As we enter a very social time of the year marked by graduation parties, summer kick-off celebrations, annual work parties and regular backyard get-togethers, planning such events can be a huge undertaking (and headache) for the host. Whether you’re an expert or a novice, we’ve assembled a list of tips in an easy-to-follow timeline to help you stay ahead and take control of the party-planning process.
One to two months in advance:
- The first step is to develop a budget for your party and stick to it.
- Finalize the location, date and time frame of your celebration.
- Make an invitation list. For most celebrations, expect only 70 to 80 percent of invitees to attend.
- Send invitations either via mail, e-mail, in person or by phone. Ask for RSVPs one week prior to your party.
- Plan the menu. Decide if you want to cook all the food yourself or if you want to have your event catered. If cooking yourself, feel free to ask guests to bring a dish to share. Also, be sure to check out the Mermaid’s favorite recipes for inspiration.
- For kid-friendly dishes, consider our Change-of-Pace Tuna Casserole, Chunky Tuna Potato Salad or Tuna Triangles.
- If your celebration is more “adult focused,” our Conga Line Crab Salad makes a great summer salad option. Also, be sure to try ourShrimp Margherita Pizza and Capri Tonno Bake.
- Secure rental items, such as tables, chairs, coolers, food warmers or a tent.
- Review any city or community ordinances to make sure you’ll be in compliance with any laws or restrictions regarding parking, noise, etc.
Two weeks before:
- Create a music playlist. Music should be upbeat and appropriate for a wide range of age groups.
- Make sure you have ample lighting if you are planning an outside celebration at night.
- Order the cake if your celebration calls for one.
One week before:
- If you are hosting the party in your home, clean the house thoroughly. This way, you will only need a quick “once-over” before the celebration.
- If guests will be walking through your house on the way to the backyard or for the bathroom, remove items that could break easily if knocked into.
- Confirm the final details and number of items needed with the rental company.
- Do a first round of grocery shopping and cooking. Prepare any dishes that can be frozen. Buy plenty of paper plates, plastic utensils and cups for all guests. Three days before:
- Notify your neighbors that you are having a party and if it will be large, loud or parking-intensive. Better yet, invite them to come!
- If having your event catered, confirm the menu and number of people you are expecting to attend.
- Finish grocery shopping.
- Have rental items delivered, if possible (if these items can’t be delivered until the day of, give yourself at least four hours prior to the start of the event for set-up).
- Cook as many dishes as possible. Feel free to ask family members to pitch in, especially by bringing dessert items.
- Clean up your house and backyard one last time.
- Pick up the cake.
- Finish any last-minute cooking.
- Finalize the event set-up and hang decorations.
- Hang balloons or place a sign at the end of your road and in front of your house to direct your guests.
- Buy ice for coolers to keep drinks and certain food items at a comfortable temperature.
- Display food. One to two hours before guests arrive, set out food that won’t spoil. With 15 minutes to go until the official start time, bring out remaining food items.
- Greet guests as they arrive.
- Relax and have fun. You’ve planned a great party!