The Extra-Long Party Planning Checklist

Laura Richards
Dec. 11, 2015

Are you organizing a holiday party? No sweat! Just follow the steps in this checklist to make sure that the planning process goes off without a hitch.

There's nothing quite like a holiday party to get you in the spirit of the season! But putting together a fun shindig for all your friends and family takes a lot of work and preparation. By getting organized from the get-go, you can alleviate at least some of your stress.

Here's an extra-long party planning checklist that will help you ensure that you're well-prepared to host the best party ever:

What Should You Do Right Away?

  • Organize Your Guest List
    Think about how many people you could potentially fit in your home, and then work off of that number to create a guest list.
  • Figure Out the Details
    A lot of your party planning will depend on what type of party you'd like to have. Here are just a few questions you should ask yourself: Are you thinking of hosting a casual get-together or a formal event? Would you like to serve a full meal or just a few appetizers? Do you want your party to have a theme?
  • Think About Your Menu
    Once you determine what type of party you're having, it's time to start thinking about the food you plan to serve. As always, it's important to make sure there's something for everyone, so be sure to take into account any potential food allergies or dietary restrictions.

  • Sort Out Your Invitations
    Before you send out your invitations, it's important that you think about which platform makes the most sense for your guests. If everyone you're inviting is on Facebook, you can set up an event or send a private message. You can also use a website like Evite that provides free invitation templates. And, of course, you could always send out good, old-fashioned paper invitations! No matter which method you choose, be sure to set a firm RSVP deadline.

What Should You Do Three to Five Weeks Before Your Party?

  • Send Out the Invitations
    During the holidays, people's calendars fill up really quickly! Ideally, you should try to tell your guests about your party at least four weeks in advance.
  • Arrange Child Care
    If you have younger kids and want to hire a sitter for the night, you should try to make arrangements a month before your party. You might even want to have a backup sitter in mind, in case your sitter gets sick or has to cancel at the last minute. It happens! And be sure to check out Holiday Tipping: A Holiday Bonus Guide for Your Caregivers.
  • Arrange Pet Care
    It might be best for you to get a sitter for your dog or cat as well, especially if they have behavioral issues when they're around large groups of people.

What Should You Do Two Weeks Before Your Party?

  • Purchase Decorations
    Are you having a theme party? Now's the time to get all the props, accessories and garnish you'll need!
  • Make a Playlist
    Decide what type of music you'd like to play at the party, and test out your speakers to make sure they're in good working order.
  • Start Getting the Food Ready
    If you're having a dinner party, you should finalize the menu and shop for frozen entrees, appetizers and desserts. You could also make and freeze a few recipes that only require reheating on the day of the party.

What Should You Do a Week Before Your Party?

  • Declutter
    Clean out the areas where guests will be gathering so you're not shoving things into closets -- or even bathtubs -- on the day of the party.
  • Check In With Guests
    Send a quick reminder to invited guests that the party is on, and touch base with those who haven't yet responded to your invite.
  • Check In With Your Sitter(s)
    Confirm that your child's or pet's sitter is still available on the designated day.
  • Check Your Supplies
    Make sure that you have enough napkins, silverware, china, cups, candles, trash bags and even toilet paper!
  • Pick Up Drinks
    Stock up on wine, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea.

What Should You Do Three to Four Days Before Your Party?

  • Make Room for Coats and Boots
    Clear out a closet, mudroom or bedroom.
  • Get Your Bathrooms in Tip-Top Shape
    Give your bathrooms a thorough cleaning, and remove any personal items that you don't want guests to see or access.

What Should You Do One to Two Days Before Your Party?

  • Get All of the Food Ready
    Go on a final shopping trip to pick up fresh food and flowers. And do your cooking now, so that all you'll have to do is reheat a few items on the day of the party.
  • Get the Space Ready
    Move your furniture around (if necessary), and set up tables and chairs.
  • Set the Table
    If you're having a formal meal, you should lay out plates and silverware.

  • Get Your Outfit Ready
    Have a little fashion show to pick the perfect party dress.

What Should You Do The Morning of Your Party?

  • Decorate
    Transform your home into the destination of your choosing.

  • Chill Drinks
    Make use of every bit of space in your refrigerator or cooler.
  • Defrost Food
    Take everything out of the freezer.

What Should You Do Two Hours Before Your Party?

  • Reheat Food
    Pop all necessary meals into the oven.
  • Tidy Up
    Wipe down the bathrooms, dust and vacuum.

Thinking about hiring some extra help? Read how Holiday Helpers Can Make Your Season Magic.

What else is on your party planning checklist? Let us know in the comments below!

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.

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