How to Plan the Perfect Anniversary Party

“Our anniversary is just a momentary celebration, but our marriage is a timeless one”.

Did you know that marriage is considered by sociologists, to be a cultural universal? That means, it exists in some form in all cultures. Every society around the world supports the construct of marriage. And even though its exact definition and characteristics may differ from one culture to another, acknowledging a marriage’s longevity is always a cause for celebration. A couple’s milestone anniversary such as the 25th or the 50th, deserves a well-thought-out party: a party as special as their relationship. 

Anniversary celebrations provide an opportunity for the bride and groom, as well as their family and friends, to recognize their commitment to one another; to bask in their love; to honour their many years together; and to pay homage to whatever journey their marriage has taken them on. When planning an anniversary party, one that will honour such a special union, it should always begin with the couple’s interests at heart. Then, by following specific steps, you can create an organized, unique, and exciting party, devoted to celebrating a couple’s life together.

Step #1: Determine Who is Planning the Anniversary Party

  • There are absolutely no rules as to who can plan an anniversary party: the couple themselves, their children, their siblings, their friends, or an Event Planner.
  • For the couple who plans the event themselves, it can be a “wonderful gift for them to give each other and a way to express their continuing affection and dedication”.
  • Regardless of who is doing the planning, being organized will help to create a memorable event.
    • Use either a digital or hard copy method of keeping notes and creating checklists.
    • Utilize an expandable file folder to help keep brochures, RSVP’s, receipts, and checklists organized.
    • Make use of an inspiration board to bring your vision to life.

Step #2: Determine the Date and Time

  • Although anniversary parties can be held at any time of the year, a date as close to the couple’s anniversary is usually ideal. Note: scheduling the party on a day other than the actual anniversary will allow the couple to celebrate their special day privately.
  • Unless the party is a surprise, consult the couple as to the best date.
  • Ensure there are no major holidays or special events on the same day.
  • Check availability of VIP’s, such as the couple’s children, close friends, and members of the original wedding party.
  • The size and nature of the party can help dictate when it should be held. Will the party work better in the daytime? Or is it an event more suitable for the evening? Keep in mind, daytime and nighttime parties have a totally different feel.
  • Consider the age of the guests as well as the couple; will there be many children and/or seniors on the guest list?

Step #3: Determine the Budget

  • The budget must always be taken into consideration when planning an anniversary party, but it does not need to limit your imagination.
How to Plan the Perfect Anniversary Party - Wedding Planning

Step #4: Choose a Venue

  • Once again, there are no rules for the ideal venue. As the event can be casual, formal or anything in between, the venue will be dependent on the number of guests, the type of party, and the time of year.
  • Options can include a:
    • Private room in a restaurant
    • Church hall
    • Room in a local community centre
    • Hotel ballroom
    • Gallery
    • Golf or country club
    • Banquet hall
    • Club/lounge
    • Park, garden, or backyard
  • Consider the mobility of the attendees; the venue must be accessible to everyone.

Step #5: Choose a Theme for the Party

  • The theme should be fun, engaging, and reflective of the couple’s interests.
  • Use it to share the couple’s love story; what brought them together? How have they remained in love for so long?
  • If it is a significant number, the party can also be based on the milestone anniversary and its associated colour. For example, the colour for a couple’s 25th anniversary is silver.
  • Options can include a:
    • Summer barbeque
    • Winter wonderland
    • Theme from the decade of their wedding, such as 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s
    • Couple’s favourite hobby such as gardening, golfing, or travelling
    • Famous couple
    • Booze cruise
    • Black-tie dinner
    • Luau
    • Couple’s honeymoon or their original destination wedding location
    • Garden party luncheon
    • Cocktail party under the stars
    • Vow renewal/reaffirmation
  • The couple has accumulated a lifetime of memories; tap into this treasure trove to create an event that represents their life together.
How to Plan the Perfect Anniversary Party - Event Planning

Step #6: Prepare a Guest List

  • Consider a couple’s life both then and now; planning an anniversary party is about bringing their past and present together in one space.
  • Guest lists can include:
    • Family
    • Childhood friends
    • Original wedding party members
    • Neighbours
    • People from church
    • Friends from golf/pickle ball club
  • The size of the list will be dependent on the budget, time of year, and venue.

