It’s often said that a wedding reception is really just a big party. And while most wedding receptions, even casual ones, are a bit more formal and scripted than your average shindig, the fundamentals are still there. With that in mind, let’s discuss the basics of how to throw a great party!
Don’t Overthink It
The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to parties is making them way more complicated than it needs to be. You don’t have to do this! You don’t need a theme, nor do you need decorations. All you require is: 1) people 2) food 3) drinks 4) music. That’s it. It’s really is that simple. And honestly, you just need 1 and 2. The rest…well, know what kind of music and booze your friends and family like. If you DO want a theme, you can keep that simple as well, or you can just give your party a cool or fun name.
Make the Guest List, Then Start Inviting People
Generally speaking, the closer it gets to the wedding date, the longer the wedding acceptance list becomes. Remember that the invite should include a start and end time, and needs to indicate if it’s an open house drop-in event, or something more formal. If the party features a dress code, include this information as well.
Set the Budget and Create a Menu
You don’t have to spend a lot to have an amazing party. Think about where you want to have it among other factors and come up with a budget that’s reasonable and still lets you throw the get-together you want. Also try to plan menus that can be prepped/made ahead of time as much as possible, which saves money and aggravation. Unless you’re advertising a full meal, people probably aren’t expecting one, so snacks will suffice.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The first thing to do when planning a party is to create master lists (guest list, food and drink menu with ingredients, supplies to rent and purchase, and staffing needs if applicable) and then a timeline. Order all supplies immediately, and consolidate as they arrive. Stick supplies in a box marked “supplies for XX party.” Schedule rental orders to be picked up the day before the party, and book any staff well in advance so you’re not scrambling to make those arrangements the week of the event. Beverages can usually be purchased in advance, while food has to wait until a few days before to purchase, though shelf stables such as crackers are an obvious exception. Break up the two days before the party and the day of the party into specific, by-the-hour prep times: shopping, cooking, cleaning, setting up, leaving time to get dressed and put makeup on. The final timeline should look something like this:
- 4–6 months prior: Set party date.
- 3 months prior: Put together guest list, budget, and figure out the basic structure and timeline.
- 6–8 weeks prior: Plan the menu; order anything you’re purchasing; put in your rental order.
- 4–6 weeks prior: Send invites; book staff; buy alcohol.
- 3 weeks prior: RSVP reminder (repeat as necessary).
- 2 weeks prior: Finalize shopping list for food, and make a schedule for week and day-of prep.
Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if friends and family are offering! Also remember to avoid stressing yourself out as much as possible, and to enjoy the party!