When my husband and I were dating
One of the conversations we had was this:
Let’s be the people that have parties all the time
Now we don’t drink, do drugs or “party” in the “traditional” sense
But we do have great parties anyway
And I can honestly say that now 10 years later
We are the people that give parties all the time
And since we have four young children
These are not cocktail parties 🙂
These are birthday parties, Halloween parties, and BBQs 🙂
Someday I imagine we will graduate to “Older” parties (lol)
But until then, we throw an amazing birthday fiesta 🙂
Since I have four kids, I also ATTEND lots of birthday parties
And lots of other activities and events kid related
And so next is my list of things that I think make up a good party
These are things that I do WELL when the party goes well
And these are things I have NOT DONE and regretted it later
So please don’t think this is a “I do these perfectly” list
But rather a “This is what I SHOULD do” list
And maybe what YOU should do and learn from my mistakes and successes?
Alright, here we go:
1. Prep the Venue
My house has permanent nails on the patio ceiling
What are these for?
These are for hanging lines of balloons and sparkly hangers
They have been there for years
You know why?
Because I assume I will have a party this week
And again in a few weeks or months
And I plan things/adjustments for my house
Based on “This will come in handy at the next party”
Having a party go well is actually much dependent on the history
The first time it’s an experiment and everything is unexpected
But the next time it should get easier
And especially if your venue is your own house
As many parties are?
You can build on prior parties! Lights, decorating, flow of people
Those are all things you KNOW about your house and your yard
And planning for those things gets easier if you build on the past
Every year (except for last year) we throw a Halloween Party
And every year I get asked: How do you throw a party like this?
The answer is simple: I don’t.
I threw an OK party the first year
And a better party the next year
A slightly better party the following year
And at year NINE, it’s becoming more and more of a process
The party is a built thing
And something I construct and add to every year
I didn’t buy all the decorations the first year, or the second…or even the third
I didn’t USE certain areas until many years later
So you’re saying: But I don’t throw a Halloween Party every year
Yes, but do you have kids?
Do you plan on celebrating their birthday every year?
Then you have years of parties to plan
Welcome to the party planning club 🙂
2. Plan your Time
The clock is ticking
The party is in an hour
And the reality is you can only do so much
At some point, the guests will arrive
And prep time will be over
So you need to work out a list of priorities:
What can be done DAYS before?
For example: Balloons can be blown up the day before and hung
(As long as the weather is not too windy)
What HAS to be done the DAY OF?
It’s probably not recommended to make the cupcakes a week in advance…
And if you clean everything a week before, it’s probably not going to last
But buying the cups and plates can be done anytime?
And the hot dogs/hamburgers can be frozen…but not the buns…
The difference between a good party and an OK party hinges on these things
And I think so many times
(And I include myself in this group)
we think “Eh, it’s just a birthday party, no big deal”
But again, great parties hinge on planning
Even small ones
3. Plan for Anxiety
Your guests are apprehensive about coming to your party
Some of them don’t really want to come
But they will anyway.
Some of them will want to leave early
And some will
And some people won’t be attending a party of yours ever again
Because of the last time they came
And I’m sure there are people who say this about my parties too
So the best thing you can do is this:
Plan for Anxiety
Think of what makes you feel nervous about parties you attend
And think what the people coming to your house will need
Are there little kids in attendance?
(their parents will be grateful you provided them with something to do)
Are there young parents coming?
(they might be grateful for appetizers, swim diapers and sunscreen they forgot)
Are there older people coming?
(they might appreciate a soft chair and a quiet place to watch)
Will there be nursing mothers or diapered babies?
(at some point they will be asking you for a quiet room alone to take care of business)
You as the host need to plan and EXPECT these issues from your guests
And be ready to handle them,
Even to handle them up front
Your guests will be relieved.
4. Plan the Entertainment
Again, this sounds silly. Entertainment?
It’s a party, of course they will be entertained!
It’s a party! Everyone will be….partying!!!
How are you really going to ENTERTAIN your guests?
Say we are having a swim party
Not everyone will want to swim
What will they do?
