Planning a celebration with a group of family or friends, but feeling a little rusty because it’s been a while since you threw a big bash, or maybe it’s your first time hosting at your place? These tips can help you jump into action and plan an event that’ll have them all raving!

1. The Vision

Before you plan a great party, you have to know what kind of party you’re planning. Is there a guest of honor? A special occasion? Picture what kind of party you’d like to throw, as well as what kind of vibe you want to create. Perhaps a casual backyard barbecue? Going for a louder affair with a DJ at night? Laid back brunch with only close friends? Make a list of as many details as you can about how you’d ideally see the party turning out. This’ll help guide all your planning and execution.

2. The Budget

Be honest with yourself about how much you can afford to spend and create a budget you can live with. You don’t have to blow loads of cash to have a great time, just know what you’re working with ahead of time to maximize your impact.

3. A Guest List

List all the people you would like to invite and/or who your guest of honor would want at the party. If you end up having to scale back because of budget or location, you can divide your list into “must haves” and “nice to haves” to help prioritize. (Sometimes, it happens. Best to be prepared.)

4. Location and Date

Consider how many people are on your guest list and what kind of venue would fit your party vision. Is it small enough that you could host at home? Would a restaurant or rented location work better for ease of setup and cleanup, or to accommodate more guests? Your vision, budget, and guest list drive this decision. If you opt to host outdoors, be sure to rent a tent in case of inclement weather. If needed, rent additional tables, linens, chairs, and glassware from the same vendor to keep things simple.

5. Creative Customizations

Choose a meaningful and consistent look for your event to take things to the next level. Say you’re toasting a recent grad. You could use pictures of them in cap and gown, or as a child, on invites, paper goods and other party decorations. Or you could choose décor based on a specific theme or color scheme: tumblers with their college logo, their favorite flowers, or their future career. Pinterest is good for inspiration.

6. Invites

You can go as simple as posting a Facebook event, sending a group email, or as far as mailing pretty printed cards. They all get the job done. Choose your invite option based on how much time you have to prepare them and send them. Make sure to give a clear way to RSVP, and include the event time and location.

7. Food and Drink

Whether you’re hosting at home or renting a venue, seriously consider hiring a caterer and/or bartender. Have them come early to help with food prep and setup, and keep them around a bit after to get things back in order. The help will be worth every penny and you can go as simple as trays from a local deli to an elegant spread from a high-end caterer. Tip: No matter whom you hire, be sure to request a simple, signed contract listing all details and costs. Avoid surprises!

8. Entertainment

Thanks to services like Pandora and Spotify, party playlists are easier than ever. You can ask one of your guests to handle music duties like switching stations when songs start to loop and monitoring volume, and all you need to run it all is a laptop or iPad and a wireless speaker.

9. Confirm

About a week before the party, call and confirm with every single rental and delivery. Be sure to cover timing, contact info, final costs, and how and when to pay.

10. Delegate

Create a detailed list of all the last-minute, day-of things that need to happen, and enlist help if you need … especially if you’re hosting at home. Consider things like putting up decorations, setting out paper goods, greeting and paying for deliveries (and showing the delivery people where to set them up).

11. Enjoy the Party

The goal is to plan your party well enough that everything runs smoothly on the big day so you can have as much fun as your guests. Once your guests arrive, don’t sweat it if all the details don’t fall in place like you hoped. Focus on fun!

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