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10 Important Lists for Planning a Successful Party

10 most important lists for your next celebration
10 most important lists for your next celebration

In this blog post, I’m going to give you my 10 most important lists for planning a successful party. I will help describe what you should include in these lists to help make your party or event less stressful and more organized and I’m including free printables for your lists, just to help you get going.


2.     MENU




6.     FAVORS





Free Printable lists are available in the “printables” section of this website, or you can click the button below.

1. Guest List

You’ve decided on your party, the date, the place. Now is the time to get your guest list together. Decide on a maximum number of guests you want to have. Statistics show that 85% of your local guests will come and 55% of guests from out of town will come. So, you can do as the airlines do, and overbook, with the understanding that you will not have everyone show up. It’s always a bit of a gamble, but I just wanted to throw that option out there.

guest list.jpg

After you’ve chosen your invitations, whether it’s paper invitations to mail or some type of evite, send them out 3-4 weeks before your party. That may seem early, but think about how quickly your own calendar seems to fill up! If you want these people to come, give them some time to plan. Make sure you include a firm RSVP date. I usually make mine about 5 days before the event, but if you are catering, ask the caterer when you need the final head count, and then choose the RSVP at least two days before that date.

Some disappointing news about RSVP’s… only about 30% of your guests will respond. Believe me, this is my party planning pet peeve. I always think to myself, ‘haven’t these people ever hosted an event’, because if they have, they should realize how important it is to have an idea of the number of people who will be attending! But the truth is, people just get busy and keep thinking to themselves that they need to let you know and they forget. It’s not that they are trying to make it difficult for you. So, here’s my best tip for the non-RSVP-ers. When there are people you still haven’t hear from by 5-7 days before your party, shoot them an email or send a text that says something like, “Hey, I just wanted to confirm that you received the invite to the party we’re having next Saturday! If so, will you be able to make it? I’m just trying to get an approximate head count so that I have plenty of food and drinks.” Hopefully, then you catch anyone who actually didn’t receive your invitation, and you will remind the others that they forgot to let you know if they can make it.

2. menu list

First decision: Are you cooking, catering or a combination of both? If you are catering, first call ahead and tell the caterer the date of the party and approximate number of guests you’re expecting. Then ask how far ahead you need to place your order and what date would you need to give them the final head count.

If you are cooking, decide whether you plan to do it all by yourself, or if you will recruit any close friends and family to help you out. They are usually very willing to help lighten your load, so take advantage of that and ask for help! There’s no shame in not tackling this alone. It took me years to learn that lesson, so take my advice and accept the help.

Make notes on your menu whether the item is your responsibility, a caterer’s responsibility or the name of your friend or family member who is bringing the dish.

TIP: A lesson it has taken me the longest to learn is that it really doesn’t matter what food you are serving at your party. I promise, it doesn’t. Your friends and family aren’t coming to your event because of the food you will have, they are coming to see you and your family. To get together with people they care about. To support you. So don’t break the bank or work on this event until you are completely exhausted. Part of the fun of the party should really be the planning!

See above video for tutorial/video regarding party lists.


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Decide what kinds of drinks you will be serving. Sodas and water? Are you including beer and wine? Any mixed drinks or hard alcohol? You want to make this part as easy on yourself as possible, so the best route is to plan this so the guests can serve themselves. Make the drinks accessible and easy to find. Here are some examples:

  • Use a large ice chest with ice for sodas. Get a variety, making sure you have at least one type of diet soda and at least one that has no caffeine
  • For water, get some type of large tub. This could be another ice chest, a galvanized drink tub or we’ve even used a cleaned up wheelbarrow! Fill it with ice and bottles of water.  Water will go faster than any other type of drink you have, especially if the weather is warm.
  • If you have kids coming, it’s nice to have a smaller container filled with ice and add a bunch of juice boxes. They love this and the parents are usually happy to see this, as well.
  • If you are having beer and wine, keep the beer in a separate ice chest from your sodas. And for wine, designate a small table or a specific area on your kitchen counter. Put out a few bottles of red wine and a few bottles of white. Have your white wine sitting in ice buckets or some other container that will keep it cold. Put a small towel next to it so that guests don’t have water dripping everywhere when they take it out of the ice to pour it. And make sure you have at least one wine bottle opener handy for guests to use.
  • Finally, if you are having mixed drinks or hard liquor, simplify this as much as possible. For a mixed drink, make something that is easy to make in large batches and put it in a pitcher or large drink dispenser. And then make sure you put a sign or label that says “Contains Alcohol”. I’ll never forgot the year that my 8 year old son, Matthew, came to tell me that the punch I made tasted really yummy. Yes, Mother-of-the-Year, here, looked down and saw a half glass of rum punch in my son’s hand. These were small plastic cups, thankfully, but I still had that sick feeling that Child Protective Services were about to come to my door. Yikes! So, learn from my stupid mistake and label your spiked punch! If you want to just have a few bottles of alcohol sitting out (rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey), put a few bottles of fruit juices next to them so that people can make their own concoction. I would also put a shot glass there, some tonic water/soda water and maybe a bowl of lime wedges.
  • Suggestions on the amounts for wine and beer (I have to warn you that it sounds like a LOT! But I found these amounts in multiple places, so I’m passing it along to you:

