Planning a party is a creative process that also needs a distinct practical foundation to make everything fall fabulously into place . While small impromptu dinner parties or friendly get-togethers require very little planning anything remotely on the grand scale needs proper and attentive pre-planning to make sure as little goes wrong on the day as is humanly possible.

To help you organise your party from scratch we have devised a useful checklist, which you can use to tick off reminders as you go.

Decide exactly what style of party you want and then work out if it is within your allotted budget.

Set the date of your party. Be aware that different styles of party are more appropriate to certain nights of the week. For example family parties and weddings are best held at the weekend, so that everyone is probably free to attend, while corporate events are generally more popular held towards the end of the working week. Certain dates such as birthdays and anniversaries are naturally less flexible so should be planned for well in advance.

Choose your style of party, menu, decorations and decide on any entertainment.

Draw up the guest list and try to estimate how many people will accept your invitation.

Once you have some realistic idea of numbers you can book your venue or work out whether you will need extra space at home.

Popular venues often need to be booked as much as a year in advance at busy times of the year, such as Christmas or Valentines Day, and three months ahead in normal periods.

If you want to hold your party at home but are seriously “space challenged” it is worth considering a marquee, even a tiny one attached to the side of the house gives you a bit more breathing space. Otherwise now might be a good time to clean out and paint the garage or that old barn. Don’t forget any outside building, no matter how plain and functional, can be transformed with a pretty marquee lining and interesting lighting.

Invitations need to be printed and sent out at least four months in advance. Huge balls and events attended by celebrities will need the invitations sent out even sooner.

You should start booking good quality caterers, florists, entertainers, photographers etc. just as soon as the date, venue and numbers are set in stone.

Schedule meetings with all your suppliers to make sure they are fully versed in all the tiny details that will make your party the success you expect it to be. Remember you are well within your rights to ask for tangible evidence of their ability to make your party a success.

If you are using a venue that also provides the catering insist on a tasting and run through the wine list. It is good to sample the wine with your chosen menu.

Some performers will need a room for changing, you may have to add this to your booking requirements – it is inconsiderate and impractical to expect high-level entertainers to change in the loo. The normal solution is to reserve a bedroom or two, which then also gives a quiet sanctuary for those who have driven a long way and need to rest, or for those who are performing too late in the evening to make any sort of long journey back home.

Nearer to “D” day go back to the venue to check there have been no unexpected changes, or events booked on the same day that mean you will lose access to previously promised rooms or areas.

Four weeks ahead – double check that all your expected guests have confirmed, make a detailed check list, order wine and champagne, if you are doing the catering yourself check all the food for your menu will be available when you need it. Book any extra staff to help on the day and also after-party cleaners, if you can’t rope in enough willing helpers. Plan your decorations and order flowers and any required hired-in toilets, heating or air conditioning, tables, chairs, cutlery, china, glass and table linen etc. Decide on a seating plan.

Three weeks ahead – check wine order and decide on cocktails and soft drinks. Double-check any special dietary requirements for your guests. Take an honest look at your table linen, serving dishes and table settings, you may have a bit of shopping or serious hiring to do!

Two weeks ahead – if relevant start pre-party food preparation and begin to make any decorations.

One week ahead – do any last minute spring-cleaning and treble check that all food, decorations, hired furniture and entertainers will be here in time!

Two days ahead – stop panicking you are nearly there. If you are holding your party at home make as many dishes in advance that you can, put all the appropriate wines, champagne and soft drinks in the fridge, prepare canapés for the freezer and order the ice. Buy or order your flowers.

The day before – ring the venue if you are holding a large event, talk to the banqueting manager and make sure everything is in place. Check that flowers have been allowed for, that any fancy linen has arrived from the hire firm and that it is properly laundered and fits the tables and that the chef hasn’t gone sick and your food is being prepared by a trainee – yes it has happened!

If your party is at home write the place cards and set the table, arrange the bar, prepare cocktails and fruit cups, arrange flowers and pretty-up the loo.

On the day – if at home remove canapés from the freezer, prepare food, remove corks from white wine bottles and foil from champagne, decant any red wine and allow it to breathe, set out the drinks tray, check flowers, decorations and the state of the loo. Leave the kitchen clean and tidy. Brief all your helpers and entertainers etc. then have a bath and relax.

Grand occasion events demand you look your best so have some “me” time before dressing to kill and then get to the venue well in time to give everything the once over before your guests arrive. Do make sure that bands, entertainers and any guest speakers have arrived, or are well on their way. Check they all know the exact timing schedule and that the venue has been well briefed to provide them with food, drink and possibly a changing area.

Enjoy yourself and have fun – you have pulled it off!