Checklist for Family Events

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Family events are great ways for people to catch up with one another and see how everyone has changed and grown. A celebration of family history or another special event, however, can seem overwhelming if you don’t use a checklist. Start using your checklist as early as 15 to 12 months prior to the family event so you don’t have to worry about forgetting any details.

Set a Date and Time

The date of a family event can determine the success of the festivities. For example, an event on a weekend or during a school break, may have better attendance than a party planned for the middle of the week when school is in session. When considering a date, take a look at your own calendar to see when you have the most free time to tend to last-minute details. Once you pick a date, stick to it.


Setting a budget for the festivities helps you plan a savings goal, if necessary, and stay out of unnecessary debt. When you create a budget, determine how much you want to spend on individual items like food, a venue, entertainment, party favors and decorations. As you purchase items for the event, save your receipts and bids in a dedicated envelope or folder so you can easily find them later.

Pick a Venue

The venue that you choose, whether it’s your home or an event hall, should easily accommodate all the guests that you invite. If you want to host an even at a non-residential venue, examine the details of each place that you scout. Details to look at include the hours that a venue is available, the ability to setup for the party in advance and the cost to rent items like tables and chairs. Keep in mind that some venues have contracts that state that you must use the site’s photographer, catering service and/or bartender. As you look at different venues, pay attention to the small details because they can make a big difference in the services and amenities that you receive.

Mailing List and Correspondences

Once you know the date and location of an event, put together a mailing list that includes updated mailing addresses for your guests. While electronic invitations are popular, a guest’s email provider may send a message from an e-invite website to the spam folder. When you complete your mailing list, send out save-the-date cards, followed by formal invitations four months prior to the event.

Food, Beverages and Contractors

Depending on the size of the party, you may want some help with items like food preparation and serving. At least six months before the family event, the Discover Ohio site recommends reserving caterers and service providers, like photographers, bakers and group transportation. If you and your family decide to make the food, provide the beverages, take photographs and service the tables, divide the tasks early so everyone has a clear idea about her role and responsibilities.


Décor is about more than table linens and the color of the plates; it helps communicate the theme of a family event. If the event is a family reunion, for example, decorations can include old and new photographs of family members, a slideshow running in the background and your favorite flowers from Grandma’s garden as centerpieces. Depending on the event, consider using a guestbook and other items that will help you remember this special day.

Last Minute Details

A week before the event, call the vendors, event manager at the venue and those that you have enlisted to help you out to confirm that there are no changes. As you set up for the party, double check that you have the right number of chairs, tables, dishes, flatware, cups, napkins and party favors so you don't have to run to the store on the day of the event. The Discover Ohio website encourages you to document your event and to gather the latest information about your guests, like email addresses or birthdays, so pack a camera, notebook and a couple pens. After the event, send than you notes to everyone who helped and your guests.