This one's for you. The professional party planner. The amateur party planner. The crafty lady. The Pinterest mom wannabe. A comprehensive list of The Party Planner's Essentials: A to Z brought to you by me, Shannon, an event planner & party stylist as well as some of my favorite party girls from around the internet. Get out a pen and pencil because you're going to want to remember these!
Apron – After running around too many times, losing scissors or searching for my phone for a quick Instagram pic, I decided to have custom aprons made for me and my assistant. I was actually inspired by an incredible wedding planner, Jacin of Lovely Little Details. After seeing her set-up aprons, I went to my favorite seamstress, Kim of SewMidwestern. I told her to whip up something fun and she delivered. Sturdy fabric, lots of deep pockets and cute colors? I’m a fan. - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Basecamp - Basecamp is an online management tool that I share with my clients for planning as well as my staff. When using for clients, I start a new project where I can create To-Do list’s as well as a calendar where it reminds them when tasks are due, for example when payments are due to vendors, or when we have appointments with vendors. We can share files amongst each other where it stays in their file, like their guest lists or lists for out of town delivery bags. It also allows me to create a template to-do list for my wedding client’s where it pre fill’s in what I like to get done in the planning process and when, and then fill in the blanks for each couple. When I use Basecamp for my staff, it is a place where I can add tasks for each client and they can go in and see what needs to be done and leave comments for all the other employees to see, so it makes it more efficient for when I am not in the office and they can know what needs to be done without me having to explain it. There is a monthly fee, but it is so worth it! They also have an app, so I can update tasks for my staff and clients as I think of them. - Stephanie from Couture Parties
Checklist - A checklist is the cornerstone of every party plan ever. It might seem obvious but it's one step that should not be forgotten! Click here for a couple of check lists (including PDF files that can be printed). Obviously, this is a very simplified version of what a party planner does as it's intended for the party host to follow but it gives an idea of all the thought that goes into planning a party as well as the time it takes. Ideally party planning needs to start at least 2 months out. -Tali from A Party Studio
Design – As a designer, there are a number of tools I use when putting together an event. Of course having a floor plan to scale is always ideal – but there have been quite a few times when I’ve been handed a rectangle drawn on a piece of quadrille paper, or worse – been told that there’s not one and no one knows the actual dimensions of the room. For someone who needs to know the ACTUAL placement of a corner, door, or fire escape – these are not ideal, as you can probably imagine. Over the past 15 years, I have come up with some fancy and not so fancy ways of getting the right dimensions.
Of course, the standard answer is to CAD your floor plan. But I’d like to share with you a few alternatives. There are a number of apps I keep on my iPad to focus on Design: MAGICPLAN – I love this app on my iPad for site visits. I can snap a photo of the space and draw a floor plan of each space in minutes. Moleskin - This app is like a virtual sketchpad. I have a different notebook for each job, and if I’m onsite, or in a meeting and want to doodle an idea with a client -or even for those late night bursts of genius- I have it digital, and I’m not searching for the random scrap paper I found in the heat of the moment.
I also like to work the old school way with a drafting board, my stencils and a few sharpened pencils. I spend a lot of time in Hobby Lobby and Michael’s, and found this drafting board that is about 2x3 and perfect for taping up a project sheet and since it’s portable; I can set it aside when I’m not working on it without having to have a full drafting table. This is also a handy tool to bring on a portable easel when you are flipping the room so everyone involved has a large picture of what needs to go where. This method served me quite well when I was dealing with a room with rounded walls that were neither an oval nor a rectangle! - Heather from Event Style by HMP
Embellishments - I'm a girl who loves all things crafty! I would rather take an ordinary picture frame and bling it out than buy one for $12 from a store. Taking a simple length of twine and creating a ribbon banner to hang onto a basket to be used as a decorative focal point on a dessert table makes me giddy! I'm also a sucker for pinwheels and rosettes! Don't forget the fact that there is a WHOLE lot that can be done with stickers! Using embellishments to upgrade an ordinary items is definitely one fab way that I add my own personal stamp on my party styling! What's your favorite embellishment?
