Every milestone deserves a celebration, big or small!! Your birthday is the perfect excuse to get your favourite people together, let your hair down and enjoy everything being all about you!
Whether it’s a huge milestone year or not, sometimes a fabulous party is exactly what you need.
To help you make your party a roaring success, check out our ultimate birthday party guide. I hope you can use some of these tried and tested tips and tricks to plan your best birthday party yet.
Perfect planning makes the perfect party.
We understand that every party is different, whether it’s a raging 21st birthday bash, a classy 30th soiree or a family-friendly 40th celebration, you need to start planning at least a few months ahead.
Set your party budget (and then add another 10 – 20%)
Memories are priceless, but you don’t want to be paying them off forever.
It’s important to add up and itemise your party expenses so you can work out the big picture. This will also stop you from overspending in one area and having to max out your credit card for other expenses.
It’s important to do a bit of research at this stage into how much things should cost which helps you decide how much you are prepared to pay. I repeat, add an extra 10-20% to your budget so you have a little bit more flexibility and to cater for any unforeseen expenses.
Tip: Ensure you are honest to the venue with your budget, they can sometimes tailor packages.
Why not start saving for your party early?
This is a great idea (especially for milestone birthdays or for those that like to plan ahead). Set up a party savings account and transfer some cash over every pay cycle. If you are planning a milestone party like your fortieth, why not start saving 12 to 18 months in advance? Your credit cards and future self will thank you!
Minimum Spend options
Many venues offer a minimum spend option which you can tailor to suit your party needs and budget. It’s crucial to ask the venue exactly what your minimum spend includes so there are no nasty surprises later on.
A minimum spend should consider the whole dollar benchmark a customer must meet. For example, if the minimum spend for private bar is $4000, the venue must make at least $4000 on food, beverages and in some cases, AV, in order to book that space. Keep in mind that any dollar is considered such as your friends paying for their own drinks, so you aren’t obliged to place a bar tab!
A scenario could be for instance, if the venue made $3800, then you will owe the $200 difference. Keep in mind that each venue may be different.
In Sydney, minimum spends can range from $1000 to $10000, depending on your venue and the number of guests. Bear in mind that the prices will be at a premium on Friday and Saturday nights for many venues.
Tip: Why not suggest your guests buy a few drinks for themselves in lieu of a gift that will help reach minimum spend?
When, where and how many guests?
Once you have set your budget, the fun begins… Now the search is on for your perfect birthday party venue. To get the venue you want, it’s best not to leave things until the last minute.
Things can get tricky for larger parties (depending on the time of year!). Christmas time and wedding season can be challenging and need a bit more notice – sometimes popular venues can be booked out a year in advance!
As a general rule, for parties with up to 100 guests, we definitely recommend booking your venue at least two months in advance.
Don’t be discouraged if you leave things to the last minute. It’s still worth reaching out to your desired venue, you will need to sign a booking form to lock things in (normally includes cancellation T&Cs).
What to think about when choosing your venue?
Location, location, location…
I have said this three times because the venue location is critical! A ‘perfect party venue’ quickly loses its shine if it’s a nightmare for your guests to get to and from the party.
Ideally, your venue should be accessible to trains, buses, taxis, UBERs and have close-by access to parking lots.
Check out the venue in person before making a choice
The pictures online can be deceiving so it pays to visit the venue and get a feel for the space before you make your decision.
How much will your venue cost?
Venue use only – Many party venues charge a ‘hire fee’. Hire fees range from $250 for a small community space out in the suburbs up to $2 000 for a luxurious, private space in Sydney’s CBD.
Tip: It may seem a bit much to visit a lot of venues, perhaps get someone to help check out some you can’t attend and take a video of the space. You might have a friend who works close by?
If you intend on sharing the venue (non-exclusive hire) at any point e.g. booking a VIP area in a restaurant, bar or club (or opening the space up to the public later on), it’s important to understand what the public crowd will be like. Make sure you are aware of any restrictions you might have like transiting to the bar or the public transiting to the bar through your event.
Choose the right venue for your crowd and catering needs
Ensuring your venue can comfortably accommodate and cater to your guests is crucial. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the food and drinks policy (trust me every venue will be slightly different) such as BYO or self-catering.
· Ask in advance about external catering or BYO alcohol as many venues may not allow this or have adequate kitchen facilities.
· Find out the best way for the venue and caterers to get in contact with each other (ensuring you are kept in the loop).
