And now we get to the fun part! I love cruising the internet and finding creative party ideas that fit my theme and inspire me. My absolute favorite places to go are ETSY, Pinterest, CatchMyParty, Kara'sPartyIdeas, HostessWithTheMostess, and BirthdayPartyIdeas. If you're new to planning (and even if you're not), you might feel a little overwhelmed by all of the great pictures and ideas from these sites -- so overwhelmed that it might start to paralyze you. I've been there. But over time, I've learned to let these sites sites power my creativity rather than freeze me in my tracks. Here's my process.
You already know I love to order digital invitations on ETSY. I also usually order some sort of complementary digital tags from an ETSY vendor that I can print and use for cupcake toppers, favors, napkins/cups, etc. (more on this later), and a clothing item, like a personalized shirt, for the birthday girl or boy. Well in advance of ordering, I mark items I like as a "favorite." Then, about 4-6 weeks prior to the party, I cull down that grouping and order my "must haves." These are always items that fit my theme and color scheme perfectly and that I really can't make as affordably on my own. ETSY vendors selling handmade items often need significant lead time, so ordering early will cause you less stress/disappointment. For things I decide to make, I keep them in my favorites or transfer them to my Pinterest site.
For those that don't know, Pinterest is like an online pin board where you're able to easily organize all your best ideas and inspiration from the internet and share the same with others. By following Pinterest's easy instructions, you can "pin" all sorts of things from internet sites (including this one) onto an online board you create. Unless you hide them, the boards you create are then searchable by others. This is actually my favorite aspect of the site. If I run a search, for example, for "Pokemon Party," I will not only find individual "pins" but, also, entire pin boards people have created regarding that topic. I can then pin those items onto a board I've created for the party and/or follow the board and continue to get great new ideas every time the board's creator pins something there.
It's pretty easy to go through Pinterest loving most things you see, pinning them, and then having so many ideas that you implement none (or almost none) of them. So instead of pinning everything, on my first pass, I "like" items that inspire me or give me a specific idea (you can do this by clicking the little heart in the corner of a picture). After I spend a couple of evenings (or sometimes even a week) "liking" items, I then begin pinning only those that include something that I will actually make or order for the party. I pin them to a board I've created for the party and, in the description space, I type exactly what about the picture/post I'm inspired by and/or will create or buy. For example, there may be a picture of a whole party table, but I'm inspired only by the banner hanging above it, which I'd like to recreate -- in that case, I might type "love banner" or "make banner using [certain colors, etc.]." Follow me on Pinterest and see what I mean (search for "Lori G-O" or "time2planaparty").
Finally, while I love using all of these online resources, I just have to put pen to paper in my last planning step. I keep a notebook for personal projects, like party planning. There, I'll draw each thing I intend to make for the party. Beside each drawing, I'll make a list of the things I need to purchase to put that item together (including if it is from ETSY, Party City, or some other source). Here's an example from the Puppy Party.
Here's also one I started for the upcoming Pokemon party.
Taking this extra step helps me make sure I'm not forgetting anything and, as I get close to the party, it makes it less likely that I'll be running out to a craft store at 8:30 p.m. trying to grab wooden dowels or paper straws.
We're so lucky to live in an age where so many beautiful pictures and inspiring ideas are at our fingertips! Finding a way to wade through all of it and keep things organized and fun is important to a successful party plan!