Simple kid birthday parties or throwing an elaborate 50th wedding anniversary can be stressful and expensive. There is an easy way to do this and just rent a room and tell the restaurant how many people, chicken or fish. I have never done it that way, 1. I never had the money to just throw down like that 2. It lacks my creativity. You do not need to be creative either, the internet is a wonderful asset. Anything you want to do, someone has done before. You know me and my checklists. Making lists keeps you moving and you almost never forget something. I have gone on vacation and forgot to pack underwear. I have thrown a party and forgot to get candles. Live, learn, make mistakes!
What kind of party?
Small get together or large party
How many people?
Is this a party you have to invite the entire class to, or just close friends? Do you need all the cousins to come or just the ones that actually comment on your pictures? You never want to leave anyone out or offend them, but if they are not in your life already, I am sure they don't want to pitch in for the gift they have to get to go. I don't throw parties to get gifts, but in certain circumstances it's just etiquette. Speaking of etiquette though, if you invite certain cousins, then invite all cousins or none at all. If you casually mention the party to your close cousins and they show up it's not the same thing as sending out invites and purposefully not inviting someone.
Do you have the space for everyone? If the size of the party is bigger than your house then have it at a house. I have thrown a few parties at my parent's house, I do the set up and clean up and take care of everything. But I would not expect to use my husbands Aunt's house just because her house is gorgeous and she has the space for it.
If you have the party at home, do you have enough room inside for the whole party if it rains or gets too cold? My house is large but not large enough for my husbands family. So, when I plan a cookout I only invite my in-laws. It's not that I don't want all the aunts, uncles and cousins; we just don't have that kind of room. But the times, I have borrowed my parents house I am able to invite way more people. Again, you should never make someone feel bad they aren't throwing party just because there house is bigger. Some people don't buy big houses just to have parties, some people don't like people using their bathrooms, some people would rather go to a party then have to worry about the clean up at their house.
Date and Time
Maybe you don't care what else is happening at everyone else's houses, but I do. I don't want a party where 2 people show up, so I make sure I plan a good date. Remember about big birthdays or graduations, your cousins 25 birthday doesn't count, if you know everyone is going to Sally's 1st birthday, don't plan it that weekend. Maybe that's the only weekend you can do, but some people will pick and choose which one is more important rather than go to both. If you're planning a holiday at your house for the first time hint to people ahead of time. We used to go to my Vova's house for Easter, she was getting older and I had children and it seemed the natural thing was for me to host the holiday now. But I let her know so she didn't start clipping coupons ad worrying about the food months in advance. There are people that do that.
Ok now you have the logistics down really. That was the easy part right? There will always be someone in the family who is not happy about something. The party falls on her cats 3rd birthday, or that's the day your uncle's wife left him 40 years ago. I hate to say it, but this is your party. You have already accommodated other peoples special events. If the party upsets someone, they can decide not to go, it should not ruin the party or start a fight.
I love cooking! If you don't love cooking order food. You need to decide if you want an appetizer walk around party or as sit down meal. You could spend more money throwing together appetizers or depending on what you serve as a meal that could be your pocket buster. Do a pro's and con's list. Some people say just cake and ice cream, personally I think you should still put out some finger food until the cake comes out. With that said, if you are not planning on feeding people their dinner then don't schedule the party around dinner. If I want to throw out finger food and have a quick party then I plan for 2PM, have a little snack and a little cake and people can go home and decided if they want dinner. Look for my recipes for appetizers as well as sit down meals. I get a little crazy sometimes and I throw out appetizers while I'm keeping the main food warm, There is always those people who show up late and I like everyone to eat together.
Do you have enough chairs and tables? Do you need to order some?
I had to do that for my mom's 50th birthday party, and let me tell you it is expensive. Call around and get prices. Ask for deals, even offer your own. I ended up ordering tables and chairs, but then I thought about an awning at the last minute. I had gotten prices at wedding rentals and a few other places. I ended up calling a party rental like for bouncy houses and they had chairs, tables and a tent. If you have a few kids who can help, offer the company to pick it up and drop it off yourself. Make sure the timing works out for the day before the party or early morning and drop off the next day. If you worry and you have the money then have them drop it off and pick it up. It will definitely lessen your stress.
TIME TO GET MOVING
1 month before party:
Send out invitations and put the RSVP date for 1-2 weeks before the party. If you send out invitations too early you might have people forget about it. If this is a large party I suggest 2 months in advance, but then a 1 month reminder. Make sure you give them as much information as possible: Kids could get dirty, bring a spare change of clothes or Our pool is open feel free to bring your bathing suit and towel. I'm throwing the party I don't have a pool boy handing out towels too (unless you do then ::golf claps::). Order the cake. Some places need your order early. If you don't get it in early then you have to settle for a stop and shop cake. Since, the kids have gotten older and we do not have as many themed parties anymore I love stop and shop cakes.
3 weeks before the party:
If you plan on making your own DIY centerpieces and decorations and you have the room I would do that now and keep everything stored so you don't have to worry about it again. Pick a day you don't have to work: either have the kids help you or send them to their friends for the day, call your sister or best friend and get to work. If you're ordering from a site do it now so it will come in on time. If you do not plan on cooking, start ordering your food now, if they want you to wait, ask them when you should place the order.
2 weeks before the party:
Go shopping for all non food items; water, juice, sodas, chips, crackers, coffee, sugar substitutes, candles, table clothes, paper plates, cups, forks, knifes. Any platters or serving utensils needed. No need for head count for this because if there is something left over, keep it for another holiday or party. Pick out outfits incase a shopping trip is in order.
1 week before the party:
Deep Clean. Not like scrub walls, but move furniture a little. Get everyone's clothes put away. Even though the party is limited to the downstairs without fail I find people up in my kids rooms or using the upstairs bathroom. You want your house clean when people come for the party, but the day of the party you don't have time for major cleaning. I used to scrub my house right before a party, people come in and then they leave and it's literally disgusting and no one ever mentioned how clean it looked before, so I am sure they wont noticed that you didn't scrub your floors.
Check through your RVPS, they should have been coming in by now and make your list for food. Call chair company or cake lady and remind them of the party in one week.
2 days before the party:
Grocery shop for food, keep it in bags in your fridge so you don't misplace something.
Spot clean, dust things and Swiffer the floor. I don't waste time mopping because it is going to get dirty literally in the first 10 minutes.
Day before the party:
Start cooking anything that can be prepared ahead of time. Tuna, egg salad, soups, chilis, dips and desserts. Cover everything well . Make sure your cooler is clean. Clean the bathrooms. DO all dishes.
Night before the party:
Put out the serving trays and where they will be during the party, place them upside down to keep them clean. Place all the utensils, cups and plates out where they will be during the party. Lay out everyone's clothes. Iron now if needed.
Day of the party:
Cook anything that needs to be cooked still. Pick up cake and/or plater of food. Buy ice and fill coolers. Do last minute wiping down things. Anything that needs to be kept in hot pans of crockpots, put them in and turn to low, food gets hot and dried out fast if not watched. Keep oven warmer on for warm apps. Open the bags of chips and put crackers out and get trash thrown away. I used to take out food before people starting coming, but now I wait if it's a small party. If its a large party I take everything out 20 minutes early and keep covered. Now keep on with your party! Always remember to check cold food to make sure it isn't warm, and check that hot food is staying hot!