· Make sure you are catering to your guests’ dietary requirements e.g. gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian.
Tip: If you have a social media event up, it will save loads of time if you just do one post about any dietary requirements people might have and ask to be messaged privately for personal considerations.
To get the most from your food budget, consider canape platters instead of canape packages or set menus. It is good to provide some more substantial food options when people are drinking, so ask the venue what they can do in this respect.
Start your party a bit later, so guests have a chance to eat dinner before they come. If you start your party around 7pm, you could get away with catering 3 canapes per person.
Tip: If you want to cater yourself, be sure to ask if there is a corkage fee!
Food and beverage packages
If you have a bigger budget, then food and beverage packages are a great way to treat your guests.
Depending on the venue, you could be looking at around $50 – $100 per person for a three-hour package. Again, it’s important to clearly understand what is included e.g. does your drinks package include cocktails? Is it extra to provide a cocktail on arrival for your guests? Remember, that with packages you normally need to confirm numbers with the venue and there can be a risk of paying for guests that don’t attend.
Tip: Venues will tend to count heads at the entrance for additional people, so provide a guest list to avoid “tag-a-longs” which may end up costing more for each additional head!
If you are planning on getting a cake, let your venue know. Some venues will charge for “cakeage” if you bring your own cake; others may even be able to take care of the cake for you.
The Extra Thoughts
Party Theme and pre/post-party venue access
We all love a dress-up party! Will you be able to dress the venue up according to your theme?
If you want to decorate the venue yourself, then it’s important to find out when you can get access before your event. Try to set up as early as possible so you have plenty of time to get ready.
Ask to see examples of what the venue has done in the past and find out if there will be any extra charges.
Music, DJs and speeches
What equipment does the venue provide? Is all the sound and audio-visual equipment available at the venue, or will you need to hire extra? Sometimes you may need to pay additional costs to use the venue equipment and sign a damage waiver, be sure to ask!
If you are looking at hiring a DJ for your party, it’s important to brief them on the type of music you want and find out if you need to hire any extra equipment. Will your DJ charge extra for their equipment and for providing the use of a microphone for speeches and announcements?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making your own playlist and plugging in your laptop. If you are going to go down this path, let the venue know. A good venue will ensure they have the right equipment on hand (and help you hire it if required).
Tip: If you are only wanting to play your own playlist, send a Spotify link to the venue manager so they have it playing before you enter on the night.
Choose your guests.
Your party budget helps you make the tough decision about how many people you can invite to your party – now you just have to decide who to invite.
It can be hard choosing your guests and sometimes feelings will get hurt e.g. if you choose not to invite plus ones or only invite a few of your workmates. To make life easier, create two guest lists; A list and B list. On your A-List, include the people you definitely want to attend your party. Your B List is your back up list (nice to have).
If people on your A-List are unable to attend, then you can invite extras off the B-List to make up the numbers.
Try to get your invitations out as early as possible so your guests can RSVP to your party. Ideally one or two months before the event so your A-List can save the date.
There are so many different ways to invite your guests, from traditional paper invitations to digital email or social media invites. It’s really up to you to use the medium you are most comfortable with.
Make sure you include at a bare minimum:
· Your name (it is your party after all!)
· Date, time and location.
· Whether plus ones are included.
· RSVP instructions (when and how your guests can RSVP)
· Your contact phone number/email address
· Request for dietary requirements
· Dress code
· Theme – bring this into your invitation design and make sure you let people know to dress up!
Tip: Be sure to post within the event on social media at least twice, it will send a notification and remind everyone who has been invited within the group.
Make it a night to remember – pictures or it didn’t happen!
If you want an easy way to make your party Instagram-worthy then organise a Photo booth for your guests. They are fun and irresistible for all ages!
You can create your own logo, Instagram handle, add some fun props and make some great memories. Make sure you choose a photo booth that can instantly print images at the event to give people something to take away.
If you want to splash out, why not hire an event photographer to capture the essence of the night.
Tip: Buy a Photo book and pen to allow people to take photos and write a nice message for even better memories.
Enlist the help of some ‘party experts’
It’s a great idea to get help, you don’t need to do everything yourself. Friends, family, and event planners (mostly provided by a venue) who know what they are doing can help keep your stress levels down and avoid expensive, frustrating rookie party planning errors along the way.
Now your all set, you can finally get excited!
Travis Goddard is an owner/operator of Soultrap Bar, Surry Hills, NSW. An expert at managing large events and parties contact him to make your next event a success.