Party Planning Timeline

Ensure your fete is fabulous.

Celebrating your child’s birthday should be a fun and memorable milestone. However, juggling party preparations with work and other responsibilities can be arduous. The easiest approach is to follow a fool-proof timeline. Use the following breakdown to execute the perfect bash.

Five to Six Weeks Out

Start by establishing a theme for the party. This sets the tone for birthday necessities, such as invitations, decorations and the menu. Let the guest of honor be involved in the process. Brainstorm by looking through your child’s favorite books and movies. Choose something that represents his or her personality.

Once you’ve chosen a theme, select a date and time for the party. Next, decide whether you want to host your occasion at a venue or at home and on which day of the week. Weekends are typically best for working parents. The time of day depends on the child’s age. And scheduling the party between 1-4pm allows you to serve snacks instead of a full meal. If your child is a preschooler or younger, one hour of party time is plenty. Older kids can tolerate two to three hours of celebrating.

Choose your venue based on the season and the amount of people you’re inviting. For the guest list, stick to a number equal or close to the age of your child. Make a rough party itinerary, incorporating your party theme, entertainment and blocks of time for opening gifts and eating cake.

Three to Four Weeks Out

This is the best time to design or purchase invitations and thank-you cards. Match the invitations to your theme by making your own. If you’re tight on time, purchase pre-made invites from a party supply store or the Internet. Mail invites to prospective guests three weeks in advance. For a truly creative invite, insert paper invitations into an inflated helium balloons that you hand deliver. If you go the traditional mail route, create a database of guest names and addresses and use computer-generated labels to cut down on prep time. The list also comes in handy for the next special event and things like holiday cards.

Two Weeks Out

Think about decorations, supplies and the menu. Choose decorations that align with your theme and are easy to find, hang and clean up. Options include balloons and streamers in color-coordinated hues, plus decor you have at home. Consider reproduced pages of a festive coloring book or toys that match the theme.

For the food, the time of day and ages of the guests play an important role. If attendees are mostly toddlers, be sure to provide snacks that are finely chopped up. Instead of a traditional cake, consider individual cupcakes to make each party-goer feel extra special. See if you can enlist family members and friends to prepare fare with you.

One Week Out

This is when party planning starts to get tactical. If you’re having the party at home, gather up tables, chairs, coolers and serving dishes you plan to use. Check that they’re clean and in working condition. Prepare any dishes that can be frozen for the following week. Lastly, follow up with invited guests who haven’t given their RSVP. You’ll want to determine a final head count.

Two to Three Days Out

Think about last-minute tasks, like charging the camera battery and ensuring you have a fresh memory card. Take a final trip to the grocery store for any forgotten items and arrange for a friend or party attendant to take photos, cut the cake, lead games and pass out favors. Think about giving helpers a token of thanks, such as a gift card or cash.

Party Day

Reserve this time for last-minute food preparation and party decorations. Remember to relax and enjoy the experience. You and your child deserve to celebrate.