Who doesn’t love a good party, or a good story, for that matter? The trick is planning the party to make it a pleasant event that becomes a pleasant memory. A three-ring binder, a pad of paper, and a pencil might be necessary tools for writing the story of your party. Another necessary tool is the network of helpers you may not even realize are there.  Parties are fun, yes, but they can also be a lot of work. For the unprepared, it may be overwhelming.

There are only a few basic kinds of decisions that need to be made when planning any party, from a long-time employee’s retirement party to a formal wedding. These five basic elements are: purpose, setting, theme, plot, and characters. You are absolutely correct – those are also the elements of a good story. But remember, the point of a party is to mark an important occasion and give the participants a good story to tell, even if only as a memory they enjoy for themselves.

Purpose is, well, the purpose of the party, the reason for getting the guests together in the first place. This determines all the other elements.

Setting is both the time and place of your story/party. Generally one or both will be restricted.  Just do your best, stick to your budget and don’t worry about it once it’s chosen. An accessory makes a party just as much as any outfit, so if the place isn’t perfect, or the timing is off a little bit – don’t sweat it. What usually matters most is WHY you’re getting together.

Theme is the general mood you want to evoke, the level of formality, and any unifying idea, like a specific song, holiday or locale. Decorations, lighting, music, food, all the senses should be stimulated. Whether it’s a prom or a big Halloween sleepover for tweenage girls, make it special! You don’t have to bust your bankroll. All you need is a genuine attempt in all these areas to focus your guests’ attention on your purpose. Kleenex flowers made with all your girlfriends for your wedding, or getting the guys and their power tools to help you turn your backyard into a Tiki wonderland – if you use your imagination while you’re putting it all together, your guests are sure to enjoy themselves.

Plot is the order of events during the gathering. Don’t pack it so tightly that there isn’t enough time to enjoy the moment, neither have gaps that have no purpose. Guests like to know what to expect, and if you intend to throw a curve ball, plan to emcee the event or hire/draft one and plan what they’ll say to guide your guests through the event. There are plenty of online resources for what goes on in a typical event of just about any kind.

The characters of your story are the guests, the most important part of the event. If the purpose is to honor a special person, then they are the main characters of the story, and need to be showcased in some way. Often the people ARE the purpose, so make sure the purpose, setting, theme and plot are appropriate for THEM.

One of the most important things to remember when planning any event is that you do NOT have to do it alone! Friends, family, co-workers…you’ll have a list of things to not only plan, but then get and setup for the big event. Keep the five story elements in mind and you’ll make wonderful memories for everyone. After all, you should have a storybook time at the party, too!

By Rev. Su Leone, Wedding Officiant