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Party Planning Timeline

The key to planning a party smoothly is to get organized and identify deadlines. We put together this helpful party planning timeline to make the process as simple as possible.

Of course, tweak to fit your party needs!

6-8 Weeks Before the Party

Most important is to select a date, time and location for the party.

If you're planning a child's birthday, ask what type of party they want to have. Discuss the theme possibilities.

Decide on the number of guests and create a guest list.

Now's the time to call to book an dee-jay or entertainer, such as a clown or magician.

If you want personalized invitations, place the order so that they arrive at least 3 weeks before the party for you to send out.

3-4 Weeks Before the Party

Prepare your invitations and mail or hand-deliver them to friends and family.

Put your guest list near the phone so you can easily record responses as invitees call to RSVP.

Ask a favorite babysitter, friend or relative to help out at the party if you're expecting a lot of kids. Or, you can also ask older siblings to help out.

2-3 Weeks Before the Party

Create, select, or find 3 - 6 activities that will entertain children at the party if you're having them. Purchase any supplies needed for the activities you selected.

If you're serving a meal, decide on the menu.

Order a cake (unless you plan to bake one).

1 Week Ahead

Call any invitees who have not responded.

Decide on the schedule for the party. This includes the order of your selected activities, the time you want to serve food and/or cake, and, if it's a birthday party, when the birthday boy or girl will open presents.

Try testing out any games or activities that are new or unfamiliar to you. That way, you won't be in for any unwanted surprises when the game launches at the party.

2-3 Days Ahead

Purchase any pre-prepared food or groceries you plan to serve.

Put the party favor bags together.

Put fresh batteries in your regular or digital camera and/or charge your video camera.

Prepare any crafts/activities that can be set up ahead of time. Be sure to also buy any craft supplies that are needed, too (i.e. glue).

Bake any cookies or treats that can be made ahead and stored until your party.

The Day Before the Party

Clean the party area. Put away items that may be dangerous or distracting, and definitely be sure to put away anything that's valuable or breakable.

If you're ordering a large batch of food such as pizza, call to arrange your order ahead of time so that they can get it to you when you want it at the party.

Confirm with the entertainer and/or any helpers who you've asked to attend to make sure they will arrive on time.

If this is a child's birthday, sit down with your child and discuss his or her expectations for the next day. Tell them to have fun, but still help out directing all their friends to new activities.

Set up any decor you can.

4 to 5 Hours Ahead

Set the table and decorate around your house.

If you are planning a birthday party, put the candles on the cake and place matches nearby.

Get balloons filled/pick up pre-filled latex or Mylar balloons from the local store.

If you're having the party at home, tie some balloons to the mailbox or the front porch to help mark the party location.

If you want to go the extra mile, go to the street corner and write a sign that says "Party This Way".
Place crafts and prizes near the activity location(s).
Locate paper and a pencil for recording gifts (for thank-you notes).

1 to 2 Hours Ahead

Consider putting your pets in an area away from guests.

Get the birthday boy or girl and all children dressed for the party.

Set up the first activity.

Set up the treats you've made on a buffet-style table, because we know there will be hungry guests very soon!

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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Exotic Cocktail Recipe Video Link to video gallery. Upgrade your spring sips with this cocktail tutorial. »

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