Party Planning A-Z
A little guide
For me, it's "all-in" when I plan theme parties. That´s because I think it's fun and I like to spend time planning my parties to the smallest detail. I put a lot of focus on finding details, get to know more about the theme, keep my eyes open for things (details/accessories/decorations) and activities that could suit the party in different ways. It's not wrong if you think the party itself is more fun than the planning, the most important thing is that the party actually happens. However, as the theme party nerd I am, nothing else for me exist than "all in" when I´m planning a party.
Write down all you can think of about the theme and have a list (eg on the phone) that you can add things to when any idea appears. Find out if you know (or can find) others who had similar ideas for a party. By searching on Pinterest, "google" on the internet or contact someone you know who have knowledge about the theme you can get idéas of activities and details for the party. If you are planning the party yourself, you may be able to brainstorm with a friend who can give you little input.
A party can be quite expensive to arrange. Can you have a cover charge for the guests? If the guest at least can pay for the food, you can spend more money on details. I have never organized a party that has covered the cost from a cover charge, but I have not tried so hard to reach that either. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what a decent cover charge should be and what guests are prepared to pay. Find out if there are ways how the cover charge can be reduced. Can guests bring their own beverages? Can you find a party room that's not too expensive or can you even have the party at home? Is it possible that the guests bring their own food (sometimes the guests have brought what they want to grill or eg crayfish)? Is it possible to reuse any details you have at home? The challenge to keep costs down is when you want to go "all in". As long as it is okay for you to pay for the party, it doesn't matter that the costs do not cover the cover charge. If I should organize a party for anyone else and it's their money I certainly needed a detailed budget (My husband has asked for a budget when I plan my parties ... So I'll be a bit more aware of the costs in the future - not meaning that it won´t cost... ;-)).
It´s all about the details! Everything from invitation, activities, food and beverages, decorating, music to table setting should be a red thread for the theme. It can sometimes be difficult to choose among all the details you find. Second hand stores, Wish and other large stores often have fun details at a reasonable price.
I have started to get a lot of equipment to use on different occasions from former theme parties. For example I have a smoking machine, a lot of lighting, party tents, sumo outfit, table decorations, projector, outdoor speakers, things for Halloween etc. Of course, you don't need to have all this, but as I organize parties occasionally it feels good to have them and not have to depend on others. If you don't have the equipment you need, you have to find out if it's necessary according to the budget you have. If you can't rent what you need, maybe you can ask friends if they have something you can borrow. Maybe guests can lend you something for the party. I didn't buy everything at once, I have collected things during the years. I still borrow things from friends sometimes when needed. I have more than 10 plastic boxes in the basement now with "theme-party things" that may be good to have in the future ... My mobile (with all the amazing apps), computer and color printer are the ones I use the most when I'm planning a party.
There are some things that can't be planned and anticipated. There may be guests who won't be able to participate and announce that quite late. That can affect table seating plans, the division into teams and planned help from guests during the party. If that happens you have to be flexible and able to do a quick change. It may not affect the party so much, but if lots of details and preparations that have been made, and especially if it includes activities that certain guest should participate in, some things can have to be done in the last minute. If you have an early RSVP date and that guests should have paid their cover charge a while before the party can help you confirm who's going to attend the party. Some things you can't plan (eg late cancellation due to illness). If you don't like changes you should probably have activities that aren't dependent on if a guest is coming or not. Sometimes you also have to be flexible during the party. You have to feel the mood at the party and some planned activities may be prioritized and others may be improvised to suit the guests and there wishes. Being responsive to how the party turn out and being flexible and able to change the plan can also be a winning concept. Perhaps you won't have time for all the planned activities - don't hurry up and try to do everything on the schedule despite the lack of time just because you have planned it..
Before a theme party, the question must be asked: Who should be invited? This may depend on many factors. What is the occasion? Is it a party for friends or is it eg a birthday, a wedding or other event where both relatives and friends (who may be the same :-)) will be invited to? If the place for the party already is decided, the guest list also must considerate how many people fit in to the place. Sometimes it may be difficult to know who you should invite and not and you can count on the fact that there are always some guests that won't be able to participate. If it's a smaller party and only a certain number of guest can be invited, I usually try to figure out which constellations are the best. It can be friends who know each other already or friends that I would like to introduce to each other. Preferably, I would always like to invite everyone I know ... But that´s not always doable.
