtime. I could have easily done banana tropical, or banana monkey. But I wanted a pop-art look and spring tones.
As I get more intense or I guess professional about parties, I do find it helpful to make a mood board like I did here.
For the concept of “Awesomeness” I chose BRIGHT BRIGHT colors, crazy florals, and lots of mis-matched prints. I wanted it a bit trendy but loud. Wait, who does that sound like?
6. Make your invitation specific.
A successful party is one where people show up, have a good time, and your goals are met. If your goal is for people to dance, you need to tell them YOU ARE COMING TO DANCE. When people are mentally and emotionally prepared for your event, they’re going to have more fun! They’ll know if they need to eat before, if they need to leave the kids at home, or if they need to practice doing squats in their fancy pants to see if they’ll rip when they GET LOW.
I also don’t like to ask too much of people. I know some people LOVE to do dress-up parties, but it depends on the group you’re inviting. If you’re inviting a bunch of bloggers to a sponsored event on a Tuesday night in their own town, it might be a lot to ask of them to all show up in “their best tropical formal wear.” They had to find a baby-sitter, get dressed, AND NOW LOOK FOR TROPICAL FORMAL WEAR? What does that even mean?! That’s a lot for a Tuesday night. I would instead say, “Something bright!” But that’s just how I like to party.
7. What will people do when they walk in the door?
THIS IS SO FREAKING IMPORTANT. People will spend $30K on a party and not think this through. It baffles me. When you show up to a party you’re feeling all vulnerable and confused. Do you know anyone? What should you do now that you’re here? This is why people all stand in your kitchen and say, “What can I do to help?” And you say, “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY KITCHEN AND ENJOY THE PARTY!” Hahaha. But they’re just not sure what to do!
It doesn’t have to be complicated. The answer can be eat. The answer can be, “sign a guest book” why do you think the line for the guest book is always so long? Not because people actually ever want to sign it. They are just happy to have something to do!
It can be: have a cocktail, or make yourself a specialty soda. I often find it helpful, as the host, when people walk in the party to say, “Hello! Grab yourself a drink…or make yourself a plate!” I tell people what to do. If you’re not as bossy as me you could make a sign (though people don’t really read them…) If it’s a close-knit group of friends they’ll all just start talking, but there might be one or two people there who would appreciate a little direction.
Again, it doesn’t need to be some huge organized THING, or game, but giving people a little bit of direction when they walk in the door helps them feel at ease, welcome, and ready to boogie.
8. What will they do when they’re at the party?
What will they do when they arrive leads nicely to, what will they do the rest of the time? Some people HATE baby shower games, some people plan 6 of them. I think it depends entirely on the group of people and the person you are throwing the party for! Games are great for a group of people who don’t know each other very well. I like to play games that aren’t too complicated or again, don’t ask the party-goer to do too much.
For example a cross word that you do all by yourself…how is that fun? Not super fun. I don’t want to sit and be quiet at a baby shower. Entertain me! Chat with me! Show me cute baby things! I also hate getting into teams. But that’s just me. Not much of a team player I guess. But I also like to offer an out. For example, you don’t HAVE to do the game, you can just watch the rest of us do it. Haha. It can still be fun. This also depends on the age of your crowd! A bridal shower for a bunch of 20-year-olds is going to be different than a bridal shower for a group of aunts, grandmas, and neighbors. Catchy my drift?
I started writing all about parties for kids but I think it’s so in depth it warrants it’s own post. So I will work on that! But in the meantime I have this “How to Set Up a Kid’s Party Table” video!
9. PRO-TIP! Double-up!
This is my MAJOR money-saving tip! What can you double-up on?! Can you make the drink a decor item?! Or can you make your decor a favor? Can you make your food decoration or your wall backdrops also a photo op?
Paper also goes a long way. See how much paper I used in Rad’s party? BUT ALSO DO NOT BE FOOLED! That party was pretty expensive because I ordered rentals for the tables and chairs and linens. I tell you that because you might be bummed that your party doesn’t look like the Pintrest pictures you see. But just be not as bummed knowing they spent HUNDREDS of dollars more than you and that’s why the party looks that way. Parties cost a lot of money! And you can do them on the cheap but it’s going to take a lot of time, borrowing, and crafting. And that’s ok too! Just don’t think that there’s some magic formula for an inexpensive, beautiful, easy party. It doesn’t exist. Unless you live in a perfect white box mansion. And if that’s the case why are you worried about budget?! In fact let me plan that party for you…
At the Flamingo Fest, I had a “waste not want not!” attitude, and the 300 pink plastic flamingos that were used a decor were also the favor! There was an “adopt a flamingo foundation” sign and those babies went fast!
10. Do favors if they are AWESOME!
And that brings us to my 10th and final tip for planning a party on any budget: only do favors if they are AWESOME! Haha. Favors can take up a lot of time and money, and they are not totally necessary. Don’t feel obligated to have a favor unless it’s doubling up as something else. Whether that’s food, decor, or a prop, let your favor do double trouble. For a kid’s party the favor can be something you MAKE at the party. Or something you use to make the table cute. For a baby shower the favor can the floral arrangements you used around the event. But if the favor is just something you’re doing for the sake of HAVING a favor, spend your money and time elsewhere! THAT’S JUST MY OPINION!
AND THAT’S IT!!! I hope you found this helpful rather than overwhelming! HAHA but seriously, these are all just my opinions, this is how I do it! And I’d love to hear your questions or what YOU like to do when you throw a party!