How to Plan a Party: Awesome Birthday Bash

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How to Plan a PartyBirthday parties are exciting events, but planning them can often be stressful. So today I’m sharing some awesome ideas on how to plan a birthday party. In advance, I must state that when I’m planning a birthday party for kids, these events involve elaborate themes and organized activities. I’m very comfortable with throwing large parties of 50 plus guests. But parties of any size and budget are fun, festive, and need not break the bank. Don’t feel pressured to go large-scale or fancy if that doesn’t fit your own comfort zone and style. My advice is to take away the ideas and tips you find useful, and just leave the rest. So ready…set…go! Here’s how to plan a birthday party with style.


Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links for beautiful party supplies that can make your next event awesome. If you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a small commission (your cost will not be affected). Thank you! I’m so grateful for your support of this site.

sweet shoppe candy party supplies

First things first! Party planning should begin with setting a proper budget. Keep in mind that there may be some last-minute unplanned expenses, so all party budgets should have a bit of wiggle room.


For the highest rate of guest attendance, Saturdays are the best time to throw a birthday party. When deciding on the time for your event, consider whether or not you want to serve a full meal (lunch or dinner), or just snacks like fruit and popcorn, drinks and desserts. If your party begins between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m, guests will assume that lunch will be provided. If your party begins around dinner time or extends into the dinner hour, plan on serving your guests dinner.

[bctt tweet=”Birthday Trivia: The highest number of birthday celebrations occur in the month of August.” via=”no”]


How many guests would you like to invite? The total number of guests you invite should be a manageable number so that everyone – including you as the host – can have a great time. Expect that 85% of the guests you invite to the party will be able to attend the event. But only 60% of your guests will RSVP.

Birthday Express

When planning a birthday party for a young child, the general guideline for party planning is to invite as many children as as your child’s age plus one more. If the birthday child will be turning age 4, invite 5 children to the birthday party. But for me, I tossed that number out the window! Here’s my party philosophy: The more the merrier.

Peppa Pig birthday party supplies

Something you’ll want to keep in mind when planning a child’s party is that many parents will want to stay at the party with their child. Whether they want to linger to supervise their child or just stay and get chatty with other parents, accommodating these extra guests will require extra space as well as extra food, drinks, cake, and paper products. And then comes the really tricky part. Whether or not you expect it, some parents may actually bring or drop off uninvited siblings. I know, this sounds rude and hard to believe, but seriously it DOES happen. If this situation is not something you’re okay with, or if it will result in going over budget, especially in the case of costly activities, I highly recommend including wording such as “sorry, no siblings please” in the RSVP section of the birthday invitation.


Will the birthday party be held at your home? Will the event be indoors or outdoors? How large of a venue will you need for the number of guests you are planning to invite? If the birthday party will be held at a place other than your home, for activity venues call in advance to see how much the cost is per person, or the same in the case of a rented room or party hall. Right away you’ll discover whether or not this is a viable option in terms of your budget.

How to Plan a Party: Kids BirthdayIf you’re planning to hold the birthday party at a public park or a neighborhood community center, call the city in advance to check on availability and the cost of a permit. We’ve unfortunately seen birthday parties derailed at a park when one family settles into a prime area, decorates it and sets up a beautiful party only to discover mid-event that the area was reserved and paid for by another party who has a use permit.


The next step in party planning is to select a fabulous birthday party theme. This is really fun to do and generates anticipation and excitement for the upcoming event. A a collection of the hottest birthday party themes for babies and toddlers, children, teens, and adults are covered in depth on our birthday party themes page. Put your own unique spin on whichever party theme you choose and let your imagination flow.


Mustache Man Party by Birthday Express

Lovely invites will set the tone and theme for your birthday party celebration. I love selecting gorgeous, adorable party invites.

Mustache Man Party by Birthday Express


Birthday Bash Snacks and Desserts

Food and drinks can easily eat up the largest portion of your party budget. If you’re a member of a big box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, I advise that you head on over and price out all food and drink items that will be needed from top to bottom. Factor in the cost of bags of ice that will be a last-minute purchase on the day of the party. Select foods that can be prepared the day before or can be easily put together the day of the big event.


How to Plan a Party: Dessert Table

Let’s talk cake! If you have your heart set on a fancy dessert table as the main centerpiece of the party, or an awesome birthday cake that you saw on Pinterest, start contacting bakeries now to find out exactly how much the cake and bakery items will cost and how far in advance they must be ordered.