10-24 guests: 50 bottles/cans beer; 7 bottles of white wine; 2 bottles of red wine; 4 bottles of sparkling wine

25-34 guests: 75 bottles/cans beer; 7 bottles of white wine; 3 bottles of red wine; 5 bottles of sparkling wine

35-59 guests: 80 bottles/cans beer; 8 bottles of white wine; 5 bottles of red wine; 6 bottles of sparkling wine

60-100 guests: 100 bottles/cans beer; 11 bottles of white wine; 6 bottles of red wine; 6 bottles of sparkling wine


Make a list of decorations that you plan to either buy or make. This could be as simple as picking up a few flowers at the supermarket and putting them into some vases. You could go back and look at the tutorial from my last video on YouTube to make the tinted mason jars or read about it in my blog about a rustic engagement party.

Think about where you want to include decorations and what type of decorations you would like to have (balloons, streamers, table decorations, DIY decorations, premade decorations). If you are making things, note on your list the materials you need to purchase.

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The activities will vary greatly depending on the type of event you are having and the theme of the event. Obviously, a baby shower will have an entirely different set of activities from a barbeque and a birthday party will have a different activities list from a bridal shower. So think about your activities and all of the materials you will need for them, and list them all. Include even the smallest things, for example if you are playing a bridal shower game that requires pens and paper, include those on your list so that you have everything you need when your guests arrive.


The favors list will also be very different for every kind of event, and some events will not include any favors. If you are purchasing personalized favors, you should think about these at least a month in advance so that you are not stressed that they won’t arrive in time. If you are making your own favors, buy your materials ahead and enlist a friend or two to help you assemble them.


You want to have a list of the little things that can be easy to overlook. I’m a big fan of paper plates, no matter the event, because nothing beats the clean up time of everything going in the trash!  For some events, you will want to have a themed design for your plates, napkins and plastic cups. Regardless of what kind of celebration you are planning, if you are serving food, you always need to think about plates, napkins and flatware for both the entrée and the dessert.

If you are serving wine or mixed drinks, it’s always nice to have some cocktail napkins. Make sure to stock up on some extras around the house, such as paper towels, Kleenex tissues, toilet paper.

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When you are having people over, it’s pretty natural to want to have your house looking extra clean and nice. Make your list of all of the things you want to get done a day or two before your event. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms, etc. And if you run out of time, there is absolutely no shame in throwing everything into your bedroom closet and drawers! Nobody should be looking in any of those places, so desperate times lead to desperate measures, am I right? If your kids didn’t clean their rooms like you had asked them to, close their doors! If you have one or two guests that ask for a tour of your house, you walk down the hall with them, point to the closed door and say, “That’s Katie’s room, but she likes her privacy, so we’ll just leave that closed.” Problem solved!


This list is usually for your larger parties, where you really want to have everything in order. I often joke that I’m having a big party just to get stuff done around the house that we’ve been putting off for a while. Perfect time to have your carpets cleaned or fix that broken step on your front porch. Touch up the paint in your hallway or clean out your coat closet (unless that’s where you’re throwing all of your mess during the party!).


This is a list that not many people think of, but it will make your party planning so much more manageable. In fact, I always use this for holiday meal planning, as well. Have you ever felt like timing is almost the hardest part of cooking a meal?  You want your main course to come out of the oven around the same time that your side dishes are ready and your rolls are done, but this isn’t always easy to accomplish.

You can use this list even if you are having part or all of your meal catered. First thing you need to decide is what time you want to eat. I’m going to give you a made up scenario, just to explain how this works. So, let’s say you want to have everyone sitting down to eat (or lining up for your buffet) at 6:00 p.m.. Your main dish is an enchilada casserole that takes 30 minutes to bake but should also sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Your side dishes are Mexican rice, which cooks on the stove for 20 minutes, corn that you are going to cook in the microwave for 10 minutes, a salad that you need to add dressing to and mix up right before eating and a fruit salad that just needs to be brought out of the refrigerator. Basically, you need to work backwards from 6:00 to have things done in time and at, roughly, the same time.

Timeline for menu
Timeline for menu

Earlier the day of the party, or ideally the day before the party, you want to get as much ready as you can. Try to remember that your goal during your party is always to try to spend as much time with your guests and out of the kitchen as possible. So prepare your enchilada casserole the night before your party and refrigerate it. Make your salad and your dressing the morning of your party, but don’t combine them yet.

Get the ingredients for your rice ready by chopping onions ahead of time (if you are using them) and cut up all of your fruit for the fruit salad early in the day. If you will include toppings for your casserole, (maybe sliced olives, sour cream, shredded lettuce…) get them prepared and put them in their individual bowls that you’re serving them in. Picture here is a sample of how I prepare this complete list.

As I mentioned already, your goal should be to enjoy your event/party right along side your guests and have as much time to mingle with them as possible, and the key to this is preparation. Follow my suggestions above by making lists, and I think you will increase the odds of actually getting to participate with your friends/family and relax a little bit when they are all together. I really hope these lists and the details for creating them will help you achieve this goal. Print out the free outlines for the lists, here, and have an organized celebration.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my blog.

Celebrate your day!  xoxo

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