There is always a lot to do before a theme party, often more than you think of from the beginning. It is absolutely invaluable to get help from others. It doesn't really need to be at lot of help, but you earn time of many small things that you don't have to do yourself. For example you can ask for a little help from guest before the party with the food/cooking (bring a pie, baking bread, make a sallad), the decoration before (if it's ok to reveal details to someone before the party), the cleaning the following day. Do you also know someone who is particularly good at something that has to be arranged who you could ask to assist. Probably you will earn a lot of time if someone that's better than you in something can do it in an easy way (such as editing a movie, arranging a sound system). If you need to do something yourself that you've never tried or have to learn, it can take a lot of time and can end up with you being furious (trust me...). I think the hardest thing about this is to ask other for help, but I'm better at this now than some years ago. Nowadays when someone offers their help, I usually say "thank's" and let them help me. If someone has helped me a lot, it may be a nice gesture for them not to have to pay a eventual cover charge or that the team (I often have team competitions on my parties) that the guest belongs to can earn bonus points.
There may be guests at the party who do not know each other. I usually start the party with an "ice breaker". It can be an activity that makes the guests to get to know each other a little more or at least introduce themselves to each other. It can be done in many different ways. One of the ways I think works is to have a "mingling bingo". Everyone gets a paper with statements. The guests should mingle and find out if the statements match another guest. If someone find one guest who match the statement that persons name should be written in the box. When you get a full line vertically, horizontally or diagonally, you call "bingo". The guest who gets "bingo" will have to present the line for the others and that way some guests will be introduced to the others. This mingle bingo can be changed based on the theme. For example inspired by Halloween when it's a Halloween party. (See an example of the "mingling bingo" in the picture above). Another way to "break the ice" is to divide the guests them into teams as soon as they arrive at the party. The teams gets different tasks to solve together (for example to make a flag for the team or create a namne and a song for the team). That way, they get to cooperate - team work- and get to know each other.
Try to have fun while planning the party as well. Do you think it's hard and it takes lots of energy, think about whether it's worth spending time and energy to plan a theme party or not. Maybe it's better to have a party without a lot of planning or is there someone you can hire to help you with the planning instead? There might be someone like me around you who would like to support and help their friends when they are planning a party ... I enjoy the planning myself and I love to create something for my friends. It's nice if the happy feeling lasts until it's time to clean the day after the party ... ;-)
You definitely don't need to be an expert in organizing a theme party. All you need is to be a little creative and have a sense of details, or find sources where you can get inspiration. I definitely don't know everything about party planning, but I'm constantly geting experiences that I can take advantage of. Today, I plan and arrange parties in a different way than I did when I started to arrange parties. I also learn from my mistakes and I will definitely learn more in the future.
Everyone should have a Lars ... My husband is a great asset when I'm planning and arrange my theme parties. He's my factotum. He helps me with preparation (eg setting up tents, carpentry "props", taking care of the electricity, contributing to cooking, wearing heavy furniture). He also works at Alloffice, which is an office store that sells the most you may need for a party! He can take home basically everything I need for a party. In the last few years, I have tried to do as much as I can myself (he is not as excited as I am about theme parties) and I try to make sure he can participate as a guest at the party like everyone else. But of course he's the one who helps me the most before, during and after a theme party. He's amazing!
The music at a party can give the little extra to it. If it's a theme party, it's good if it associates with the theme. It can be background music but even dance music. The simplest thing is, of course, to make your own Spotify lists. You can also find lots of sound effects. You can for example have scary sounds playing on a toilet at a Halloween party, or have background music when you mingle at a cocktail party.
For a party that has a larger budget you could have amazing live music, but most of the time music itself is not the center of a theme party. However, music is often a party mood trick, if it's the right music ... If you don´t have time or knowledge to make a music list, have you got someone you know who like music that can help you put together a nice playlist? There are also many created playlists on Spotify, depending on your theme that you can search for. It's also a fun idea if guests can help you make a playlist before the party, so everyone gets the kind of music they like when the party is on. You can do that by sharing a Spotify list to the guest before the party and then they also can add music to the playlist.
