Tis the season for fall and winter parties! I enjoy throwing parties and totally immerse myself in planning them. My favorite parties planned have been a baby shower for my sister and brother-in-law, bachelorette party for my friend Lexi, Silpada jewelry party, and a card party to introduce others to my new business
Steps for a Successful Soiree
1. Set a realistic event date and time.
Check in with your key players before setting a date. You need the guests of honor to be present. Also, check local event schedules for football games or festivals that could potentially deplete your turnout. Finally, be honest with yourself about how much time you need to effectively execute your plan. Don’t be afraid to push the date back a week or two if it will ensure everything goes off smoothly.
2. Visualize and select a theme.
Visualizing is key when choosing a theme. Think about how your theme will play out on paper, invitations, online, with decorations, and food. An idea is worthless without being executed, so choose one that you can knock out of the park. The baby shower theme I chose was an Anne Geddes / nature theme. My friend Beth is a graphic designer and took my vague ideas and made them into neat Anne Geddes graphics with quotes. The bachelorette party was titled “Sexy Lexi & Her Ladies” and had a simple hot pink and black color scheme pulled out of a graphic I found on iStock. If you are stuck on coming up with a theme, think about what the guest of honor likes. Search online for inspiration. Have a big brainstorming session and then whittle it down. The brainstorming may take a few days. Keep a notebook nearby so you don’t forget a random great idea!
3. Develop your full plan and timeline.
This item is number three on the list because you must know your party date and time, as well as your theme, before you have enough information for a plan and timeline.
The plan needs to be detailed. Don’t just list “make decorations”. Plan the steps for making decorations: finalize what they will be, buy the materials, assemble (if required), and budget decorating time the day before the event. If you are renting a space and do not have access the day before, then decorate as early as possible on the day of the event. Remember, be realistic and give yourself enough time to complete tasks. If you run ahead of schedule, great. That is much better than being pressed for time and having to do things halfway.
Build your timeline beginning with the event date and work backwards. Some people can merely list dates, but I prefer to use a blank calendar format so I can visualize the time involved.
Even if you like to be in control of the details like me, you can find a way to delegate. The key is to delegate the right things to the right people, and then follow up.
Keep each person’s task simple. With my sister’s baby shower, I knew her mother-in-law was super creative with decorations. I bought a couple of basic items that caught my eye, showed her my theme, and asked her to take it from there. She made the cutest table centerpieces, everyone loved them, and she could take some of the credit for the event. Meanwhile, I didn’t spend hours on decorations and could move on down the list.
Lexi’s friend found a van for her bachelorette party, and she also picked up a few random last minute items. My sister cooked the food, because besides Lexi herself, she is the best cook I know. I even bought her a shirt with the title “Mama Sarah”. 🙂
Be clear and concise with what you need people to do for you, and follow up with them regularly to see how things are going and if they need your help. You should tailor the amount of follow up to the specific person, as some people will take it all and run with it, while others may get stuck but won’t tell you they need help until you ask them if they need it.
5. Invite lots of people.
If you are lucky, about 1/3 of the people you invite will show up to your event. So, invite with the motto of “the more, the merrier”. Develop a strong mailing list, complete with phone numbers and emails you are able to collect. Double check name spellings and update addresses ahead of time. Assemble one master list. Do not use random scrap pieces of paper! I have an awesome online contact manager with SendOutCards, and it can be converted to or from an Excel spreadsheet. Excel is your friend.
If you schedule the event far enough ahead, send simple Save the Date cards three to four weeks out from the event date. The best format is a postcard with the essential details.
Send your official invitations 7 – 10 days prior to the event. Have fun with these! Use your iStock images, neat quotes, and personal graphics/photos with your theme. I prefer hand addressed invitations, and I cheat by “hand addressing” online. If you opt for labels, they must look good. No letters should be semi cut off, they must be affixed straight, and the label color should not clash with the style of the invite.
Utilize other methods of inviting people, such as Facebook, Twitter, email, phone, and face to face. If you used all of these with every single person, it may be overkill, so during your planning, decide how you will invite each person.
Everyone should receive the snail mail invites. When inviting people in person, have a flyer handy to give them. The name of the game is turnout.
6. Be the hostess with the mostest and execute the party day plan.
One of the most common mistakes I see with parties is the lack of attention paid to hosting the party. If you are the planner and the host, ensure that you have other people taking care of tasks once the party begins.
During the baby shower, my sister and brother-in-law, along with their parents, greeted people as they came. Thus, I was able to check on the food and drinks, sign in table, and gifts. However, during Lexi’s bachelorette party, I was hosting at my place. That (and the fact that she is a great cook) is why I recruited my sister to cook. The Silpada and card parties required little attention to food or products from me, so I was able to host and handle everything without help.
Someone needs to play photographer! This is another problem I have witnessed. The party is a hit, everyone is talking about it afterward, and then they realize that no one was taking pictures. Or, with larger events, the photographer was hired and present, but he/she did not take enough pictures or was not present for some of the best photo opportunities.
7. Send thank you cards.
Thank people for coming to your party. A simple thank you card is very thoughtful and will give you an opportunity to keep in touch with those you invited after the party is over. If you can afford it, send a small gift to those who helped you with the party planning and execution. A $5 Starbucks gift card or a nice photo from the event are inexpensive but show appreciation.
Hope you find these 7 tips helpful as you plan your fall and winter get-togethers. If you need more specific planning services, I am willing to help for a small fee. 😉