going to look at here is how to make sure that you schedule your plans
for smooth results—no all-night cleaning marathons, no last-minute runs
to the gas station for bags of ice, and no short tempers.
Things You'll Need
Putting Important Dates on Your Family's Calendar
The more people you have
in your family, the more things you'll have to celebrate—and the harder
you'll find it to keep track of them. Making sure everybody knows what's
coming up is key. So every year when you get your new planner for the
next year (or at the beginning of the new year if you're using a system
that doesn't require a new planner), gather the whole family together
and discuss the events you already know about for the coming year.
You'll have annual events such as birthdays and anniversaries, and
you'll have the year's special events such as graduations and weddings.
Make sure that you enter
the appropriate dates into your family's planner. You may also have
some speculative possibilities. For example, you might have a good idea
that the Cub Scout in your family will be receiving an award at the
spring Scout dinner. These dates should get “penciled in” so that as
other activities come up for the same date all family members are aware
that there may be a conflict and, at most, they can make only tentative
plans for that date. Throughout the year, other occasions for family
celebrations will come up. The dates should be brought to everyone's
attention and entered into the family planner immediately.
This initial family
planning session of the year is also a good time to discuss any
preliminary ideas of how you'll celebrate the important dates and who
will be involved. You might want to require everyone to be available for
a family dinner on each person's birthday, but mom and dad may choose
to have a quiet dinner for two on their anniversary. At this point,
nothing is really definite but the dates. Still, getting a feel for how
each family member may be expected to participate will make the actual
scheduling process easier when the time comes.
Even though all of the
dates are recorded on your planner, you should safeguard against having
one of those dates arrive without your having prepared for it. So, for
each date you enter, also enter a note six weeks earlier reminding you
that the event is upcoming.
When it comes to
important dates, don't rely on your memory; use your planner. Even the
most memorable of occasions have a way of sneaking up on you.
Especially, don't rely on other events to trigger your memory if those
other events don't happen on a fixed date. Many national holidays are
tied to such roving days as “the first Monday of the month” and can move
around datewise by a whole week, so by the time they jog your memory,
your special day could be a week in the past!
Setting Aside Enough Time to Celebrate
Celebrations come in
all shapes and sizes, but you can categorize them into three types of
activities for the purpose of working them into your family's schedule:
family gatherings can produce some of the most treasured family
memories. These celebrations don't involve anyone but the immediate
family. They are smaller and less formal—and require less planning and
preparation time. Birthday dinners (especially for the adults in the
family), anniversary dinners, Mother's Day brunches, or acknowledgments
of significant achievements with special desserts all fall into this
full-blown parties will seem more appropriate for other events. These
celebrations involve inviting people outside the immediate family. They
are larger and more structured—and require more planning and preparation
time. Graduation parties, weddings, and end-of-season team parties fall
into this category.
type of celebration is the kind where you or your family are invited
guests. These celebrations can be family events hosted by extended
family members or important milestones being celebrated by friends.
You'll find that your planning and preparation to attend these events
will be much different from the planning and preparation when you and
your family are in charge.
No matter which type of
celebration you're having, you'll need to be involved in four phases:
planning, preparation, celebration, and memorializing.
You'll know it's time to
start the planning phase when your six-week advance reminder comes up
on your family's schedule. This is the time to make some crucial
decisions about the flavor of the celebration. Everyone in your family
who will play a part in the event should be involved in this initial
phase because you want to make sure that everyone is in agreement about
how the celebration will shape up.
Begin by clearly
defining everyone's roles. Decide at the beginning of the planning
process who will be involved in the making of key decisions about the
celebration. Consider the person whose milestone you'll be celebrating
and whether that person should be participating in decisions about the
celebration. Children over the age of three usually have some pretty
definite ideas about what type of birthday party they would like to
have. On the other hand, the honoree at a retirement party might prefer
to just have to show up rather than be involved in any planning.
And sometimes the party
isn't really about the guest of honor at all; first-year birthday
parties, infant baptism receptions, and traditional graduation dinners
with grandparents tend to be more for the hosts. Of course, the planning
of surprise parties by definition doesn't receive input from the person
who is the reason for the party. Make especially sure to include in the
planning anyone who is likely to have a strong opinion or a hesitancy
to participate so she won't feel that her ideas have been overlooked.
After you've established
who will be responsible for the planning of the event, you'll also want
to get clear about who will make the important decisions about the
celebration. You don't have to—and probably shouldn't—let one person
make all of the decisions. For example, it's certainly appropriate for a
six year old to be able to choose between yellow or chocolate birthday
cake. At the same time, a parent, while taking into consideration the
child's preference, should be the one to determine whether a party at
the ice-skating rink is acceptable.
