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How to Plan a Birthday Party: Your Guide to a Successful Soiree

A birthday party is a special event. They only happen once a year, and you want to make sure you celebrate them the right way. So keep reading as we explain exactly how to plan a birthday party!

How to Plan a Birthday Party

You probably have a brief idea of how to plan a birthday party, and before you start the process, you may think it will be a walk in the park. But, we’re here to pop that balloon because party planning can get extremely stressful if you don’t have a set plan and checklist.

There are many fine details that go into throwing the ultimate adult or child’s party, and we’ve compiled a party planning checklist of everything you’d need to make the party the best it can be.

How to Plan a Birthday Party

Having a checklist or to-do list is crucial to ensuring everything that needs to get done gets done. For example, try printing this article or jotting down the keynotes on a piece of paper so you can check them off once complete.

Plan Your Birthday Party in Advance

Start Early – The 3 Month Countdown

Yes, you heard it. You should begin planning your party roughly three months before your chosen date to avoid unnecessary stress. This longer time frame allows for any unexpected issues that may occur.

Pick a Theme

Themes aren’t just for children’s birthday parties. Deciding on a party theme will make your planning process a lot easier. Your theme doesn’t always need to be wild and out there; it could simply be something subtle.

Set Your Birthday Party Theme Early

The party theme will help you decide on food, a venue, a dress code, and decorations. For example, if you base your party on spring, your decor and dress code could be pastel yellows, pinks, and greens. Finger sandwiches and fruit platters make great food options, while the venue could be a sophisticated beer garden or vineyard.

If you’re stuck on choosing a theme, then consider these things:

  • Do you want the party to be formal or informal? If you’re heading down the formal route, you could make it a black-tie event.
  • What season is the party occurring?
  • What things do you love most? Is there a particular hobby you or the birthday person have?
  • Do you have favorite colors you could incorporate?

Set a Budget

Before throwing any event, you should always set a budget. Of course, the budget is completely up to you and your current situation, but you should always remember that parties don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

As you typically plan your party in stages, it is easy to lose track of how much money you’ve spent. You should set an overall budget and divide it between the different categories.

Decide a Date

Choosing a date is relatively simple, and most people would decide on the date closest to your actual birthday. For example, if your birthday is on a Wednesday, the weekend before or after works best.

If your party is going to be at a sought-out venue, then you should probably pick two or three potential dates in case someone else has already booked the venue.

Book a Venue

Now that you’ve picked a date, a theme, and set your budget, it’s time to book the venue. You can skip this step if you’re lucky to have a large enough backyard to host your party.

However, if you’re on the hunt and have no clue where to start, the internet is your best bet.

Birthday Parties Need Great Venues

A quick Google search of party venues near me will bring up a list of different options for you to choose from. One of the best parts about searching for a venue on the internet is the fact that you can read previous reviews of how other people’s parties went.

When booking a venue, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Is the party venue large enough for your chosen amount of guests?
  • What is included in the price that you’ll be paying?
  • Does the venue allow outside vendors, or will you have to arrange everything through them? (this isn’t always a bad thing as if you aren’t into planning, then having the venue do everything for you takes a huge weight off your shoulders)
  • Does the venue have a minimum spend per person?
  • Is there adequate parking?
  • Is it accessible for any guests with disabilities?
  • Does the venue fit your theme? If you decide on an outdoor party, it obviously needs to have an outdoor area. And if you have decided on a spring theme, a dark hall may not be the one for you.

Choose Your Guest List

When deciding on your guest list, you need to refer back to your budget—the more people that attend, the more money you’ll need to spend.

Get Your Guest List Decided

The number of people you decide to invite may also come down to the venue and their maximum capacity. For example, is it a small venue that can comfortably fit 30 people? Or is it larger with the capability to hold 100? 

Of course, the most important people in your life, like your family members and close friends, need to be on your guest list. Write them down first, check your budget, and add in any extras after. 

If you have guests who will be traveling from out of town, it may be a good idea to send them a save-the-date invite so they can plan their travel and accommodation accordingly.

Remember, it’s a good idea to have a backup guest list with people you can invite should certain others decline your invitation.

Book Entertainment

Not every party necessarily needs entertainment; sometimes, a DJ or just a well-put-together playlist is enough. But if you want to go the extra mile, it’s wise to book your party entertainers ahead of time. 

