Ultimate Party Planning Checklist: Basics for a Killer Party

Ultimate Party Planning Checklist: Basics for a Killer Party

Checklist of party planning basics

Eventually, it's unavoidable. You will need to plan and host a party. Has that day come for you? With so many things to consider, a party planning checklist will help you organise and stay on top of things. So much so, you'll be looking forward to future parties!

In the midst of all of the chaos, it can be difficult to remember that it's all about our guests having a good time. Don't worry that will come naturally with these tips.


 Set your budget. After reading this, you'll know what that's going to cover.

 Write out your invitation list.

 Decide on a location.

  • If hiring a venue, make contact to determine a suitable date. Depending on the type of party you may need to book months (or even years) in advance.
  • If your party is outdoors, have a backup plan in the event the weather turns bad. Hire a marquee, plan games under a patio, move to an indoor space or another location etc.

 Set the party date.

  • Are there any special considerations?
  • Is there a day that's more convenient for the guest of honour or other important party guests?
  • Does anyone need to travel?

 Will your party have a theme?

 Decide on your invitations. Some options include;

  • Digital: email, text, Facebook invitation
  • Snail Mail / Hand Delivery: printable download, physical item, any customisation required?
  • Free printable invitations from my Freebies Library

Writing personal handmade party invitations


Once you've decided on a theme, it's time to work out the extent of your decorations. This is where your budget is going to get in the way. If this is your first attempt at planning a party (or if like me, even at the 8th, 9th or 10th attempt I still struggle with this one!) be sure you don't over commit yourself. There will be so much going on in the days leading up to the party, it can get hectic!

 Will you be decorating with flowers?

  • Homegrown, ordered or last-minute purchase?
  • Vases, wreaths, garlands, table centrepiece, an arrangement suspended from the ceiling etc

 Will you be making, hiring or purchasing party decorations?

  • Can any of these be prepared and set up well ahead of the party?
  • Some examples include garlands, balloons, streamers, lanterns, candles, pom poms, photo props and backgrounds etc.

 Are you providing party favours or thank you gifts? 

  • Even though we know you're the one who needs to be thanked the most are there any people that have really helped you out? Even if it's just mentioning them in a speech.
  • Decide on a budget for your gifts and determine if you'll be purchasing everything or baking/crafting any of the gifts or packaging.

Download free party planning checklist

Fun decorating your party with diy garlands, pom poms, wreaths, candles


 Will any tables be required? And how will they be decorated?

  • Food buffets, gift tables, signing tables etc

 Are you going to have photo props or backgrounds?

 Any DIY projects or printables you can incorporate? 

  • Using these in your decor and food will reinforce your theme. Research and prepare/create ahead of time.
  • Some examples include framed signs, bunting, favour bags, cupcake toppers and wrappers, thank you tags, drink bottle wrappers etc.

 Will additional furniture and decor be required or need to be hired?

  • Start considering your furniture layout and how you would like your decor to be displayed.
  • Items you may need could include seating, tables, lighting, tablecloths, cutlery, dinnerware, serve ware, decanters, beverage dispensers, buffet glassware and containers etc

Setting the scene with party printables and DIY. Thinking about where furniture will go, the layout and placement of tables and presentation of food | A Visual Merriment


When considering the drinks available, think about the ages of your guests; if they will be a group of mixed ages and the time of day the party will take place.

 What types of drinks do you plan on serving?

  • Will any of your guests be bringing their own beverages?
  • Is a tab required and if so, how much and for what types of drinks?
  • Suggestions for Alcoholic Beverages: Beer, wine, spirits, punch, cocktails.
  • Suggestions for Non-alcoholic Beverages: water, soft drink, juice, punch, mocktails.

 What storage requirements will you need to keep drinks cold?

  • Does the venue have the capacity? Will your fridge be enough? Will you have eskies and tubs or need ice?
  • Do you need to display your drinks e.g. beverage dispensers?

 Think about anyone you can ask to help you with providing drinks.

