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A Party Planning Guide for Design Lovers

If you love great design, chances are you’re more excited about planning the look of a party than its detailed menu. We get it. Today’s post is dedicated to easy party planning tips that help you create an event worthy of a photo shoot. We’ll point you in the direction of some amazing sources for party decor, and we’ll share a few helpful hints for styling a beautiful display of food and beverages. Creativity counts, and keeping it simple can be just as lovely as a party spread that requires intense preparation. Make it easy on yourself so you can revel in all things design as you plan your next fete…

When Design Lovers Plan Parties…

OK, design lovers! We know how you relish creating the right look and feel for your parties. And no, it doesn’t always involve a matchy-matchy theme! Below you will find a list of party elements that you are likely to enjoy orchestrating, gathering, preparing and displaying, so let your creativity shine! Design lovers often…

Let food double as decor. Why wouldn’t the food pull double duty as eye candy at your party? For example, a fresh fruit platter makes the perfect centerpiece for a summer fete! [from Camille Styles]


Fruit spread by Camille Styles

Keep the party food simple. Many design lovers are also foodies. If cooking is your thing, more power to you! If you’re short on time, rest assured you don’t need to slave away in the kitchen to throw a good party. Cupcakes from your favorite bakery can be dressed up with sprinkles and fun toppers. After all, decorating your food is really the fun part, isn’t it?! [photo from The Land of Nod]

Colorful party cupcakes

Set a general theme and color scheme. Don’t feel pressure to come up with an elaborate party theme. Some of the most eye-catching gatherings involve a general theme (for example, “tropical”) or an enticing color scheme. Sometimes getting too specific can be limiting. Not to mention, if everything matches too perfectly, it’s often far less interesting. Wouldn’t you agree? [Glitter Party Hats Set from Urban Outfitters]

Party hats from Urban Outfitters

Enjoy bringing together various elements. On that note, design lovers get great pleasure from combining a variety of elements into one party spread. Again, the less specific your theme, the more fun you can have with this, as there is more flexibility. When good food, fun beverages and festive decor meet at the party table, true magic happens. [party supply photo from The Land of Nod]

Party collection from The Land of Nod

Order party supplies online. With online party supply sources like the Oh Happy Day Shop (many of these also deliver quickly), you can do your party shopping from the convenience of your home office. Etsy is another source for interesting party supplies. We’re in the midst of a party product boom, so don’t limit yourself to large party supply chains. Although those large stores can be great for last-minute errands or budget-friendly buys! [Meri Meri Confetti Balloons Party Kit from Urban Outfitters]

Confetti balloons from Urban Outfitters

Revel in special touches. If you love design and decor, you just might revel in selecting small decorative details for your gathering. No supply or accessory is too insignificant. Bring on the cocktail napkins and party straws! [Striped Party Straws from Anthropologie]

Striped party straws from Anthropologie

Get creative with a DIY project or two. If you have the time to be crafty, your DIY initiative can save you money and result in truly unique party decor. For example, why purchase an expensive table runner when you can make one out of paper?! [DIY Palm Leaf Table Runner from Martha Stewart, photo by Andrew Ingalls]

Palm leaf table runner from Martha Stewart

Make use of free printables. Many design blogs offer free printables that can add colorful decorative accents to your party spread. All you need is a printer and the paper of your choice! Save money while giving your party a polished touch. [printables from Proper]

Party decorations and printable from Proper

Select party decorations that turn into permanent decor. Raise your hand if your party decor has ever become a permanent part of your interior… That photo backdrop or garland just might be what your living room or dining room is missing, so have fun selecting or crafting your party decorations. They just might stick around long after the guests have gone home. Not to mention, you can make strategic choices as you purchase and craft, ensuring that the colors and textures will be right at home in your interior on a long-term basis. [wall hanging photo backdrop from Paper & Stitch]

Party backdrop from Paper & Stitch

Start decorating early. You’ve worked hard to plan this party. Why not enjoy setting up for it? Design lovers often experience true joy from decorating on the early side. Why bother hanging up decorations only to pull them down a few hours later? Plus, early decorating means less last-minute running around. [Gold Letter Party Balloons from Urban Outfitters]

