1. Set the Date, and Set it Early
The key to any successful event is careful and timely planning. You should begin to plan your party at least two months in advance: make your venue and catering bookings early on so that you don't miss out on the ones you want most, and send your invites as soon as possible so that your guests can save the date.
Set your RSVP date four weeks before your birthday party. This way, you'll have a precise guest list to give to your caterer and your venue hire company so that they can finalise their arrangements for your event.
2. Pick the Perfect Catering Service
As with any event, the food you serve will impact on the success or failure of your party. At a 21st birthday party food service is particularly important in order to limit the number of intoxicated guests at your party. 21st birthdays are notorious for over-indulgent party-goers.
A cocktail service is one of the best options for your party catering, as your guests will be constantly consuming small, delicious morsels of food, and they will be encouraged to mingle and chat amongst themselves. Talk to your caterer about arranging a cocktail menu for your party.
Your caterer will have a set menu from past functions that you can pick and choose from: however, don't be afraid to talk to your caterer about your own menu inspirations. Infuse their standard menu with a few of your own personal twists.
Book a tasting session with your caterer so that you can experience the full flavour and presentation of their food. A tasting session is also the perfect time to bring your own ideas to the table. Take inspiration from your theme, from old family favourites, or even from the time of year.
3. Vamp Up the Party with a Theme
Use your wildest imagination to dream up a fun, whimsical theme for your party! Take notes from your favourite music, television shows, movies: you could even incorporate your favourite hobbies, or cultural interests. Some of the more popular themes for 21st birthdays include:
Hollywood: Dress up as your favourite actors and actresses with a Hollywood theme. Have some of your guests act as paparazzi at the door to take photos of you and your friends as you arrive: you could even include a red carpet! If you're including a short slideshow in the evening's formalities, you could introduce it as a movie premier.
Era Themes: 60s, 70s, and 80s themed parties are as popular as ever. Not only are they fun and reminiscent, these are easy themes: costuming and music selection are simple. You could also use the year in which you were born to theme the evening.
Colours and Letters: Theme your party subtly with a colour theme. Your decorations, tableware, choice of dress, and even some menu elements can be chosen to reflect your theme. Alternately, you could use a particular letter to theme your evening, such as the first letter of your name.
Casinos: Holding your 21st in a casino does all of the theming for you. Put on your best Las Vegas-style outfit, and organise some themed games and activities.
Your theme can be subtle or overt; sophisticated or outrageous. For a toned-down theme, you could take inspiration from your venue: hold you 21st by the beach and serve seafood and summery cocktails, and have your guests dress for the water; have a good old-fashioned pool party and ask your caterer for a barbecue-style catering service; or you could even hold a large-scale picnic in a picturesque setting, imagination is key!
4. Choosing the Ideal Venue
The length of your guest list, as well as your budget, will help you determine the type of venue that you hire for your party. You want your venue to be large enough to hold all of your guests comfortably. A hired venue will assist you in the arrangement of all of your tables and chairs, tableware, decorations, and sometimes even entertainment and an open bar. Search around for an affordable venue that suits your theme as well as your logistic requirements.
5. Taking Care of the Formalities
The Key: If you're sticking to tradition, the handing over of the key is an important part of your 21st birthday party. The passing of the key symbolises your becoming an adult: your freedom to open new doors and accept new responsibilities. There are a number of ways to 'hand over the key'. You could have a key custom-made and cut for the presentation, or set one in a piece of jewellery such as a necklace. You could even have your cake made in the shape of a key.
Giving Gifts: If your guests are encouraged to bring gifts (and most will, without encouragement), arrange to have a clear table where your presents can be placed. Some parents will have a special, surprise gift that they want to present to their son or daughter at the party. The best time to present this gift would be during the speeches.
Speech, Speech: Nowadays, the format of speech giving at birthday parties and weddings is less formal: however they still give your party a sense of occasion, and are a personal touch on your special evening. Talk to specific family and friends about making short, simple speeches for the night. They could include amusing anecdotes or touching words. Set a specific time for the speeches to be made, usually early in the evening and between food service times.
6. Recruit Some Helping Hands
With the amount of organising you'll need to in the days leading up to the party, you'll want to enlist the help of some of your family and friends. Ask your family and friends to help you with decorations, table settings, balloon blowing, playlist-making, and even food service! Help from your family and friends is a simple way to lower your costs as well as helping people mix together.
7. Enjoy Yourself!
Once all of the planning is in place, your guests begin to arrive, and the drinks start flowing, relax and enjoy your own hard work! A 21st is once in a lifetime: so enjoy the company of your family and friends, some good food, and a long, memorable night.