  • Usually, family members and close friends are happy to help out.

Party drinks served in glass dispensers at outdoor kids party


Based on the type of party and time of day you should already have an idea of what you would like to serve at your party.

 Will you be hiring a caterer or providing food yourself?

  • If providing yourself, think about anyone you can ask to help you by bringing a plate. Usually, family members and close friends are happy to help out.

 Which types of menu items will you need?

  • Finger foods, cake, meals, entree, desserts etc.
  • Will some of these be ordered/catered and which can be made ahead of time and possibly frozen?

 Will there be any special dietary requirements?

  • Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, religious, allergies etc.

 How will your food be presented?

  • Do you have all of the required containers, platters, serve ware etc or will you need to source them?
  • Does any of your food and it's containers need to coordinate with a theme?

Wedding table setting with flowers fabric runner and guests eating cake


 How will your music be delivered?

  • Via ipod, musician, DJ, streaming (e.g. Spotify, Pandora)?
  • Often the guests can be neglected when it comes to music selection. Consider a playlist that will be at least satisfactory for most of your guests. Ideally, it will be to their liking that will ensure they relax, have a good time and get down to their fave tunes.

 Will you need to hire anyone?

  • If your budget allows for hiring an entertainer, think about what type of entertainment would tie in with your theme.

 Will you be hosting any party games?

  • Not just for kids parties, adults love to have fun with games too. For some ideas Apartment Therapy has an article on the Best Party Games for Adults.
  • Are there any games you can DIY or download prior? Any additional supplies needed?

Kids fun party entertainment and games


 If hosting at home, thoroughly clean and stock up on supplies.

  • This includes making sure there is enough soap, toilet paper and a towel to dry hands.

 Don't leave decorations 'till the last minute.

  • I'm always guilty of this one and they just never happen! Lean on some helpers and delegate these jobs to them.

 Create some no-go zones.

  • Sometimes there are areas you don't want guests to go. Ideally, you could just lock them out.
  • If this isn't an option, place a note on the door. If your party goers are anything like mine they may make fun of you. This is where I would get crazy and put up some crime scene tape too. Hopefully, they'll get the message and respect your wishes!

Rustic outdoor table setting for party


 Depending on the type of party you're throwing, it may pay to invite your neighbours.

  • Even if they don't come along, you've done the right thing by advising them you might be a little noisy. It also makes you approachable if things do get too loud.
  • Inviting them ensures they'll either be there with you, making the noise! Maybe they'll make arrangements not to be home or will likely come to you before calling the police.

 Think about the quality of the guests on your invite list.

  • This would apply more to sophisticated adult gatherings (unlike the unruly kid's parties I'm used to throwing!). Sometimes it's unavoidable but if you can, try not to invite personalities that will clash or at least don't sit them together!
  • The guests you invite will also determine the atmosphere of your party. Sprinkle in some super outgoing party starters and chit-chatty instigators to help take the pressure off you.

Colourful party balloons, decorations, candles, cupcakes, sprinkles flat-lay in bright colours

Planning a party is not easy and as the day finally rolls around it can be very overwhelming! It's best to be as organised and prepared as you can be. Once you've nailed the process and have a few parties under your belt you'll get better at it.

My number one tip would be to make sure you lean on others for help. Family and close friends are usually happy to pitch in. Even if it's as small as bringing a plate of food, once you have delegated a few tasks like this to people, it will make the overall big task at hand so much easier for you.

Do you have any tips on how to keep your sanity when organising and implementing a party? As the host, we want to be able to enjoy our efforts and have fun at the party also!

Other article/s you might like:

Practical Tips for Planning a Party at Home
Enchanting Unicorn Birthday Party & Free Printable Kit
Easy Chocolate Covered Oreos 

Party inspiration & DIY tutorials, free printables for your home, kids & parties

All the things to plan an event

Hello! I’m Lauren, a graphic designer, blogger and mother here at A Visual Merriment. I have a passion for interiors, design, crafts and making parties come to life!

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