7 Steps to Planning The Perfect Party

In honor of my many loved ones with birthdays over the next couple of months (daughter, son, boyfriend, two sisters, brother, and one of my besties), I'm going to share 7 steps to planning the perfect party! For those of you that don't know where to begin, don't panic! I'm about to hook you up! Because if there's one thing I'm good at, it's throwing a party! I've even created a checklist to help you plan the perfect party, which you can download here, to make things even easier for you.
I've also included a few of my affiliate links for retailers I love to shop with for party supplies. These links take you straight to the bargains! Le's get down to business.
1. Choose the date and time.

Seems pretty simple right? Ideally, if the party is to celebrate a holiday or birthday, having a party on the actual date of the event seems like the logical answer, but that's not always the best choice if you want people to actually show up.
Choose Saturday. I've found that having a party on a Saturday will get you the best turn out. Try to schedule it on the Saturday before the event, since a lot of people tend to spend the actual holiday or birthday with family, and once the event has passed...well, why bother?
Don't start too early. Schedule your party to start at 7 or 8 pm. That way your party doesn't conflict with any of your guest's children's activities and it gives people time to make an appetizer, get prettied up, etc. After all, they are coming to your party, and will want to make an impression

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2. Create the Guest List - read this tip twice, it's essential to planning the perfect party!

I know this is going to hurt your ego, but not everyone you invite to your party is going to show up. If they do, consider it a small miracle! Don't get your feelings hurt, they love you (because you're awesome), but unexpected events have a way of happening on the night of your party.
Over-invite. But you only have a handful of people that you enjoy spending time with, right? Great. Invite them. Then invite that neighbor that you enjoy talking to when you take your dog for a walk or that other soccer mom that keeps you company while your kids are practicing. Consider inviting that coworker that you've been meaning to catch a happy hour with. You get the idea.
Mix it up a little. Why wouldn't you just invite the people that you know will definitely get along with each other? Because this is your party, and don't you want to make it fun for you, as well as your guests? Besides, everyone on the guest list will have something in common right away...the guest of honor! Having a diverse mix of people at your party guarantees a good time, new conversation, and perhaps the beginning of new and meaningful relationships. Most people will dip out early if they aren't feeling the vibe, and as long as you did what you could to make them feel welcome, that's on them. But, in my experience, sometimes the newbie ends up being the life of the party, or better yet, your biggest helper in keeping everything on point! Trust me on this one.
Send out invitations. Once you have your guest list, send out invitations. Invitations should be sent for any type of party or get-together that you're planning, not just birthday parties or baby showers. This lets people know that you are expecting their attendance if possible, and that you are making preparations based on their attendance, and they should RSVP. If you just mention your party in a random conversation they may forget about it, or may not realize it's going to be an event. And that's what you want your guests to think, that your party is going to be an event, and something they don't want to miss!
You can save time and money by sending email invitations using Evite. They have a great selection of customizable invitations for any event, for free! You can create your free account with Evite now, and get started with your invitations. Send them 2-3 weeks in advance, and send a follow up email or phone call 5-7 days before the event to confirm anyone that hasn't RSVP'd by then.
3. Plan the menu.

What are you going to feed all of these people? Everyone loves to eat, and I've learned that they like to start eating as soon as they walk in the door! I suggest having several appetizers available for your guests to munch on.
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Keep it simple. Your perfect party is probably not the time to try that new souffle recipe if you've never made a souffle. If you're not sure what to serve, think about your favorite picnic foods and you won't go wrong. For ideas of what to serve, check out my 10 favorite easy party food recipes!
Keep it simple. Yes, I said it twice. You don't want to be spending hours in the kitchen before or during your party. Choose dishes that can be made ahead of time, and that don't require your assistance when serving them.
4. Decorating & Setup - here's your chance to shine!