Specialty cakes, cookies and treats are stunningly gorgeous. The crowning area of a birthday party bash is usually the dessert table with beautifully staged items to include the birthday cake on a lovely cake stand surrounded by tiny bite-size desserts, cookies and treats. These baked goods are artfully arranged to include beautiful birthday party decorations and paper products that enhance the birthday party theme.


How to Plan a Party: Face Painting

Research fun party activities that fit the birthday party theme. If there will be live entertainment such as a performer, face painter, jump house, clown or magician, be sure to book this out several weeks in advance. Plan to have a few different activity stations set up to keep everyone entertained. For a kids birthday party, the various stations should be spread out from one another and manned by an adult.

Purchase all items for the various party activities at least two weeks in advance to make sure you have everything together and important pieces are not back ordered. When the main activity is a craft, keep in mind the age of the birthday child and guests, the average attention span and skill level, and determine how much adult help will be needed. In advance, contact a few family members and friends to round up a good group of helpers for the day of the big birthday bash.

How to Plan a Party: Jump House RentalBIRTHDAY PARTY RENTALS

Determine if you will need to rent or borrow any party supplies such as a jump house, chocolate fountain, popcorn machine, snow cone machine, bubble machine, chafing dishes, photo booth, or tables and chairs. For tables plan on enough to accommodate seated guests plus two tables for food, cutlery and paper products, one table for drinks and cups, and two tables that will serve as the beautiful centerpiece of the party. You will also need extra tables for birthday presents, party favors, and for activities such as arts and crafts. Make sure you have enough serving utensils and tongs for the food table.


Dr Seuss birthday party supplies

Now that you’ve selected a birthday party theme and know how much food, drinks, cake, desserts and party rentals will cost, you have a good idea on how much is left in the budget for fun birthday party decorations, paper products, tablecloths, centerpieces and favors.

Shop Online

Shopping for unique and colorful birthday party supplies to fit a fun theme is my favorite part of party planning! Start off with a foundation of gorgeous basics from an online party supply house such as Sweet Lulu. Then continue to build on the birthday party theme by round things out with additional party supplies from your local dollar store, Target, Walmart, Jo-Ann Fabric, and Michaels. Beautiful party goods will tug at your heartstrings and dance in your dreams, but remember to keep your budget in check!


Develop a custom party playlist of fabulous tunes that will set the mood and keep the party going! If the party is outdoors, plan ahead for a sound system and speakers.


How to Plan a Party: Dessert Table

If possible, start the set up a few hours in advance. However, if you will be preparing food dishes the day of the party, then get going first thing in the morning. If the party is at your home or a rented location, begin by putting on festive music. Then set up all the tables and chairs. Lay down the tablecloths and put out the centerpieces.

Ice down canned and bottled drinks two to three hours in advance. I like using big, deep colorful bins, but a large ice chest works well too. Keep all food items covered and at appropriate temperatures. I pull out my restaurant-sized chafing dishes and put ice in the larger deep-bottom trays. Any food items that need to stay cold are placed in small containers that are artfully set up on top of the ice. I then further surround each small container with more ice.

Birthday Express

Go over your food serving plan with a helper to make sure everything happens on schedule. Don’t allow food and snack packages to be opened all at once. Make sure this is emphasized to those who are helping you. Start by putting out enough food and snack items to get the party started, then tuck away the remaining items beneath the table, away from view. Throughout the party, refill items on the food tables as needed. After the party’s over, all unopened packages (non-refrigerated items) can be returned to the store along with a receipt.

Before guests arrive take beautiful photos of the dessert table, activity tables and centerpieces. Then enlist two dependable friends to be in charge of taking thoughtful photos during the party. In advance let them know what party scenes are the most important to capture for lasting memories.

How to Plan a Party: Ice Cream Party Theme

Let’s be honest. Hosting a party means a lot of rushing around and organizing this and that. No matter how perfect your party planning skills become, there is that little voice in your head reminding you that this or that needs to happen right now to keep things on schedule. And your guests get that. They’ve been in your shoes too. But be sure to take time to socialize and mingle with them. Birthday Parties fly by way to quickly, and you want to enjoy them!


