6 Simple Party-Planning Rules Celeb Event Planners Swear By

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Summer is in full swing, with high temps, long days, and no shortage of crammed rooftops. So naturally, we want to book a getaway (or four), spend every evening dining alfresco, and — you guessed it — throw a fun get-together with friends. Thumbing through the internet's how-tos, it may seem like not a lot of work — just whip up a few brightly colored mocktails, fill a patio with glitzy decor, put on a good playlist, and boom, you've got an ideal summer bash. But not so fast. The truth is: Hosting a party so special that people will be talking about it long after your last guest leaves can take some serious planning (not to mention supplies).
Fret not, though, because together with American Express (which just launched its new Cash Magnet Card), we tapped celebrity event planner Karleen Roy to break down a few simple steps any host can take to throw a party that guests — be it work wives, BFFs, or next-door neighbors — will never, ever forget. From thinking up a super-genius theme to plotting impressive (as opposed to cheesy) activities, the party pro's guide covers every single base. Ahead, her six expert tips to pulling off your next big gathering with ease.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Decide on a vibe.

Recycling a party theme you found on Pinterest may be tempting, but it pays to put your own unique spin on things. "When events are personalized," Roy says, "they feel a bit more warm and like the host put effort into making sure their guests will be happy." More important than any one theme is cultivating whatever specific emotion party planners want people to feel once they arrive (i.e. relaxed on vacation, nostalgic about the past, amused by something funny, etc.). "That's really what you want guests to walk away with and is what makes events memorable."
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Create a guest list and send out invites.

Yes, you need a formal guest list — and one that emphasizes quality over quantity. Roy's rationale? A packed party means little if the overall vibe you've aimed to achieve falls flat: "It doesn't make much sense to invest the money and the hours of love required to create an event if you don't intend to have the best people there," she says. Simply put, stick to inviting only your real friends — there are plenty of other times to hang out with acquaintances.

Save-the-dates set the tone for your event before it even begins. As a rule of thumb, Roy recommends sending them out at least 30 days in advance. Also, keep in mind that not everyone you invite will attend. "Almost 40% of invited guests won't show up due to whatever excuse, so you should always invite more people than your threshold."
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Elevate your space with appropriate decor.

When it comes to party decor, "It's all about creating visually stimulating, Instagrammable moments." But that doesn’t mean you need to rent a fancy photo booth or selfie station with a sequined backdrop and props. Instead, Roy suggests coming up with a focal point that draws attention on its own. "I feel like when you create a cool vignette that looks dope, people are naturally going to want to take a photo by it," she says.

Having too many seats may keep guests from mixing and mingling, while not enough light will dampen the mood. Bistro string lights (Roy's favorite lighting element) and candles are perfect for any summer party because of how easily they can transform a space. They're both relatively inexpensive, too.

Pro tip: The Cash Magnet Card from American Express is great for picking up all your party essentials — invites, decor, seating, lights, glassware, and beyond. On top of no annual fee, it also offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on your purchases plus all the benefits of being a Card Member. And if you apply before July 18, you can earn $150 back on $1,000 or more spent in purchases on the Card in your first three months and another $150 back on $6,500 in purchases spent on your Card in your first 12 months. Terms apply; learn more here*.

*Rates and Fees
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Master your mix.

According to Roy, music is everything. "You can have a billion-dollar event with lots of sexy people there, but if they’re not dancing, your party is a complete bust." Working with an experienced DJ who knows how to read a crowd (as in, knows when to switch the song) is a surefire way to keep partygoers engaged. If you can't afford a live DJ, consider hiring someone to create a mix — not a playlist. Unlike playlists, which usually have lots of dead, silent space between songs, mixes feature a continuous flow of music curated specifically for parties.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Don't go overboard with activities.

Not every group activity is appropriate for every event. Activities like charades, board games, and trivia should be catered to the vibe you're creating and the people you're inviting. Likewise, whatever you select should be treated as another chance at drawing your guests' attention. But be careful. "If you choose to create your own backyard cinema of sorts, for example, the point isn’t to make people sit down and watch an entire movie. The point is to spark conversation," Roy insists.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Clean up the easy way.

The easiest (and most likely also the fastest) way to clean up after a party is by hiring a professional. "You and your friends are going to be so over it, tired, and ready to either leave or fall asleep once the event is finished," Roy says. "The last thing on everyone's mind will be cleaning." If you prefer to handle the mess yourself, try to clean up as you go so that there's not a big pile of trash once guests make their final exit.

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