Step #7: Send the Invitations

  • Invitations should be mailed out 1-2 months in advance.
  • “Save the date” cards can be sent to give early notice to people who live far away, or for busy times of the year.
  • If using a digital option, e-vites should be emailed to guests 1-2 months in advance.
  • The invitations should include the:
    • Name of the honorary couple
    • Name of the host(s)
    • Specific anniversary being celebrated
    • Whether or not the party is a surprise
    • Date and time of the event
    • Location of and directions to the venue
    • Dress code, if applicable
    • Information regarding gifts, if applicable
    • RSVP instructions
    • Hotel accommodations, including discount code
  • If possible, access a photo from the couple’s wedding to use as the backdrop of the invitation.

Step #8: Plan the food and beverages

  • The food being served at the party will be dependent on the budget, theme, and venue.
    • For smaller budgets, the couple or their friends and family may wish to prepare the food themselves.
    • For larger budgets, a catering company or perhaps the venue itself, will make the food.
  • Food and beverages can include:
    • Appetizers
    • Cocktails, including customized recipes for the event
    • Dessert table
    • The couple’s favourite food
    • A formal sit-down dinner
    • Backyard barbeque offerings
    • Vegetarian and vegan choices
    • Fun, creative options according to the event’s theme, such as a roast pig at a Luau celebration
  • Buffets are a less expensive option and offer a fantastic opportunity for guests to mingle.
  • Choose a meaningful menu; incorporate food that represents the couple’s interests.
    • If they are world travellers, include samples of food from countries they have visited.
    • Build a menu around the couple’s favourite holiday, restaurant, or tradition.
    • Include a special dish such as what they enjoyed on their first date, or what was served at their wedding.
    • Even if they participate in quirky eating habits, use this information to create a unique, fun and festive menu.
  • Regarding beverages, whether alcohol will be served is dependent on the budget, the time and type of event, and the guest list. If alcohol is being served, it needs to be decided if it will be an open or restricted bar.
  • The cake can be homemade by the couple, their friends or family, or it can be provided by a bakery. Either way, incorporating the theme or replicating the design from the couple’s wedding, will provide a sentimental photo-op. Ensure to make arrangements to either pick it up or have it delivered.

Step #9: Choose the Décor

  • The decorations should incorporate the event’s theme. Just like the party, they can be elaborate or simple.
  • Incorporating personalized touches that highlight the couple’s history will make the decor memorable.
  • Décor can include:
    • Balloons
    • Photos of the couple, used in lieu of table numbers, in glass photo coasters, or as part of a slideshow featuring a timeline of the couple’s life together
    • The colours of the couple’s favourite sport’s team
    • Flowers, including those provided by a florist
    • Centrepieces that incorporate an interest or hobby of the couple
    • Lanterns, fairy lights, and candles
    • Customized champagne glasses

Step #10: Plan the Entertainment

  • For music, an anniversary party can include a live band, a solo musician, or a DJ. If using the latter, compile a list of meaningful songs for him/her to play. This soundtrack can be from the decade of the couple’s wedding, or the concerts they have been to since. Ask friends and family to help create this collaborative playlist.
  • Other options for entertainment include games, a photo booth, and a karaoke machine.

Step #11: Consider Photos

  • Photographers each have their own unique style; if booking a photographer, choose one whose work will reflect the couple’s own taste and character.
  • Discuss the event’s schedule with the photographer to ensure he/she can focus on the key moments.
  • As an alternative, encourage the guests to take pictures and post them on social media platforms. Provide a customized hashtag for guests to include in their posts.

Step #12: Plan the Toasts/Speeches

  • Family, friends, and the couple themselves, should be given an opportunity to verbally recognize and celebrate the love and commitment on display.
  • Encourage everyone to keep the speeches short and sweet. A good toast captures the audience’s attention, reminisces briefly, and finally, offers good wishes and congratulations.

Marriage as an institution is a cultural universal; it exists in every culture around the world. Honoring a couple’s union, their love and commitment for one another, provides an opportunity to gather for food, fun and festivities. 

Following the 12 steps listed above, ensures your anniversary party is as special as the couple it celebrates.

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