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  • Three to four weeks in advance
    • Guests Write down your guestlist.
    • Budget Create your spending plan. Be realistic, but leave flexibility for last-minute problems or ideas.
    • Theme If you want to have a theme birthday, choose it now. It’ll impact the decorations, invitations and the cake.
    • Rental If you need to rent anything that you don’t own, go to your party store and make the reservations now.
    • Food Write down a tentative menu, and include beverages.
    • Shopping list From the menu, write a grocery shopping list for the weeks to come. You can buy any non-perishables at this point.
    • Activities Choose the games and activities for the guests. If children are involved, make two sets of activities: one for the kids and one for the adults.
    • Invitations Write down and send your invitations. Mailing invitations is very formal; nowadays an email is often sufficient. You can even use Facebook and other social networks to manage your guestlist, but don’t neglect those who are not on these websites.
    • Entertainment Look up local entertainers if you plan on hiring one for a few hours. Internet business databases are good for reviews of such services. Book one that has a good reputation.
  • Two to three weeks in advance
    • Favors If you plan on giving party favors, order or put them together now. You can involve your children in this activity by turning it into a crafts afternoon.
    • Games If any of the games require buying boards and items, go to the toy store.
    • Balloons If you want balloons to your party, go to your party supplies store and place your order.
    • Help If you need assistance with the decoration and the cooking, ask some of your guests to help. Many will be more than happy to participate.
    • Inventory Make an inventory of the party supplies you do own and put them together at the same place. Make of list of anything missing and buy what you need.
    • Rental Confirm your reservation with the rental store.
    • Candy If you plan on having a pinata party, go buy the pinata and the candy to fill it.
  • One week in advance
    • Cleaning Do the heavy cleaning: floors, windows, carpets, upholstery.
    • Cake Go to your bakery and order the cake. If you are making it yourself, bake it and freeze it, without frosting.
    • Flowers Go to your florist and order the flowers.
    • Food If you didn’t do so earlier, go to your grocery store for non-perishable food items, and anything that can be kept in the freezer.
    • Timeline Make a schedule for the activities. Be prepared to be flexible as some games might be more popular than others.
    • Guestlist Call or email anyone who has not responded to your invitation yet.
  • Two days in advance
    • Batteries Buy or recharge the batteries for the photo and video cameras. Make sure you have extra.
    • Cleaning Dust your tables and counters, and remove clutter from the party area.
    • Fridge Make space in your fridge for all the food you will cook or receive from your guests.
    • Entertainment Call your entertainer and confirm time and price.
    • Music If having music, build your playlist or choose the CDs.
    • Pinata Fill the pinata and put it in a safe place.
  • One day in advance:
    • Food Defrost anything frozen in the fridge. It will keep until the next day. Don’t forget the cake.
    • Cleaning Clean your bathroom and anywhere else your guests will go if you haven’t already.
    • Emergencies Buy emergency supplies like bandages and peroxide. You never know when a scratch needs disinfecting.
    • Decoration Decorate the area where the party will be held.
    • Childproof Make sure you make the party area secure for children. Check the floor and other small spaces for potentially dangerous objects.
    • Games Take out the games and put them in a corner of the party area.
    • Favors Gather the party favors and set them in the party area.
    • Cooking Prepare anything that will keep in the fridge overnight.
  • Day of the party
    • Orders Pick up your cake, flower and balloon orders if they are not delivered.
    • Cake Put the frosting and decorations on the cake, and keep it in the fridge.
    • Decoration Decorate any other space left.
    • Games Set the games up, ready for playing.
    • Service Gather your plates, utensils and glasses.
    • Photo/video Take our your cameras and have them ready to use.
    • Cooking Prepare any food that needs to be fresh such as salads, veggie platters, etc.
    • Supplies Confirm that you have enough bathroom supplies for the amount of guests. Make sure you have extra, just in case.
    • Party. As your guests arrive, smile and have fun!

There is an important birthday coming up, and you want to throw a party. Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, this checklist will help you keep track of all the things you need to do to plan a memorable birthday celebration. This checklist includes tasks for birthday parties for all ages, so feel free to add or remove any tasks you think necessary. Some tasks obviously apply to children’s parties, so if planning for an adult, you can do away with them. We hope that this list will help you plan the perfect birthday party, and don’t forget to have fun, even if you are planning somebody else’s birthday party!


You will have to start planning three or four weeks in advance, especially if you are sending invitations by mail. Otherwise, two to three weeks are enough to notify your guests and plan properly. Also plan for more time if the birthday falls on or around a major holiday, as people tend to book these days quickly.

Since the biggest part of the party preparation work involves food and cooking, the biggest days will be those closer to the date. If you decide to order a cake, go to your bakery at least a week before the date, otherwise they might not be able to fill your order. If this is a birthday party for children, don’t forget to plan activities for the adults, too; if you are hiring an entertainer for the kids, do so at least three weeks in advance. Clowns and other entertainers for children are very busy, especially in the summer.

Birthday Party Checklist
  Sherry M. Lewis

on December 20, 2011

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