Party prep without stress

So you are pretty sure your child’s party is going to be a great reflection of who they are, and you’ve worked out that the vision and ideas for the party are consistent with the time, energy and budget you have available. Phew! Now how do you make the party preparation as fun and smooth as the party itself? Your planning document is the key to an organised and peaceful party. As you go through this document, a natural ‘to do’ list should arise as you consider what you need to do to make each aspect you have listed happen. Here are some other time and energy-saving tips.




  • Get RSVPs early so you know early on exactly who is coming. Chase them if you have to as until you know how many guests you will have it’s hard to pull together the details.
  • Whatever you can do in advance, do in advance! Put together take-home gifts, wrap prizes for games, stuff the piñata, print any colouring in sheets, go through your craft gear if using, make liners for platters, decorate vases, make name tags and put together water bottles or other decorative details 1-2 weeks in advance (a movie and a glass of wine can help).
  • Label boxes of party items grouped appropriately and store in your wardrobe, laundry or garage until the night before.
  • Order online where you can, and make the most of free delivery and shopping in your PJs. Prizes, take-home gifts, party food, boxes and bags, plates, napkins, straws and decorations can all be ordered online and sent back if you change your mind. Just check delivery time so you have things when you need them
  • Trial games as they can often work out differently in real life than they do in your (or your child’s) head.
  • Cookie dough can be made and frozen weeks in advance and then brought to room temperature, cut out and baked the day before. Iced cookies, slices and candies can be made and stored a few days in advance.
  • Update the master planning document as you go so you keep track of what needs to be done and when and don’t be afraid to delete tasks and ideas (I like to think of it as postponing the idea until the next party).




  • Set all tables, including craft tables and drinks tables, the night before, if possible. You can also you set them up in another room and then move them into position on the day of the party.
  • Limit the number of food items that need to be made fresh on the day. Have a good mix of food that only needs to be plated, food that needs to be assembled or heated and a few items that need to be made fresh on the day.
  • Un-iced cupcakes can be baked and frozen well in advance – bring the cupcakes to room temperature (keep them covered) and then ice the night before. If applying fondant decorations to cupcakes do so after they have come to room temperature.
  • Cakes or cupcakes covered in fondant can be stored in airtight containers or an appropriately sized box in a cool area for 1-2 days before the party.
  • Decorate as much as you can before the big day. Balloons don’t lose too much of their shape and other inside decorations can be hung ahead of time.
  • If you are going to reconfigure any rooms, trial this a week out as it always takes longer than you think and it’s not fun lugging furniture around under time pressure.



  • Set out all your platters and bowls the night before and label what is going in each. This ensures you have enough and is also great for helpers.
  • Depending on the scale of the birthday cake itself, give yourself 2-3 evenings to do this. Baking, crumb coating, icing and decorating a cake in one night is really too much (just ask my husband Josh).
  • Have a really good, detailed run sheet for the day itself, including 5-10 jobs for helpers and anything that needs to be picked up on the day as well as time to get yourself organised.
  • Whatever you do, start the day by having a shower, doing your hair and make up and having a presentable outfit on and then setting out your party clothes for later. You will never have time to do this 30 minutes before guests arrive but you will always have time first thing!

Despite my best intentions, there are always one or two things that I plan for the day that don’t happen – and that’s fine. I never beat myself about this because at the end of the day the birthday child will remember the overall feel of what it was like to be at their party and it’s more important to be relaxed and really ‘present’ at the celebration and enjoy what you have worked so hard on.


About Author

Nicki Taylor

Nicki Taylor, together with super-husband Josh is focused on building a warm, inclusive and outrageously fun family life for her three young children. She serves on The Parenting Place board and is a contributor to the lifestyle section on and in Parenting magazine.

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