Nationally, the average cost for party planning services ranges between $500 and $750. Common party planning tasks include finding and booking vendors (such as catering), coming up with a vision for theme and decor, coordinating setup and cleanup, designing and installing the decorations and floral arrangements, making party favors, and coordinating things the day of the party.
Even if you're only inviting 25 kids for your son's third birthday party, it can be a huge relief to have someone else handle the decorations, setup, entertainment, and cleanup. Before you hire a professional to help, get an estimate of how much a planner will cost and whether or not you can work it into your overall event budget.
What's in this cost guide?
Planning a party can be downright stressful, but most people don't even consider hiring a professional event planner for anything other than their wedding. However, hiring an event planner is more affordable than you might think and they can help coordinate any type of party, such as:
- Children's birthday parties
- Teen parties
- Bar and bat mitzvahs
- Corporate events
- Company holiday parties
- Bachelor and bachelorette parties
- High-school and college graduation parties
- Holiday events
No matter what your event is, enlisting a professional for your event planning has many benefits:
Help with event planning details
An event planner will help figure out location, seating, food and drinks, and entertainment to make your event unique and a smooth and seamless production, no matter how large or small. They're experts in coordination, and know what details to consider -- even when you don't.
It saves you time and stress
Event planning can feel like a full-time job. Hiring an event planner will take pressure off you and free up your time. Instead of handling everything on your own, they will take charge of creating an event plan, coordinating vendors, sending invitations, and handling the day-of coordination.
They have access to discounts
Event planners can save you money through industry discounts and vendor relationships — often to the tune of 10% percent of more.
Get as little, or as much, planning help as you need
You don't have to hire a party planner to oversee every detail, especially if that's not within your budget. For minimal help, consult with a party planner on an hourly basis to fine-tune your theme and decoration ideas, then do the rest yourself.
For larger parties, you can hire a party planner to handle the vendor contracts, manage the caterer, coordinate with the venue, and book any entertainment — freeing you up to deal with invitations, decorations and day-of logistics.
If you want to hand off all of your event planning, you can also hire a party planner to take care of every detail: arranging food, entertainment, venue, decor, parking and transportation, bartenders and bar orders, setup and cleanup, and day-of coordination. Full-service party planning costs more, but your only job is telling the planner what you want and helping make design decisions.
What you pay for an event planner's services will mostly depend on their rate and the complexity of the party you want to host.
You may encounter a handful of payment models when hiring a party planner. Usually, they charge per hour, a percentage of the total party budget, or a flat fee.
Hourly rates for event planners range from under $50 to over $150 on national average. Many party planning companies offer consulting and small-scale party planning services on an hourly basis, depending on the company, their location, and experience.
Hiring a planner for a few hours is a great option for a DIY host who just needs a little extra help. For example, you might hire a coordinator to draft up a professional plan you can execute on your own or help with one specific aspect of the event—like outsourcing all the decorations for your parent's 50th anniversary party because you're short on time.
For more involved party planning services, some companies charge a percentage of the total party cost. This is usually 15-20% of the event budget.
In some cases, paying a percentage instead of an hourly rate can save you money. This is especially true if the event is quite large or you use multiple party planners from the company. In general, party planners are very transparent with their pricing models, so be sure you understand what percentage you will be charged for their services.
Some party planners charge flat fees or commission. A fee-based party planner will meet with you in person or on the phone, evaluate your planning needs, and quote you a flat fee to accomplish all the agreed-upon tasks. If your party planner charges an hourly rate but you want to keep within a certain budget, you can cap the total number of work hours in the contract to ensure you never exceed a certain amount.
Though rare, you might also encounter a commission-based payment model, where party planners receive financial rewards from vendors for selecting them over other vendors for job event contracts. Experts generally say that party planners should not receive both an hourly rate and a commission.
The more elaborate the affair, the higher the cost for party planning services. For complex parties, planners need to supervise more vendors and orchestrate more moving parts, which results in more work and a higher rate to you. There are a few ways a party can increase in complexity:
- Number of guests: More guests means more planning.
- Vendor management: More guests can make vendor management (price negotiation, contracts, scheduling, deliverables, overseeing them day-of) more complex. And, of course, more vendors means more complexity as well.
- Venue: If you don't already have a venue and need to find one, this increases the scope.
- Rentals: Anything you need to rent, like tents, chairs, or even bounce house, adds to the planning.
- Communication: If you have more moving parts, your planner will need to communicate with you more often about details, additions, and change requests.
- Decorations: Setting decorations can be time-consuming, especially if you have a detailed plan in mind.
Party planners an also be on hand in the final hours and days to make sure each detail is perfect when the guests arrive. This is why a seated formal meal for 150 people with theme-specific furniture, a live band, videographer, photographer, and shuttle transportation requires far more party planning than a children's backyard birthday party for 20.
To give you an idea of how much you might pay to have a professional organize your next party, here are some example party costs from a Thumbtack event planner in Danville, CA:
Princess-themed, high-end children's party: $2,000-$2,500 total budget
- 20 (child) guests with 1-2 outside vendors
- $300 for food
- $300-$500 for entertainment
- $500-$800 for unique decor, personalized gifts, and specialized elements
- $900 party planner fee to coordinate vendors, decor, and vision over 12-15 hours of work
Western-themed party: $23,400-$24,400 total budget
- 150 (adult) guests with 5-10 outside vendors
- $1,200 for port-a-potty rentals
- $2,200 for two bartenders, rental glassware, mobile bar, and alcohol
- $4,000 for catering (BBQ, pig on a spit)
- $4,000-$4,500 for live band (can cost from 2-5x a DJ)
- $4,500-$5,000 for dance floor, lighting, generators
- $7,500 party planner fee to coordinate vendors, decor and vision over approximately 120 hours of work, including day-of coordination
"Mad Men"-themed birthday party: $20,000 total budget
- 15-20% percent party planning fee to source custom decor for a private event at the Frank Lloyd Wright Estate
- 45 hours spent by A'Reve Event Production to shop for and source furniture and decor to match the party and venue theme
- 65 hours more spent planning the event and day-of coordination, including setup and teardown
Before you hire a professional to handle all of your next event planning needs, be sure to:
- Read reviews to learn about past client experiences.
- Check for appropriate business licenses and liability insurance. Depending on your local regulations, your planner may be required to have these.
- Find someone who has experience coordinating your type of party. If you hire someone who has never planned a children's party, they may not be as well equipped to deal with its unique problems as someone who has.
- Make sure you can see yourself working together. Whether you're working together for a matter of hours or over weeks, you want the process to be a positive experience. Personality is especially important if they'll be onsite for day-of coordination.
- Clarify payment model. Unless they're working as an hourly consultant, you'll also want a detailed contract outlining what services they will provide.
The overall cost of a party will often be higher if you hire a party planner, but their service brings expertise, vendor connections, and time savings. If you're ready to get an expert's insights for your next event, find an event and party planner near you on Thumbtack.