How to Plan An Anniversary Party Step by Step

Whether you’re planning a ten-year anniversary party for your friends or planning a diamond wedding anniversary party for your parents, throwing an anniversary party is a great way to honor a couple’s time spent together. Anniversary parties not only help the couple cherish their marriage, but also allow loved ones a chance to let the couple know how much their union has influenced those around them. Throwing an anniversary party may seem complicated but we’ve provided all of the important steps on how to plan an anniversary party below.

anniversary photo of couples hands

If you’re looking to answer a specific question on your anniversary checklist, skip straight to the section you want below:

Step 1: Set a Date and Time

The first step in planning an anniversary party is setting a date and time for the celebration. You should always choose a party date that is close to the couple’s actual anniversary date and set the date a few months in advance so you have ample time to plan the party. If the party is very formal, you may even want to consider setting the date four to five months in advance, along with sending save the date cards, so loved ones can make travel and lodging arrangements if they’re traveling from out of town.

If you’re hosting the party for the couple, you should consult them on which date works best for their schedules. If the couple is planning the party themselves, they should check their prospective date with their children and any close family members who will be traveling from afar. The time of the anniversary party is also just as important to consider, since a daytime party will have a completely different feel than an evening party.

photo collage anniversary party invitation

Step 2: Choose a Location

The location for an anniversary party depends on the formality of the event and the amount of people you’re inviting. If you’re hosting a small get-together or dinner, you can host the party at the couple’s house or a relative’s house. You can even rent out a private room at a restaurant. If you’re hosting a large formal gathering and going all out for the occasion, you should consider renting a venue space, hotel ballroom, or local recreational room for the affair. Couples celebrating ten years of marriage or more usually opt for more formal locations and parties, especially couples celebrating 25th or 50th wedding anniversaries.

Location Ideas:

  • At home
  • At a relative or friend’s home
  • Hotel ballroom
  • Country club banquet room
  • Church hall
  • Gallery
  • Club/lounge
  • Restaurant (private room)

25th wedding anniversary invitation with photo

Step 3: Choose an Anniversary Party Theme

Anniversary party themes should be fun and reflective of the couple. Most formal anniversary party themes are color-based to ensure that decorations are elegant and cohesive. However, if you’re throwing a casual anniversary party, you can consider more off-the-wall themes like a luau themed anniversary party, a rustic outdoors dinner, or a southwest inspired celebration. You can also build a theme around the couple’s wedding anniversary symbol which is the most popular choice for choosing a wedding anniversary party theme. For instance, the symbol and color for a 50th wedding anniversary party is gold, so most of the decor and theme will likely include gold for this anniversary party. Here are the main wedding anniversary symbols below for reference:

Wedding Anniversary Symbols:

  • 1st ― Paper
  • 2nd ― Cotton
  • 3rd ― Leather
  • 4th ― Fruit/Flowers
  • 5th ― Wood
  • 6th ― Candy/Iron
  • 7th ― Wool, Copper
  • 8th ― Bronze, Pottery
  • 9th ― Pottery, Willow
  • 10th ―Tin, Aluminum
  • 11th ― Steel
  • 12th ― Silk, Linen
  • 13th ― Lace
  • 14th ― Ivory
  • 15th ― Crystal
  • 20th ― China
  • 25th ― Silver
  • 30th ― Pearl
  • 35th ― Coral
  • 40th ― Ruby
  • 45th ― Sapphire
  • 50th ― Gold
  • 55th ― Emerald
  • 60th ― Diamond
  • 75th ― Diamond

Step 4: Send Out Anniversary Party Invitations

Once you’ve organized your guest list and chosen an invitation design, you should send out anniversary party invitations 6 to 8 weeks before the anniversary date, especially if the party is formal. However, if you know your date far enough in advance, you can send save the dates to give loved ones who live far away earlier notice. It’s also important to list the date for the RSVP deadline on the invitation, so you can adjust your budget and buy the right of amount of food and drinks. You’ll also want to list any relevant information such as the dress code so attendees are prepared. For guests, your party invitations are an introduction on what to expect at your celebration.

Information to include on your invitations:

  • Host(s)
  • Names of Couple
  • The number of years the couple will be celebrating
  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Dress Code (if applicable)
  • RSVP information

Anniversary Invitation Wording Example 1:

The children and grandchildren
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe
cordially invite you to
celebrate their
25th Wedding Anniversary
March 16, 2017
5:00 p.m.
Villa Country Club

  Dress Code: Semi-Formal/Formal
RSVP to by February 2, 2016

Anniversary Invitation Wording Example 2:

A lifetime of loving, caring, and sharing…
Please join us, our children
and grandchildren at a luncheon to celebrate our
40th Wedding Anniversary
on September 22, 2017
at 6:00 p.m.
Rose Garden
389 Hillmont Ave.
San Francisco, CA
RSVP to Carey Wilson at 555-5555 by February 2, 2016
Jessica and Cameron

chalkboard wedding anniversary invitation

Step 5: Plan Out Food and Drinks

One of the most important steps in planning your anniversary party is keeping your guests full and happy! When it comes to food and drinks, set a budget before you head to the grocery store or consult with a catering company so you can keep track of how much you’re spending. If you’re hosting a small crowd, you may want to consider cooking and opting for a buffet style set-up. However, if you’re hosting a large crowd of more than 30 guests or so, you should have the anniversary party catered to avoid the stress of having to cook for such a large party. You can hire a local caterer or family friend to cook if you’re working with a small budget, or you can go with a larger catering company if your budget permits. You’ll also want to set aside budget for a themed anniversary cake to honor the happy couple. Whether you decide to cook or have the anniversary party catered, remember to provide a variety of appetizers, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, along with a vegetarian option.

Step 6: Plan Out Anniversary Party Decoration Ideas

Decorations for an anniversary party are usually based on the party’s theme or color scheme, along with personalized touches that highlight the couple’s history. Here are some key anniversary decoration ideas to consider when planning out your party set-up:

  • Garlands
  • Banners
  • Photos of the couple
  • Candles w/ photos of the couple
  • Balloons
  • Custom “Love” balloons
  • Custom champagne glasses
  • “Happy Anniversary” backdrop
  • Floral arrangements
  • Canvas prints or signage with anniversary quotes
  • Centerpieces
  • Hanging paper lanterns
  • Photo timeline of the couple

Step 7: Choose Entertainment

Anniversary parties should include plenty of dancing so you’ll want to make arrangements for music and entertainment to keep the party in full swing. You can hire a band if you want to give the party a live music feel or you can hire a DJ to play a set full of classics for the honorees. Whichever option you decide on, be sure to secure entertainment in advance in order to avoid booking a band or DJ that you may not like at the last minute. Since the anniversary couple will be the stars of the event, have the band or DJ keep the couple’s favorite anniversary songs in rotation (especially their wedding song). You can also include tributes and speeches from loved ones in your entertainment timeline so family and friends can share their sentiments about the anniversary couple.

Step 8: Book a Photographer

In order to cherish the day, you should book a photographer to capture all of the special moments at the anniversary party. The number one question after the anniversary celebration will be, “Do you have any photos?” You can make sure the party is well-documented by meeting with a photographer a few weeks in advance and running through the event schedule from start to finish. This way, the photographer will be able to focus on key moments between the couple, along with the couple and loved ones.

When it comes to anniversary party planning, begin early and take your time so you’re not overwhelmed. Whether you’re the host or the couple planning the party yourselves, you can reduce stress by having a family member or friend help with planning. Dividing up the work will make things easier, especially day-of when all of the beautiful details you’ve planned on paper come to life!