Checklist to Plan a Small Get-Together!
Updated: May 13
There's always occasions to celebrate! Anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, Tuesday nights.... If you're looking to refine your planning process or if you're wanting to finally be the person that plans something for your group - this checklist is here for you!
I'm all about lists. From to-do to grocery, lists are my favourite thing to write! So a while ago I put together an event planning checklist that I honestly use each time I'm planning something and it's fool-proof. I swear by it. It truly makes planning something easy-breezy. So when your guests thank you for putting an evening together for them, you can answer with "it was no problem at all" and NOT be crying inside.
Disclaimer: I am an event professional. I've been an event manager for over 10 years, I went to school for it ,and have done everything from planning weddings to managing music festivals. So this process does come naturally to me, but I do believe that anyone can put together a smashing-success party that doesn't cause you to pull your hair out! This is a 1-month planning checklist and is a condensed version of my 6-month checklist for planning bigger events.
#1. Determine your event goals and objectives. Basically, what are you planning?! Determine what the celebration is for (birthday, anniversary, etc) and what you want to do (dinner party, dinner out, etc.).
#2. Select a date and time. Think of the best day to have your celebration. Try to avoid holiday weekends. Set a start and end time so people can plan accordingly. Avoid changing the time multiple times.
#3. Determine the location. Where do you want to have your party? If it's a restaurant you can probably book 1-2 weeks out. If it's a venue or party room you may need more notice. If that's the case then I recommend booking the space and you can adjust your booking closer to the date. Be clear on the cancelation policy!
#4. Write a guest list and send invites. Think of who you want to be there! Also decide if you want to send formal invites in the mail or use an online calendar (like Facebook Events). I recommend using an online calendar - it saves paper, is cost-effective, fast, and customizable. No matter the scale of your event, note in your invitation that you're booking space based on the number of accepted invites and if you feel that it's necessary then set a date that people have to get back to you by.
#5. Book a space/update your booking! Make a reservation or finalize your venue booking.
#6. Plan the menu! Every good party involves food, I'm sorry but it does. So decide if you're doing a full-blown meal or just snacks. If you're going out, then determine if you need to plan a pre-set menu with the restaurant or plan catering services. If you're planning an at-home get-together decide if you're doing the cooking yourself or doing a pot-luck style party. Plan the beverages as well! Do you want people to bring their own, do you want to provide them, or do you want to do a special cocktail for the occasion but still recommend that people bring their own?
#7. Lay out a rough agenda for your party! Walk through your party from start to finish. When do you want to start food service? When do you want to serve dessert? Do you need to plan for speeches? This will also help you plan if you want to do speciality decorations, guest gifts, and entertainment.
#8. Communicate final details with your guests! 2 weeks after sending the invite, send a reminder to those who haven't responded yet. Also, let people know the menu so your guests know what to bring. If you're doing a potluck, have people sign up under specific items so you don't end up with multiples of similar items (i.e. "Appetizers x2", "Salads x2", "Bread", "Dessert", etc.)
#9. Final prep! Take the week of your party to be as prepared as possible. Review the agenda that you laid out to ensure that you have everything that you need and you haven't forgotten anything. Put together a shopping list for what you need and then separate the list into things you can grab a few days before and things to grab the day before. If there's too many things, appoint someone to help you! If you've booked things for your party (i.e. rentals, catering, restaurant booking, etc.) call to confirm your bookings.
#10. Enjoy your party! With this list you should feel prepared, so on the day everything just happens as it should and you can relax!