How to Write a Thank You NoteAfter the presents are opened and party clean up has been completed, remember to send out thank you notes to all of your birthday party guests. And if the party was for a child, this is the perfect opportunity to teach them how to write a thank you note. And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about finding just the right wording to express your thanks, feel free to use our lovely thank you note wording examples! And for more beautiful and thoughtful thank you note wording, visit our sister site:

Tiny Prints Three Free Samples

Pin your favorite birthday party images to Pinterest so you can view them again later! What is your best tip for planning a birthday party? Share in the comments below.

If you liked this birthday party post, I know you’ll love these helpful posts too:

Birthday Party Checklist

Birthday Party Themes

Another awesome birthday party resource:

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  1. I’m glad you mentioned that it is a good idea to book activities a couple of weeks in advance when planning a birthday party. My son will be turning seven in a couple of weeks, and my wife and I were thinking it would be a good idea to plan a sci-fi themed party. In addition to that, I think it would be a good idea to rent a mobile laser tag business or something similar to that so that the kids can have a fun activity.

  2. You got me when you suggested choosing a birthday party theme that can add excitement and anticipation to your event. My dad is planning to have a party to celebrate his 60th birthday party. Actually, he has a lot of friends who love to play casino with him, so he wants a casino-themed party. To make sure that the venue will really look like a casino place, I will ask him to rent casino tables.

  3. I think this is one of the best birthday party. iv’e never seen this before , that desert table is so beautiful and attract not only kids, elders also loves to eat them. i must say these are great tips for planing a party.
    wonderful post thanks for sharing with us.

  4. I like what you said about checking out Costco when it comes to buying food for a party. When it comes to renting a venue or tables and chairs, it’s a good idea to contact a company that can give you the best service. If I were to host a large event soon, I would make sure to work with a company that knows and cares about my needs.

  5. Thanks for this advice for planning a birthday party. I appreciate that you mentioned you should think of what kind of venue you need depending on how many guests you want to invite. It also seems like it could be fun to explore different venue options to see if they accommodate a certain party size.

  6. Thank you for all this great information about throwing a party! One thing that I found interesting is that you say to shop for unique and colorful birthday party supplies to match a theme. It would be nice to find someone to help you choose the colors, and maybe even the theme in the end.

    1. Hi Clare! Aren’t children’s parties the most fun? When the face painter is awesome, it really adds a special sparkle to the party atmosphere. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. Hi Denay,
    I really enjoyed reading your post with so many great ideas! Your photographs are beautiful and your advice is valuable. I love all the resources you provide. It’s so smart to include some parents in your guest count so you won’t run short of food or drinks. I’m glad to know that other people have trouble with guests and RSVPs. :( Pinning for use later. Thanks!

    1. Katie, what an exciting career! I send many beautiful wishes your way for a fabulous party planning business.

  8. This is perfect as I am currently planning my son’s first birthday party. His birthday isn’t until October but I like to have all the major purchases bought in advance so we don’t have to stress about prepping the same month of the birthday.

    1. Hi Rebecka. First birthday parties are so much fun to plan! For my daughter Ashley’s first birthday we had over 100 guests (she is now age 23). If you ever need any additional ideas or suggestions, just let me know. :-)

  9. Hi Denay, these are wonderful party planning ideas! I have eight year old twins and I have the hardest time coming up with a theme, because I have a boy and a girl. Can I just say that your photos are gorgeous? I’ll have to try Tiny Prints for the next birthday bash! Thanks for your tips!

    1. Hi Monica. What a blessing to have a set of twins – one boy and one girl! One of my favorite birthday party themes which can work great for twins is Vintage Carnival. I’ve done one of these in the past. I sent out gorgeous carnival invites to set the tone and asked everyone to dress up in costumes. We had 10 game stations manned by adult friends and family members. Games, most of which were made by my husband, included “Go Fish” with ping pong balls in floating dishes, a clown bean bag toss, a guessing game (a sock protruding from a large theme-painted bucket that children put their hand into and try to guess strange items they are touching), wheel of fortune, darts and balloons, plinko, a lolipop tree, squirt guns to knock down bowling pins, ring toss, etc. Instead of standard party favors, children were given a lovely party favor bag and could earn prizes at each of the game stations. We also had a large carnival-themed jump house. Toward the end of the party we had a professional magician arrive on the scene for a magic show. The guest list included all children in my daughter’s class, her brownie troop, personal family and friends, and the younger sibling was allowed to invite a few of her own friends. Just thinking about it brings back such great memories!

    1. Hi Aishwarya! Creating beautiful parties requires attention to detail. I’m so glad you enjoyed this party-planning post.