I get asked it a lot: “I’m holding a party/shower/wedding/other social event and I need help. Any ideas?”
No, really – if you asked me this question this week, don’t worry – I promise you’re not the only one (even this week!). And I like the fact that people think I have good ideas!
The answer to this question, though, is a lot more complicated than a simple yes or no, or even a simple theme. Themes for events aren’t just dependent on the event itself (a birthday party for a four-year old girl, for example, which is something I haven’t been asked about lately!). When asked this question, I could rattle off several themes (“Have you thought about ponies yet? Yes? Okay, let’s see, penguins are in vogue right now… Or how about gardening and ladybugs?”). But for anyone who has kids or has seen a kids’ nursery, there are about as many themes as there are people. A one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work.
In addition to the likes and dislikes of the person for whom the event is being thrown, a ton of other factors are at play. For example, the audience of the event: Are you having a houseful of rowdy twelve-year-old boys? Or a playroom filled with toddlers? Or hard-partying single twentysomethings? Or sedate grandparents? Obviously a heavy metal-themed party isn’t going to go over well in a bridge-playing country club set (unless, you know, it would, in which case, I want that job!). A party princess won’t be welcome at the birthdays of most teenage boys (unless, of course, she’s a different kind of princess altogether). And most bridal showers are completely different affairs than twenty-first birthday parties.
You can start to see why I can’t simply answer, “Sure, I’ve got some great ideas, and here they are.” I’ve got tons of them floating around in my head – but it’s like walking into a giant bookstore blindfolded and trying to pick out a specific title. Until you know which part of the store houses what kind of books and can narrow down how the books in that part of the store are organized, you’ll only be groping blindly, pulling books off shelves at random.
So here are the basic questions I try to get answered before I start planning any event. Some are simple and straightforward. Others might have you scratching your head. But no matter whether you’ll have a planner involved (like me!) or not, you’ll want to answer these questions for yourself before taking on a party planning project:
- What kind of event am I having?
- When and Where?
- What is my audience?
- How many people will be in attendance?
- What does the honoree (or honorees) really like?
- What will our activities be?
- What will we eat?
- What will we drink?
- Do I already have a space available that can handle the number of people I’m expecting and the type of party I’m hoping to have?
- What is my budget?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll delve deeper into each of these questions to help you start to figure out your event’s theme, or to give you the tools to approach a planner to create the perfect themed celebration.