At this early point in
the planning phase, you'll need a decision on what type of event it will
be. You don't want to make this decision in a vacuum. Instead, use your
family planner to help you, by looking to see what the weeks leading up
to the event and the days immediately after the event already have in
store. A logical sequence of decision-making will go as follows:
who you'll want to attend: just your immediate family or a more
extended group. One aspect of this decision is what the person who's
reaching the milestone would prefer. Some people like big parties in
their honor, and other people prefer quiet family gatherings. Another
aspect is the type of milestone. More people invite friends to a 25th
wedding anniversary celebration than to a 17th anniversary event.
Sometimes the situation calls for both types of events. Many 10 year
olds like to have both a family birthday dinner and a party with their
whether you want to have the event in your home or at another location.
Sometimes the nature of the event will determine this answer for you.
If you're throwing an ice-skating party, then you know where it will
have to be held. Other times, family circumstances lead you toward the
answer. If your family budget is tight, remember that parties at home
where you do most of the work are less expensive. In another case, if
your general sense is that the family will be going through a very
hectic time—business trips, final exams, start of soccer season, having a
new roof put on the house—then going offsite may be your best choice.
Sometimes it's a matter of space—the size of your house compared to the
size of the guest list.
whether the festivities will be simple or elaborate. Again, take into
account the personality of the person whose accomplishment you're
celebrating. If she prefers simple, then go simple; if she prefers
extravagant, then go elaborate. The amount of time and money you have
available also affect this decision. Generally speaking, elaborate
celebrations take both more time and more money.
whether you should opt for a labor-intensive setup or one that's easy
to do. Time and money play a major role in this decision as well. If the
family does all of the cleaning, cooking, and hosting, then you'll save
money, but you'll need to spend the time. If you hire a cleaning
service and order the food ready-made, or if you have the celebration at
a restaurant, then you'll save time and energy, but you'll need to
spend more money. (If you're short on both time and money, then you'll
be better off if you plan more simple festivities—hamburgers at home
instead of filet mignon at a fancy restaurant.) Another factor is your
family members' interests. If someone in the home really enjoys making
fancy individualized favors or loves cooking elaborate gourmet meals,
then a labor-intensive celebration won't seem so laborious.
summarizes your options for the style of your celebration. Six weeks
before the event, your family should choose one of the options on each
line; that's four choices in all, with the possibility of 16 different
types of celebrations.
Table 1. Determine the Nature of the Celebration
|Just family||Invited guests|
|At home||At another location|
|Labor intensive||Easy to do|
Select one option from each row. Sixteen different combinations are possible.
The type of
celebration you choose will determine the tasks you'll need to schedule
to have a successful event. By scheduling wisely and sticking to your
schedule, you'll be able to enjoy the preparation process, and you'll
have energy—and a pleasant attitude—left over to enjoy the party! To
help you break down the preparation into its components and get them
onto your family's planner, you can use the checklists and timelines in
the following tables. These tables include
Table 2, “If You're Attending Any Party, Either as the Host or a Guest”
Table 2. If You're Attending Any Party, Either as the Host or as a Guest
|4 weeks before||Decide what you'll wear.|
|Try on your outfit if you already own it.|
|Wash the outfit or take it to the dry cleaners, if necessary.|
|Buy a new outfit, if necessary.|
|3 weeks before||Buy the gift and card (wrapping paper, ribbon, tape).|
|Wrap the gift.|
|Check your cameras; buy film, batteries, videotapes, as needed.|
|Pick up your outfit at the cleaners, if necessary.|
|1 day after||Take the film to have it developed.|
|2 days after||Pick up the photos.|
|3 days after||Send the photos to people who would like them.|
|1 week after||Put the photos in an album; create a scrapbook, if you want one.|
Table 3, “If You're Hosting the Party Somewhere Other Than Your Home”
Table 3. If You're Hosting the Party Somewhere Other Than Your Home
|6 weeks before||Set the time, date, and location.|
|Reserve the location for the party.|
|1 day before||Make sure you have enough gas in your car.|
Table 4, “If You're Planning Any Party”
Table 4. If You're Planning Any Party
|4 weeks before||Plan the menu.|
Table 5, “If You're Having the Party in Your Home, Whether or Not You're Inviting Guests”
Table 5. If You're Having the Party in Your Home, Whether or Not You're Inviting Guests
|4 weeks before||Set the dates and time.|
|3 weeks before||Check your stock of disposable dishes and cutlery, if you're going to use disposable supplies.|
|Buy any disposable supplies you need.|
|2 weeks before||Buy any nonperishable food items you'll need.|
|2 days before||Buy perishable food items you'll need.|
|1 day before||Prepare any food ahead that you can.|
|Day of party||Prepare any additional food you're going to serve.|
|Order any take-out food you're going to serve.|
