How to Plan a Ragin’ Party (AND Have Fun At It Too)

Photos by Nick Barrile
Photos by Nick Barrile

We LOVE parties!

We’ve now both planned (and successfully pulled off) 40th birthday celebrations for our respective husbands.  Side note:  You can see one of Jen’s super fun DIY projects from her hubby’s recent party here.  The process and the outcome were very rewarding, even though at times we felt like we were spinning too many plates.    We learned a lot though, and it was all totally worth it, of course!

After the jump, we’ll share some of our tips for planning a ragin’ party that you can enjoy as much as your guests do.

-Viv and Jen


  1. Plan ahead!  Do as much in advance as you possibly can.  DO AS MUCH IN ADVANCE AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.  Seriously.  We said it twice because it’s important.  Some things to think about:
    • Theme–are you having one?  If so, you’ll want to apply it to all the other aspects of the event where possible.
    • Invitations–paper/snail mail, or electronic?  It’s always nice to plant the seeds of your party theme with the invitation.  Make sure to give guests enough time to plan ahead, and set an RSVP date that will give you enough time to finish party planning.

      Decorations and personal touches go a long way. Photo by
      Decorations and personal touches go a long way. Photo by
    • Decorations–make, purchase, or gather in advance!
    • Activities–photo booth, games, performers?  You can plan ahead for any of these.
    • Appetizers/Snacks–so people don’t starve waiting for the main event.
    • Food–remember the vegetarians!  Also, you don’t have to make it all yourself.  You don’t even have to make any of it yourself.
    • Sweets–obviously you don’t need birthday cake if it’s not a birthday celebration, but you should consider serving some kind of dessert. Unless you’re some kind of MONSTER.  In that case, by all means, don’t serve dessert 😉
    • Beverages–don’t forget water!
    • Ice–you can never have too much.
    • Rentals–do you need to rent any furniture or equipment?  Lock this in EARLY.
    • Tableware–tablecloths, plates, utensils, napkins, cups/glasses.  Sharpies to personalize disposable cups or wine charms for stemware.  Set everything up in advance!
    • Serveware–serving dishes and utensils, pitchers or dispensers for beverages.  Set up in advance and use sticky-notes to remind yourself what food goes in what dish.  This will ensure that you have enough serving dishes and utensils, and that you don’t forget to put out that amazing homemade cheese ball!

      Yes, that IS tofu on the grill.  You gotta take care of ALL your guests, yo!  Photo by Nick Barrile.
      Yes, that IS tofu on the grill. You gotta take care of ALL your guests, yo! Photo by Nick Barrile.
    • Gift Table–even when you say no gifts, people will bring them.  It’s probably rude to chuck them onto a cluttered counter and wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, so show some respect and gratitude by clearing a space just for prezzies.
    • Favors–optional for adult events, but nice for a milestone celebration like an anniversary or a special birthday.  Prepare these ahead of time and set them near the exit so you remember to distribute them when air kissing your guests goodbye.
    • Trash/Recycling–especially important if you’ll have cans, bottles, and/or any disposable tableware.  Label bins clearly and place where people can easily find them so they don’t ask you infinity times where the trash is.
    • Restrooms–just make sure people know where they are.  Signs can preempt a bagillion questions on this subject too.
    • Surprise?–if your event is a surprise party, you’ll have to plan accordingly.  How will you keep the guest of honor busy until the party, and who will bring him or her to the event?  Make sure to let guests know to keep the secret, arrive on time, and park discreetly, too.
    • Miscellaneous–try to think of anything else that will kill your buzz during the party or take you away from the fun, and prepare for it ahead of time so that doesn’t happen.
  2. Keep it as simple as you can.  This doesn’t mean your party has to be lame.  Just don’t try to do more than what’s humanly possible.  Or even what’s you-ly possible.
  3. Make yourself a checklist or to-do-list.  You can use the items in point #1 above as a starting point.  You might even be a spreadsheet kind of planner.  Go for it.  It helps to organize your thoughts and have a visual reminder of what still needs to be done.
  4. Don’t try to do it all yourself.  You’re awesome.  People love you.  When they offer to help, let them.
  5. Have fun.  Make sure you’re done with party prep well in advance so you have plenty of time to get ready.  You’ll enjoy yourself more if you feel like you look your best.  Once the prep is done, you get to party like a rock star!
"iPod" party favors made of candy bars and chocolate kisses for a "40 Rocks" rock-star / music-themed birthday. Photo by Nick Barrile.
Speaking of rock stars: “iPod” party favors made of candy bars and chocolate kisses for the “40 Rocks” music-themed party Viv threw for her hubby. Photo by Nick Barrile.

We hope this is helpful.  If you have tips of your own, let us know in the comments.  We’re always interested in learning more, because WE LOVE THIS STUFF!

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