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You know those moms who look like they could have planned Kate Middleton’s wedding ceremony in a 24-hour notice, no sweat? Their kid’s birthday parties always include catered food that fit perfectly with the overall theme, and then they send your child home with a gift bag containing more items than your child received on their actual birthday. Sure, throwing a party may not come as easily to you as it does to your friends, but with these party planning tips, no one will know the difference.
Tip #1: Plan In Advance
Your first instinct might be to start planning the week before the party because it seems over-the-top to do it months in advance. But every pro party-planner knows that the real secret to an unforgettable event is planning ahead. You need at least a month to plan food, drinks, invites, and games. If you plan to pay for entertainment like a magician or comedian, they may be booked out for several months; planning early will be to your benefit.
Tip #2: Pick the Perfect Theme
The theme usually affects how successful your turn out will be— that’s why it is so important to pick a theme that not only appeals to you, but also to your invitees. If you invite your friends to a political debate party or divorce bash then you may have a significantly smaller turnout than if you were to choose a more universally appealing theme such as “wine and cheese night” or a pool party.
Choose a theme with enough “juice” to plan a party around. A specific color, cult classic, time period, or ethnic food are common beginning points around which to create a theme. You also want a theme that will come together neatly but not too narrowed that it inhibits creativity.
Tip #3: Create Mood-lifting Ambiance
You want your guests to feel like they have entered a new world when they walk into your party. Think out of the box with your décor and lighting and try to stick with authentic pieces over cheap replicas. For instance, if you are hosting a jungle-themed party, a dozen potted plants and fake trees create a more realistic atmosphere than a bunch of cardboard cutouts. To make your guests feel more at ease, consider keeping the majority of the lights dimmed and use lamps, candles, and string lights instead.
Tip #4: Make a Killer Playlist
Part of being a good host is having a music collection that would make any DJ jealous. If you feel like your iTunes library is collecting dust, ask your friends and family if they have any fun music fit for your party. Another option is to stream an online radio such as Pandora or Spotify. These online stations will create playlists for you based on a type of artist, song, or genre. Note: they do have short commercials every couple of songs, so this may not be the best choice for a non-stop dance party.
Tip #5: Stock Up On Your Supplies
A party-planning diva never forgets her supplies. As you prepare for your party, plan ahead by stocking up on paper plates, napkins, and utensils each time you buy groceries. If you plan to use plastic cups, stock up on those; if you will be using mason jars or wine glasses for drinks, make sure you have enough for your guests. A few days before your party, clean your guest bathroom thoroughly. Empty the garbage can and keep the toilet paper and fresh towels stocked. You don’t want to embarrass your guests by making them ask for some TP!
Tip #6: Skip the Fancy Dinner
Your instinct might be to serve extravagant 5-course meals, but if you are not a skilled chef, you will be biting off more than you can chew (pun intended)! If you can’t afford a caterer, opt for buffet-style meals. You can also have a potluck where your guests are invited to bring their own dishes. That way, you can focus on the party and not as much on the food. Stick to a few crowd-winning appetizers and entrees, and that will be enough.
With these tips, you don’t need to hire expensive event planners from Toronto or New York City; you can throw your own party and amaze your friends and family. You can look just as put-together as any professional hostess—and have a blast doing it.
Nina Hiatt is a freelance copywriter and mom to two little party animals. When she is not writing about life and parenting, she celebrates her family’s milestones at Mini-Indy Go-Karts.