2 Sep 2014

Party Planning Step 1 - Planning

I've mentioned previously I wanted to do a little series on Planning a Party. The concept of throwing a party isn't that hard, it's the organisation and follow through process which put people off. You don't know how many times I've asked friends who were in the middle of planning their party, and hearing how original ideas have been scaled down or even thrown out of the window. 

Purpose of these posts is to share the thought process of a serial organiser and maybe help you with your next party planning process. In these series of posts I will be using Kai's 1st birthday party as a reference point in my examples. 

1. Type of Celebration
Firstly you need to decide what type of party or celebration you're prepared to throw. Do you want to just have a small gathering at home, lunch at a favourite restaurant, hire a hall, BBQ at a park, host it in a children's play centre? Are you prepared to do most of the preparation and cooking; or do you want to outsource most of the work with say a caterer; or go somewhere where everything is all done for you and you just have to turn up?

There are so many options these days its really up to you as the host, how and where you want to throw your party at. Usually your budget dictates this decision and something you should take into consideration straight up. Do you want to splurge or stick to a particular budget? Regardless of where you host your party you need to give your budget a small buffer for other party costs like decorations, cake, invitations ... I'll talk about identifying your party costs later. 

2. Guest List
Start writing down names of who you want to invite to your party. This will allow you to gauge your guest numbers. I usually start a spreadsheet at this point, writing down each potential guest's name so I can determine how many adults, children and infants could potentially be coming. Knowing this rough information is important for requesting quotes with vendors.  

It's really hard to keep guest numbers down. For some people who to invite to a party is a no brainer others struggle to cull names. You can always change invitees at a later stage. 

3. Venue Research
Given you have decided not to throw party in your own home, start researching the type of venues you want to host your party at. For Kai's I decided to host it at a community hall so I started looking at ones around new residential estates because those halls would be newer, therefore have more modern fixtures equipped for parties. Most community halls are managed by the council's they belong in so check the councils website for more information and to make inquires. Other things to consider:
  • Halls are like wedding reception venues now. The popular halls do get booked out months in advance. So if you have a hall in mind start making inquiries if it is available.
  • Obtain, read and understand all the terms and conditions relating to hire. For example some halls have a no alcohol policy. You usually have to sign some form anyways stating you have read and accept the terms and conditions relating to hall hire. Read them.  
  • Most halls have a booking fee and a bond amount which, should be refunded given hall is returned to original state you got it and nothing was damaged. The hiring price may play a factor in your decision as to where to host party at. For example a new community hall was available at The Ponds for the date I wanted however, it was $100 more than the hall we actually went with. 
Other tips when deciding on a venue:
  • When you have decided where you want to have your party at, you probably have a venue in mind. However also start thinking of second, third options or brain storming similar venues just in case your first option isn't available or not within your budget range.  
  • Cost of having party at venue. Regardless of where the party venue will be, there's usually a cost. Some parks charge a fee to reserve an area, play centres charge at a per head cost etc. Once you have identified a few venues you would consider hosting your party start contacting them to find out the cost to have your party there.
The process of deciding on venue may take you a few days or  weeks depending on how quickly the venue replies to your function request. Bare minimum you need to ask venue:
  • Date you want is available.
  • Cost of hiring hall; or cost per child at play centre; or group booking at restaurant etc.
  • What is included with costs. 
  • Send you their terms and conditions of booking. Is there a deposit you need to make to secure your function, any cancellation fees etc.
Some tips to minimise costs:
  • Ask for a discount for your group booking. At restaurants and child play centres even though they have stated they have a per head / per child fee, there's no harm in asking for a further discount, especially if you have a large number of guests. Any party of 20 plus people is considered a large group in my opinion, so I would ask for a discount if my party is larger than this number. Venue may say no but at least I asked, and you might be surprised by their response.
  • Ensure kids aren't being charged adult prices.
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