So you're going to throw a party. Where do you begin?

Step 1: don't freak out. Planning a party does not have to be an intimidating process, even if it seems big and scary. Here is a guide for planning the perfect party stress-free so you can enjoy yourself.

group of friends smiling at an outdoor party

Create A Concept

The first step of planning your party is establishing the basics. What kind of party is it? A dinner party, a graduation party, a birthday party? What will the theme be? What time should it start? What should the atmosphere be? Is there a dress code?

Start with the basics -- you can solidify the details as the date gets closer -- and solidify your budget. Once you have the general ideas down, you're ready to put the party into motion.

group of friends hanging out at a party with balloons

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Invite Guests

When it comes to inviting guests, you need to be mindful of how big you want the party to be. Are you hosting a few close friends for a dinner party, or are you inviting a plethora of friends and acquaintances for a house party? No matter what party, it's advisable to be strict about the size of the guest list. Take note of the size of your home or whatever space the party will be hosted in. How many people can comfortably fit? Keep this in mind when sending out invitations, and don't let people ask if they can bring plus-ones if you don't have the space.

When you set the date of your party, make sure there are no big conflicts such as holidays or community events. If you're hosting a small group of your close friends, make sure all of them are free from any other commitments.

As for the invitations themselves, sending physical invites is not required for informal parties. Most people tend to rely on Facebook invites, emails or text messages to invite people to an event, and going digital is a hassle-free way to instantly let people know you want to host them. You can send these digital invites a couple of weeks in advance.

For more formal events (or if you just really like snail mail), you need to send invitations earlier and include R.S.V.P. information. Mailing invites a month before the event is a good time frame. And if someone doesn't R.S.V.P., give them a call or shoot them a message asking if you can expect them at the party.

overhead shot of friends clinking drinks together at dinner

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Figure Out Food

Whether your party is a potluck, simply cocktails or a full-blown dinner party, you need to have a plan early on. Make sure you're aware of your guests' allergies or other dietary restrictions so nobody is left out.

Keep it simple with your food, even if you're hosting a fancy dinner party. An easy and fun way to serve your guests is by incorporating finger foods into the menu. Depending on the formality of your party, you can serve anything from mini corndogs to the fancier bruschettas and deviled eggs. Make sure to provide a variety of flavors, mixing sweet and savory so your guests have a ton of tastes to choose from.

Don't overdo the menu -- you don't want to tackle more than you can handle, and you have to make sure that there is enough of each dish for every guest. Make sure everything is doable and allot yourself enough time to make it happen. And don't overlook the details -- it's important not to forget the dining ware, serve ware, linens and anything else your guests need to enjoy your meal.

people clinking wine glasses together with red wine

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Stock The Bar

Along with food, drinks are an important part of any party. Make sure to stock up on different options so your guests can have a wide variety to choose from, whether it be red or white wine coupled with their perfect pairings, a wide selection of beer, or liquor and mixers to make cocktails.

As for cocktails, the possibilities are limitless. You can serve your guests anything from White Russians to Rusty Nails. If you want to stick with the classics, try making a refreshing batch of mojitos. All you need is white rum, mint leaves, sugar, club soda, and limes. Make sure to have plenty of ice on hand and someone always at the bar so your guests don't have to serve themselves.

iphone and speaker resting on wooden surface

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Plan The Music

Every party needs some tunes. Simply hook up your iPod or iPhone to speakers and let the music play. Before the party, make sure to craft a careful playlist that will fit the tone and vibe of the event. Coordinate songs that flow nicely together, or you can choose a premade playlist on Spotify or set up a Pandora station. However, if you're hosting colleagues or other people you need to be professional around, it's recommended that you make your own playlist so you don't have any embarrassing or inappropriate songs popping up in the middle of your soirée.

friends drinking wine sitting on a couch laughing

Stay Organized

From conceptualization to execution, it's vital that you stay organized. A good way to remain on target while planning your party is to make a comprehensive checklist of everything that needs to be done as well as a detailed budget plan. This list should be more specific and well-defined than your first brainstorming session when you created your party concept.

Some things to consider for your party planning checklist include:

  • One week before the party, deep clean your house or the space the party will take place in. Then tidy up again the day before the event.
  • If there's a chance your party might disrupt your neighbors, like if you live in an apartment or townhouse with thin walls, give them notice that you will be having guests over within a week of the party
  • Make sure you have all the necessary materials for serving and entertaining
  • Specify a place for coats
  • Plan how you're going to decorate the space that's in tune with the party's theme and mood
  • Determine if and when there will be any games or party activities

By creating a checklist and budget, you're covering everything that needs to be done and managing your tasks in an organized, stress-free way.