And not everyone will want to swim ALL the time
What will they do for a break?
Not everyone likes the noise and chaos of a party
Where can they go to escape the craziness?
You got a bounce house and games for the kids
What will the parents be doing? (besides being bored to death)
Dinner is in an hour
But my kid is starving and cranky, what do you have now?
I’m being supportive but I really don’t know anyone
Introduce people. It’s a dying art. People need this so many times…
5. Plan for the Baggage
We all know that kids require a lot of STUFF
When attending a party, the first thing I worry about is:
Where is our “CAMP” going to be?
Where will I put my bag/our towels/the diaper bag?
So that I know where it is and my kids know where it is
(so that we don’t lose shoes, underwear, toys, etc at your house)
Where will we sit comfortably?
Where will I change clothes?
Where is the bathroom?
Where is the food?
Where can I sit so I can talk to people and enjoy myself?
These are all problems that I think very often take a backseat to the cake and decorations but are some of the most important aspects of your party
People need to know there is a place for them
Both physically and socially
At your party
So often I’ve been cramped into some bench or a hot corner
Or turned around awkwardly on a couch corner trying to talk to someone
Thinking to myself: When will this party end???
Plan more seats, plan nice cool corners
Plan spots where parents can sit and watch
And myself, I have never thought I do the best job on this
I ALWAYS think I could do more
And at every party I am eyeing different areas
Trying to figure out how to make the seating and gathering better
And it’s never perfect
Because people are awkward and weird
But the better the atmosphere caters to comfort
The better everyone will get along
6. Plan The Decor:
It sounds silly to say this
But your decorations should scream:
And if they don’t
If all you can manage is a few streamers?
Your party will instead scream:
I don’t really feel like partying and neither should you
I have been to very few parties that I felt had enough decorations
Very few….especially birthday parties…which is sad really…
Most of the time the decorations say:
I don’t want to have this party, but I guess we have to…
Party people!!! Blow up more balloons!
Get out the dangly things!
Make it seem like a HUGE DEAL
And everyone will follow your example
Play loud music
Have lots of balloons
Eat a piece of cake
And enjoy yourself
7. Plan to have things handled
When people come in the door for a party
They want to know a few things almost instantly:
Where do I put this (thing I brought)?
(In my experience, it’s like it will burn their hand off if they don’t have a place to put it the second they walk in. So have the “drop off” very close to the door so they can set it down and move on with their lives)
The next things they want to know are these:
Where is the food? (Appetizers help lots)
Where can I get a drink? (coolers front and center)
Where is the bathroom? (arrows or signs?)
Where is the party? (sound easy but you’d be surprised,
many people will feel “lost” in your house
even though common sense would tell them
to just walk toward the party sounds.
Also, people don’t want to just walk into your house,
they feel they need permission so this is where you come in
(even though you’ve already invited them to the party))
These are all issues you need ready answers for when people walk in
If you don’t, just fake it
No one wants to feel like asking for a drink is an inconvenience or an annoyance to you
Nor do they need an apology from you about the state of the bathroom
Clean your bathroom, don’t make excuses, handle it.
And while you are at it, make sure there’s enough TP in there 🙂
(thanks ahead of time from all of us)
8. Plan for a Contingency Plan
What happens if something happens?
What if the food isn’t ready?
What if you run out of drinks?
What if something catches on fire? (lol)
What if someone gets overheated/too cold?
What if someone gets hurt?
Now outside of calling 911 for emergency
And a ready first aid kit
The minor emergencies are going to be handled by YOU
And every party needs an errand runner
Be careful about who you choose
(the birthday boy can’t go run errands or that messes up other things)
And be careful what you assign out
(if your assign someone who is super late to bring the appetizer you’ve just defeated the purpose of appetizers)
But be ready to handle issues and disasters and last minute needs with ease
And remember that as HOST
You cannot be the one to run out for ice
Someone had to be the Captain
And you can’t be both Captain and Errand Runner at the same time
(unless you want to run away from your own party…)
And most importantly…. Have fun!
The Host sets the tone
Enjoy what you have created