Gold party balloons from Urban Outfitters

Your Party Planning Timeline

There is no right way to plan a party. After all, some are thrown together at the last minute, while others are planned months in advance. The timeline below is based on personal experience, as well as advice from other party planning experts. Feel free to adjust it as needed. As mentioned, some people like to put up decorations days in advance and tweak them as they have time, while others set everything up the night before. Go with what works for you! Your work schedule and the time you’ve had to throw this party together will likely be major factors as you set your party timeline. [ombre party supplies from The Land of Nod]

Ice cream party supplies from The Land of Nod

A Month Before the Party:

  • Set the date, time and venue
  • Set a theme or general feel, as well as a party budget
  • Start searching for food and decor inspiration
  • Make a preliminary guest list

[photo from HGTV.com]

Compiling your party guest list

3 Weeks Before the Party:

  • Send your party invitations, either by mail or email
  • Line up party rentals and/or arrange to borrow key items
  • Order flowers if necessary
  • Begin shopping for party supplies and decorations, either online or in person
  • Set a general party menu

[Striped Party Plates from Anthropologie]

Party plates from Anthropologie

2 Weeks Before the Party:

  • Finalize your party menu and begin shopping for groceries that won’t spoil
  • Stock your bar with liquor, mixers and other supplies
  • Create a party playlist
  • Continue rounding up/tweaking party supply and decor choices
  • Prepare party dishes that can be frozen in advance

[record player from Urban Outfitters]

Enjoy creating a party playlist

1 Week Before the Party:

  • Begin decorating for the party if you wish (design lovers often start early!)
  • Check in with guests who have not RSVP’d
  • Thoroughly clean your home
  • Continue purchasing food and supplies, as well as preparing items in advance
  • Set a cooking/food assembly schedule for the days before the party
  • Borrow supplies you’ve requested from friends and family
  • Assemble party favors

[Chain Link Party Balloons from Urban Outfitters]

Colorful balloons from Urban Outfitters

2 Days Before the Party: 

  • Take care of last-minute grocery, beverage and supply purchases
  • Wash your serving pieces and glassware so they’re ready to set out
  • Be courteous to neighbors and give them a head’s up (for extra noise, cars, activity, etc.)
  • Ensure that guests have a place to stash coats/purses, and tidy up the bathroom

[serving pieces from CB2]

Serving pieces from CB2

1 Day Before the Party:

  • Pick up or purchase plants/flowers and arrange your centerpieces
  • Finish decorating for the party, including setting up the party table
  • Set up the drink/bar area with supplies and non-perishable ingredients
  • Prep, wash and chop fresh ingredients, such as salad fixings
  • Cook/prepare as much food as possible
  • Tidy up the house, including tasks such as vacuuming if necessary

[Gold Party Banner from Urban Outfitters]

Bar cart setup

The Day of the Party:

  • Quickly spot clean the house
  • Prepare/cut fresh ingredients and garnishes for the bar and party food
  • Finish last-minute food assembly and cooking
  • Pre-mix specialty beverages if possible and refrigerate
  • Set out non-perishable food items an hour in advance
  • Do a final guest bath prep, adding items such nice disposable napkins for hand drying
  • Get yourself ready for the party
  • Set out beverages and perishable food just before guests arrive
  • Greet your guests and enjoy the party!

[party table photo from The Land of Nod]

Tropical party table

Most importantly, have fun! Snap a few photos before guests arrive so you will always remember the special touches you’ve put into this event. Don’t hesitate to make strategic decisions, such as letting guests serve themselves beverages so you don’t have to play bartender all night. Delegate. Make sure you have help from a good friend or family member who can check in on guests to make sure they have what they need. You will definitely work hard, but you deserve to enjoy the night as well. Cheers to you and your creativity! [tray and tumblers from CB2]

Colorful tumblers from CB2

Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and design blogger with a love of all things decor. She spent her childhood writing stories and working on interior design-themed DIY projects. Kate’s published writing reflects her special interest in how design has changed through the decades. Her blog Mirror80 ( http://mirror80.com/) explores the fashion and [...]

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