Planning and hosting events is supposed to be fun, but unfortunately, it usually turns into more of a stressful headache than it’s worth. I love entertaining and spending time with friends and family, so I set out to find a way to make it as easy and fun as possible. You can use these ideas for planning casual events at your house, birthday parties, formal anniversary celebrations, or showers. At the end of this post, you’ll find a printable for your Family Notebook, listing an event planning countdown.
Guest List and Invitations
There are plenty of options for creating guest lists and sending invitations. If most of your invitees are somewhat computer savvy, it’s most efficient to use an electronic service such as Evite or Paperless Post. If it’s a more casual event, you can create a Facebook event (this is also helpful if you don’t have the addresses or e-mail addresses for all attendees).
If you plan events frequently, I would suggest saving guest lists in your e-mail contacts and Evite contact list. For instance, you can create groups such as “close friends”, “work friends”, and “extended family.” When you want to create a new event, you can just choose which groups of friends and family to invite and do not have to enter each invitee separately. This also helps prevent forgetting somebody you want to invite.
Purchasing Needed Items
I like to order as many items as possible online to save money and make my trips to the store shorter. I order all decorations, plastic ware, napkins, and games online. One of my favorite sites for ordering party supplies, especially for theme parties, is www.orientaltrading.com.
It’s also helpful to make a comprehensive shopping list of what you need to buy. I do this as early as possible so that if I have some extra time (ha!) I can make a run to the store.
Entertainment and Themes
You don’t need to go all out with entertainment, but it’s nice to offer at least one activity, especially if many people don’t know each other. I don’t like to make participation mandatory, but just have an activity offered for those who are interested. If it’s nice outside, you can set up lawn games. We have a foosball table and dart board for the times we entertain in the winter. If you’re planning a nicer event, you can hire entertainment such as a poker dealer or deejay.
Themes aren’t as important as entertainment, but they’re a fun way to make your party memorable. Having a theme may also make it easier to decide on decorations, food, and games. Please note: themes might not be appropriate for more formal parties.
The easiest meal method for formal events is to hire a caterer, and the easiest meal method for casual events is to hold a potluck. Even if you plan to provide all the food and drinks for an event, there are plenty of ways to make it easy. For drinks, a case of bottled water, a case of nonalcoholic beverages, a case of soda, a case of beer, and a couple bottles of wine should be plenty. Here are a few ideas for easy meals:
-Meatball Sandwiches: Buy pasta sauce and ready-made meatballs and put them all in a crock pot – keep sandwich rolls next to the crock pot, and people can serve themselves
-Pulled Pork: Follow the same instructions as meatball sandwiches, but with pulled pork and barbecue sauce
-Grill: Buy burgers, brats, hot dogs, buns, and condiments and grill to order
-Large subway sandwiches: buy extra long hoagie-type sandwiches from a local deli
-Chips or Veggies and Dip: Buy a platter that has separate sections – you can buy a combination of chips and dips, or you can buy veggies and dips
-Dessert: Buy brownies, cookies, cake, or pie from a local bakery or grocery store
Here’s a checklist for planning an event to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. You may not have to complete every task on this list; it’s a comprehensive list. Don’t forget to keep a copy of the list in your Family Notebook!
In Word, for your own editing: Event Planning Checklist
In PDF: Event Planning Checklist