You may want to grab your towel, just in case.
Step 1: PLAN
The first thing to do is decide what day, time, ect. to have your party. Planning at least two weeks in advance gives you plenty of time to make all the big decisions, like who to invite, and what to wear. It also gives your guests lost of notice.
The next step is to decide what kind of party. Outdoor summer party? Pool party? Movie party? Hey guys I can't figure out a theme but I just wanna party party? You could play dirty and tell each individual something different. Tell one person it's a pirate party, tell the next it's a hawaiian-theme, ect. Then laugh your head off when they all come dressed different! I decided on a clam bake after finding a recipe.
Decide what you want to do, then.....
Step 2: Tell Your Peeps!
Once you have your list down, TELL PEOPLE! Facebook invites, e-mail invites, phone invites, strangers on the street invites! The main point is to let people know what's going on, where they have to be, and how to get a hold of you. I went with the traditional mail-out invites. Mostly because I found the cutest clam pic! I did the invite up on Microsoft Word, printed it on the black and white printer at work, then coloured it in with a blue highlighter. El-cheapo!
Side note- be prepared for the inevitable "can so-and-so come?" I seriously got about eight of these. If you don't mind, the more the merrier! But if you want to keep things at a minimum, come up with a polite way to say no. "I'm sorry, but I've only got so much room," or something to that effect. Most people will understand!
Step 3: More Planning....
I promise, the planning is almost over. Just two more little things to take care of.
Three to four days before your party, you should sit down and decide what you're going to have for food and drinks. Mine was pretty easy; it was a clam bake after all. By this time you should have a general idea of who is coming and how much you need. Depending on the type of party, you may not need much. Finger food is good for a light snack-type party, chips and popcorn if you're having an event or movie type party. (Wrestlemania, anyone?) Mine was a dinner party, so I needed to feed the hungry hoard. If you can plan as many make-ahead dishes as humanly possible, you will save yourself a little of your sanity. Most of my meal was prepared the day before, and much of it was ready to go before the guests got here. Just had to pull it out of the fridge and pop it on the BBQ. This makes for more time mingling and having fun; your guests want to be visiting with you, not getting the heck out of your way! A little thought into how long each dish takes and the best order to prepare them in will also help. Write it down if it helps!
Drinks need to be considered as well. Both adults and children were coming, so I needed to satisfy both. I had a byob, as I often do. (you have no idea how much they can drink!) I provided one alcoholic punch, water, pop, and a root beer keg. Mostly because it was freaking awesome!
Step 4: A Little More Planning...
If you're having an event-themed party (sports, movies, ect..) you've already got the entertainment, no worries. But nothing is worse than a room full of bored people. A quick game is fun, and you'd be surprised at how quickly everyone flocks to a game! At an adults-only party, games can be whatever, but if there are minors present you need to get something that is all-ages but still fun. I picked up an awesome ball-and-rope toss game thing at a local goods store. For even more entertainment, let some of the more "helpful" guests set it up. Chuckles all the way!
Decorations are another thing to keep in mind. If you want to set an atmosphere, or a specific theme is in play, decorations are great to set it off. I didn't do much for decorations, I figured the empty-wood-covered-hot tub would do the trick! :) Start setting everything up a few hours before your guests are scheduled to arrive, you want everything ready so you can greet them when they get there! (even if they are three hours late.....)
Step 5: It's Time to Give It All You Got!
Whatever happens, remember to just chill. Take the time to talk to someone who looks uncomfortable. Attend any problems quickly and graciously. Offer your couch or a ride home if necessary. Most important, HAVE FUN! IT"S A PARTY FOR PETE'S SAKE!
Step 6: And You Thought It Was Over.
Now it's time to deal with the aftermath. I'll leave you to it. :-)