PARTY PLANNING HELP GUIDE
Andrew Brownbill 16/03/2016
Hi, my name is Andy, and I am the lead DJ here at Vibe Wirral DJ Hire. I've been DJing for loads of different types of parties over the years, and a lot of the time, a lot of questions are given to me, like 'How do I know which venue to pick?', or 'How do I know how many people to invite?'. Planning parties can be stressful, and a lot of people don't really have the time to be trawling through yellow pages, phoning up loads of businesses and waiting on quote after quote, so as someone who is always right in the thick of this planning for a lot of parties, I have decided to make this little guide to help you guys plan and get the most out of your parties!
I've aimed this guide more towards evening parties, such as Birthdays parties, engagement parties, wedding functions, ect. But a lot of these points still apply to daytime parties such as ones for children or charity events, so you might just find something useful in here!
REMEMBER, this guide goes hand-in-hand with our PARTY PLANNING CHECKLIST, you can go over and check it out with the link below and print it out to use to help keep track of your party planning.
Before the planning can start, you have to remember that no party is free, so you'll have to decide on how much you can spend, or if someone else is paying, or chipping money in for it, ask them as early as possible what the budget will be. Here are a few average price ranges for what to expect for each main component of the party. (These are based off standard function parties, if you are planning a wedding, expect higher prices!)
The Venue: £50-£2000
The DJ: £120-£500
The Food: £180-£360 (based on £3-£6 per person for 60 people)
Birthday/ Wedding Cake: £30-£400
Step One - First Steps
It all starts with one thing, deciding what the party should be. In most cases, people will just book a standard venue, DJ, and get some basic decorations that go with the party, which is absolutely fine, but if you want to do something different with the party, like have a themed party or invite a band or entertainer to perform, now is the time to decide!
Themed Parties generally come in two forms, there's the old 'Fancy Dress' party, and then there's the party with a 'Casual Theme', where you have a specific venue and music style to suite the theme, but no fancy dress for the guests.
Fancy Dress generally can be hit and miss, but if it's been planned well, it can turn out amazing, the key with Fancy Dress parties is to plan far in advance and make it very clear to all the guests that it will be fancy dress, you have to remember that it can take time to organize costumes and some people may feel awkward either going to the party with no costume and being the odd one out, or going in costume that might have too much 'pazazz'. I would recommend making a Facebook event page, or post pictures on Social media of crazy costumes you're planning on having so the bar is set of how much 'pazazz' to expect! Just remember, be enthusiastic about it, hype it up, or people won't get on board with the fancy dress!
Parties with a Casual theme can also work well, these can be parties with themes such as 'Hawaiian Beach Party' or 'Grease The Musical', these are best played out when the hosts dress up in an appropriate costume, but don't enforce the guests too, these are also great if the venue and food are fitting for the theme too!
Remember, if you are going with a specific theme for the party, make sure you let the DJ know (Step three) and ask the caterers (Step four) if anything can be done to help the theme!
And also, themed parties are fairly rare, so if you don't want to go through the trouble of planning one, then it's okay to just have a standard function party, it will still be a great night!
Step Two - Finding the right venue
Before you start to look for a venue, you have to decide on roughly how many people you're going to invite, will it be a very intimate family and close friends party, an invite only for you and all your mates, or a completely open crazy big party that everyone is invited to?
Once you've decided on roughly how many, then you can go on to finding the perfect place to host your party.
Intimate party for close friends and family. These kind of parties will only require very small venues, and more often than not, they will be fairly cheap. The best bet when looking for these kind of venues is look at where the majority of your guests live, and then ring up, email, Facebook message or text various pubs around that area to see if they have a function area you can use. Sometimes these small pubs will only take small deposits and nothing more as this will be getting them business.
Larger parties for friends and family. For these parties, you're best just phoning around various venues, make sure you get a venue that is easily accessible, so a place in a town such as Liscard or New Brighton would be far more accessible for people on the Wirral than a pub in Crosby for example. Make sure you ask if they have any packages for catering, party decorations, or DJ's as that may save you money later on!
Step Three - The DJ
Finding the right DJ can be tricky, with so many different types of DJ's and different prices, it can be confusing which one to go with. I've met a lot of DJ's who do function parties like myself, and you tend to find that the vast majority are actually very good, and when you pay more for a DJ, you'll tend to get better equipment with that (such as better speakers, lighting setups and special effects) and a more experienced DJ.
My advice would be to go for a DJ that is either roughly the same age as the crowd you will be hosting for (Except for if it's a children's party, for obvious reasons), or for people who have good experience with that crowd, but if that's not possible, you'll find that most DJ's can adapt to any audience, and if you are hesitant about them, just tell them what the event is and what kind of music you want, and even give them examples of artists and songs you would like!
Also ask if they take requests too, just incase they do start to drift into music you don't want you can just ask them to play what you want.
Like finding a venue, I would recommend using websites such as Google maps, Yell.com, and even one called Freeindex to find the DJ you want. And of course, don't be afraid to ask friends and family if they have any recommendations!