Here's my Top 10 list of my must have embellishments for parties: Sparkle or Pearl Bling, Dimensional Stickers, Ribbon (Grosgrain & Ric Rac Preferred), Buttons, Glitter Tape, Cabochon flowers, Washi Tape, Twine, Festooning Trim and Rosettes -Keisha from Cupcake Wishes & Birthday Dreams
Fishing Line – You can't have a party toolbox without fishing line. It's super strong, almost invisible and the best part? Really cheap. Those tissue poms you've seen everywhere in the last few years? They wouldn't be possible without the powers of fishing line. - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Glue Dots –
My party tool/secret is GLUE DOTS! I love them and use them in so many different ways!
GLUE DOTS can be found at craft stores and come in packs of 200 or 500 usually. They make large GLUE DOTS and mini GLUE DOTS! Another way I use GLUE DOTS is to attach signs to stretched canvas to create a sign that can be changed and re-used...simply remove the sign from the GLUE DOTS and make another to suit the next occasion! GLUE DOT adhesives are multi-purpose and fabulous to use for party decorations and crafting! I hope you find them useful, too!
- Lydia from The Party Wagon
Hand Truck - It only took one event where I was on my own with large heavy boxes to carry down a city block before I hightailed it to Lowes and treated myself to a hand truck. Since then, I've loaded three or more large storage bins full of serveware, apothecary jars and more onto my hand truck and transported my stuff all over the place, super quick and with no residual back pain :) - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Ink - Using printables to pull your party together is key. You can make it look like you spent months planning by spending a little time printing and assembling. Cover water and soda bottles with custom wrappers, top cupcakes and appetizers with custom picks, use food tent cards, string banners big and small, make table signs, top cakes, wrap candy bars, add flags to straws. I once did a spa party where I wrapped all of the inexpensive bath products to match and put custom spa labels on each. The party was very luxe looking and you would never think most of it came from the dollar store. When you use a great printable set it pulls your theme through out and makes it look like you went the extra mile. It is inexpensive and simple for everyone. When I plan a party the first thing I do is create my printable design and then I plan everything else around it. -Sara from The Homespun Hostess
Jute Twine - When Shannon asked me about my party planning essential, one thing came to mind. I was thrilled when the letter J was open so that I could share it with the world. That essential is the humble jute twine. In 2010, when I first started Spaceships and Laser Beams, I purchased some beautiful and expensive ribbons to dress up cake stands, tie tags on favors and string banners. What I quickly realized is that I could never have a viable business if I was going to eat up my entire profit margin buying ribbon.
Enter a trip to my local dollar store. While I was looking for cheap ribbon that wouldn’t look cheap (not easy), I took a wrong turn down the hardware aisle. I found the rolls of jute twine and grabbed one thinking it could be an option. Instead, it became my immediate go-to item. In fact, I rarely purchase ribbon anymore. It’s hard to justify the cost when the jute twine is $1 for about 25 yards or more.
