Holiday timelines are a dime a dozen. There are a lot of them. This is mine based off of what has worked for me. Tweak yours based on how small or large your party is and let it evolve each year. Look at others too and compare. Mine may not work for you and that’s ok. Use it as you need!
TALK BUDGET – set realistic goals for how much you’d like to spend and plan to spend a little more than you budgeted for given unforeseen expenses. I always say it will never happen and then it does. Give yourself some wiggle room. Big costs will include food, drink, decor, entertainment, and costume.
REVIEW LAST YEAR – If this isn’t your first year planning a party, then go back and look at what worked and what didn’t. Ask friends what they liked or things they’d like to see. You don’t have to do it, but it’s good to hear what they think. If this is your first year, think about what parties you have been to and what really stood out for you.
PICK A THEME – I didn’t start doing themes until Boos & Booze 5. I never really had a reason but once I started doing themes, the party planning was much more simpler because I could tailor all the party needs around that. If you decide to go themeless, GREAT! Do your thing, but make sure you set goals for what you’d like to see.
FINALIZE A DATE – I know. It seems like this is too soon to set a date but when I tell you waiting only holds you up. When you start talking to people, vendors, entertainers and so on having a finalized date will become important. Plus having a date helps you accomplish goals. I work off deadlines so having a date is very important. If you want to hold off picking a date, then make sure you have one in mind and REALLY pick one no later than June.
CREATE A DRAWING BOARD/DESIGN BOARD – With a theme in place (or not), go getcha some inspiration! Google search Halloween party and save or print out pictures that you’d like to recreate. Honestly, creating a Halloween board on Pinterest is your best best. You can separate between decor, food, costumes etc. Go crazy. Not all of these are probably achievable, but you have ideas and backup ideas.
START BIG PROJECTS – Depending on where you are geographically, April is a great month to start working on bigger projects for the party. Decor items or big party ideas. I start thrifting after the new year but this is also a great time to thrift and see what treasures there are at the second hand stores. I have lucked out incredibly. Also check estate and yard sales. Sometimes you can really luck out. Make a list of potential things you need so you don’t skip anything.
PLAN COSTUME – This is also a great time to figure out your costume idea. Are you going to buy one or build your own? Will it require makeup or other timely requirements? Since you are going thrifting during this time, look at the clothes and see what you can get for cheap that can be altered or used for your costume. Most of my costumes have been pieces from the thrift store.
PLAN MENU – This is the time to start thinking about food. Well when is there a time to not be thinking about food? Are you going to have it catered? Are you providing food? Are people bringing food? Sit down dinner? Buffet style? Now why it is very gracious to think of those with food allergies or vegetarians or vegans, it will be hard to please everyone. Also, this is your party too, be sure there is food that YOU want to eat.
CONTINUE BIG PROJECTS – Keep going on these projects! Don’t stop!
COMPARE VENDORS FOR FOOD – If you re having the party catered, start calling and researching caterers. Get prices, menus, timeline and process for how they work the day of the party. If you plan on doing the food yourself, start pricing what you need and make sure it fits in with what you budgeted. I always say unless you are a chef and this is a dinner party, prepared foods can go far. You don’t want to do everything HOMEMADE. You will be exhausted by the time the party comes along and it will eat up so much time.
PROJECTS, PROJECTS, PROJECTS! – How are those projects coming? Keep them going!
BOOK A PHOTOGRAPHER – This is obviously a very optional part of your party. I do this early because you will be amazed by how fast photographer schedules book up. I will say having a photographer at your party takes that off your list so you can ENJOY your party without having to worry about capturing the moments. I normally have one photographer for a photobooth and one that goes around and takes candid photos of people along with all the cool decor and lighting and so on. No matter if the photographer is your friend or new friend, please PAY them even if they say they will do it for free.
BOOK A BARTENDER – Another optional party quirk. Bartenders are not necessary, but it does tend to help the amount of alcohol being consumed and if you happen to have underage partygoers. I don’t allow underage partygoers, but some parties have a family atmosphere with alcohol. As with photographers, please PAY bartenders and book early!
PROJECTS – You didn’t think I would let you forget did you?
FORMALIZE GUEST LIST – Who are the lucky people experiencing your party? How many people can you have at your place? Depending on the size of your party there may be some wiggle room. For myself I invite around 120 people. Normally around 80-90 people will show up. This includes spouses or party crashers from friends. I always invite more people than will actually show up. It’s risky, but unless you are doing a sit down dinner where you have exact seats, invite extras!
BIG PROJECTS – This is the last month to get those big projects done! Wrap it up and if you have extra time over the next month, you can finish others, but it’s almost time to decorate!
SEND INVITATIONS – Time to get the word out! I always wait till after Labor Day and the week after. This allows for people to get back into a normal post summer routine. I have found anytime before and invitations get lost or forgotten. I don’t do paper/mailed invitations mostly because I don’t have addresses for most people. I have found Facebook Events to be the best way to invite and get back the most accurate count of people attending. There is always Paperless Post and other online invitation setups you can use if you prefer not to go the Facebook route.
TIME TO DECORATE AND SETUP! – This is my favorite part! I mean who doesn’t love putting up Halloween decorations and lights?! Now is the time to make those vision boards come to life. Those projects you worked on for months and transform your house or party area. I usually start on Labor Day Weekend because I get that extra day off to get things up.
4 WEEKS OUT
- Order food and drinks. Make sure you have plates, cups, silverware, napkins, trashcans and such. Seems simple but there have been times I have almost forgotten.
- Check in on your neighbors! This may be something that seems like you should do earlier before getting to this point, but like most people they will have forgotten if you tell them in July. Let them know the plan for the party, INVITE THEM, and apologize in advance for any extra noise.
3 WEEKS OUT
- Finish costume and do a dry run including makeup. This is the time to test the whole ensemble out along with makeup. Waiting till the day before or day off will result in unfortunate results. Trust me. Also if you need something extra, chances are that Halloween stores will still have what you need 3 weeks out.
2 WEEKS OUT
- Get that party playlist picked out! No matter whether you make your own or choose one fro one of your favorite streaming services, be sure it’s something that will set the mood and make sure it’s long enough to last the whole party and then some.
- Finish decorating. You want time to enjoy the view and all of your hard labor. Plus putting things up and taking them down so soon after you put them up is such heartache.
1 WEEK BEFORE
- Get photos! This is the time before the party to get your photographer friend to come by and take pictures of everything before people invade. Completely optional but if you’re like me, you want to see this amazing decked out Halloween house sans people.
- Clean your house! I mean it seems weird to clean your house before people come over and leave cups and beer bottles everywhere but it will make clean up much easier. Also, clear the way for walking hazards and issues with flow.
- Check the lighting and decor. Do one last thorough walk through of every light and decor item to make sure you’re good to go.
- Prepare food ahead of time. If there is anything that can be made the day before, DO IT. Cut down on your time tomorrow preparing food so all you have to do is warm it up.
DAY OF PARTY!
- Go grab ice! Plenty to keep drinks chilled and ice for coolers etc
- Set up food
- Turn everything on! Don’t for get that playlist!
- Go get ready, and have a great time. You’ve been preparing and ready for this day!
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
Rest in Peace. Seriously. You earned this. Enjoy the holiday season and start over in January.