Here's another chance for you to make your party memorable by impressing your guests. Choosing the decorations should be fun, since it's your opportunity to flaunt your unique personality. Decide which rooms or areas of your home that the guests will be spending the most time in. Your decorations can help define those areas, giving guests guidance as to where their presence is welcome, and which rooms are off limits.
Be sure to consider the lighting when decorating. Nothing says "The party's over" like bright, overhead lighting. Keep it bright enough that people aren't tripping over each other, but subdued enough that it creates an intimPaper Martate feel. I love string lights, like those that you would use on your Christmas tree. They're cheap and offer just the right amount of light. If you don't want to unpack the holiday decorations just yet, you can pick up 130 ft. of LED string lights for just $2.99 on Amazon.
The kitchen and/or dining area - As I mentioned before, your guests are going to be hungry, so their spidey-senses will have them naturally gravitating to your kitchen. Unless you don't mind people going through your cabinets, be sure to have everything they will need set up on the counter, table, kitchen island, etc. Set up a separate area for drinks, food, and essentials. Here are the musts:
Drink Station(Check out my Party Drink Recipes)
A small cooler with ice only, or an ice bucket, for making drinks
Plastic cups, straws, cocktail napkins
Drink Mixers - 2 Liters of coke, 7up, club soda, tonic water, orange juice, cranberry juice
Liquor - spiced rum, bourbon, vodka
Slices of lemon & lime
Cooler for beer, cans of soda, bottled water
Food Station
Set food out with serving utensils in them, lids under the dish for easy cleanup
Plastic/paper plates (small & large, sturdy), plastic utensils, napkins
Condiments - salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc., as applicable
Trash can and recycling can
You should have these in an obvious spot if possible, so your guests will know where to put their trash, without you having to answer the same question, over and over.
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Main gathering area- If you have a deck/patio or backyard, make the most of it! Setting the mood and creating ambiance is an important part of throwing your perfect party. If not, choose a room with enough space to dance in, because your party is going to rock, and your guests will want to rock, too! Move some furniture out of the way if possible. No matter where your main gathering area will be, do it up right, with the following:
Music - A party isn't a party without music.
Get a portable speaker. Ahhh, technology! If you don't already have one, get a wireless bluetooth speaker, so you can carry your music with you. I have one from Sony, which is available on Amazon for $69. It sounds fantastic, has just the right amount of bass, and has a long battery life!
Create an awesome playlist. Do this ahead of time, or just choose the "radio station" feature on your favorite music streaming app. If possible, upgrade to the paid version to enjoy commercial free music all night long! Try Amazon's Prime Music, free with a Prime membership, or Spotify.
Be flexible. If you're a music snob, throw in a few of your favorites, but try to stick to popular music, that will get people dancing and bonding.
Have a fire
Stock up on wood. Check your local Craigslist for people giving away firewood, gather it up from the woods close to your home, or purchase it at your local hardware store. Some convenience stores even carry small bundles. Don't forget the kindling, to make starting the fire easy.
Fire Pit on Amazon Amazon Best Seller $74.99!
Don't have a place for a bonfire? Get a small and portable fire pit, to keep the fire contained
It's a fact that people will open up more and feel more comfortable when gathered around a fire. Your guests will naturally form a circle around the fire, which will spark eye contact and intimate conversations
Have a trash can & recycling can
As I mentioned earlier, if you make it easy for guests to clean up after themselves, most of them will. This will save you a ton of cleaning up time!
The Bathroom - It's safe to say that probably every single person at your party will make at least one trip to the bathroom. Make it something your guests can do without your guidance.
Get it clean!Everyone has a different tolerance for cleanliness but no one will complain about your bathroom being "too clean". Get out your gloves and disinfectant, and make your bathroom sparkle! Be sure to get all parts of the toilet, wipe down the walls, baseboards, the door, and the mirror, then sweep and mop.
Stock it up.You don't want to embarrass your guests, or leave them sitting on the toilet with the door cracked yelling "Where's the toilet paper?", do you? Be sure to have these items available for your guests:
Toilet paper - Put a full roll on before the party and leave 2 or 3 under the sink or on the back of the toilet for easy access.
Hand soap - You should refill your dispenser or set out a new bottle, so no one skips washing their hands.
Hand towels or paper towels - Have extras on the sink or under the sink for easy access.
Sanitary napkins and/or tampons - Just to help your friends out and save them some embarrassment, have a few of these under the sink or in a drawer where guests can find them easily if the need arises.
Plunger - Another item to leave in the bathroom during a party, again to save a guest’s embarrassment. Buy a decorative holder, or stash it under the sink or behind the toilet, if possible.
Mark it.Make a sign for the outside of the bathroom door, so your guests will know which door it is. If you don't have a lock on the door, or even if you do, you could also create an "Occupied" sign to hang on the outer doorknob.
5. Get some help!