I knew the twine would work well for woodland, camping, insect and more rustic parties because if its color and texture. What I didn’t realize until I started working with it is that the twine also looks great for classically beautiful themes. It adds a really nice juxtaposition – ensure things don’t become too precious. - Stephanie from Spaceships and Laser Beams
Kraft Paper - One staple in every event stylist's stash is KRAFT paper! Not only does it serve many purposes, it is very affordable at only $1 a roll and very easy to work with. My favorite use for Kraft paper is for wrapping gifts. I often keep it on hand at my events for those that forget to wrap or simply run out of time before the big bash. Needing only a pair of scissors and a roll of tape, I can easily whip out a gorgeous gift from the trunk of my car. And have you seen the PRINTED Kraft paper that's been rolling out lately? A frugal stylists dream, really. I also love to use Kraft paper as a table runner for crafts such as painting, baking, and general sticky messes. It's also fabulous when used as a menu to direct those guests to their favorite eats waiting for them on the table. Simply place your platters, grab a maker and adorn the paper runner in your best calligraphy-Esq handwriting! It also works great as a backdrop, providing a neutral start to create until your heart's content. -Megan from Confetti Couture Events
Lighting - Although this may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a party, lighting is a key component to making your party look the best that it possibly can. For instance, I made the mistake of setting up a dessert table backdrop that covered up the only natural light in the party space for my son’s first birthday. This darkened the entire room and despite my photographer’s best efforts with editing, the pictures just weren’t quite right. Whenever you have the option to, be sure to take full advantage of natural light. If you are setting up your party outside, do your best to scout out a location that is evenly lit and be aware of any shadows that appear at the time of day that your party is going to be held. If you are hosting your party indoors, make sure to use natural light to your full advantage by setting up your dessert table right next to or across from any windows in your party space. I hope you find this helpful. Happy party planning! xoxo - Tara from One Stylish Party
Mason Jar - we are constantly looking for economical ways to design a party and still make it beautiful and affordable to our clients pockets. Mason Jars are a great way to display Photos, use as a Centerpieces with flowers, or packaging for Favors! We are constantly using Mason Jars, they can be spray painted, wrapped in ribbon, or tinted. They give you flexibility as to your design without ever breaking you budget! -Carmen and Grace from Sweet Inspirations Events
Neutral Serveware- For the first kid's party I planned, rather than purchase throw-away paper plates, I spent a little more and bought reusable, white plastic plates from Party City. These plates have come in handy for so many events and for many different uses: 1. Line them with patterned paper to add more thematic color to your dessert table. 2. Embellishing with ribbon and a food label, also adds a subtle but detailed touch to your sweets. 3. Use them as dinner/dessert plates. The neutral color takes a backseat to the party decor, allowing the important items to stand out. These plates have also been used for many adult and holiday parties as well...one of the best "investments" I made when I started out. - Wendy from Green Beansie Ink
Organized - If you are a party planner or someone who likes to craft, you must be organized. Back when I started my business 4 years ago, I worked in our den. We had a bed in there for our guests. I put up a folding table and you’d always find it a mess :) I’d like to include that it took me almost a year to decorate this room. I’m thrifty so I had to find the right pieces at a great price from craigslist, Goodwill, IKEA, etc. Here are some pics of the “before” & “after”. I love my craft room! I’m so much more efficient now that I know where everything is. I encourage you to start getting organized. You will love it! Stop by my blog to read all the details & see more photos- http://atozebracelebrations.com/2011/02/craft-room.html
- Nancy from A to Z Celebrations
Printer -We “party girls” use a lot of tools; double stick tape, glue guns, scissors, fishing wire, things you would never believe, and we all have out favorites. One of the things I could not live without is my printer. It's an Epson Expression Premium XP-800 and I use it for printing my lists, invoices, banners, photos, and of course, invitations. I love my printer. It’s quiet, small, easy to use, the color is spot on, and it doesn't jam. Epson sent it to me over the summer and I did a review of it here on my blog. Best printer I have owned so far. What makes my printer even better is the fact that it scans and copies. I have never had the ability to copy anything at home and I didn’t realize how much I would use that feature. I have warned my friends and family that I have a scanner again and I’m not afraid to use it…watch out for Throwback Thursday! There are many tools in my party tool box but this is one of my favorites! - Kylie from Made by a Princess
Quantity - Once the decision has been made to provide food or desserts at an event, the first and most important factor is the quantity of food. Whether you are working with a limited budget or throwing the dream event, your guests will remember the food more than almost every other detail. Of course you want to serve delicious, beautiful, high quality food. But ensuring you have enough for each guest is critical to a great memory for guests and clients. Good caterers and food vendors will have suggestions of how to make the most of the food being offered and ways to meet your budget. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to quantity of food: 1) Serve the right type of food for the time of day- guests will have expectations of what will be served based on the time of day of the event, 2) Over-estimate your number of guests, and 3) The event coordinator for the venue or catering company will know the food and menu well. Trust their suggestions on how much to order. - Kimberley from Kimberley’s Kitchen