|1 day after||Clean up and put things away.|
Table 6, “If You're Inviting Guests, Whether or Not You're Having the Party at Home”
Table 6. If You're Inviting Guests, Whether or Not You're Having the Party at Home
|4 weeks before||Buy or make invitations.|
|Compile a guest list with addresses.|
|Address the invitations and send them.|
|Plan the party favors.|
|Begin making the favors, if you're going to make them.|
|2 weeks before||Buy the favors, if you're going to buy them.|
|3 days after||Write and send thank-you notes, if appropriate.|
Table 7, “If You're Inviting Guests to Your Home”
Table 7. If You're Inviting Guests to Your Home
|4 weeks before||Make arrangements to rent or borrow any extra chairs, tables, or tableware you'll need.|
|3 weeks before||Pick up anything you're borrowing.|
|Clean any serving pieces that you don't use very often.|
|1 week before||Clean the part of the house that you won't use for the party.|
|4 days before||Dust and vacuum where the party will be.|
|2 days before||Pick up or take delivery of rental items.|
|Set up the tables and chairs.|
|1 day before||Clean the guest lavatory.|
|1 day after||Return rented and borrowed items.|
Table 8, “If You're Planning an Elaborate Party”
Table 8. If You're Planning an Elaborate Party
|4 weeks before||Decide on a theme, if any.|
|Plan the decorations.|
|Begin making the decorations, if you're going to make them.|
|Order the decorations, if they need to be ordered.|
|Plan and hire the entertainment, if you're having any.|
|Order the food, if the event will be catered.|
|2 weeks before||Buy the decorations, if you're going to buy them.|
|Day of party||Pick up any food or decorations that were special ordered.|
Table 9, “If You've Been Invited to a Party”
Table 9. If You've Been Invited to a Party
|When you receive the invitation||RSVP.|
|Get directions to the party.|
|1 day before||Make sure you have enough gas in your car.|
The way to use these
tables is to select all of the ones that apply to the type of event
you're planning. Then slot each of the tasks from all of those tables
into your family's schedule. For example, if you were having your
child's birthday party with her friends at the ice-skating rink, then
you would use the timelines in Tables 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8. On the other hand, if you were having a birthday dinner at home with your family, then you would use the timelines in Tables 2, 4, 5, and 8.
The easiest way for you to select the appropriate checklists is to read
the name of each table and see whether it applies to your event; you'll
use Table 2
for all parties, while your use of the other tables will depend on
whether you're the host or the guest, whether the party will be at your
home or elsewhere, and the nature of the party.
When it comes time for
the final preparations, you can really do yourself a favor by scheduling
things so the preparations should be completed a half hour in advance
of the event. That half-hour cushion leaves you time to catch your
breath and begin to enjoy yourself. You'll also be prepared in case
anyone arrives early. And, in the worst case, you'll have time to deal
with any last-minute emergencies.
Does planning a party
sound too overwhelming to you? Not all celebrations need to be
scheduled. Very small or spur-of-the-moment celebrations can sometimes
seem even more special—a glass raised in a congratulatory toast, an
unexpected box of candy or bouquet of flowers, or even something as
simple as a heartfelt hug!
By now, you and your family should be familiar with how to move tasks from a to do list to a schedule. You'll want to assign each
task to someone who's willing and able—and, you hope, enthusiastic—to
undertake it. Also continue to build on the system you've already put in
place by remembering to use your weekly plan to help you decide on what
days of the week to schedule each task: Writing invitations and placing
orders by phone would go on your deskwork day, shopping would go on
your errand day, polishing serving pieces would go on your housework
day, planning decorations could go on your family day, and so on.
As you'll see, one of
the first things you need to do when planning a celebration is to set
the date, time, and place. You'll want to make sure when you do that you
take into account conflicts—definite or anticipated—with the schedules
of the people you would like to join in the celebration. If you're
having a family event, you'll definitely want to use your family planner
to avoid any conflicts that already exist. Then you'll want to use the
planner to make a note of the event so that it will have priority over
any future scheduling. If you're having a large event with many invited
guests, you'll need to look at a calendar—preferably one that lists
local as well as more universal happenings—and try to avoid any
widespread conflicts. For example, you might decide it's prudent to
avoid the day of your local school's graduation or the grand opening of a
new community center.
Don't stockpile paper
goods for parties. You can easily get drawn in on great discounts if you
buy in bulk. But chances are you'll want a different style of plates
and napkins the next time around. And paper goods don't keep well; they
get crumpled if you don't lay them flat, and they get rippled—and too
disgusting to use—if they're exposed to any moisture. When you start
planning the party six weeks in advance, you'll have plenty of time to
find a fresh supply of exactly what you want on sale.
(alternately fashioned R.s.v.p. and RSVP) is an abbreviation for the
French phrase “Répondez s'il vous plaìt,” which means “Please respond.”
