Big parties come around only once or twice a year, so start planning your big party long before the big event. This party planning checklist can help you remember the key steps:

  1. Deciding On the Size and Location
  2. Picking the Date
  3. Making a Guest List
  4. Sending Invitations
  5. Receiving RSVPs
  6. Selecting a Menu
  7. Fun Nametags for Everyone
  8. Decorating For the Party
  9. Have fun!

So, let’s get to it!

Deciding On the Size and Location

Some parties are best when kept small and at home, but large holiday parties sometimes work best when you invite people from across your many lists of friends, associates, and co-workers. It’s difficult to hold a large party at home or in an office setting, so consider renting a meeting room at a restaurant or banquet facility.

Picking the Date

Many people attend several December holiday parties, so guests need to know about your party several weeks ahead of time. This means during the first week in December you’ll be busy picking a date and location for your party.

Caution:  Check the local events calendar for conflicting community events. Also check with one or two friends to see if they know of an event or party already scheduled on the date you picked.

Making a Guest List

First, decide how many people should be on your guest list. If you’re holding a sit-down dinner keep in mind that you will be able to accommodate fewer people than at a casual get together. Then, get out your personal address book, list of co-workers, and membership directories for the organizations you and your significant other belong to. If you find your list is bigger than the number of people you can accommodate, contact your organizations and groups to see if they have scheduled a party — that’s where you might be able to see those people.

Sending Invitations

In the past, it was common to mail printed invitations. The crush of December mail, such as greeting cards and gifts, means your invitations may not arrive with enough time for you to receive an RSVP from everybody.

These days, it has become acceptable to use an online invitation and RSVP system. In addition to sending e-mail invitations for delivery exactly when you specify, online event registration systems track each person’s RSVP so you’ll know who responded, whether they’re coming, and who has not responded and needs a follow-up phone call.

You should e-mail party invitations as early in December as possible so guests can add your party to their calendar — and RSVP sooner. Don’t be too early — you might want to make sure Halloween and Thanksgiving definitely pass before you send out Christmas or Holiday party invitations 🙂

Whether you use an online party invitation and RSVP service or send printed invitations through the mail, your invitation needs to include:

  • Date and time of the party
  • Location of the party, including the physical address and Zip Code — plus a link to an online map
  • Indicate whether it’s OK to bring additional people
  • Indicate whether the dress is casual, fancy, or semi-formal.
  • Describe any activities such as singing, games, or other party activities
  • Clearly describe how to reserve their spot at the party!

If you’re not sure how to describe appropriate dress for your party, here are a few typical descriptions:

  • Strict black-tie
  • Black-tie optional
  • Festive attire
  • Casual holiday attire
  • Anything but blue jeans
  • Dress however you like
  • Dress to be comfortable

Receiving RSVPs

When mailing printed invitations was the only way to request an RSVP, people who weren’t planning to attend simply didn’t reply. The reason is that many people don’t know RSVP is a request for a “yes or no” reply — not simply a request to “let me know if you’re planning to come.”

And, for those people who do know what RSVP means, who wants to call a friend on the phone and say you can’t attend their annual holiday party!

An online RSVP service helps solve this problem because it’s easy for each guest can respond with a “yes” or “no” with just a few mouse clicks.

And, since there are benefits for guests responding to an online invitation and RSVP request, they are encouraged to respond.

If you are planning a potluck dinner, tell everyone in your invitation to enter a note on their RSVP about what they’re bringing. Since every guest will be able to see what others are bringing, they’ll know what not to bring.

Selecting a Menu

Food is always expected at a party, but it can be anything from a public party where everybody brings a dish, to a fancy sit-down dinner. If you like to cook and prepare food and appetizers four parties, start planning what you will fix. However, if you’re the type who prefers to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, consider the potluck approach, contacting the deli department at a local supermarket, or a catering service to prepare food for your party. Whichever approach you use, make it fun for you so it will be fun for everyone.

Keep in mind that many people have food allergies or require special diets, so make it clear on your invitation that people with special needs should contact you early to make sure there is something for them, too. For example you find vegetarians, people allergic to shrimp, and people were allergic to dairy products or gluten.

Also remember to have nonalcoholic drinks available for those who do not drink alcohol. And even though it doesn’t happen often, have a plan for how to handle a guest who may not be able to drive home safely. Ride sharing or Uber could be convenient solutions.

Identifying Guests with Nametags

How many times have you been to a party where you accompanied a friend or significant other — and you knew practically no one?

There are several things you can do to make it easy for everyone to at least know the name of everyone else at your party. First, in your online RSVP service, turn on the feature that allows guests to see a list of other guests prior to your event. This helps everyone see the names of each person expected to attend, which makes it easier to network once they’re at your party.

Next, have everyone wear a nametag at your party. This makes it easy for newcomers to the group to attach a name to a person. It also makes it easy for your core group to speak to spouses and others who they may not yet know.

The easiest way to use nametags is just have every guest write their own as they arrive. You can also print nametags ahead of time by downloading the names from your online RSVP service and use a word processing program like Microsoft Word to print on sheets of Avery self adhesive name badge labels.

The most innovative nametag I’ve seen is the Etch-It Party Cups (www.etch-it.com) that serve a dual purpose — identify the person holding the cup and keep everyone from using someone else’s cup.

Decorating For the Party

Decorating for a holiday party can range from simple to elaborate. If you frequently enter your community’s decorating contest, then you’ll be all set for your party. However, if you are more casual about holiday decorating, don’t go overboard just for your party.

Remember that your guests are coming to be with you and other guests — not to judge your decorating ability.

Have fun!

Once it’s party time and everyone arrives, take time to visit with each guest and make them feel at home.

With everything well-planned you’ll find that everyone will enjoy themselves — and so will you!