Planning a party is a lot of work. Making sure there’s entertainment for everyone is tricky enough, you don’t need to add the stress of cobbling together DIY party games on top of it all. It’s faster and easier to let someone with the resources and equipment provide everything you need.
Therein lies the question. What do you need? What kind of entertainment is suitable for your party? You have to consider all the details. Do you have access to power? Do you have enough space for larger games? Do you know how many people will be in attendance?
Luckily, we’re always working to make it easier for you. Below, we’ve put together twelve tips for figuring out exactly what you need to make your party a success.
1. Choose Age Appropriate Games
If you’ve ever gone to an event looking for something fun to do, only to find a bunch of activities aimed at preschoolers for a birthday party, you know you want to avoid making your guests feel the same way. It’s important to know the age ranges of the people attending your party, so you can set up age appropriate games.
You have hundreds of options to choose from. If you have younger attendees or attendees with children, it might be appropriate to pick a simple obstacle course, a bounce house, or simple carnival rides. For older guests, there are more advanced rides and courses, sports games, arcades, and carnival games of all stripes.
Keep in mind that the choice of entertainment depends on the type of party just as much as it does the age range. The games you book for a wedding will be different from the games you book for a retirement party, and so on.
Some fun is open to friends of all ages, but some will fall flat if the right people aren’t there to enjoy them. Whether it’s a simple slide or a complex arcade setup, there’s something for everyone, you just need to find it.
2. Evaluate Your Electrical Situation
You might be surprised by how many people forget that complex games and rides rigged with lights and sounds actually use electricity. Adequate power is always a consideration, whether it’s to power arcade games, light up the night with a DJ, or inflate a bounce house for the kids.
While you don’t need to do a full survey on your own – the company you hire knows what to look for better than you do – you can make life easier by understanding the local power situation. Indoor and outdoor venues have different levels of access to power.
Luckily, most carnival games, inflatables, and other equipment only needs a standard 110 volt power outlet to run. They may be power-hungry, but they generally don’t need unique connectors or higher voltages.
One main detail to look for with outdoor venues is whether there’s power accessible or if you’ll need generators. Make sure to check ahead of time if you’ll be able to access what power is available, or if you need to bring your own.
3. Double-check the Weather
If your event is going to have some level of outdoor entertainment, make sure to double-check the weather ahead of time. Rain can put a damper on some games, obstacle courses, and other entertainment, but it can also be planned around. You can set up pavilions or shelter for some games and equipment, for example.
Weather concerns can also be worked around if you set up a backup venue. Outdoor events are moved indoors all the time, and it’s a good idea to make sure you have backup equipment and entertainment available to make even the backup a fun experience.
Alternatively, if you know the weather is going to be bad and you don’t have the option for a backup venue, you may be able to adjust the schedule for better weather. The point is, there are always options available, but you need to keep aware of the problems before they surprise you.
4. Provide an Appropriate Number of Games
It’s always important to know roughly how many people you plan to have attend your party. It’s an important number to know how much food you need, how much space, how many tables, how much parking, and how large a venue you need to book.
On top of that, you need to have some idea of how many people will attend so you know how many games and activities to book. Too few, and you’ll have people disappointed because they didn’t have a chance to play, or waiting in line for an hour or more just to ride a slide. Too many, and you’ll end up paying for games that only a couple of people play.
A good rule of thumb is to plan to have at least 5 different games for variety, and more if it’s a larger party. Of course, some games and activities are more suitable to larger numbers of people, and others work best with smaller ratios. It’s something to keep in mind when you talk about booking your games.
5. Book 1-2 Months Before The Party
Party planning is not something you can start the week before the date. Planning ahead of time allows you to get your first choices for everything; venue, catering, and entertainment included.
The best practice is to book your carnival games and other entertainment around 45-60 days ahead of time. This is an adequate amount of lead-up to prepare, while still being close enough to the date to make sure everything is arranged and on schedule.
Bear in mind that some dates tend to be busier than others. If you’re planning an event on a national holiday, for example, you’re better off booking even further ahead of time. You can even book a year in advance if you plan to be a recurring event!
Last-minute, same-week booking is possible in some situations, but you won’t always be able to book the exact games and entertainers you wanted if they’re already booked elsewhere.
