The first, and most important, thing to remember is that lists are your friends. A good list is like your managing partner, keeping you on track, always evolving and changing to meet current job needs. Ideally, the first thing that comes after the idea is the first list... before the first invite is sent or the Facebook event is created, it's the list. This first list may simply be brainstorming ideas for possible themes and dates, but it must be started. Remember that most of us are visual learners, so it's a good idea to have something tangible to work from.
Once you have chosen your party theme and date, make a list of all who will be invited. This list will be two columns:
- Those who will be invited via social media (Facebook event)
- Those who will need a paper invitation (school friends, grandparents or neighbors who are not social media savvy)
Next up is food or snacks for the party. A basic rule of thumb is that if the party start time is between 11am and 1pm, then you should provide some kind of actual food - such as pizza, finger sandwiches or hot dogs, etc. There's no need to go expensive, just have something available for your guests. For start times after 1pm, having only snack foods is acceptable - such as chips/dip, fruit/veggie tray, etc.
Now for the entertainment - games* (which are fun and inexpensive), bounce house or water slide, etc. Keep in mind that if you rent a bounce house or water slide, it is a good idea to have 2 or 3 games prepared for kids who get bored. Also, call the rental company early to ensure that your date is available.
Now that you have made the big decisions, it's time to create your shopping list. You should never go shopping without your list, you'll end up spending more money and missing items that you forgot to purchase. You will need to plan two separate shopping trips:
- The first trip, completed 2-3 weeks before the party, will consist of:
- Game supplies
- Decorations - not necessary if you want to keep the budget lower
- Non-perishable food items - chips/dips, drinks, cake mix/icing, etc.
- Paper products - plates, cups, napkins, flatware, etc.
- The second list, completed 1-2 days before the party, will consist of:
- Perishable food items - fruits/veggies, sandwich supplies (or pre-ordered tray)
- Birthday cake (if pre-ordered)
- Pizza or catered food (if pre-ordered)
Decorating can be done a few days in advance, with game set-up the morning of the party. All food preparation should be completed the day before the party, tightly covered and stored in the fridge.
You will be able to relax and wait for your guests to arrive on party day. When you start with a plan and work with lists, you can be an organized and stress free party host!