It is so important that you don't wait until the last minute. I would recommend giving yourself approximately 3 months to plan. This way you aren't having to dish out an excessive amount of money all at one time, but instead it allows you to break up the expense into multiple pay periods. Not to mention, it allows you plenty of time to shop and assemble your party materials.
2. The theme is everything.
The theme and color scheme act as an inspiration to everything else (i.e. party food, treats, decorations, etc). Thus, pick a theme and color scheme to start your planning. Sometimes it is easier to narrow down your theme to one object or subject as well as to keep your color scheme to two main colors with one (or two) accent colors.
3. Oh Yes, Wait a minute Mr. Postman...
You want to make sure that you mail out your invitations one month in advance to the party. You want to ensure that your guests have sufficient time to block their calendars and have ample time to go shopping.
4. No party poopers!
Want the guests to know the party theme beforehand or want them to participate in the party theme? Then send out an invitation that coordinates with your theme and decorations. But don't forget to include a message on the invitation informing your guests of how they can participate in the theme (i.e. wear a hat, certain shirt or outfit, bring swimsuit for pool, etc).
5. Don't be a decorating downer.
To make your decorations go far and scream PARTY, choose a centralized location and put up a majority of your decorations in one room. This way your decorations won't look sparse. Take the remainder of your decorations and put them in the rest of the party areas to carry on the party theme.
6. You CAN make a huge impact with only ONE decorating item.
An easy solution to liven up your party space on limited time and budget......BALLOONS!!!! These little guys are very cheap and you don't have to do anything but pick them up from the party store.
7. Happy Kids = Happy Parents.
Keep the kids entertained. Children 3 and older will be completely bored without games and/or activities. For the younger children, open a up a play room and let them roll around with toys (under their parent's supervision of course). For the older children, plan games and prizes. Kids this age enjoy doing arts and crafts, but don't forget about the "old school" games we used to love to play as children (i.e. musical chairs, piñatas, pin the tail on the donkey, etc). Feeling creative? Try and come up with games that go with the theme of the party.
8. No repeats!
Find one place to store all of your party supplies both purchased and handmade. This way you don't forget what you have, thus avoiding over buying or duplicating items already purchased. It is also nice to see how everything looks and works together before the final installation. Plus, it is great motivation to keep going after you start feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. Think how great everything will look all put together!
9. Can I get this to-go?
Your party dessert table will have a variety of delicious and beautiful treats for your guests to thoroughly enjoy. But keep in mind, because there is just such a great selection and guests only have one stomach, you WILL have plenty left-over. Thus to avoid being stuck with tons of cake and candy after the guests leave, provide them with to-go bags and/or boxes. It is fun for both the kids and adults...like a kid in a candy store!
10. Keep the food simple.
You don't want to be slaving away in the kitchen or by the grill and miss all of the party fun, especially if it is a party for your child. Therefore, serve simple foods such as subs, sandwiches, pizza, or have it catered. Hosting a party is enough work by itself, don't make it harder by trying to be the chef too!
11. Party stress reducer.
To help reduce your stress the day of the party, do what you can the day or week before. The decorations can easily go up the day before the party and some of the treats can be prepared the week before. However, leave the cake and/or cupcakes until last so they stay moist and fresh. To completely eliminate the stress of having to prepare the cake and/or cupcakes, just order from your local bakery.
12. Don't wanna miss a thing!
The party day is probably going to feel like a big blur due to all of the things going on at once. To ensure that you get to remember the wonderful party you hosted and all the hard work that went into making it such a memorable day, hire a photographer or put someone in charge of photography. Don't try and photograph the party yourself, most likely you will be too busy to remember to take photographs. Besides, you want to captures all of those great moments that you may or may not miss.
13. Don't be afraid to enlist help.
Asking for help is okay...even for those who are perfectionists or want to try and do it by themselves. Let me tell you, trying to do it by yourself will only lead to utter craziness. Have a friend or two help with a part of the party, whether it be making one dish or driving to the store to pick up balloons, etc. This will help reduce your stress by tons! Plus, they can help remind you to just breathe. And when all else fails and you are about to have a melt down, you all can take a sanity break and have a drink!
Remember, have fun with it and all of your hard work will be worth it once you see the end product!