In some posts in the future, when I'm writing about a particular theme party, I will share the playlists I've done for that theme too.
If it´s possible to arrange the party near where you live, you can earn both time and money. It often takes a lot of time for preparation before a theme party, especially if there are many supplies and details to be decorated in the party room. Are most of the guests from the same town/city where the party is organized (and the party room is not so far away from town) it´s also more likely that more people can participate. When you are going to book a party room ask yourself these questions: Can you have the party at home instead? Is there any party room that is relatively close that you can rent? If the party room is a bit further away, I recommend that you rent it a day before the party so you can prepare the party room in advance.
Of course the theme depends on what time of the year a party should be organized. Certain theme parties are already given when they should be arranged (eg Christmas, Halloween, afterski, parties with connection to a film premiere).
The summer is the easiest season to organize a theme party. It's easier to have activities outside and if the party is going to be in a party tent, you might not need to book a party room (and it may also be much cheaper). The disadvantage of having a party in the summer is that there is a high risk that some of the invited guests will be away on holiday.
We had a party in February one year and thought we knew that it´s often not so much planned that month (meaning lots of guest would be able to come) but it ended with lots of guests not being able to participate due to flu times...
The next upcoming summers, I have lots of things planned that will make it difficult for me to have a theme party during the summer. Fortunately I still will be able to arrange some seasonal themed parties during other times of the year...
Organizing a theme party can be similar to running a project. There is a need for structured planning with goals and sub-goals as well as an activity plan and schedule for when things are going to be done both in planning and during the party itself. It´s also good if it´s planned who´s responsible for the activities before, during and after the party. If there is another client of the party than the one who arrange the party it´s important that it is clarified what´s expected at the party. (I am often both a client and an organizer, but sometimes I help someone else party planning, eg at a wedding or a bigger birthday party, and then I have to know what the client requests).
During the party itself, it´s also good to have a great planning for what to happen when and who´s responsible for it. Having a budget is also important for control of your expenses and for deciding if a cover charge is necessary.
As in all projects, it´s also good to evaluate the party after it´s been held. What went well, what can I do better next time? Ask the guests what they liked and if it´s something they didn't like. By asking these questions, I can always learn from the experiences I get and try to make upcoming theme parties even better.
Quote and slogan
A fun effect at the theme parties is to use quotes that can be recognized from the theme. For example when we had the Bond party with the "Casino Royale" theme, we used expressions from the film. During the Olympic Games we had quotes from different Olympic games and at the charter party we used concepts that included charter and flight terms. Having a slogan for the party can also be effective and be a red thread during the party. At the Fiesta we arranged last week, we used "No time for SIESTA, it's time for FIESTA" consistently from the invitation to the headline of the papers we gave to the guests during the competitions.
It's not necessary to buy everything new to all theme parties. Consider if you have details at home that you can use. Try to save the thing you bought for a party that can be used at another (eg vases and tablecloths). Is it something you would like to have as a detail for a party but do not have it you can start by checking if someone else you know has it. There may be someone nearby who can lend you something useful. Christmas lights can also make a party tent look nice, so it can be used even in the summer. If you find Christmas lighting on sale, you have the perfect lighting for the summer party and can use it the next upcoming Christmas. Sale can often offer many bargains, like napkins and decorations (eg after special seasons), so next time you´re on a sale - search for details for you next party that you can use at a special season too!
Except to find bargains at Christmas sales, I usually keep an eye in every shop I visit and look around at shopping websites on the Internet when I'm planning a theme party.
There are many companies specializing in parties and different themes today, for example Partykungen , Roliga prylar.se , then there are many other companies where you can find special things for your theme party eg. Wish,IKEA, TGR, Rusta, Teknikmagasinet, Dollar Store.
I always look for details to my parties when I´m abroad and I look on foreign websites too - there you can find some details that you can not find elsewhere and that will be the extra details at your party. I always have my eyes open to find details for upcoming parties when I'm traveling to other places (close and far from home)...
