I love to plan and host events, I always have. There is something really enjoyable about planning a great party that gets talked about for months afterwards. Since gift giving and parties go hand in hand, I am going to be doing a series of blogs about how to plan an amazing party. Whether it is your wedding, kid's birthday or an amazing dinner party, I've got you covered.
In this post I will cover step 1: Brainstorming
Party Planning: Step 1
You have decided to host what you hope to be an amazing party, where to start? Like most things the first step is to sit down and figure out what you want to achieve with your event as well as some of the more basic details. Nothing has been set in stone yet, this step is merely to start organizing your ideas so that you have a road map of where to go.
For brainstorming it is a good idea to have a piece of paper as well as a calendar handy so that you can jot things down as you go. If you are putting on this event with another person then it is a good idea to do this step together so that you avoid arguments later. At this point in the game there is no such thing as a bad idea, in fact sometimes the really far out ones end up leading to the best ideas.
Now that you have your paper ready, you need to answer the following questions:
Type of Event
This step is pretty easy as you already have a reason for wanting to throw a party. Is this a birthday party, wedding, baby shower, retirement party...Start off your brainstorming by listing the event at the top of the page.
Who are you planning to invite to your party? At this point it is a good idea to go through and jot down the names of everyone you want to invite. This is not the final guest list so don't take too much time doing this. The goal at the stage is to get an idea on numbers. In your head you might be planning a small intimate wedding for fifty people but if you list who you want to invite and you come up with three hundred then you might have to change your plans slightly... Much better to figure out the numbers now while you are still very much at the beginning of your planning as so much (venue, food, activities, etc) depend on the number of guests.
How much money are you planning to spend on your event? There is a big difference in hosting a dinner party for ten people with a budget of $500 than $50. Where is the money coming from to pay for this event? If you are paying for it yourself then it is a good idea to start putting money aside for the event now as who wants to go into debt hosting a party.
If you are planning a large event such as a wedding, it might be useful to do a quick google search to find a sample breakdown of how much money should be attributed to each item. Take this information as a guideline only, it is very possible to spend less in particular areas due to priorities (you don't care about having a fancy cake) or the people you know (who needs to hire a DJ when you have a friend who will do it for free).
The biggest factors that affects budget are expectations and the number of guests you are planning to invite. If you have a low budget then it is a good idea to start looking at how to cut the guest list and change your expectations. Even with a low budget you can have an amazing event, you just have to do more of the work yourself and might have to compromise on some of the items, such as decorations.
Now that you have a budget and an idea on the number of guests it is time to figure out what your priorities are for the event. If you are hosting with another person this step is particularly important as one person may think a $5,000 wedding dress is a priority where as the other person might care less about the dress but thinks having an open bar is a must. You might be able to have both an expensive dress and an open bar but you may have to remove some other element to get it. To find out your priorities write down all the main elements of the event that will cost money (food, invitation, venue, favor/loot bags, decorations, etc) and then have each of the party planners rank them in order of importance. Take the top three from each person and this gives you a very quick look at the priorities you have for your event. Don't worry if your ideas are at odds, just be aware of them going forward. Later you might have to do some negotiation so that you can get what works for everyone.
Describe the Event
What do you want to happen at your event? Is this a day time party or an evening event, will there be a dance or some sort of activity? What would your dream event look like? Over the course of the planning things may change drastically from what you were originally thinking about but it is still a good idea to voice out loud what you are wanting now.
I am a huge fan of picking a theme. Having one helps to focus ideas so that you don't waste a lot of time trying to decide on something such as decorations. For example if you have a pirate theme for your birthday party then obviously you will pick decorations that go with this theme.
Themes don't have to be a big deal, they could be something as simple as a color choice or time of the year. For my wedding we did a theme of royal blue, white and black. This isn't the most exciting theme but it made it very easy to narrow down what we wanted on our invites, cake, place cards, etc.
Have some fun with your theme, especially if you are hosting a birthday party. Every year growing up I had a themed birthday party and looking back now, they were so much fun and the theme was one of the reasons they worked so well. It wasn't just an eighth birthday, it was a gypsy party complete with crystal balls and tea reading. My mom and I always had so much fun trying to incorporate everything from the menu to the dress code so that it lined up with the theme.
Don't worry too much about detailing how you are going to incorporate your theme just yet. It is amazing how easy things will line up as you move through the event planning process.
So there you go, this is the first step in planning the party of your dreams.
The next step in planning a party is to Pick the Date and Venue.