6. Allow Time for Setup
The amount of time it takes to set up carnival games, inflatables, arcade games and concessions varies quite a bit. An experienced team can set up a few games in an hour, but there are factors that make it harder.
- Make sure you have access to your venue ahead of time. If no one can get into the building to set up until half an hour before the party starts, you’re not going to be set up on time.
- Make sure you allow more time for larger or more complex games and entertainment. A DJ might not take too long to set up an entertainment system, but it’s a whole other story piecing together certain rides.
- The more games and pieces of entertainment you’ve booked, the more time you need for them to set up.
On top of all of that, allow for some extra buffer space. The ideal target is to have everything set up and ready to go at least 30 minutes before guests start to arrive. Allowing at least 1-4 hours for setup is typical, but for large parties, you might need access to begin setup the day before.
7. Check Laws on Alcohol
If you plan to have alcohol at your party, remember that there’s more to it than just buying a few cases of beer and letting it flow.
- Does your venue have alcohol restrictions? Both indoor and outdoor venues often have regulations about the presence of alcohol.
- Does your community have specific restrictions? While state laws vary, so too do city laws and regulations. You don’t want your party shut down in full swing because of a little booze.
- Does your entertainment provider have their own setup? For example, we have licenses, bartenders on staff, and connections with distributors to have everything your guests could want.
- Will people under the legal drinking age be in attendance? This adds a whole other layer of concern to the situation.
Alcohol can liven up any party, but it also means a whole new set of details you need to keep in mind when planning.
8. Pick a Suitable Location
We’ve mentioned a few times that the details of your venue matter, so make sure you’re picking a suitable location. Some carnival games aren’t suitable for indoor use, or for use in small venues. Some might require special access to set up a ride.
Things to consider with your choice of venue include:
- Size, to make sure your venue is large enough for everyone you want to invite, but not so large that people get lost or are left alone.
- Cost, because the more expensive the venue, the less of your budget you have for entertainment, food, and other elements.
- Indoor or outdoor, to determine limits on what games you can book, how much available space you have, access to power, and weather concerns.
- Location, because sometimes a venue can be hidden out of the way and be more difficult for your guests to find.
- Ambiance, because a classy club ballroom might not be appropriate for a child’s birthday party, while a fairground may not be quite right for a CEO’s retirement party.
It’s generally a good idea to have a representative from the company you choose to book come out to take a look at the venue and offer suggestions and recommendations as well.
9. Arrange Food and Catering
Entertainment is one thing, but sooner or later, your guests are going to get hungry. You have to decide what kind of food you want at your party.
The cheapest option is generally the potluck. Everyone brings their own dishes to share, and there’s ideally enough food for everyone. We’ve all been to a potluck that just didn’t hit the mark, though, which is why professional catering is important.
Companies like ours allow you to book concessions as well as entertainment, which can give you an array of fair food options for your guests. If that doesn’t fit the mark, you have other choices as well.
Does your location have local food trucks or local restaurants that would be up for catering a party? A range of food trucks and some catered options can cover all the bases and be relatively inexpensive as well.
10. Don’t Forget the Tables, Chairs, and Tents
Where there’s food, there are people looking to take a seat and eat. A good party needs seating, with tables, chairs, and the accoutrements that make them fit the aesthetic you’re going for, like tablecloths or centerpieces. Tents might also be appropriate, for shelter from the hot sun in a summer outdoor venue. Make sure you don’t forget to book these pieces of infrastructure, or leave space to put them in your venue.
11. Set Up or Hire Music and Speakers
Music is a core element of many good parties. Hiring live entertainers helps bring a party to life, but it also means setting aside space for a stage or performance area, setting up speakers and audio equipment, and keeping someone available who knows how to operate and troubleshoot it all.
12. Consider Fun Extras
A good party is a good party, but what if you could kick it into a great party? Extras are the way to go here. Maybe you can hire some local or even national entertainers to swing in for a performance. Maybe you can book a DJ to play a few sets and entertain the crowd. Maybe you can book a photographer or two, to make record of the event and produce albums you can distribute later.
There are always options to make your party memorable; you just need the right people to help you put it all together.