Social gatherings are great ways to connect with people and deepen friendships.  Depending on the occasion, the atmosphere of a party can encourage anything from relaxation to excitement, and socializing will happen naturally.  With just a little bit of prep work, you can easily plan a fun and memorable party.  But where should you begin?  By thinking through and populating the following party planning checklist, you will be well on your way to throwing a perfect party.

Pick a Date and Time: The date of the party will depend on when the host and guest(s) of honor are available.  There will always be a few people with previous engagements who are unable to attend, but don’t let that deter you entirely.  The best time often depends on the theme or target age group.  For example, people who work full time tend to have most of their free time on weekends.  Also, it would make sense to plan a wine and cheese party later in the evening than you would plan an ice cream social.  The important thing is to think about when your guests are most likely to be available. 

Pick a Theme: There are several helpful things to consider when picking the theme. First, any decorations (if desired) should go along with the theme in order to create continuity, so think about how much you want to decorate. Second, think about your demographic. A party for children will have a much different theme than one for adults in their 20s. Third, the location of the party will determine what can be done. For example, indoor parties can have different décor than an outdoor due to wind and sun considerations. And fourth, if you are planning to play any games they should also go along with the theme.  A water balloon toss is much more appropriate at an outdoor picnic than it would be at a dessert and pastry party.

Pick a Location: The location is important for creating a relaxed and inviting atmosphere for your guests.  A home environment can make party feel more cozy and welcoming, and hosting a party at a restaurant can make it feel more formal.  Having your party at a park or other outside venue creates more of an energetic feel.  Be careful though, because having an outdoor party will also typically require you to bring and set up extra eating ware, decorations or even tables and chairs to create the right environment.

Make a Guest List: The location you picked will affect the number and type of guests who can come.  It would be difficult to have young children at a formal restaurant, for example, but kids would really enjoy a party at the park.  And a house with an open floor plan is probably a better spot for a large party than a small apartment would be, so your location will determine the size of the guest list.  Also, depending upon the party type and location, you will have to consider which groups of friends to invite.  Is might not be the best idea to invite your coworkers and your former college friends to the same party.

Choose Your Menu: It is a well known principle that food relaxes the environment and brings people together.  Food should be easy to access and displayed in a pleasing way to encourage people to enjoy it together.  You should also consider the ease of preparation. There is nothing like rushing to get everything prepared at the last minute.  It is also common to ask guests to “potluck” food items depending on the type of party planned.  And these days it is wise to consider the food allergies and eating restrictions of your potential guests (serving grilled meat might not come across very well with a vegan crowd).

Chose Your Invitation Method: The type of invitation will often depend on the type of party.  More formal parties should typically involve a mailed invitation, which can be professionally made or you can print them yourself.  On the other hand, informal gatherings and birthdays often use online invitations or social media.  Also, a more formal party typically requires a longer notification time than a casual or spontaneous gathering.  If the event is important to you, it is ok to mention it to the guests you plan to invite prior to sending the official invitation. This will also enable them to reserve the time.

Finally, understand that many aspects of party planning are intertwined.  The date can affect the theme, the guest list can affect the time, the location can affect the menu and so on.  So don’t get too hung up on which checklist item is most important.  Just think through these topics and you will be well on your way to planning a fantastic party.

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