An easy way to find details and go all-in on a theme party is to try to use the theme in the the table setting as well. For example when we had the Olympic game theme party, the guests were divided into different teams based on the OS colors, so the table settings on each table became the color where each teams would sit. It also made it easy for the teams to know which table they should sit at based on the colors.
At the Casino Royale/Bond party I had tried to get a more stylish table setting since the guests were invited to a "V.I.P. evening". For that party I had, among other things, found a bottle opener with aces of spade and decorated the tables with dices. I also had "plastic sign holders" on the tables so the agent teams would find their table (the teams were divided in team names from different Bond movies). It's so fun to look for details for the table setting before a party. It's really all about the details!
Since I love details for my parties, I always keep an eye on details that I can buy if I´m planning a theme party (I almost always planning an upcoming party...). It´s not always easy to find everything here in Sweden - although what you can find according party details (and prices) is getting better and better here too. I usually search for details when I'm abroad and especially when I've been to the United States. There are big shops there that focus on parties (birthdays with themes, weddings, etc.) so I´ve also found many details for my parties over there. It's easy to get overweight on the way back home...
I´ve also ordered things via internet from the United States. It's also fun to follow party planners/party stylists in the United States, they always go "all-in" and seem to have great access to details when planning a party. I get a lot of inspiration from following party planners from the United States on instagram and via Pinterest.
Viable planning can sometimes be difficult ... Especially when you are like me and want to go all-in and do that little extra. Because of that sometimes both time and money can be waisted. With a good and thoughtful planning and enough time, it's usually only the money that is the limit to go "all-in". However, it must be realistic. What is the limit to overdo something? Is there anyone else who can help you? Are there any cheaper alternatives? Only you can answer the question what your work and money is worth to you. To me it's worth a lot, but then I think that the planing and sometimes the hard work before a party is fun and gives me energy too, not something that I´m forced to do and it does´t take energy from me.
If you don´t have time and energy to make food that you think suits everyone at the party, a potluck can be the absolute best option. Ask the guests to bring what they want to eat and drink for the party. You save time not having to cook (plan, buy and spend time cooking a few days before or the same day as the party) and money because it reduces the cost and the guests get what they would like to eat - it will be a win -win situation. It depends, of course, on what kind of party you organize. If it's a theme party and the food is a part of it, it's a winning concept that the food becomes part of the details. I like to cook and fix things before a party, so it's not often that I arrange a potluck. However, it´s a good option to get extra time for other planning and fixing before the party. If you don´t want to pay for catering of course...
If you want the party to be extraordinary for those you arrange it for, you should consider what makes that little extra. Is that the food? Or maybe the party room? The entertainment? The music? The theme? The details?
Since I generally always go "all-in", I try to focus on most of the things above ... But everything is about the details for me.ö.-Having a theme through everything really makes that little extra.
Depending on the party you are planning, it can take a lot of time for preparation and planning. I will arrange some theme parties in a few years that I already have began to plan (I don't have the time to arrange them right now). The advantage of having a long time to plan the party is that it's easier to search for details. The theme is in the back of my mind and if I get a good idea for the party or find some details, I can either buy it right away or write it down so I have an "activity list" and "shopping list" for later.
A wedding can also be that kind of party that needs more than a year to plan. For example, it may be important to be out in good time booking a party room for the wedding.
What I've learned over the years is that regardless of how much time there is for planning and work you do at the beginning, it will (almost) always be a lack of time at the end. Things that can be prepared in advance should be done as early as possible. Unforeseen things at the end often happen, that take precious time. Don't wait to do things you can do before the party, do it as soon as possible.
Zoom in - Zoom out
If you, like me, like details it's easy to get too much focus on them. Don't forget to take a step back and look at the whole concept as well. Fits everything with the theme? Fits the activities to the guests who attend? Are there any other options? It can also help prioritize the time you have to spend on preparation and planning. Also go through the party and its activities. Do they work well together? If you compose a good (and realistic) "schedule" for the party and can keep it during the party, it helps you get a successful event. Also remember to evaluate the party afterwards so you can adjust any improvements to future parties.
A planning tip I learned from my mistakes is that a party gets harder to control the longer the night goes ... So ... Common activities should be arranged as early as possible during the evening ...