How to plan a birthday party: woman receiving a gift from a senior woman

A memorable moment is coming up and it’s time to start thinking about planning a birthday party. Beyond organizing a date and time, it can be easy to get lost in the details and wonder what you should be doing next.

Luckily, we’re here to help with this guide on how to plan a birthday party. Whether you’re planning an adult birthday party or a kids’ birthday party, here’s what you need to plan the perfect birthday celebration.

How to Plan a Birthday Party Like a Pro: 11 Easy Steps

Planning a birthday bash can be as challenging as it is fun. So what’s the key to ensuring you have an enjoyable event planning process

Two things: being prepared and staying organized. Fortunately, we have you covered on both fronts. With this step-by-step birthday party planning list, you’ll know how to plan a birthday party and get from start to finish like a pro.

1. Choose the Date and Time

One of the first decisions to make is when this party is going to happen. Choose a party date and time that’s close to the birthday person’s special date, but that also makes sense for a celebration.

It’s often easiest to get people together on the weekend or during the evening, so keep this in mind as you consider potential dates. When it comes to times, think about the type of party you want to host and what works best — like a birthday brunch, an afternoon tea party, or a grown-up game night.

2. Decide on Your Guest List

If you’re not hosting your own celebration, make sure to connect with the birthday person to write out the guest list. Loved ones like family members and close friends will probably be at the top of the list, but there might be other people the birthday honoree wants to invite, such as coworkers.

Choosing the number of guests isn’t just an emotional decision but a practical one too. Your guest count affects your party budget, the type of venue you’ll book, and how many goodie bags to prepare. Factor this into the decision-making process as you finalize your guest list.

3. Set a Party Budget

Every party has a budget, even if you’re planning to splurge. Figure out your budget early on so you can assign resources in the best way to get the look, feel, and experience you want.

If you prefer a budget-friendly bash, consider elements you can DIY like the birthday cake, party favors, decorations, and the venue. If your budget is larger, you might want to splurge on hiring a live band, booking a larger venue, or ordering a bespoke cake.

4. Select a Birthday Party Theme

How to plan a birthday party: Soccer Party Invitation

Design: Claudia Owen (photo courtesy of Angela & Evan Photography)

When it comes to birthday party ideas, there’s no shortage of themes. You can adapt virtually any party theme for anyone at any age. (Unicorn disco, anyone?)

Work with the birthday honoree to decide on a fun birthday party theme and plan the entire celebration around it. Maybe they’d love a princess party, an under-the-sea party, a mermaid celebration, or an event inspired by their favorite TV show, movie, or food. (Who wouldn’t love a taco fiesta?!) There are also plenty of creative adult party themes to explore. 

Once you have a theme, you can also choose a fun matching invite — like this soccer-themed party invite.

5. Decide on a Party Venue

With a budget and theme all set, you can start considering party venues that fit the bill. Birthday parties can work in almost any space, and choosing the right venue can help create the right atmosphere.

Consider hosting your birthday bash at home or a loved one’s home if you want a chill and relaxed vibe. (It’s also budget-friendly!) Or rent an event space in a gallery or museum for a more sophisticated feel. Your local park, the beach, your favorite diner, and a karaoke bar are all great party venues too — it just depends what kind of feel you want.

6. Plan Your Birthday Party Schedule

Get organized ahead of the big day and make sure you’ve booked all the right vendors by planning your schedule in advance. Map out all your birthday party ideas, which party games you’ll play, and which entertainers will keep your guests smiling.

For adult birthday parties, schedules tend to be more relaxed — especially for a house party or game night. For a kids’ birthday party, you’ll want to plan activities and entertainment more closely so you don’t lose track of time.

Here are some helpful planning ideas for games based on your type of party:

7. Design and Send Party Invitations

Taco Bout A Party Invitation

Design: Claudia Owen

With your theme and party details confirmed, you can start sending invites out to your guest list. Plan to send these at least 3-4 weeks before the event to give everyone plenty of time to check their schedules and RSVP.

With Greenvelope’s collection of birthday invitations, there’s no need to head to the store or deal with postage. You can simply design and send your invitation right from your computer. You’ll find a design for every type of birthday gathering — including this fun taco-themed party invite.

Each design can be customized, so you can change the layout, colors, fonts, and wording to make it feel unique. Not only is the design process fun, but the sending process is easy. Enter the recipient’s email address or cell phone number to send or schedule an invite, and track RSVPs all from one place.

8. Buy Party Supplies

By now your party is all planned out — now it’s time to gather supplies for the special day. Check for any party decorations you already have, then shop for new items like tablecloths or tableware, and prepare supplies before the event.

Think about how you want to decorate the space. Perhaps you want streamers, balloons, banners, and other themed party decor. Or maybe you want to keep it simple. Now is also the time to decide on goodie bags and party favors so you’re not rushing around at the last minute.

Here are some helpful guides to step up your decor:

9. Handle the Birthday Cake

Of all the items you’ll want at the big celebration, the birthday cake is one of the most important. Carve out time in your schedule to either order or bake the cake. Get the birthday guest of honor’s input before ordering or baking the cake to ensure it’s what they want.

10. Plan Your Party Food

Banana Split Invitation

Design: Becky Nimoy Stationery

Plan a menu of party food and drinks that fits your theme, venue, and preferences. If you’re booking a venue, this should be discussed when reserving the space as it might be catered on-site or through a third-party vendor. 

In general, platters of finger foods like sandwiches, crudite, and sliders are a winner for parties — especially for a child’s birthday party. For at-home celebrations, you could order pizza and serve it alongside wine or host a BBQ cookout with plenty of delicious options for different dietary needs. 

Charcuterie boards are a popular choice for adult birthday celebrations. You could even theme your event around your menu. For instance, maybe you want to host an ice cream birthday party — complete with this sweet ice cream sundae invitation.

11. Double-Check Your Checklist

Even the best laid plans end up with surprises, but getting organized in advance can make the day go as stress-free and smoothly as possible. 

At least two days before the party, make sure you have all your party essentials ready to go, and decorate the party space in advance if possible. Check in with your baker, entertainers, and any other vendors that you’re working with. Complete your party planning checklist and let yourself relax ahead of the special day.

Plan the Best Birthday Party with These Event Planning Tips

Any party you plan is going to be fun, but knowing how to plan a birthday party entails more than just buying a few party supplies and sending out invites. Being a party planner is about paying attention to the details along the way and giving yourself enough time to ensure you have the perfect birthday party.

To excite guests about your upcoming celebration, send them customized birthday party invitations. With Greenvelope, you can choose from an incredible array of birthday invitations that are easy to personalize in just a few clicks. It’s time to celebrate!