As professional event planners, Emerald Events knows a good party-planning checklist. Here’s a checklist we made just for you that’s customizable, printable, and helpful, with steps for pulling off a great cocktail party or other celebratory event at your home.
THE PARTY-PLANNING CHECKLIST
Three Weeks Ahead
Make an invite list: try to be thoughtful with your guest list and make sure you have space for everyone.
Pick a theme, if you like: It’s fun to make, buy, or borrow decor, clothes and music to fit your chosen theme
Send invitations: You can send them via snail mail, email, or over the phone.
Plan menu : Choose recipes and keep in mind it’s simpler if you choose ones that can be made ahead and even frozen! Make note of how far ahead you can make each recipe, and make a master grocery shopping list.
Hire a few helping hands: You could hire a teenage neighbour or a professional to help with pre- or post-party cleaning, serving food or drinks. The extra helping hands can really take the weight off your shoulders.
Two Weeks Ahead
Clean dishes and linens: Clean any crystal, china, and silverware you plan to use. Launder any napkins, tablecloths or other linens, too.
Make a mood-boosting playlist: your party music should be uplifting, last long enough for all-night enjoyment, and themed right for the crowd and occasion. If you’re not much of a music buff, you can find readymade playlists online.
First round of grocery shopping and some cooking: Are there any dishes that can be frozen? Make them now so you can tick them off the list!
One Week Ahead
Clean your house frmo top to bottom: If you do the BIG clean a week ahead, all you’ll need to before the big party is tidy and freshen things up.
Arrange your furniture and space: To optimize mingling, bartending, and seating, make a plan to rearrange furniture and designate certain tabletops for drinks, appies, food, etc. Tuck things away that are taking up too much space. And don’t forget the lighting—low-watt bulbs and candlelight can really make the atmosphere.
Tally your cookware and dishes: If you’re short on any, buy inexpensive pieces from thrift or discount stores. You can even use post-it’s to label which dishes you’ll use and for what.
Stock up your bar: Plan for more than enough wine and cocktails for each guest. Make sure you have enough alcohol for 3-4 cocktails per guest for a standard evening cocktail party.
Three Days Ahead
Alert the neighbours: Let them know you’re having a party if it’s a big one and might be a little noisy.
Start decorating: Arrange candles, put up themed decorations, and any other special decor items.
Make a spills clean-up station: For unexpected party spills and messes, keep a box of salt, stain remover, club soda, and a few clean rags in a basket close by.
Clear your close for coats: Make space in a closet and fill it with hangers. You could also choose a bed for coats (make sure the room is especially tidy and free of valuables, so you won’t need to worry about them), or purchase an inexpensive portable garment rack.
Finish grocery shopping: Pick up the rest of the ingredients you need and start making final preparations.
One Day Ahead
Set up the tables: or set up your buffet if you’re doing that instead.
Flowers!: Buy them, arrange them, and place them throughout your space.
Give your house a quick clean and tidy: Really just touching up and tidying.
And finally, the day of the party
Finish last-minute cooking: Almost everything should be pre-cooked and ready at this stage, so don’t leave much cooking to day-of!
Set up the chairs: You don’t have to worry about being short on seats—less encourages mingling!
Set the tables, put some food out: An hour or two ahead, set out appies and snacks that won’t spoil. Lastly, make sure to wrap them tightly to keep fresh, and unwrap them before guests arrive.