The ultimate guide to planning a 21st birthday party

Planning your 21st birthday is super exciting, but it can also be super stressful. Never fear – by taking note of a few event planner insider tips, you'll be on your way to throwing the best (and least stressful) 21st birthday party going round.

The first proper event many people organise is their 21st birthday. It’s a milestone, and it’s an ‘adult’ birthday! As a result, organising your 21st can be surprisingly daunting, and the VenueNow team often finds 21st birthday planners are unsure of how to go about finding a venue and planning their party.

How big should the venue be? Should there be food? How much should you put on the bar? What's a realistic budget – and how do you go about getting the most bang for your buck? VenueNow has got your back.

Know what you want (or don’t want) from your venue

This is advice that can be applied to all events, but it’s especially important when planning a 21st birthday party. Have an idea of what you want from the night – and from your venue. Do you want to celebrate in a casual or grungy bar, or is an elegant function space more your style? Are you planning a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party? Do you want to provide food or just drinks?

Once you have an idea of the overall style and feel of your 21st birthday party, it’s time to start looking for venues. This can be tricky business; many venues are more suitable for certain types of parties than others. A local pub may be perfect for birthday parties as they can provide your birthday party drinks but are not suitable for a cocktail evening, while an elegant event space may be the wrong fit for a more low-key celebration.

planning a 21st birthday party

Also, you can choose to have your birthday party in a unique venue. Should there be some sort of Instagrammable feature to the venue? Is an epic dance floor at the top of your priorities? Everyone is different, so don’t be afraid to make your venue choice speak as an extension of your personality!

Venue Location

Location is key when it comes to planning your 21st birthday party. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, and who will be attending, you may want to consider whether you should look for venues in city centres or more outlying locations.

A venue near town can make it easier for people coming from outside the area to attend, and can also provide a variety of entertainment options afterwards. On the other hand, if you’re organising a more casual event and looking for locals only, then finding a venue in an outlying area may be the better option.

planning a 21st birthday party

Consider your budget

According to the venue booking team at VenueNow, the average ‘low’ budget for a 21st birthday is around $1,000 or $2,000. That might sound high, but don’t fret – more often than not, you won’t have to pay that amount upfront. In fact, you’ll probably just have to pay a small deposit.

Most venues will work on a ‘minimum spend’ system. A minimum spend is what you’ll need to commit to spending over the course of the night (generally food and drinks) in order to book a space. If you don’t meet the minimum spend you may need to pay the remainder, but we’ll get to that later.

Guest list

How many birthday guests are you inviting to the party? Generally speaking, VenueNow recommends venues for 50-200 guests, but smaller or bigger parties can be catered for. The size, and ultimately the cost, of your venue, will mostly depend on how many guests you're inviting. Just make sure that your guest list size is communicated correctly to the venue in order to avoid any nasty surprises on the night.

Party's theme

Your 21st birthday is obviously a milestone, so it’s important to make sure your party has the right atmosphere and theme. Of course, this depends on what you want to achieve for an unforgettable party. Do you want a night of wild partying? A relaxed family affair? Or something more sophisticated and elegant?

Once you’ve decided what kind of atmosphere you want, it’s time to start thinking about decorations. This can be as simple (or as complex) as you desire. However, if you don’t have a lot of time or money there are plenty of inexpensive DIY options available – think bunting, balloons, and even custom-made banners!

planning a 21st birthday party

How much will your 21st cost?

Calculate your event cost in under 5 minutes

Consider ways to bring down the cost

Some venues will request that you purchase a food or beverage ‘package’, priced per head. The venues that are best for casual birthdays, however, will allow you to purchase some food in advance, put a bit of money on the bar tab, and the rest of the spend will be made up by how much your friends spend. Let's say 50 of your friends buy one $10 drink. That's $500. Easy.

Our advice? A good split is 50/50: half of your budget (not how much your friends will spend) on food, and half on the bar.

planning a 21st birthday party

Our team recommends looking at each potential venue’s drinks menu, to see how far your budget will go. We also recommend choosing canapé platters over food packages, or sit-down dinners, when planning a 21st birthday party. They’re much cheaper, and more casual – and much more conducive to a dance floor! Don't forget your birthday cake!

Reach out to potential venues, and weigh up your options

Next, start chatting with venues! Use a platform like VenueNow to consolidate all of your messages to potential bars and function spaces, and to easily compare quotes from each. Occasionally venues won’t be keen on 21st birthdays (sorry!), which is another reason to save time by using a venue-finding platform. Plus, the team at VenueNow knows all the new, little-known spots.

Mostly though, it’s a good move to reach out to a few venues in order to compare what each is offering, and what they’re potentially able to throw in the mix to book your event.

Take the stress out of the party planning process and put your 21st Birthday in the hands of our dedicated functions team. Do you want to know more about booking the perfect birthday party venue for your 21st birthday? Get in touch with the team at VenueNow, who are always ready to help.

Don’t forget entertainment and speeches!

Entertainment is a great way to keep your guests entertained and make sure that they will have a good time. If you’re planning on having speeches and/or entertainment (be it a DJ, band, or a laptop filled with party-starting tunes) at your 21st birthday, check with the venue about what AV capabilities they have. Have your party playlist ready!

planning a 21st birthday party

It may seem obvious, but you’ll want to double check there’s an aux cord that fits, a spot for DJ equipment, or even a screen for that adorable and hilarious slideshow your friends have put together. Nothing worse than turning up on the night and realising no one has the right cord!

Quick VenueNow pro-tips:

Because everyone loves a quick cheat sheet list!

  • Check what time the venue’s liquor license ends – no one likes to be cut off from the bar when the party’s just getting started!
  • Is the function space you’re interested in completely exclusive or will you be sharing with the public? If privacy is important to you, then renting a private venue will be money well spent.
  • If you’re sharing with the public, how will the venue identify your group and who can purchase from the bar tab?
  • Will you have a dress code? If you are, let your guests know about the colour scheme in advance.
  • Will your underage cousins and friends be able to attend with a guardian?
  • Will you give out party favors? This is absolutely not necessary for adult birthday parties but is expected for children's parties, especially for those under 10.
  • Let your friends know how much food will be provided.
  • If you’re planning on decorating your space, check with the venue about what you’re able to stick or hang on the walls. FYI glitter and confetti are usually no-nos.

Inspired? Ready? Take the plunge and plan a completely kick-ass 21st birthday bash with VenueNow. Find the perfect venue now! >>

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