Planning a birthday party can feel overwhelming, but it’s not if you break it down into small tasks.
Follow this timeline for the weeks and days leading up to the party and for the party agenda itself, and the event should run smoothly.
1. Six to Eight Weeks Before the Party
- Sit down with your child and choose a party theme. Begin brainstorming how you’ll incorporate the theme into the decorations, cake, favors and other party details.
- Set a date.
- Book a venue or entertainment, if desired.
- Order invitations.
- Set a budget.
- Write up a guest list.
- Begin shopping for gifts for the birthday kid.
2. Three to Five Weeks Before the Party
- Buy stock invitations from a retail store if you didn’t pre-order some.
- Write and send out the invitations. Be sure to include the party’s start and end time, your phone number, directions to the party location and the party’s theme.
- If your child still naps, set the party time with that in mind. Toddlers, for example, often nap between 1 and 3 p.m., so hold a party for that age group either in the morning or late afternoon.
- Shop for party supplies. Order items online if you can’t find them locally.
3. Two Weeks Before the Party
- Make or buy the party favors.
- Settle on a menu.
- Order the cake (give yourself more lead time for this if you’re ordering from a busy bakery).
- If you have a young child, consider asking a friend or relative or hiring a babysitter to watch your child on the morning of the party so you have time to focus as you decorate and prepare the final details of the day.
- Decide what types of activities or games will be part of the party’s agenda, then buy or make any necessary supplies.
- Decide what the favors will be and then either buy or make them.
4. Three to Seven Days Before the Party
- Call any invitees who haven’t R.S.V.P.’d.
- Write a rough agenda for the party. See the 2-hour agenda below for guidance.
- Confirm the entertainer and venue, if applicable.
- See if your child would be willing to donate some of his or her old toys to charity. Doing so is a nice gesture, and it also makes room for the new toys that are about to arrive.
5. Two Days Before the Party
- Shop for groceries and do prep work on any menu items that won’t spoil.
- Wrap birthday gifts.
- If you’re serving pizza or something similar, place your order.
- Arrange to have a neighbor or friend watch your pets during the party. Doing so is less stressful for the animals and helpful if any of the guests have allergies or fears.
- Buy any party supplies you still need, such as plates, napkins, cups, dinnerware, toothpicks, matches or candles.
6. One Day Before the Party
- Charge your camcorder and camera batteries.
- Rent any movies you’ll be showing at the party.
- Clean the party area.
- Make the cake or confirm your order with the bakery.
7. On the Morning of the Party
- Confirm pizza delivery or other food arrangements.
- Finish any other food prep work.
- If you choose, drop off your child at a friend, relative or baby sitter’s house so you can focus on the party details.
- Drop off your pet at a neighbor or friend’s house, if that has been prearranged.
- Pick up balloons, if using, and the cake, if ordering.
- Decorate the party area.
- Set up the games or other activities.
- Put out the party favors.
- Place a sign in your yard or tie balloons to your front door to help guests find your house.
8. Just Before the Party Starts
- Pick up your child, if she or he is still at a friend's house.
- Set out the food and drinks.
- Turn on some music.
- Set out the candles and matches, so you’re not scrambling to find them when everyone’s ready to sing “Happy Birthday.”
- Place your camera and camcorder in an easily accessible spot.
- Set out a notepad and pen so you can write down the gifts that were given, which will be helpful when it comes time to write thank you cards.
- Take some photos of the party scene and cake in case things get too busy once the guests arrive.
9. A Sample Two-Hour Party Agenda
- 0:00-0:15 Everyone arrives
- 0:15-0:30 Guests eat snacks or meals
- 0:30-0:50 Play organized games
- 0:50-1:10 Birthday kid opens presents
- 1:10-1:30 Sing Happy Birthday and eat cake
- 1:30-2:00 Unorganized play time. Say goodbye.
10. After the Party
- Clean the house or party area.
- Return any rented equipment.
- Settle any bills with entertainers or venues.
- Store gift bags so they can be used again.
- Throw away gift wrap and recycle any paper or cardboard that can be.
- Write and send thank you cards within two weeks of the party. If you can, include a photo of your child enjoying each guest’s gift.