Receipts - It's easy to bury your head into the sand while you plan your party, purchasing things over the course of a few months (or more) and ignoring the climbing total. No one wants to think about how much they're spending, that's not fun at all. But if you're running a business, you need to keep track of what's coming in and what's going out. Every time I make a party purchase, the receipt gets thrown into a bin. At the end of the month, I categorize it and file it away. Then come April 15, my accountant doesn't want to kill me. - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Schematic - I draw up a small schematic for each of the parties and events that we do. We are a mobile business so our events are always at our client’s homes or venue so before the event date, I visit the venue or my client has sends me photos of the space. We work with very tight timelines due to having multiple events in a day so knowing exactly where each table, chair, prop and decoration goes saves time and reduces stress. If I am at another event, I can also have my assistants set up a party space and the schematic totally takes the guest work out. For a less stressful and fun event set up, it is essential to at least have the frame work of your layout already laid out! If you are planning a party yourself, this can also be a huge help to you! There are always a million things that come up the day of your party and knowing how you want your party to look is a lifesaver. The key is to do the prep work so that you can truly enjoy your party and your guests. -Jamila from Parties on Purpose
Team – I know it's hard to relinquish control over your precious party designs because really, how will anyone else know what has been building in your head for months? But if you can bring together a few talented people who can take your supplies and run with it, you will be golden. In my experience, people always want to help with parties but some of them end up being hindrances. Stopping to ask you for your opinion constantly or asking 15 questions is not productive. You need self starters who you have confidence in, but who also have confidence in themselves, to get the party set-up completed in the time allotted and according to plan. It may sound harsh but most parties are running on a strict timeline and you need the right team to come in and make the plans come to life. Pick wisely. I did. (Thanks Kristen!) - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Uniqueness - Every event planner needs to have their own “Unique” style… One will find certain looks trending the party scene over and over on Pinterest, Facebook and the internet. However, a “Unique” planner is one that can re-create that same look the client is looking for but with their own personalized twist which is what makes that planner stand out. -Silvia from Classy Detailed Events & Creations
Vehicle - You may not have a ton of control over your vehicle but as a professional event planner, I've thanked my lucky stars for having the right vehicle countless times. Having the room to fold down seats and fill my crossover SUV with storage boxes, signage, pvc pipe displays and floral arrangements is imperative. Of course, renting a van or uhaul is always an option too but if you need to do so, you'll need to remember to build that into your budget (or your client's). - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Wardrobe Change - We all want to look professional if we're working on a client's party but set-up and execution is grueling work. There is a lot of heavy lifting and physical labor. Contrary to what some might think, it's not all picking out cute cupcake liners :) If you're setting up a client party, wear appropriate clothes to get dirty and sweaty in (yoga pants or leggings and a decent t-shirt) then bring your event outfit to change into. - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Xacto Knife - My party tool box essential is the ever loyal X-acto Knife, every party I do I use it in some way! I have used my Sure Grip Utility Knife to cut through foam core or more detailed work like cutting around a graphic where scissors just won't fit with my Original #11 Blade X-acto. A $5 investment and you will never view detailed cutting the same again! -Kenna from Miss Party Mom
Yardage - Fabric is at the heart of party planning isn't it? From dessert table backdrops to tablecloths to backgrounds for staging your Instagram shots (can we admit to that?), fabric always makes events look a bit classier (versus using plastic anything) and can really bring a theme to life or make your supplies pop. Having a good stash of fabric on-hand will benefit you tremendously! Get yourself some burlap, some sequins and a selection of basic blacks and whites and you'll be off to a good start. - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Zipties - Ever stood on top of a ladder and tried to figure out how to tie your handy fishing line around a fixture without falling off? Or some other precarious position? Well I have. And it's zipties to the rescue! With a quick snap, zip ties will hold your material in place, tightly and securely. Add these cheap supplies to your arsenal right now! They are lifesavers! - Shannon from Bottle Pop Party Co.
Obviously this isn't a comprehensive list because hello...glue gun? It's permanently attached to my right hand. So what do you have to add to our party planning arsenal??