The corresponding English phrase is “The favour of a reply is
requested.” All the polite phrasing aside, from an etiquette standpoint
an invitation that bears “R.S.V.P.” requires a response, and the
response is to be made as soon as possible. A response is required
whether the invitee is accepting the invitation or sending regrets.
What does this mean to you in terms of scheduling?
you've been invited to a party, and the invitation asks for an RSVP,
then you need to make up your mind fairly quickly because it is your
social obligation to respond one way or the other. Some invitations
indicate the date by which your reply is needed; this date is a
deadline, but a quicker response is much more polite.
you're issuing invitations, then you'll want to give careful thought to
whether you want to require RSVPs. Consider the following situations:
with the most formal of invitations, which command a written reply,
your potential guests are likely to respond by phone. These calls can
result in your spending many hours catching up on news with friends and
acquaintances. If your schedule is too tight to pack all of that phone
time into a couple of weeks, then maybe you don't want everyone to RSVP.
alternative that's available to you is for you to indicate on the
invitation “Regrets only.” This phrase means that you want people to
reply only if they won't be coming to the party. This option will
provide you with some information about who may be attending, and at
least the people you'll end up talking to on the phone will be different
from the people you'll see at the party.
can save everyone—you and your guests—time and effort by not requiring
any response to your invitation at all. This choice is really not as
risky as it sounds. Even if you ask for a response, a certain percentage
of invitees will not respond (and you'll want to make sure that you
have enough of everything in case they do show up). On the other hand,
even if you don't ask for a response, a certain number of people will
feel the need to let you know whether or not they're coming anyway. In
general, the same percentage of people show up whether or not replies
were expected or received. A good “rule of thumb” is 30% to 40%, but you
know your friends best, and this percentage may be different for you.
The more parties you throw, the better the feel you'll have about how
many people will attend.
you're having your party at a restaurant or party facility, you'll want
a more accurate idea of who's coming so that you don't end up reserving
space and paying for food that no one will use. Invitees seem to
understand this and respond better in these situations.
After the planning and the
preparation, it's finally time for the celebration itself! We're sure
you don't need a lengthy explanation of what to do here. Your hard work
will pay off, and you should be sure to have fun. Just a few words of
Something is bound
to not go according to plan. If you stop to think about it, probably
some of your best memories—the ones that are retold over and over—are of
things that went wrong; things like the dog knocking over the grill and
eating all of the hamburgers. Probably the best thing you can do is be
flexible and smile.
schedule anything too close after the fun. (You may have noticed in the
timelines that we've even recommended leaving the cleanup until the
next day.) You'll want to have some time to enjoy your accomplishment.
Preserving the Memories
We've said it before, but
this point bears repeating here: The wrapping-up phase of any project is
the easiest one to let slide. But next to the fun of the celebration
itself, the best part of personal and family milestones is the
memories—and they last a lot longer.
If someone in your
family has a hobby that lends itself to memory preservation, then you're
halfway there. There are many complex ways of preserving memories that
some people really enjoy:
likes video editing can take any video you have of the event and turn it
into a cohesive piece that really captures the highlights.
photos, in the hands of someone with the appropriate interest, can be
edited and archived, posted on the Internet, or burned onto CDs.
is an extremely popular hobby these days. Although it is
time-consuming, for an enthusiast the hours spent are truly pleasant,
and the result can be enjoyed for many years by many people.
Also referred to as a memory preserver, the Snaptop case by Iris, shown in Figure 1,
holds all of the memorabilia from an event and is designed to be stored
either horizontally or vertically. Suggested retail: $5.99. Website: www.irisusainc.com
Figure 1. A plastic scrapbook case can be either the first or the last step in preserving your precious memories.
All of these hobbies take time and need to have their own place in your family's schedule . In the meantime, the important step you
need as you wrap up the celebration is to take enough time to set aside
safely in one place all of the pieces you want preserved.
Perhaps in the past—if
you set aside things at all—you've used shoeboxes or shopping bags to
keep such things together. And, unfortunately, if you've ever gone back
to create a more presentable remembrance, you've probably found that
some of what you kept has been crunched, munched, or moisture-damaged.
Now that you're becoming more organized, you'll probably want to use
something a little less vulnerable. “Memory preservers” such as the one
illustrated in Figure 5.1
allow you to corral everything you'll need—photos, videos, CDs, themed
paper plates and napkins, a copy of the invitation, and the like—and
keep it in good condition. In fact, if no one in your family has any
inclination to spend time creating an artistic memory, these plastic
containers may be your last step. If you label and shelve them, you'll
be able to take them out and reminisce any time you want.
valuable exercise you might want to include in your wrap-up activities
is to “debrief” the celebration. Have your family members talk over what
they liked and didn't like and incorporate those opinions into your
future event planning.
you celebrate the same event each year, consider keeping a notebook
containing your guest list, menu (including quantities), list of
decorations, and any reminders or suggestions for the next time.