The number of people attending the event could decide what entertainment to book. Fifty guests is a relatively intimate party that would suit an acoustic band or guitarist. 100+ guests, however, may need something a bit more upbeat.

Entertainment doesn’t just end with music, however. Party games, photo booths, quizzes, and karaoke are fantastic entertainment options that your guests will love.

Obviously, if you are planning a kid’s party, then entrainment is more crucial.

Create a Playlist

If you decide against booking a DJ or other entertainment, you need to put together an incredible playlist to get your guests up and dancing.

Whether and Adult or Child's Birthday Party Music is Important

Use your favorite music streaming service to compile a playlist of all your favorite songs, as well as some classics and newer, well-known music.

If tech and music aren’t your thing, enlist help from one of the younger members of your family. Teenagers especially know all the ins and outs of apps and streaming services, so it might be wise to delegate this task to them.

Find a Photographer

A photographer isn’t a must-have for a party, but if you’re celebrating something special, it’s nice to have a permanent reminder in the form of high-quality photos. 

Your phone camera or even disposable cameras will do if your budget doesn’t stretch this far!

Prep, Prep, and More Prep – The 1 Month Countdown

You’ve hit the one-month countdown mark, and now it’s time to place those orders for cakes, food, and decor.

Birthday Parties Are Serious Business

Send Out Invites

Sending birthday party invitations can be done in one of two ways. The first is the traditional route of printed invitations sent to your guests’ front door. However, this will deduct a few dollars from the budget as invites and postage cost money. Unless you’re going to hand-deliver them yourself, but who has time for that? 

The quicker, more convenient, and eco-friendly way is by sending online invites to your guest’s emails or phone numbers. You can design these invites yourself with websites online that pull up templates for you, or you can send them through an online invitation service. 

Your invite should include:

  • The reason for the party
  • The date and time
  • The party location
  • Any dress codes
  • Contact info of the birthday person
  • RSVP
  • Any additional party details and information they may need

Place Catering Orders

Place your food orders with your chosen catering company. Depending on what type of food you’ll be serving at the party, you may need to wait a week or so for the RSVPs to roll in. 

Most catering companies let you adjust your order before the chosen date. But, it’s best to let them know a rough estimate and then finalize the number of how many guests are attending a week before the party.

If a catering company isn’t your style, then there are other food options you could choose for your get together:

  • If you’re having your birthday party in an area where BBQs are allowed, then stocking up on meat and grilling yourself can save a huge amount of money.
  • Finger foods like sandwiches, sweet treats, and cocktail sausages may be all you need to satisfy your guests. You can make these at home to cut down on costs!
  • If it’s a small intimate party, you could even ask your guests to bring a dish instead of a present.

Place Birthday Cake Order

Every Birthday Party Needs a Cake

Every birthday party needs a cake, and as bakeries can get booked up quickly, you should get your order in a month before the big day. 

If you have a particular cake design in mind, pull together some inspiration pictures to send to your baker. If you aren’t exactly sure what you want, then most bakeries will be able to take your theme and run with it. 

Make sure you let the bakery know roughly how many party guests are coming, as this will influence the size of the cake.

Purchase Party Decorations and Favors

One of the more exciting parts of planning a party is purchasing party favors and party supplies.

Your budget, however, may decide for or against party favors. For a child’s birthday party, they’re a fun little thank you gift, but adults don’t necessarily expect them. 

Party decorations are a must and are needed for a successful party. This is even more true if you’re planning a party with a theme. 

Now, decorations don’t have to break the bank. If you’re shopping on a tight budget, you may be able to make some yourself. Alternatively, you can head down to your local party store or browse the internet for decor suited to your particular theme. 

Even a few bunches of balloons and banners can make a huge difference to a venue.

The Day of the Party

The day has finally arrived, and it’s time to get those last-minute touches finalized.

It's Time for a Birthday Party

Purchase and Pick Up Last-Minute Items

Hit the grocery store and pick up all the last-minute party items like drink mixers and chips. This is also an excellent time to pick up the birthday cake and any food that isn’t being delivered to the party.

Set Up the Venue

If your venue wasn’t booked up for the day before your party, you might be able to get in the day before to set up. However, it’s always worth asking the venue owner just in case. 

You may need a party crew to help with the setup if you have a lot of decorations or activities to unpack. Try to get to the venue as early as possible to avoid last-minute disasters or unnecessary stress.

