We all want to organise awesome parties, but pulling everything together can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a process in place. I’ve created a simple checklist that will walk you through the stages of planning a party. This will work for most evening events – in many cases you will need to customise the checklist a bit as some aspects won’t be relevant or possible, and will depend on the size of the party.

If there is a team of you organising the party, each point should be allocated to the person responsible to action, and I like saving lists like this on shared Google word docs, so that everybody involved can see what actions have been completed and what is left to-do.

Three to six months before

Checkbox Allocate the budget by the most important elements – think about what would make the party a success and your guests happy (leave some money aside for back up)
Checkbox Plan the guest list
Checkbox Research, visit and book the venue (if required)
Checkbox Plan your party’s theme (this doesn’t always mean going all out ‘winter wonderland’ style, the theme could just be – a relaxed environment for people to talk)

Ten to twelve weeks before

Checkbox Hire a DJ, musician or band. If you don’t have the budget – start putting together a playlist, continuing to add songs up until the event
Checkbox Research and book other types of entertainment (if required)
Checkbox Design and print invitations

Four weeks before

Checkbox Send invites
Checkbox Decide the type of food you’re planning to serve
Checkbox Book any staff
Checkbox Make a list of all items required
Checkbox Plan decorations, tableware and linen, if you need to hire any of this, research and book now
Checkbox Coordinate between the venue, DJ and band to ensure you have all the kit required, such as stage, dance floor, sound, lighting. Alternatively you may need to hire in some extra bits of kit.

Three weeks before

Checkbox Plan the menu
Checkbox Find out if any of your guests have special dietary requirements
Checkbox Order wines, beers and soft drinks. Plan cocktails and order ingredients
Checkbox Take some time out to visualise each stage of the party from your guests’ point-of-view and how you see the party unfolding, ensuring that you haven’t left anything out and note down timings. This will be the start of your party’s schedule.  Allow plenty of time for guests to arrive and for all courses to be served.
Checkbox Finish the schedule for the party (including the day before and day after)

Two weeks before

Checkbox Chase guests who have not replied to invites
Checkbox Create a detailed shopping list – buy any unperishable items
Checkbox Make and freeze food that can be prepared in advance
Checkbox Buy or make decorations

One week before

Checkbox Last chase of guests who haven’t replied
Checkbox Get local taxi numbers and details on public transport for that night. Put details on one document and print copies out to leave by the exit for guests

Five days before

Checkbox Polish silver
Checkbox Fold Napkins
Checkbox Write your fresh food shopping list

Two days before

Checkbox Buy flowers, cut the stems and store in a cool place in water
Checkbox Cook any dishes that can go in the fridge
Checkbox If hiring staff, make a list of duties
Checkbox Place wines, beers and soft drinks in the fridge
Checkbox Fill remaining space in your freezer with ice

One day before

Checkbox Remove and store any furniture

On the day

Checkbox Arrange and set up tables and seating
Checkbox Organise the bar (see post: setting up a mobile bar)
Checkbox Prepare cocktails and drink garnishes
Checkbox Prepare canapés
Checkbox Upgrade the toilet facilities – adding fresh flowers, lighting scented candles, having good quality handwash and nice paper towels (and a bin for the paper towels)
Checkbox Organise an area to store coats and bags
Checkbox Arrange flowers

Two hours before

Checkbox Remove corks from wine bottles
Checkbox Brief staff

Please feel free to share other suggestions to help others get their party on its feet. I’m looking forward to seeing what other recommendations you’ve got. If you’re planning a Christmas party, here is a more detailed post on this: Christmas Party Planning

Good luck and have a great party!


Michael Chidzey is the chief juicer of eventjuice and runs Event Organiser, an event company based in London, UK. He also founded the digital marketing agency Good Signals, blogs on several websites and is a visiting lecturer in events management at London Metropolitan University.Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelchidzey
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