Step Four - The Food
At evening parties, people will more often than not expect food to be served in the form of either an open buffet or a complimentary served meal, so at this point you'll have to decide whether you'll be serving food or not, and if not, make sure you make it very clear to all the guests!
As far as food goes, I would firstly recommend that you get in touch with the venue to see if any arrangements can be made with food, and make note of the price and what they will be serving, as there may be better deals elsewhere!
Now I would recommend checking around your area on Google maps, Yell, Freeindex or Facebook to see what catering companies there are. These small catering businesses you will find locally are often run by warm and friendly families, so I would suggest just phoning around and seeing what they can offer for your venue, normally they will ask for an estimate of how many guests there will be, as you will normally pay per person, and once you've got a few offers, it's up to you to make your choice. It's also important to note that most of these businesses will provide "Finger food" buffets, but some will provide food in slow cookers or portable stoves so guests will have a hot food option too, so it's best to ask them if they provide this!
Alternatively, if the budget is very tight, you can provide the food yourself, I wouldn't recommend this as it can be stressful and time consuming getting all the right foods ready, and preparing the dinner table can take a while, but stores such as Costco offer large multipacks of foods, paper plates, napkins, plastic cutlery, sauces and desserts that can fill the buffet table!
Either way if you do get a buffet, whether it's from a local business or made by yourself, you will still get to keep whatever's left over, so make sure there's space in your fridge for when you get back!
Step Five - Decorations
You'll want to make your party look 'official', if it's a birthday party, it would be great to have birthday banners and balloons around to give it that 'Pazazz', but those decorations don't appear out of thin air, you're going to have to plan where you're going to get them!
Just like the food, it's best to get in touch with the venue beforehand, see what they can do about it, you never know, they might already have some planned, or they might have some parts of the decorations planned, such as balloons or banners, but you might want more!
So again, it's best to do a Google around, see what different places offer, make sure you stick fairly local, otherwise you might get charged extra for being too far away. For birthdays, I would recommend looking for people who will give you balloons, banners, shaped number balloons (so like them big '21' or '18' shaped balloons), party poppers, and maybe even fun party props such as them fake moustaches on sticks or inflatable microphones and guitars.
But again, make sure you ask your venue owners first, as they might already have it all set up for you!
Step Five - Any Extras?
And now lastly, before you start inviting people, you can maybe consider if there will be any extras, these can be photographers, bands, entertainers, or anything of that sort.
Photographers are normally for wedding venue parties, but you can sometimes get them for standard function parties, if you want to get them, maybe see if they can do any merchandise to remember the night by, such as fridge magnets or keyrings, it's always awesome having a small token to remember the night from!
There are lots of Bands around these days, some specialise in covering specific band, whereas others might perform their own songs, a good trick is to look for a band that performs songs that you know a lot of guests will enjoy, it's a great way to get everyone up dancing and they can be a good laugh too! Just make sure if you do book a band, let the venue owners and the DJ know so they can make arrangements to get the most out of the night.
Entertainers are great for keeping the guests busy, magicians, balloon artists, face painters are a really good way of letting all the guests enjoy themselves and lets them bond between other guests and really gets conversations started! I would really recommend you consider an entertainer for Wedding receptions, as there can be gaps of guests sitting around before the actual party starts, and it can keep them entertained in the meantime.
Step Six - Inviting Guests
Now it's time to invite some guests! Of course if you're planning a wedding, the thing to do here would be to send out invitation cards, but for any other party, such as a birthday party, what should you do?
I would strongly recommend making a Facebook events page, and invite everyone through that. Through that, you can post the venue location, and let people know if there will be food, any themed clothing, and even the best way to get there and back. Make sure you make it an "Invite only" event, or things can get out of hand fast! And then, just invite, invite, invite!
A good thing to do is to post a week or so in advance on the page, and do a little countdown or a post on how many days until the event to keep people engaged and hype up the event, it will also stop people from forgetting about the event!
Remember that not everyone you invite will turn up, so don't be worried to invite slightly more than you've planned for.
Step Seven - The Night
On the day of the event, you will want to post on the Facebook events page to remind everyone, and maybe send out a few text to make sure people get the message. You will also want to phone up the venue, just to make sure everything is good to go.
Don't forget to call up a taxi or make travel arrangements for the end of the night too.
Make sure you get to the venue nice and early, I'd say between half an hour and an hour before the first guests are going to arrive, just to help set up and make sure everything is ready. And double check to see if you have any payments that are still to be made, such as paying the venue, DJ, or caterers, and if so, make sure you don't forget to bring the money, and I would recommend paying them as early as possible, just to get it out the way, and so you know how much you have to spend.
And now there's only one last thing to do... Buy a drink, wait for the guests to arrive, and have a great night!
I hope this guide has helped, if you do have any questions or need help with planning, please don't hesitate to email me at or leave a comment and we will reply ASAP.
And don't forget to check and print out the PARTY PLANNING CHECKLIST (it's completely free) with the link below to help keep track of your party planning!