Party Planning Timeline

By Emily Churchill

Created on June 14, 2016

You are planning a party and want it to be one-of-a-kind, but are unsure where to start. We want to help! The following is a general timeline to get you started. Feel free to follow it exactly, or tweak it to fit the unique personality of the guest of honor!


6 to 8 Weeks Before the Party
  1. Select a date, time and location for the party.
  2. Decide on the number of guests and develop a guest list.
  3. If desired, call to book an entertainer, such as a clown or magician, to occupy children at the party.
  4. Choose a theme for the party.
  5. If you want personalized invitations, place the order so that they arrive at least 3 weeks before the party.
3 to 4 Weeks Before the Party
  1. Prepare invitations and mail or hand-deliver them.
  2. Put your guest list near the phone so you can easily record responses as invitees call to RSVP.
  3. Shop for party supplies.
  4. Ask a favorite babysitter, friend or relative to help out at the party.
2 to 3 Weeks Before the Party
  1. Select 3 - 6 activities to entertain children at the party.
  2. Purchase any supplies needed for the activities you selected.
  3. If serving a meal, decide on the menu.
  4. Order a cake (unless you plan to bake one).
1 Week Ahead
  1. Call any invitees who have not responded.
  2. Decide on the agenda for the party, including the order of your selected activities, what 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.
  3. Try any games or activities with which you are unfamiliar.
2 to 3 Days Ahead
  1. Purchase groceries or any pre-prepared food you plan to serve.
  2. Put the favor bags together.
  3. Charge your video camera and/or put fresh batteries in your regular or digital camera.
  4. Prepare any crafts that can be set up ahead of time.
  5. Bake any cookies or treats that can be made ahead.
The Day Before the Party
  1. Clean the party area. Put away items that may be dangerous or distracting.
  2. Bake or pick up the cake.
  3. If ordering food such as pizza, call to arrange a delivery time.
  4. If necessary, confirm with the entertainer and/or any helpers who you've asked to attend.
  5. Sit down with your child and discuss his or her expectations for the next day.
4 to 5 Hours Ahead
  1. Set the table and decorate.
  2. If you are planning a birthday party, put the candles on the cake and place matches nearby.
  3. Get balloons filled/pick up pre-filled latex or Mylar balloons.
  4. If you're having the party at home, tie some balloons to the mailbox or the front porch to help mark the party location.
  5. Place crafts and prizes near the activity location(s).
  6. Locate paper and a pencil for recording gifts (for thank-you notes).
1 to 2 Hours Ahead
  1. Consider putting your pets in an area away from guests.
  2. Get the birthday boy or girl and all siblings dressed for the party.
  3. Set up the first activity.
  4. Set up the food.
Have a Great Party!  

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