Welcome Your Guests and Enjoy the Party

It's Not Only the Birthday Person Who Needs a Warm Welcome

Finally, you can breathe. As your guests arrive, spend time welcoming them and thanking them for attending. I always find it’s good to have your phone on hand in case anyone gets lost trying to find the venue. 

Sometimes when having a party, you can never truly unwind, as you’re always worried about making it the most amazing birthday party imaginable for all the guests. Remember that this party is for you. Take a minute to step back and be proud of the little soiree you put together.

Clean Up After Yourselves

Once the birthday bash is over, it’s time to clean up after yourselves and get everything packed away or taken out to the trash. This is also a good time to recruit a party crew to help you, as tidying up is the least fun part of throwing a party.

Write Thank You Notes

Now your party is all wrapped up; it’s a nice gesture to send out thank-you notes to the guests who attended. Similarly to the birthday invitations, you can do this online or as hand-written notes. In my opinion, hand-written notes are more meaningful, especially if you received thoughtful gifts from your attendees.

How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

Throwing a surprise party for a close friend or relative is a fantastic gesture that they’re likely to remember for the rest of their lives. 

A Surprise Birthday Party is Always Fun

Luckily, planning a surprise party isn’t much different from planning a regular party, except you need to keep it a secret from the person you’ll be surprising. 

If you’re active on social media, it’s best to not post photos of the planning or set up until after you have surprised the birthday person. If you really want to post the process, then block them from your stories or posts so it doesn’t ruin the surprise. 

On the day of the party, you’ll also need to come up with an excuse to get them to the party venue. This excuse will depend on the person, so make sure it’s believable. For example, if they don’t like football, you aren’t going to tell them you’re going to watch a football game, are you? 

When you’re close to the venue, be sure to send a message so all the guests know to hide. Once you arrive, you can choose to blindfold the birthday person or just get them to walk in. They’ll be clueless anyway, so this step doesn’t really matter!

How to Plan an Adult Birthday Party: FAQs

If you’ve never planned a party before, there may be some questions that you’re unsure about. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when planning an adult birthday party.

Birthday Party Planning 101

Should I Serve Alcohol at the Party?

Many adults enjoy the option of an alcoholic beverage, especially if the birthday bash is happening on the weekend. With that being said, if you aren’t a drinker and you don’t want the party to go in that direction, then you don’t have to include alcohol.

It’s also important to check with the venue manager about whether or not you’re allowed alcohol at the venue.

How Long Should the Party Last For?

This will all depend on the type of party you’re throwing. Usually, parties in the evening with alcohol and dancing involved should be around the four-hour mark. Some venues will give you a certain time for when you need to have things wrapped up, but four hours should be more than enough time for your guests to enjoy themselves.

What Things Shall I Do to Be the Perfect Host?

Being the perfect host is actually more simple than you think. Yes, the decorations, music, and food spreads play a role in the party, but being the perfect host comes down to actually interacting with your guests.

They have come to the party to celebrate with you, so that’s exactly what you need to do! It becomes tempting to hang out with one group, but you should work your way around the party, striking conversations with everyone, so they all feel included.

The biggest thing to remember is not to stress about making everything perfect. Your guests aren’t going to criticize every little detail, so relax, have fun, and enjoy the time with your loved ones.

Do I Have to Spend Lots of Money to Make It a Good Party?

Birthday Parties Don't Need to be Expensive

This is a common misconception. You don’t need to spend large sums of money to make the party great. Sometimes, less is more, and as long as you plan accordingly, you can put together a fantastic event without breaking your party budget.

Some tips to staying on budget are:

  • Write down your overall budget and divide it up into different categories: food, drinks, venue, decor, etc.
  • Ask friends or family if they have any decorations lying around.
  • Don’t waste money on unimportant items. Yes, a photo booth is a cool touch, but you really don’t need it.
  • Go down a budget-friendly route when it comes to food. Your guests don’t need a five-course meal; sometimes, nibbly bits will do!
  • You’ll spend a large chunk of your budget on the venue, so ask around for affordable options. Better yet, host the party at home!

How to Plan a Birthday Party: Conclusion

So, there you have it. The ultimate party planning checklist to help you remember all the important details of how to plan a birthday party.

Whether you thoroughly enjoy planning parties, or if this is your very first and you’re dreading the process, we hope this guide helps you throw the best party ever.

We’d love to hear about the best birthday party you’ve ever thrown. What was the theme, and did everything go according to plan? Do you have any more tips on how to plan a birthday party? Let us know in the comment section down below!