List of party mistakes you may be making

Mistake #1: Not making a guest list.
Don’t start a family feud by innocently forgetting to invite Uncle Bob to your child’s first birthday party. In the flurry of party planning, it’s easy to forget an important person who may just not be at the top of your mind. Take precautions against this by sitting down with your family to create a guest list. Write down everyone you think should be invited-you can amend the list later. Have someone else double-check the list before finalizing it. And be sure to order an extra ten to fifteen invitations in case someone is accidentally left off the list.

Mistake #2: Not settling on a theme.
There’s nothing worse than a party with an identity crisis-or no identity at all. Take some time to brainstorm a theme that matches the type of event you’re having. An anniversary party might have a theme based on the year being celebrated (for example, 25th is silver-make it the main color in your palette for decorations and tableware); for a Halloween party, try a theme like angels and demons or superheroes and villains. If you’re having trouble coming up with a theme, start with the invitation-its colors, motifs, and wording is bound to give you plenty of inspiration. Even a loose theme will help you focus your planning and give guests a sense of what to expect.

Mistake #3: Sending the invitation out too late-or too early.
The invitation is the critical piece of the party-planning puzzle. If it arrives to your guests at the wrong time, it could spell disaster for your event. An invitation that arrives too early might be accidentally forgotten; a late invitation might not give guests enough time to plan to attend. The sweet spot is far enough in advance to guarantee guests won’t already be booked but close enough to the event that it will be on their radar. Three to four weeks from when the invitation arrives to when the party is scheduled is a good time frame to work with. However, if your party will be held at a busy time (such as summer or the winter holidays), give your guests a week or two more, or consider sending out a save-the-date two months in advance so your guests can get it on the books.

Mistake #4: Not giving essential information to your guests.
There are a few pieces of information that absolutely must be communicated to your guests ahead of time, ideally in the invitation. Provide simple directions to the event location, or a contact phone number or email address for getting directions. Let guests know what type of food will be served: light appetizers, heavy hors d’oeuvres, lunch or dinner, or just bar snacks. This will help guests plan and ensure that no one leaves hungry (or that you don’t have tons of food left over!). If you have a preferred dress for your guests (formal, casual, costume) or are asking them to bring something (a dish for a potluck, mixers for a cocktail party, pumpkins for a Halloween carving party), let them know in advance. Finally, give a general time frame for the party so guests can plan, and you don’t have lingerers!

Mistake #5: Not requesting an RSVP.
One last important detail for the invitation is an RSVP line. Ask guests to respond by a specified date (usually a week or two before the event, depending on its size and type) to a listed phone number to leave a voice mail or text message or email address. This will help you plan for food (whether you’re making it or a caterer is), beverages, space, and favors. As you get each RSVP, record the respondents’ names in one place so you know exactly who’s replied and who’s coming.

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