A lot of work goes in to planning the perfect party, which is why a lot of you probably get serious anxiety at even the thought of throwing an awesome shindig. Don't get discouraged! Here are several ways that you can ease the stress of party-planning. If you incorporate even one of these ideas, you will start to look forward to the night of your bash, instead of designing your excuse to cancel the whole thing!
Ask your guests to bring an appetizer or dessert. If you're not comfortable blatantly asking them, rest assured, there will be guests that will ask you if they should bring anything. "Well, now that you mention it, it would be a big help if you could make your delicious (fill in the blank)". See, that wasn't so hard, was it?
Order your decorations and party supplies online. Use my Party Supplies checklist (download here) to be sure you don't forget anything! This will save you a ton of time and money! Here are some of my favorite places to shop for party supplies, where you will not only find a great selection, but can save big money when combined with cash back from Ebates (if you haven't signed up for Ebates yet, sign up here to receive $10 free):
Luna Bazaar- You'll get gorgeous decorations for your party and 10% off your entire purchase if you sign up for their email list.
Print Games Now - You'll find a great selection of games to play at your party, no matter what the occasion. Luna Bazaar party decorations They have games suitable for all ages, birthday games, holiday party games, drinking games, and you can print them right away! Just in case your perfect party experiences a slump, or just to get people involved. I love it! Sorry, no Ebates.
Paper Mart- Wide selection of decorations, party favor bags, and gift wrapping supplies for any event at very low prices. Get 2% cash back from Ebates. If you are looking for the lowest price, Ebay is your best choice. For example, get 100 thick latex balloons for just $5.58! You can get anything you want super cheap, new or used, including everything needed to plan your perfect party. Get up to 5% cash back from Ebates. - Anything you need for your party can be found on Amazon and if you have a Prime membership, take advantage of your free 2-day shipping! If not a Prime member, start your 30 day free trial now to take advantage of this, and the many other benefits! Get up to 7% cash back from Ebates, depending on what you buy.
4. Designate a driver. If alcohol will be served at your party, add a note to the invitation to let the drinkers know that keys will be collected when they walk in the door.
Give your guests a free ride with Uber (up to $20), code 20NEWRIDEUBER on Android, or RIDINGUBER20 on IPhone! Or have them try Lyft, and use code LYFTAFF for a free ride (new customers only). I have included a coupon with the link and information in my Perfect Party Checklist, which you can download here.
Offer to let them sleep over if you have the room. You will enjoy the morning-after stories everyone has to tell over coffee.
Enlist a designated driver to get people home safely. Don't ask someone on your guest list! This is a big job, so plan to exchange a favor or offer payment.
Hire a professional driver. Craigslist always has ads for people offering their driving services, or if you can afford it, call a limo or party bus service and negotiate a rate based on your needs.
5. Enlist a photographer.You're bound to have a friend that loves taking pictures, so ask them to be the party photographer! It's always fun to look back at the pictures to see what you missed while busy entertaining. Be sure to get group photos, preferably early in the evening, and then later after the party is in full swing. Plus, it's a great way to see that you actually did plan the perfect party!
6. Ask for help!! It's worth repeating, if someone offers their assistance, accept it! Have them pick up that bag of ice you didn't realize you needed or yes, they can get the fire started. Practice saying yes!
6. Bring your "A" game.

Your perfect party won't be up to par unless you look and feel your best. If you followed my advice up to this point, then the hours before the party are yours! Here's what to do for yourself before your big event.
Buy a new outfit.Dress to impress for your party! If you're party budget is wearing thin, try Revive Depot or Thred Up for your new outfit, shoes, and accessories. They have high quality, gently used name brand items that are up to 90% off retail prices. Use this link to get $10 to shop with! Yes, you'll find at least one nice item with $10!Second Hand Retailing With a Fresh Approach
Pamper yourself. Get your hair done, get your nails done, get a massage, whatever it is that you do to relax and feel good about yourself. Even if you don't want to spend money, do something for yourself, like a meditation or yoga. You want to feel great on party night! If you need inspiration, try MyYogaWorks for free Yoga videos to refresh your body and mind!
Take a nap.If you can fit it in, take a nap in the afternoon. You'd be surprised what 2 hours of sleep can do to help bring down any anxiety you may be having about your big night.
7. Have fun!

Last, but certainly not least, have fun! You put a lot of work in to making sure that your guests will have an amazing time. If you've followed my 7 steps to planning the perfect party, you have nothing left to do but be your totally lovable self.
I hope you found these tips helpful, and please let me know how your next party turns out! I would love to see the pictures, or hear about what tips you really found helpful in pulling it all together. Send me an email at to share, or connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter , and let me know what you do to prepare for a party. I can't wait to hear your ideas!

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