10 Step Guide to Planning a Birthday Party

Planning a memorable birthday party involves determining a budget, choosing a theme, selecting a venue, creating a guest list, planning activities and games, choosing decorations, and deciding on food and drinks. A themed party based on the birthday person's interests or favorite colors can add a unique touch to the celebration. Inviting guests in advance is important to allow them to RSVP, and having enough food and drinks for all guests is essential.
how to plan a birthday party


I feel like every woman at some point in her life has to play the role of party planner, and if you're a mom that point is your first baby's first birthday.  But the baby books do not have a "What to expect when you're planning a birthday" chapter, now do they? Well, they should.  So here it is!  This guide is a summary of the 10 most important steps to planning a birthday party which will help ease the stress of planning and increase the joy in celebrating special birthdays!

1. Set a budget for your party 

Setting a budget for a party is an important first step because it helps outline the costs for the many elements you need to include, like venue and food, while helping you to prioritize expenses based on your preferences. For example, my in laws always bring desserts to parties (they're Portuguese 😉), but I love to have a professional cake made so I can add a cake topper that I've crafted. So I don't usually plan to spend money on anything besides a cake and I use the money toward things like decorations, which are very important to me.

2. Choose a date, time and location

Choosing the right date, time and location can be tricky because most people are very busy. Just know, you're never going to please everyone so better to consider your closest family/ friends or you'll drive yourself crazy. Try to consider the availability of key guests, like grandparents and Godparents. Surveying them for the most convenient time during a window and planning far enough in advance can help ensure everyone has a day that works. Remember, choosing a specific venue or location is not as important as celebrating with the people who matter most.  When considering the venue, think about what kind of guests you want to invite.  Is this a kids' party?  You're not going to be booking a country club.  You may want to write your guest list before booking the venue. 

3. Create a guest list

This is kind of done in conjunction with choosing the date and location because you need to consider both at the same time.  Obviously, If you have 30 guests, you can't pick a venue that fits 20.  When making your guest list, don't forget the purpose of the party.  If you're planning a six year old's party, it's important to include classmates more so than Great-Aunt Sally.

4. Choose a theme and decorations

I mean, this is MY FAVORITE part of planning an event. The right theme elevates every party experience! When you think about a theme for a birthday party, think about the guest of honor's favorite things. Most kids have a favorite movie or tv show, but you typically only find those decorations in big box stores, which is not what we want. Consider generic themes where you can buy decor from small shops. Take my daughter, for example, she wants to be a rock star when she grows up. So her next birthday will be music themed with guitars and musical notes and karaoke as an activity. If you are celebrating an older milestone, say 70, a color scheme works too. Gold and black is timeless.

kids birthday party

5. Send out invitations

Sending out invitations is not what it used to be.  Nowadays, sending a FB invite a few weeks in advance is all you need.  If you are having a more formal party, I still recommend sending out physical invitations 4-6 weeks in advance.  You can find any style of invite imaginable on Etsy.  Most of which are editable or completed for you within a day or two.  Be sure to include all the details like dress code, food available etc.

6. Plan the menu and refreshments

To plan your menu, consider the time of day of the party. Most guests will plan on eating lunch if you are hosting a party around lunch time. But if you are doing it mid-afternoon, snacks and cake are usually fine. I usually make note of this on my invitations so people know what to expect. Also consider dietary restrictions. A lot of our family is lactose-intolerant, so I try to include dairy-free options (and whenever I don't write it down, I forget!).  Always offer water to guests and add other drink options as needed. 

7. Plan party activities and games

The possibilities are endless here and depend largely on your crowd.  If you're not hosting at an entertainment venue, i.e. bounce yard, trampoline park, you'll have to consider the age of the guests and amount of time needed for entertainment.  Pinterest is a great place to look for ideas.  Just search "party activities for X year olds."

8. Purchase supplies and decorations

You don't have to wait to do this.  Whenever you decide on your theme, think about ordering your decorations right away.  Ordering hand crafted decor takes time, and the more time you give your maker, the better your decor can be.  If you have a unique theme. ordering 6-8 weeks in advance is not unheard of.  You can get something specially made for you and have it in advance without having to worry about another thing the weeks before. For supplies, I usually start at the dollar store and pick up things to match the colors of my theme, then I go to party stores or online to fill in any holes.

9. Set up the party space

This looks different depending on what party space you are suing.  If you are hosting at a venue, generally you just need to arrive a few minutes early to set up your decorations.  If you're hosting at home, I try to start by cleaning up the house (and yard if you'll be outside) the day before. If you have enough time, you can decorate as well.  Then the day of the party your just have to set out food and utensils, etc.  But I know we all LIVE in our house so you can't always make that happen.  Whatever you can do in advance will help relieve some stress the day of.  I've found writing down the day of schedule and including my helper(s), aka Husband, in the plan helps things run more smoothly.

10. Enjoy the celebration with your guests!

kids celebrating

You've done everything you can to plan and prepare this party now you only have to CELEBRATE and ENJOY!  Try to be present and soak in the memories with the person you are celebrating.  We only get 10-12 "kids'" parties with our children.  And once you hit 21, you get, what? One party every ten years?  Savor these special moments and remember:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

- Maya Angelou

No one will remember if you missed a step and maybe forgot to buy green cups to go with the Minecraft theme so now you're using the red ones you had in the pantry.  They're just going to remember how fun it was to celebrate with you and their family. So relax and enjoy the party! 

Now that you know the basics steps to planning a birthday party, let's discuss details.  Join our email list to get all the specifics on each step straight to your inbox.

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